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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

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JUNE 2020 Issue
In Memoriam A Tribute to Wolf Kahn

Diana Urbaska

Wolf Kahn in NYC studio 2017. photo: Diana Urbaska
Wolf Kahn in NYC studio 2017. photo: Diana Urbaska

When Wolf hired me 30 years ago, I could never have imagined the impact he would have on my life—from introducing me to my husband and Vermont, to the deep studio and personal relationship we formed over so many years. I was Wolf’s right-hand person, as everyone would say; it was always “Dear Wolf and Diana.” We shared everything—Wolf’s studio practice, gallery relations, countless exhibitions, New York and Vermont seasons, and, in the later years, his and Emily’s health issues and hospitalizations. Through it all, Wolf worked tirelessly.  He voiced three dictums for his time in the studio: “I just work here”; “follow the brush”; and “I don’t give a damn.” All of them pointed to Wolf’s driving force of letting the painting tell you what it needs rather than fussing, being precious, or overthinking things. It was about showing up and doing the work, which he did, every day until the very end. 

Most people who worked for Wolf and Emily did so for a long time. Wolf would say that for another artist to give up their time to work for him was something to be appreciated, and he treated us all with great kindness and generosity. Wolf hated change; having been a refugee from the Holocaust, he valued the stability we gave him. And, of course, we were all fiercely loyal. We’d do anything for him and Emily, because we loved them, they were like family to us. It was an honor and a joy to be a part of their close circle, and I miss them both dearly.

Contributor

Diana Urbaska

Diana Urbaska directed and managed Wolf Kahn’s studio.

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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues