Gavin Owen has passed on. He was one of the original founders of The Arts Upstairs and will be missed by all of us. This retrospective of his work spans many years and speaks for itself, but I will say a few words too. Gavin's work will be on exhibit at The Arts Upstairs during the Phoenicia/Shandaken Studio Tour, July 18-20.

Read about Gavin in an article by Violet Snow...

Astrid Nordness has a solo room show this month also. Astrid is a ceramic artist and painter of extraordinary biomorphic organic fantasies. Astrid's studio is also on the Phoenicia/Shandaken Studio Tour, check it out!





They say everything an artist paints is a self portrait.

I just finished a "Napoleon" and I'm working on "Godzilla".

This is undeniably Gavin Owen's self portrait- and it even says so in the title, "Self Portrait".

He was never one to mince words.


If Gavin was directing this play, he would have Astrid Nordness enter stage left.

Astrid is the solo room artist this month and it is her soulful role to salute Gavin's departure with her biomorphic, ectoplasmic, bio-organizmic otherworldly paintings.

"Native Village" incorporates the modernistic NYC skyline, while maintaining a Paul Klee primitivism.

Gavin was a family man.

Here's a potrait of his wife, "Margaret Owen".

Margaret is director of  The Arts Upstairs gallery.

"Jesse Owen" is Margaret and Gavin's son.

"Alice Owen" is Gavin and Margret Owens' daughter.


"Tea Time in the Snow" recaptures a fleeting moment when even the sheep creep up to explore what the curious humans are up to.


"Fire on Lispenard Streei" is an eerie foreshadowing of the 911 attack on the Workd Trade Center.

Artists are said to be antennas of society, able to predict events that mere mortals are oblivious to.

Gavin got the impact points a little lower than what we have seen on the instant replays, but who's counting?


"Football" is about the buttocks. Perhaps it is all the male hormones racing around.

I always maintained that Gavin is the Ernest Hemingway of painters.

36 - 24 - 36 HIKE!




"Halloween" is my favorite holiday, and also one of my favorite anniversaries, in addition to Columbus Day and the 4th of July.

Gavin is flying with the ravens while the children go trick or treating.


Gavin made many sexy artworks. Some remind me of Ukiyo-e Japanese erotica.

Some resemble Picasso in their earthiness.

"Love In Japan" has a bit of both.


This early Owen,

"Ice Skaters"

is a New Yorker cover for sure.

Fly high and damn the bow tie!


Again, I say: New Yorker comic material for sure.

"I Love Rex" is an uncharacteristically sentimental expression of man bites dog, dog bites man, or Godot bites both.



There has to be a reason why a man like Gavin Owen would gravitate to a shady nook like Shandaken.

Possibly it is because it is in the "Twilight Zone".





This is the "Trumpet" that Gavin blew on many a chicken night.

He was kind of blue as he blew, but that was because he loved Miles Davis so much.


"The Owens Family" wishes you a happy and healthy 2014.


Stop by The Arts Upstairs and say hello!

And put the Phoenicia/Shandaken Studio Tour on your calendar, July 18-20.


Gavin Owen by Violet Snow

Gavin 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.

He 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.

In 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.

“We lived opposite a cricket ground, and I was fascinated by these white creatures running around on an open field.”

Sports 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.

Art 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.

Following 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 laugh.

In 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.

A 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.”

At 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.

Gavin 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 and Kitty.

An 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.

- Viloet Snow


See you at the next opening at Arts Upstairs. Now go back to Art Safari