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Dance Band to Dancing Brush

Folk Artist Gene Beecher

by Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

Born in 1909 in Houston Texas, Gene Beecher never intended to make painting his career. Why would he? He had a career.

A successful musician who had his own dance band, Gene lived and worked for many years in Ohio and throughout his life, met, and was in contact with, many interesting people. He grew up with well-known bandleader Artie Shaw, and to this day is still in contact with his old friend.

Then, about 35 years ago, Gene retired and moved to Florida. Having time on his hands, he decided to take up a hobby. Collecting odds and scraps from the apartment complex in his area, Gene began putting the recycled items together and soon a sculpture emerged. He also became interested in painting, but this interest presented a problem... Once he started, he just could not stop.

Gene's work is different from most folk artists in as much as the work is almost abstract in nature. Gene does not plan his paintings, in fact, a great number of the images are created from his dreams. When painting, he takes one color, covers most of the board, then adds another color and somehow, images intuitively come together and appear like magic. The result is work that has tremendous variety. Somewhat unlike his fellow folk artists, Gene's work has an edge, a darker side - perhaps from seeing a different crowd of faces.

Whatever the reason, Gene's creations are like his music, a sharing of this multifaceted man's life and experiences. He enjoys the company of others and often spends time with Hardee, Ott and Williams (three well-known folk artists in his area). One artist who feels that Gene was the inspiration for his present life as an artist is 27-year-old Joseph J McLaughlin. Joseph says that it was the encouragement and generosity he received from Gene that made it all possible for him.

Gene, passed away in August of 2007, the world of folk art has lost a great creative soul. Gene's work was available at the Tart Gallery in Washington DC and the Joy Moos Gallery in Miami Florida.

Text © Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder; Photos Reprinted with Permission

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