The following was written after Joyce Weber
passed away on April 8, 2020.
We have sad news to relate today: one of EAC’s founders, Joyce Weber, has died. She suffered a massive stroke while in her downtown studio, from which she never regained consciousness. It is often said that the success of the Arts Center has been the work of many hands, but one pair of those hands stands out and they belonged to Joyce. She and her husband Paul came to Eastport nearly 40 years ago; at first she operated an elegant B&B on Washington Street but her mind was really focused on her art, for she was a very skilled painter.
As Elizabeth Ostrander tells it: “When Joyce settled into Eastport [in 1983], she noticed how many artists lived and worked here. I remember one day she said to me, ‘It’s amazing! I think we should start a gallery in Eastport.’ That new gallery also showed movies on a 16 millimeter projector borrowed from the Boat School. On a couple occasions Greg Biss brought down his grand piano from Dog Island for an evening concert! Then came the traveling theater troupe Cornerstone and the founding of Stage East; it became clear that the performing arts needed a space of their own too.”
The rest, we could say, is history but more to the point, it was a combination of a crucial group of people plus Joyce’s vision, steely determination and a lot of work. All our lives are every day touched by the EAC and we are most grateful for Joyce’s seminal role in making that happen.
Do you have a story about Joyce that you’d like to share? Please send your remembrance or photo (artwork images encouraged) to be added below. When the EAC community reconvenes on Washington Street, a physical version of this wall will be revealed as part of the festivity. Please spend time with us here, Remembering Joyce. Remembrances will continue to be added as long as they continue to be submitted.
Purple Hearts and Gold Stars
The portrait rose up and whelmed over me, a tidal wave of memory drawing me into a world I had left behind long ago. Through the eyes of her subject, myself, I could see three Marines silently gliding through the viscous fog of war with no other intent than to find their way home alive. Only one did so. Joyce Weber invited me to view this painting which she had done in remembrance of her son-in-law, a helicopter airman, crew or pilot I do not recall which and it makes no difference. She is a Gold Star mother as surely as he was a casualty of war. He was lost at an early age to the unique madness of the Vietnam war and the deadly effects of Agent Orange. But those troubled and distant eyes I looked into hovered above a vast plain of purple that held me in the dense, boundless jungle of traumatic recollection. The purple shirt she had painted swirled with the reds of blood pouring life out of young men, and the breathless blue of death. It is the color of pain and endurance. It is the color of silent peace and eternal yearning. It is the color of transcendence. We will carry on.
* * *
The sun has risen to its ten o’clock station above Passamaquoddy Bay, a glowing, golden star over glistening sea, stirring the winds to rustle through shore-bound flora, and dry the dew-laced meadows. Rhonda takes our empty coffee mugs to rinse in the kitchen of the airy art studio as Joyce and I say our good-byes. The woes of yesteryear are set aside—forgotten—again. We unfurl like sprouting beans from rich, warm soil and rise to meet yet another day. Stevie Wonder promised us a place in the sun and he was not wrong. Not wrong by a long shot.—Charles Kniffen
Joyce was recorded as part of the Eastport Recites project in 2014. Jon Calame, who produced the series of recordings as a volunteer for Peavey Memorial Library, shared this recording of her reading Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Exiled. “I like hearing Joyce’s clear voice and imagining this poem lived out by her in Eastport. It is almost heartbreaking, as a work of art, but also the opposite: a strong example of how even isolated moments of clarity are redemptive, complete.”
Kathleen Dunbar: “When you talk about standing on the shoulders of giants, Joyce Weber was the giant. Even if you didn’t know her personally, if you’ve been involved in the arts in Eastport at all, she has had an impact on your life. Her contribution to the arts community in Eastport can’t be understated. If you were lucky enough to know her, you will miss her soft kind voice, the twinkle in her eyes, and her fiery soul.”
Dana Reitman: “Joyce and her husband lived in Columbia, Maryland at the same time I lived and worked there in 1973-74. She was a member of a weekly life drawing session that I sometimes modeled for, but we didn’t know each other then. After I met her in Eastport we discovered the connection from the past. In our sporadic conversations I was frequently trying to get her to go through her old work to see if she had any drawings of me and she was always trying to get me to model for the sessions in Eastport. I told her that I would, but only if all the artists were nude as well. She laughed. She was an amazing and gifted painter, a lovely woman and had a great sense of humor.”
Mark DeVoto: “Joyce Weber has long been a beloved personality in Eastport, a friend not just to her fellow painters but to all of us who share her enduring concern for arts in the community. She bakes cakes and pies of legendary taste and tastiness, but her still-life paintings of fruit bowls (I have three of them) are even finer, and built to endure; they are fruits one dreams about, visionary plums and pears committed to canvas. Her portrait figures are no less oneiric, rich, evanescent, and truly unforgettable.”
Arthur Cadieux (1943-2016): “Using her keen insight Joyce paints and draws her subjects with a deep feeling for humanity. She has been an inspiration for me, both in her love of the arts and in her artistic work.”
Here are Joyce’s own words, speaking to Rosa Bragdon in 2016: “For myself, I find joy and excitement in my observations; the look of a certain face or the gestural twist of a body as it moves through space. Of course, then begins the ever challenging dance of trying to wed my vision to color and shape and medium, and follow to where they lead me. I find beauty there, not of the usual kind but that which speaks of a particular life, it’s struggles and joys and triumphs…Looking back, yes, I find times of sorrow, but much more; a sense of the beauty and overriding joy that comes from giving birth and nurturing that life; of living and being loved; of having to reach for and find strength sometimes in my very most inner core for meeting life’s challenges.”
Jon Bragdon, in response to Joyce’s quote above: “And meet them, she did! Beginning over 30 years ago Joyce Weber first seeded, then steered and nurtured, the Eastport Gallery and the Eastport Arts Center. And she painted! But all the while, she actively catalyzed something more. Somehow, during this same period, she successfully attracted many of the rest of us to her vision, sparking an emergent evolutionary leap in the very spirit of this place, in our spirits. We, in good measure through her contagious personal example, have metamorphosed into a new community. Joyce Weber gifted us the vision we needed, and then with unflagging energy and love she nurtured it, and us, over the decades to our present “Arts Bloom.” Thank you for everything, Joyce. We miss you.
Naphtali Leyland Fields-Forbes: “She was the first (and only) person to invite me to participate as a model in the figure drawing class, and it was an experience that I enjoyed immensely. She was always so kind and thoughtful and then, when I would least expect it, throw in a sudden spark of humor into our conversations.”
Sue Moore: “She was so kind and welcoming to me at the Gallery. She felt like home when she hugged me. Such a beautiful graceful spirit shone through those twinkling eyes. A profound loss💔”
For anyone who’d like a tangible memento of Joyce and her work: Joyce Weber: Figures, A Retrospective is a catalog of Eastport Arts Center’s 2013 exhibition of her work. It contains several dozen full-color reproductions from Joyce’s lifetime of work, together with appreciations by Jean Wilhelm, Arthur Cadieux, Elizabeth Ostrander, Heidi Reidell, Mark DeVoto, and Jon Bragdon.