The Northport Historical Society is the recipient of an original Stanley Twardowicz painting which was recently donated to the museum by Amy Fredrick. As Amy explained, her father, Robert Seaman, then a resident of Glen Cove, bought the painting from Twardowicz for $5.00 in 1961. The gouache and ink on paper is titled “#44” and was painted in 1958, two years after he moved to Northport. An abstract expressionist, Twardowicz, whose paintings are found in the Museum of Modern Art, the Hecksher Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is best known for his movement of color. He also painted in the “color field” style. Both styles were developed in the late 40s and are considered the first American art movements to become influential in Europe. The donated painting, as well as paintings and prints from other Northport artists, will be on display in the Northport Historical Society’s Museum at 215 Main Street from March 1 – 31st.
Twardowicz was born Stanley Jon Leginsky on July 8, 1917, in Detroit. He took his godfather’s name after a difficult childhood which included an alcoholic father and stints in a juvenile home. He studied at Meinzinger Art School in Detroit during WWII while working at a car factory and later taught art at Ohio State University along with Roy Lichtenstein. He travelled extensively in Europe, experimenting with photography, married and settled in New Jersey for a while. His second wife landed a job as a teacher in Cold Spring Harbor and when they looked for a place to live, they discovered Northport. Twardowicz loved the village quality and the beaches. He and his wife moved into 48 Ocean Avenue, then rented the loft on the second floor of 57 Main Street, just under the Posey School of Dance, to use as his studio.
Listening to John Coltrane while he worked, Twardowicz made his pieces using a compressor and spray painter, moving contrasting colors around the canvas. Twardowicz explained that his inspiration for this technique came to him while watching a tide pool collect in Maine. He wanted to replicate the natural flow and movement of water/color which was different from what his friend Jackson Pollack had been doing with his drip paintings. He further explained that the biggest challenge he faced was “hiding” his technique, as in not showing brush strokes or texture, so that one only saw the painting as a finished grand gesture. Often critiqued that his paintings had no shape, Twardowicz would counter that he painted feelings and that feelings had no shape. He would not name his paintings, only assigned a number. He was quoted as saying, ‘If you give people any more of a clue than that, that’s all they’ll see. Let them find it themselves, like I did.’
Also living in Northport at that time was the famous Beat author, Jack Kerouac. The two had met previously at the legendary artist haunt Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village and were good friends, then discovered they both lived in Northport. Jack, who lived on Judy Ann Court, would often walk to Stanley’s house through the woods, sometimes falling asleep under a tree. Jack was the only person that Stanley would allow to hang out in the loft with him while he worked. Downing beers, Kerouac would wander the studio silently or sometimes paint on his own.
Jack Kerouac, seated, with Stanley Twardowicz
Photo courtesy of the Northport Public Library
When Jack wanted to drink, he’d throw pebbles at the studio window to get Stanley’s attention. Jack would yell up to him to either throw down a five spot or go drinking with him, which Stanley did, often, drinking boilermakers at the local bars, including Gunther’s. Stanley once had to pull Kerouac up from laying in the middle of Main Street about to get run over by drag racers. Stanley cut back his drinking after he was told his liver was severely damaged, only drinking when he was with Jack. After Kerouac moved to Florida in 1964, Stanley quit alcohol all together.
Twardowicz began teaching fine art and drawing at Hofstra University in 1964, and in 1971, married for a third time to a former student, Lillian Dodson, a sculptor and ceramist from Huntington. Twardowicz gave up his loft studio in the late 80s and created one at his home in Huntington where he continued to paint up to 10 paintings a year, often donating them for charitable auctions. He cherished the Northport Public Library and two of his larger scale painting are displayed on the wall to the right of the reference desk. Friends described him as compassionate and thoughtful, always putting others’ needs first. Twardowicz retired in 2005 and died at the age of 90 in 2008 having become one of Northport’s most cherished neighbors.