The Mystery of Winslow Wilson

Wilson eyes

Who was this artist who lived and worked in the shadows for many years in Rockport and Gloucester, and why should we on Cape Ann be interested in his life and work?

Arthur William Wilson (July 20, 1892 – November 18, 1974) was an American artist who painted under several known pseudonyms, including Winslow Wilson and Pico Miran.   Wilson/Miran is considered one of the earliest artists of the Post Modern Art Movement.  He is widely quoted from his Manifesto For Post-Modern Art, published in 1951, under the name Pico Miran.

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Wilson attended Harvard College between 1911-1915, becoming an Editor of the The Harvard Monthly with his friends John Dos Passos and E.E. Cummings.  Wilson would go on to share an apartment at 21 East 15thStreet in New York City with E.E. Cummings, and enlist in the U.S. Military during 1917-1919, joining John Dos Passos and E.E. Cummings and other Harvard students in France.  He spent time in Paris with E.E. Cummings, and mingled with Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and other influential painters of the period in London and Paris in the 1920’s.

Winslow WilsonWilson was active in the New York, NY, Lime Rock, CT, Gloucester, MA, and Rockport, MA art scenes between the 1930’s – 1972.  Wilson painted post-modern artwork utilizing the name Pico Miran in his Gloucester, Massachusetts studio, taught portraiture at the Rockport Art Association in Rockport, Massachusetts under the name Winslow Wilson, and painted seascapes as Winslow Wilson in his Rockport, Massachusetts studio.

From all aspects, it seems that Wilson was strongly influenced by his time at Harvard and World War I.  In addition to a tragic event which resulted in the death of one of Wilson’s friends in 1912, there is evidence that Wilson encountered trauma during World War I.  Art became a vehicle through which Wilson found solace.  His Post-Modern artwork is replete with images of industrial and nuclear effects upon the common man.  Growing up in rural Texas, to a life in Boston and New York, friendships with intellectuals, Wilson’s writings reveal a man who held his craft and opinions in high regard.  Understanding that Wilson eschewed family relationships while fully immersing himself as a bit of an artistic recluse, provides an insight into the life of this artist.

Following Wilson’s death in 1974, his long-term companion, Jane Grey (an accomplished portrait artist), gifted his paintings to his only son, Horace Peter Wilson.  Those paintings remained stored in Kansas City until 2012, at which time the paintings were distributed to Wilson’s grandchildren.

In 2014, Gloucester writer David Rich wrote about Wilson: “His value lies in his theorizing postmodernity, and making the first forays into postmodern visual art — the seascapes were a virtuoso performance; Winslow was no less a character than Pico or Tex. In that sense he was a performance artist. A kind of Andy Kaufman who took personae and masks to the extreme. On this conceptual level, if explained as such, Wilson ought to be recovered; and could be recovered by an astute and enterprising curator.”

Wilson portraitThe paintings are in the process of being professionally restored and framed, and efforts are underway to showcase Wilson’s paintings.

For more information please visit the Winslow Wilson website.


It’s Boiling Hot

On Pavillion Beach. © 2014 Jeff Weaver (b. 1953)

On Pavilion Beach.                                                                                            © 2014 Jeff Weaver (b. 1953)

Its boiling hot, they’ve gone to catch the wind 
at high tide when you can sail the tidal river 
above the sandbars, when the scope is wide 
room to tack and reach, as we try to reach to the far 
points in our life where you are the self you wish to be 
away from the effigies others might prefer 
beyond the expectations of correct behavior and pieties 
free of the sand bars in our circumscribed environment 
the enclosing freeways that bind us into pockets 
webs of mercantile definition, malls of distance, 
the all-together loneliness of the social web. 
This is not the place for me. 

Where can one go to be free of this American entrapment 
where black and brown and white can live in harmony 
where all beliefs, intellect and toil are respected, 
was our Cape Ann like that, not entirely but enough 
the classes did mix, brawls were plenty enough 
but the morning light broke bright on sea calm water 
where rancor stills and the gulls cry instead. 
Perfection of a sort sadly doesn’t last 
the tentacles of wealthy desire slowly penetrate 
crawling over the bridge, tourists who end up staying 
and driving up the rents, buying the cheap houses; 
improving them twists the old mix out  working people 
can’t afford to be here any more, to smell the same sea 
air, feel the tidal sweep over the marshes 
swim in the warming creeks. 

