ART BOOKS: The Life and Art of Harry and Jessie Webb
by Adrienne Brown, published by Mother Tongue Publishing
"The Life and Art of Harry and Jessie Webb"
Adrienne Brown, "The Life and Art of Harry and Jessie Webb," Mother Tongue Publishing.
The unheralded artist series by Mother Tongue Publishing on Salt Spring Island keeps chugging along with the recent release of a seventh book, The Life and Art of Harry and Jessie Webb. And a good thing too, as B.C.’s supply of unheralded artists shows no sign of abating.
Author Adrienne Brown, a landscape architect, documents her parents’ work but also offers a glimpse of Vancouver’s cultural life in a bygone era. The Webbs moved among influential artists, poets and musicians after meeting at the Vancouver School of Art. They married in 1950 and lived in basement apartments while painting, drawing and making collages and prints. “Inspired by Abstract Expressionism and Beat culture, Harry and Jessie’s imagery interprets the urban landscape and the rhythms of the local jazz scene and, on occasion, even celebrates the comic strip,” Brown writes.
But there were few sales, a common complaint in those days. After Adrienne was born in 1957, Harry began working in landscape architecture. Jessie, who struggled with depression, tried to balance her art career and family duties. The couple eventually divorced. Harry died in 1995; Jessie, who continued to paint into the late 1990s, in 2011.
Brown’s text is fluid and well paced, full of details gleaned from her mother’s copious files, which took more than a year to organize. The book’s design is a pleasure with vibrant images, mostly modernist abstracts, interspersed with Harry’s poems.
Other artists in the unheralded series include George Fertig, Mildred Valley Thornton, Ina D.D. Uhthoff and Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher. The eighth book, about the late Vancouver artist Jack Ackroyd, is due out this year.