The Artist’s Wife Uses a Modern House as a Metaphor

Director and cowriter Tom Dolby says he “unconsciously” wrote The Artist’s Wife to fit a modernist home with a white exterior once owned by friends of his in East Hampton, New York. “When we looked for the perfect white modern house [to film], my mind exploded when we saw it,” he tells AD. The 1970s-era dwelling had been painted black since he’d last been there. “I had a come-to-Jesus moment and realized maybe it was supposed to be black all along. We looked at over 50 houses with modernist architecture and there was a lot of junk, and this house had such an elegant design to it,” he says. Filmed against a striking white snowfall in the dead of winter, it provided the perfect setting for the home of the fictional celebrated abstract artist Richard Smythson (played by Bruce Dern) and his wife Claire (Lena Olin).

The drama (available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, and Laemmle Virtual Cinema now) tells the tale of an eccentric artist in the twilight of his career facing the early stages of dementia. His faithful wife and muse, who gave up a successful career as an artist to become the proverbial woman behind the man, begins to look for her own identity after years of staying in the shadows. It’s a story that hits close to home for Dolby. “My father had been diagnosed with dementia right around the time I started writing a story about the unsung heroine,” he says. “I had seen so many creative relationships, such as Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, where the wife was so supportive. Hitchcock would not have been Hitchcock without his wife, and she never got the credit she deserves.”

<div class="caption"> Since Richard and Claire are contemporary art collectors, a painting influenced by the works of Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell graces the walls of the dining room. </div> <cite class="credit">Photo: Michael Lavine</cite>

Since Richard and Claire are contemporary art collectors, a painting influenced by the works of Abstract

Two NYC Artists in Their Once-Bohemian Village Garden

Painters Pat Steir, 80, and Francesco Clemente, 68, have been neighbors for three decades and friends for even longer. They’re from a generation of artists who came into their own during the 1970s and 1980s and settled in then-raffish parts of town which have since become almost unbearably polished. Steir, who once wryly told the New York Times that she’d been “forgotten and rediscovered many times,” has a new documentary about her life and work. Clemente has had a steady and successful career. They live across from one another at the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens, a courtyard in Greenwich Village that you can only access from the townhouses surrounding it. Inside, you’ll find a stone path looping around a lawn and very tall trees.

“When we moved in there in 1990, I sort of elbowed my way into controlling the garden,” Steir says. “So I planted, with the help of two other neighbors, shrubs and grass and we made it what we thought was beautiful.”

It’s one of those old New York spaces that seem like they should’ve disappeared years ago, and in some ways it already has. Condos are now adjacent to the historic townhouses (a few years ago, Anna Wintour, another famous resident of the Gardens, railed against them at a community board meeting) and the area has steadily changed from a Beat-era enclave — Bob Dylan and Alexander Calder were residents — into something much less bohemian.

As new residents have moved in, the fences around the private gardens have grown taller, and the plants more cookie cutter. Some residents hired professional landscapers and gardeners. Things became more “normal” looking, as Steir describes.

“They wanted privets, I wanted flowering shrubs,” she says. “I’m in a constant battle with the new tenants. I had to ward off people who wanted