The father of famous photographer Diane Arbus. The transformation of a businessman into an artist might seem as unlikely as the proverbial wringing of blood from a stone. But last week two refugees from the desk set proved not only that it could be done, but that their old skill at turning a profit could be brought over into a new world.
Too Young to Know. In 42 years with Manhattan's Russeks clothing store, David Nemerov rose from window dresser to president, and later chairman of the board. Last year he began to find the position "worrisome," and retired to Palm Beach to paint. Now 64, and one year old as an artist, Nemerov is happy and unworried. Last week a Manhattan gallery put on a show of his crude but luminous and intensely colorful pictures based mainly on French impressionism. To Nemerov's astonishment, 31 pictures were sold in the first four days at prices up to $2,500.
Nemerov's formula is simple, although somewhat personal: "I never go to bed with less than six art books. I sleep like a top. I get up and see my florist; then I might paint florals until noon. I love color. Without color the world is too drab. Therefore God put flowers in it. Whether I paint a skyscraper or a pussycat I want to make it more interesting, but the vital thing is the flowers."
How to explain his popularity? "I'm too young to know my customers," says Nemerov, and then gets right down to business: "As I analyze them, they are mostly people of means whose wives love beautiful homes and would prefer a colorful picture to Gauguin, for instance.*When a stranger walks in and pays for a painting of yours, life becomes wonderful indeed. You see, I couldn't bear to be a failure, not only in my own eyes but in the eyes of the world."
Butter on Turkey. Sixteen years ago, when she was 19, Beverly Pepper was art director of Decca Records Inc. and a fast-rising, horn-rimmed spectacle of success. At 25 she was vice president of a booming advertising agency. Then instinct, and a couple of psychoanalysts, told her to quit while she was ahead. She left for Paris with 32 hats in her luggage, bought blue jeans on Montparnasse and threw the hats away. Last week she was back in Manhattan for an exhibition at the Barone Gallery, which brought close to $10,000.
Her paintings show the white light and black-clad poor of Spain and Italy with tenderness if not much power. Cubism is perhaps her stumbling block; one can hardly see the people for the planes. But her semi-abstract sculptures come to terms with the wood in witty and sensuous ways. Woman and Child (see cut), hunched forms of a mother and her papoose, seem in a separate world, somewhere between the nature of a tree trunk and that of people. Why did she quit business for art? Says she, elliptically: "I like putting butter on turkeys. I like peeling and feeling things. The same with my sculpture. You find a big old root''arid have to marry it to shape your preconceived form its way."