Kent Bowker 
July 7, 2016 

Kent BowkerKent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.

June Should Not Just Be Gay Pride Month, It Should Be Gloucester Pride Month

By Michael Cook

Gloucester Pride. © 2016. Joy Buell

Gloucester Pride.                                                                      © 2016. Joy Buell


As I passed by City Hall earlier this month and saw the rainbow flag flying, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the night almost twenty five years ago when, on December, 1, 1991, about one hundred people gathered at the foot of the steps that overlook Warren Street for what became the first of several annual candle light vigils to commemorate World AIDS Day.

My late roommate, the Gloucester born and raised John Barnes, had been a driving force behind the first World AIDS Day candlelight vigil but, sadly, was unable to attend. He was hospitalized with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, one of the many potentially lethal opportunistic infections that so often took the lives of people whose immune systems were compromised by their underlying HIV infection.

That first vigil Johnnie had such a hand in getting started spread to other towns the next year, from Lynn and Salem, and Lawrence to Newburyport, as other communities followed Gloucester’s lead in directly addressing a painful issue so many communities would have preferred to ignore.

John recovered from that bout of PCP, but by late spring it became clear his time was running short so we, his family and friends, prepared to make good on our promise that he would die in his room at 51 Fort Square overlooking his beloved Gloucester Harbor.

Johnnie was too weak to participate in that year’s AIDS Walk in Boston, so I and our neighbor, a young boy of eight who considered John one of his “bestest friends”, walked together on John’s behalf. That little boy sported a tee shirt his mom had custom made for him that had an image of Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” on the front. Mickey apparently was both Johnnie and the little boy’s favorite Disney character. On the back, the boy had his mom print, “John is my best friend. John has AIDS. I hate AIDS. But I love John ’til the end of time”.

I still have a picture of that little boy, who is now a 33-year-old, six foot, four inch, 250 plus pound galoot, riding on my shoulders because, as eight year olds are wont to be at the end of a six mile walk, he was too tired to cross the finish line on his own power

On July, 3, our upstairs neighbor and “sister in the fight”, who just happened to be the nurse coordinator of the VNA’s  AIDS home care program, insisted I take a break and spend some time on the Boulevard to watch the Horribles Parade. I ran into colleagues from NUVA and, as we were chatting, this overwhelming urge to get home came over me.  I finally hit the steps at 51 and threw open the entry way door.  Our “sister in the fight”, and VNA angel, greeted me by saying simply, “He’s gone.”

We made the necessary phone calls, but the funeral home informed us they couldn’t get “down the Fort” for a couple of hours because of the Horribles Parade. The minutes ticked away. The little boy’s mother and her husband came over just as the hearse was arriving. We all said our good byes.  Just as the hearse pulled away from the house, this huge burst of purple fireworks (purple was Johnnie’s favorite color), lit up the sky over the Fort. The little boy’s mother looked at me and said, “You know, he planned this.”

Over the next few months, Gloucester lost several other leaders in the local fight against AIDS, most notably the very wise and gentle Sam Berman, one of the original founders of the North Shore AIDS Health Project. Those were sad and mournful days, but there was also a spirit afoot in the city among those of us impacted by the epidemic that, despite the deaths and sadness, lifted our spirits.

The fundraisers at the old Grange Gourmet’s upstairs theater became events we all looked forward to because, despite the pain, illness, and deaths, they provided an opportunity to celebrate life, the community of Gloucester, and the leadership role it had taken in the state’s fight against the epidemic in some of its darkest days.

As I passed City Hall earlier in the month and saw the rainbow flag flying, I realized that spirit is still very much alive here in Fish City. Nothing exemplifies that reality more than the city’s courageous and compassionate response to the prescription opiate/heroin epidemic that is taking as many young lives today across the country as the AIDS epidemic did a quarter century ago.

I also realized that June should not just be recognized as “Gay Pride Month”. It also ought to be known as “Gloucester Pride Month” because, when all is said and done, this wonderful, sometimes frustrating, but always interesting city by the sea has an awful lot to be proud of – an awful lot.



Mike CookMike Cook is a long time liberal and gay rights activist who saw the uniqueness of Gloucester from the first moment he drove over the bridge during his move from Cambridge to Cape Ann in 1991 to run NUVA’s AIDS education and services programs.