Woodstock

In the Woodstock show, it is interesting to observe her evolution as an artist, from the earlier wood carvings and pink alabaster works, to her fascination with the difficult-to-work black Belgian marble and its white Italian opposite.”

Wilson, Beth Elaine, “Romancing the Stone,” Chronogram, December 2001

Noon & Night     Works on Paper

Lily Ente with Laughing Form 5, Monoprint

Figure 1

Having exhibited her work at the Mari Gallery on Tinker Street in Woodstock, New York, Ente (Figure 1, Ente with Laughing Form 5, Monoprint) and her husband began to make regular day trips to this small town, an artist colony, just two hours north of Manhattan. Unsurprisingly, these trips, along with encouragement from Ente’s close friend Mari Huebsch, resulted in Ente and her husband buying a second home in Woodstock in 1962. They converted the barn into their private residence and Ente eventually erected a studio, reusing weather-beaten timbers probably from the old opera house. This uninsulated shack, heated only by an aged rusted stove, would serve as her studio in Woodstock for the remainder of her career.

The opportunity to work in a space she created, intensified Ente’s creative energy and the development of new friendships enhanced her life. She also gardened. Ente spent six to eight months out of the year in Woodstock, with Lazar coming up for weekends, returning to Manhattan when the weather became unbearable. While in Woodstock, Ente gave sculpture lessons, teaching, on warm days, under the branches of the huge Catalpa tree in the garden she’d created.

With the luxury of time to devote to her artwork, Ente’s quantity and quality of work thrived. This would be one of the most productive periods of her artistic career. Perfecting her command of black Belgian marble, Ente produced some of her most stellar artistic triumphs, including Animal Form, Night 4 and Night 8 (Figure 2),  for which Pauline Uchmanowicz wrote the following poem in the 1960s:

Woodstock Sculpture

Night 8the artist named
your onyx form,

Night 8, Lily Ente, Black Belgian Marble

Figure 2

reclined like a sphinx
at the beach.

Waves fold behind
your Belgian marble spine

its smoothness worthy
of a Pharaoh.

How would you feel
buried neck-high in sand?

Where do I press my ear
to hear your heart of darkness?

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Noon and Night

Noon 3, Lily Ente, White Italian marble

Figure 3

During this period, Ente began working with slabs of white Italian marble. Her white marble works, in contrast to her smooth, dense black marble pieces, neared transparency along their delicate scalloped and thinned edges that often mirrored the horizon. She introduced various incisions and fissures through the marble, revealing landscapes that welcomed light and exploration—light not only caressed the marble, but also streamed through these gracious openings, manipulating the beams. This is visible in Ente’s Noon 3 (Figure 3) piece, completed in 1962.

Noon 4, Lily Ente, White Marble Sculpture

Figure 4

Ente began to add separate stones to her works that flowed from one piece to the other or served as integral pedestals. Noon 4 (Figure 4), is a striking work that includes multiple pieces. The main triangular monolith soars to the sky, one edge interrupted by a triangular cutout, with a small, scalloped triangle in the foreground, and another triangle as its base—each triangle a conduit to the other. Ente introduces depth and contrasting shadows between each piece that play off of one another, inviting light to join them.

Drawn to the play of light, reflection, undulating lines, and natural and abstract forms, Ente drew her audience in with her alluring shapes and surfaces. Her collection of Night and Noon works would become those for which Ente’s best known, employing all of her passion, skills, experience and knowledge.

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 Works on Paper

Figure 5

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Ente began to create black and white monoprints using geometric wooden templates, scraps, and her own designs, as well as other objects that appealed to her. Ente’s monoprints elicit a sense of light and dark, suggesting three-dimensional imagery similar to her sculptures. Viewers would comment that these prints were sculptures on paper.

A number of these works express Ente’s inner humor, such as Laughing Forms (Figure 5), where the shapes seem to be smiling, poised to tumble off the paper.  She plays with the nuance of balance, precariously positioning shapes close to edges, almost challenging the viewer’s deceptive sense of stability.

Ente had produced and exhibited works on paper as early as the 1950s, including her distinct black and white Rabbi paintings, which included a grouping titled, Rabbis of the Forest Series (Figure 6). These seemingly stretched and distorted figures reflected the elongation of some of her sculptures. Inspired by these large works, Ente applied her printmaking to a cycloramic twenty-two foot scroll that wrapped along the gallery walls at her 1978 solo exhibition, “Lily Ente: Works on Paper,” at the Contemporary Arts Gallery at New York University’s Loeb Student Center. A portion of this scroll was shown in the WAAM retrospective in 2001 and remains on display in the Lily Ente studio.
 

Rabbis of the Forest Series, Lily Ente, Ink on Paper

Figure 6

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Ente emerged as an artist during the modernist movement, which influenced her abstract works, with some pieces leaning towards minimalism. There are few artists who can boast of having a career of four decades that was as pioneering and productive as Ente’s, resulting in substantial works of sculpture, prints and paintings that have given and will continue to give pleasure to audiences.

Though the lines she creates seem simple, it is simplicity at is most sophisticated, for it penetrates the heart and mind of the viewer, inspiring awe and offering a welcome respite from the daily grind of life. Like a hypnotist, Ente uses her marble creations to capture the focus of her audience, removing all distraction so they can enjoy their sublime tranquility. Largely self-educated and self-taught, Lily Ente followed no specific trends. She found her voice in her work and let it speak for her.

Despite sheer grit, determination and artistic achievements, Ente still remains an under-appreciated artist. Women artists in the 1950’s and 1960’s often needed important lovers or mentors to promote their careers. However, Lily Ente was too proud and loyal to her family to take these routes. She never truly considered herself a “woman” artist; she thought of herself as an artist.

From a humble mound of clay, Ente built a career as an artist that many would envy. She innately understood how to carve stone so it invited light to reflect off and penetrate its surfaces undulating lines and curves, creating depth and luminosity. Ente sought to let the stone become part of her story, with the urge to bring out its best features and conjure mystery. In her words, ”she listened to the stone.”

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* * *
To purchase a detailed account of Lily Ente’s history and works,
please contact Paulette Esrig in Woodstock at bernpaulet@aol.com
for a copy of Lily Ente . . . Listening to the Stone.

  • Mixed Gallery

    Lily Ente Studio, Woodstock, NY, left interior Lily Ente in New York studio Dancer, Lily Ente, White marble Collage 4, Lily Ente, Paper collage Eleanor Roosevelt--A Portrait, Lily Ente, terra cotta, 9”x5”x8” Night, Lily Ente, Black Belgian marble
  • Maintaining a legacy…

    Recently published Woodstock Times article by Paul Smart illuminates Lily Ente's complex history and includes new quotes by her daughter Paulette Esrig. “Art truly saved her life. She had had a horrific childhood. She had enormous drive.” To read full article click here