Helen Lowe Kendall

Biographical Sketch: Helen Lowe Kendall [1892-1970]

“Art does not render was is visible, but renders visible.” Paul Klee [Famous German Abstract Expressionist]

Helen Lowe Kendall [1892-1970] was an active member of the group of Non-Objective abstractionists organized in NYC by the German ex-patriot artist Baroness Hilla Rebay between1939-1949 around famous Bauhaus ex-patriot Wassily Kandinsky. Kendall exhibited at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting on 54th St. with such notables as Wassily Kandinsky, Rudolf Bauer, Rolf Scarlett, Irene Rice Periera and Hilla Rebay. The group also exhibited together in Paris at both the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Galerie Carpentier. The Museum of Non-Objective Painting, its artists and collection led to the establishment the Guggenheim Museum in the 50s.

During the mid-1940s Kendall became close friends with her mentor Rolf Scarlett, sometimes painting with him at his studio, as evident in notes back and forth seen as verso on Kendall’s gouache studies. Because Kendall was a design teacher at Hampton Institute in Virginia, she also developed a friendship with famous African-American soprano and Hampton graduate Dorothy Maynor and sometimes painted in Maynor’s Carnegie Hall studio. Shuttling between Virginia and NYC her other best friend was a 1946 brown Plymouth coupe.

Helen Kendall broke her hip 1969 and was bed ridden in her second floor Binghamton, NY apartment. The hip would not knit and heal. She had her bed moved next to her window overlooking the courtyard parking lot where her car was parked. She wanted to keep a clear view of that old car; it meant so much to her. It had enabled her to shuttle her professional life between NYC and Hampton VA. A broken hip was a death sentence for elderly women in the 70s; I visited monthly and we had wonderful conversations about theosophy and her experiences as an artist. She died in 1970. It was her wish that I manage her studio estate. There was only one beautiful oil and several notebooks of her gouache studies. I donated that oil and some of her papers to the Hampton University Art Museum.

God is full of surprises, believe it or not, on the day in year 2000 I drove that painting to Hampton University, I was driving east into Hampton VA on the four-lane and driving west was a 1946 brown Plymouth coupe. My partner Pamela and I have done our best to immerse ourselves into the spirit of mid- century and Helen Kendall has in so many ways become the gallery touchstone. In fact, we have derived our business logo from one of her precious gouache studies.

 Everett Mayo [Helen’s nephew]

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