Happy Birthday To Two Extraordinary American Artists: Helene Aylon and Ronald Reagan
02/05/2011 - 22:14
Jonathan Mark

This week is a time to celebrate and honor two extraordinary and completely different American lives: Helene Aylon, the great Jewish artist and feminist -- and a spectacular person --whose beautiful and creative life might be her ultimate artistry, and Ronald Reagan, an artist in his way, as well, who lived an entirely different life but one worth contemplating.

Anyone with a Jewish heart has to appreciate the arc of her life. Anyone with an American heart has to appreciate the arc of his.

Reagan would have been 100 on Feb. 6.

May Helene Aylon be blessed with many more years, to 120, if not beyond. She graces this earth for another year, with her birthday, Feb. 4.

I first met her on Route 17, when I was a child and she and her family were sitting at my parents table in a fine and small hotel. She was so young, but a grown-up to my eyes. Even little kids can sense which grown-ups are worth knowing, but as a child I didn't really know why, perhaps her dignity, her beauty, her way of speaking. I was impressed and intrigued by her then, and ever since. At one point in the mountains she was my art teacher -- arts and crafts, to be more exact -- but I never got past ashtrays and lanyard, my fault, not hers. This, of course, was long before her own career as a daring, defiant and soulful artist took flight.

She deserves a publisher to feature her memoirs, and she deserves a biographer and retrospective on top of that.

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