Story by Sara Paul
At the dawn of the 1960s, the coffee houses in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village were a refuge for artists, writers, and musicians, both mainstream and avant-garde, and saw such regulars as Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Peter Paul and Mary, Tim Hardin, Lou Gossett, Jr., and Lenny Bruce. Nestled thoughtfully and comfortably in the midst of this creative cornucopia was budding artist Jonathan Talbot.
“A small group of creatives may be lost in the wilderness, but when enough got together, we reached critical mass and there was an explosion of creativity which brought out the best in all of us,” Jonathan recalls of living in New York City.
In 1965, having returned to New York from travels in Europe, North Africa, and throughout the States, Talbot met Bronx-born, Marsha. Together, the two experienced and shared a passion for all things new, thought-provoking and meaningful.
“It was a place in time, and a true center for creativity,” said Marsha, Jonathan’s wife and partner for nearly 50 years.
While the soon-to-be married couple embraced the intensity of the city that never sleeps, circumstances soon found them in San Francisco, then Los Angeles and then rural Pennsylvania. Finally, in an effort to find ample studio space close to NYC’s galleries, the right schools, and an arts friendly community, they settled in Warwick, where they raised their two children, Loren and Garret.
With an old farmhouse, plenty of open space and a barn-turned studio, Jonathan was able to create upstate and bring his works to galleries in NYC to be sold.
From 1970 to 1980, Talbot focused on etching, and then, encouraged by awards from the National Academy and inclusion in a State Department sponsored exhibition, he expanded his artistic activities to include painting and collage.
Since then, Jonathan and Marsha have balanced a life of art creation and appreciation, parenting, and community involvement in Orange County.
“There’s a tradition of creativity in Warwick and a sense of aesthetic that is pleasing and draws people. Warwick is a hidden gem and a town with a rich art history,” says Marsha, who is a thirty-year realtor in Warwick and currently an associate broker with Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty.
One of the most important 19th Century Hudson River School painters, Jasper Cropsey, had a home off Warwick Turnpike and that many well-known contemporary artists have made Warwick their home.
The Talbots have not limited their contributions to the community to the arts. They have also been active in the areas of environmental protection and public service.
Jonathan and Marsha both served on the core committee of Warwick Against Radio-active Dump (WARD) from 1986 to 1988. Marsha was one of Warwick’s two representatives on the Investigatory Panel tasked with analyzing New Jersey’s plans to bury radium laden soil in Warwick’s watershed. Jonathan focused on street action, organizing peaceful resistance and community demonstrations, at times as large as 5,000 people.
Marsha and Jonathan also served on the Pine Island Volunteer Ambulance Corps and are current members of the P.I. Chamber of Commerce. Marsha was one of the original organizers of the Warwick Valley Central School District’s Partners in Education (PIE) Program and currently serves on the boards of the Orange County Arts Council and Community 2gether.
“The arts are an important part of our community, and the 45 years we have spent here have been fruitful,” said Jonathan, who in 2017 painted the program cover for P.I. Black Dirt Feast.
In addition to having received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florence Biennial in 2001 in Italy, Jonathan has been honored by the Silvermine Guild, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Orange County Arts Council. He has written three books on art techniques and has taught in more than 20 states and in Canada and Europe.
Despite his international recognition, Jonathan plays down the extent to which fame is important.
“Did you ever have a fame sandwich?,” asks Jonathan, rhetorically. “You take two pieces of bread, apply mustard, and then stuff a whole lot of fame in between them. When you take a bite,” the artist continues, “all you can taste is bread and mustard. Fame has no flavor. Fame is something people give you, and they can take it away in an instant.”
So, with a flannel shirt and a pair of weathered jeans, Jonathan quietly reflects on the comforts of Warwick living and his creative life, both as a solitary activity as well as one of community engagement.
“I make art because I like making art,” he softly states. “I like making things. I make art because very often, if not every time, I learn something from the experience. Art connects me with other people emotionally, psychologically, historically, and spiritually. I value those connections… a lot.”