Carolyn Wing Greenlee

Demand to See

Master Painter Milford Zornes was a friend of my family for more than fifty years, but my own adult friendship with him didn’t happen until he and his wife Pat moved back to Claremont, CA. in 2001. We started working on a book together, so I was with him at workshops, seminars, gallery openings, and museum programs, noting his generosity with friends, students, and fans. He gave them his attention, time, and stimulating conversation. Even though his paintings were in such prestigious places as the Smithsonian and the White House, and the National Academy of Design had honored him by making him a full National Academician—the highest honor available to representational artists—he was graciously approachable and genuinely interested in other people.

Milford and I shared an unusual bond: our blindness. By the time I reconnected with him in 2001, he had made peace with macular degeneration, but this journal entry, recently discovered by his son-in-law Hal Baker, touched me with the raw immediacy of his struggle. I could relate. Yet there is much more in this piece than grief. It’s a steady gaze into the complexities of this strong, creative man. It is long, but I could not bear to edit it down. It appears in fullness just as Hal typed it from the manuscript written in Milford’s large, scrawling hand.

Milford continued to paint through his ninety-ninth year, and when I saw him just eighteen days before he died at age 100 in February, 2008, he was talking with several friends about art, death, God, and international politics.

Milford Zornes was born on January 25, 1908. I offer this post in his honor, and in honor of his daughter Maria, who was born on the same date, though not nearly as long ago.

Read Milford’s journal entry here: “Demand to See”

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