Longtime East Hampton resident and painter Lois Wright’s name has become synonymous with Grey Gardens, the storied home of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, “Big Edie” and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale, or “Little Edie” (the aunt and cousin Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). The film Grey Gardens by Albert and David Maysles told the story of these women living in absolute squalid conditions in the crumbling, cat infested ruin of what was once a palatial East Hampton home. Wright, who appeared briefly in the film, was friends with the Edies and has since become known for her paintings done during her time with them at the Lily Pond Lane estate, as well as those painted from memories of that time.
Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.
Lois Wright (b. 1928)
appx 30 x 36 inches
“Ocean Angel” by Lois Wright was recently exhibited at the 73 Main’s new expanded art gallery, consignment and “lifestyle store” in Riverhead during their Grey Gardens art show. The piece is a solid example of Wright’s naive, art brute style and her interest the spiritual. In it, she depicts the spirits of both Edies rising from the sea, an angel fixed staunchly between them. Though Wright is clearly not a skilled representational painter, her work has a certain appeal shared by many outsider artists, which is quite attractive to those who collect them.
By definition, an artist operating under the title “outsider” is not in the mainstream or the typical gallery circles. They are often recluses, mentally deficient or struggling with other mind and body issues. Most, if not all, are driven by intrinsic motivation to paint, rather than to gain wealth, fame or approval from others. Wright seems to fit into this category, yet its easy to see why she would continue to paint scenes of her time at Grey Gardens when they seem to be her only works that sell regularly. Therein lies a contradiction, but like the Beales and their fabled, decaying manse, the paintings have a nostalgic charm and haunted quality that can’t be denied. They are among the last authentic vestiges from the period documented by the Maysles.
When Wright is gone, her direct and true line to that gloomy past will be severed, and only film and books and more contemporary interpretation will remain in the bright and shiny now.