Owen, artist and theatrical director, died at his home
in Boiceville on April 6, 2014, at the age of 73. He was well-known
in the Phoenicia area as a founding member of the Arts Upstairs
Gallery, an organizer of performance events at the gallery, and
a director at the STS Playhouse.
was born in Warwickshire, England, in 1940, just after the start
of World War II. At the age of six months, he was evacuated with
his mother to Lancashire until the end of the war. From that point
on, Gavin displayed a knack for escaping death.
a 2010 interview for Woodstock Times, his description of his early
childhood in Nelson and Colne, a small mill town, was both theatrical
and painterly. “My first memory is the sound of clogs on
cobblestones, of many people walking to the mills when it was
still dark outside,” he recalled.
lived opposite a cricket ground, and I was fascinated by these
white creatures running around on an open field.”
remained an important element of Gavin’s life and painting.
Later an avid golfer and tennis player, he was recruited at sixteen
by West Bromwich Albion, a first-division professional soccer
team, but chose art school instead.
school led to a study of film and theater at Royal College of
Art Film School, followed by work with the Royal Court Theater
in London. At the Welsh National Theater and Opera Company, Gavin
directed numerous plays, including Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.
When Pinter attended the final performance, he and Gavin bonded
over their shared love for cricket.
a three-year stint teaching communication arts in Bradford, he
arrived in New York City in 1978 and met his future wife, Margaret,
also an artist. Exposure to American artists, from Edward Hopper
to Andy Warhol, reawakened his excitement about art, and he began
to paint again. Their children, Jesse and Alice, were born, and
the couple opened a kids’ clothing and toy store called
Just Kidding in Tribeca. They lived in a loft on Canal Street.
His children, now grown, describe him as a superb stay-at-home
father who cooked wonderful meals for his family and made them
2001, the Owens moved to Boiceville. Gavin and Margaret established
a business painting silk scarves and other clothing, which they
sold at local shops and on the road at craft fairs. In 2004, they
were both founding members of Arts Upstairs, Phoenicia's cooperative
art gallery, run by Margaret alone since 2011. Gavin found opportunities
to reconnect with theater by directing plays at the Shandaken
Theatrical Society, including Arthur Miller’s The Ride Down
Mount Morgan, and directing staged readings at Arts Upstairs.
turning point came in 2009, when Gavin was diagnosed with colon
cancer. After a successful surgery, more cancer was discovered
in the liver. He received some of the best treatment in the world
that prolonged his life more than four years after a diagnosis
that was considered a death sentence. Remaining upbeat and determined
to fight the cancer, he devoted himself intensively to his creative
endeavors, practicing the trumpet, working on a play script about
Vincent van Gogh, and painting. He remarked, “My older paintings
took an awful long time. The new ones are quick, more direct—I
don’t make so many changes. I find them fresher.”
Benedictine Hospital's chemo treatment center, he was known as
the “cancer clown” for his jokes and optimism. After
all the treatment had been stopped, during his first week in hospice,
he told his family he would live another ten years. His wife,
daughter, and son stood by his side during his last four months
of hospice care. He will be remembered as a man of many hats and
a director to the end.
is survived by his wife, Margaret, and son, Jesse, both Boiceville
residents, and daughter, Alice and her partner Max, of New York
City. His first wife, Susanna Wilson, their son Alfred and his
wife Jude, live in England, as well as two grandchildren, Dylan
exhibit of Gavin's work is planned for Arts Upstairs, 60 Main
Street, Phoenicia, from April 19 to May 11. A memorial celebration
will be held at the gallery on April 19 at 4 p.m. One room in
the gallery will henceforth be reserved for a rotating exhibit
of his work.