Promoting a Legacy

Caddells join Whitehead
in compiling book on Hubbard art

Late artist Harlan Hubbard left much of his art to Caddell

FRANKFORT, Ind. (August 2017) – In 1954, Bill Caddell took a trip across the Ohio River that would change his life. At the time he was a student at Hanover College, and his fraternity brother had invited him on a trip to Payne Hollow to visit Trimble County, Ky., artist Harlan Hubbard. The friendship that developed during that visit would lead Caddell to continue to return to visit Hubbard for more than 40 years. When Hubbard died in 1988 he left most of his artwork to Caddell.
Bill and Flo Caddell, along with Jessica Whitehead, are now organizing a new book of Hubbard’s watercolors. Around 200 works have been selected out of many more, and they are currently working on the book proposal. They hope to publish with the University Press of Kentucky, with the printing expected to cost $20,000 as a result of a needing a special type of color printing.

Photo courtesy of
David Aaron Marshall

This Harlan Hubbard woodcut depicts a shantyboat on the shore. It is among those included in the new book.

“Hubbard’s watercolors haven’t really been written about, but they really represent the feeling of his lifestyle and the beauty, color and life of the Ohio River valley. They capture the vastness and vitality of the landscape,” Whitehead said during a July telephone interview. In addition to their value as works of art, she said, the watercolors also have immense value in the biographical information they contain. Through them, scholars and others interested in Hubbard’s life can tell where, when and how he traveled during his long career.
Whitehead, who in 2013 guest-curated an exhibit of Hubbard’s work at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, found herself very drawn to his style when she studied his work at Hanover College. She knew that he was well known for his lifestyle but felt that his art career got overshadowed. He wasn’t recognized during his lifetime and, while he was self-sufficient in his lifestyle, his art didn’t garner him the respect he deserves. She feels that he has amazing instinct and is able to do so much with so little.
“He can conjure a landscape with just a few brushstrokes. He had a real eye for composition and color,” she said. While Hubbard isn’t credited for being part of modernism and post-modernism, she said, many of his techniques, such as abstraction, a painterly technique and the use of color as emotion, are thought of as aspects of modernist art.
“Our hope is to bring him to a larger audience who loves art to his work. He belongs in the company of artists like Charles Burchfield, John Marin and Georgia O’Keefe because he is a contemporary and peer. Like them, he is inextricable from his landscape,” she said.

Photo courtesy of
Flo Caddell

Bill and Flo Caddell pose in the yard of their Frankfort, Ind., home.

According to Whitehead, watercolor painting was historically looked down on by artists, and for a long time in Europe and America, it was viewed just as a means of sketching. In the 20th century it started to be used as a finished product. In terms of Hubbard, she said, watercolors were indicative of the other aspects of his life.
“Watercolors are portable, so they were easy for him to travel with in his itinerant lifestyle of traveling up and down the river and riding the railroads. They also represent his aesthetic of doing so much with so little. He was always wandering and always kept it simple. We can all learn from him.”
For their last collection of Hubbard’s work, Flo Caddell read through hundreds of pages of Hubbard’s journals to find text to accompany about images of his woodcuts. For the book on watercolors, they decided to take a different approach.
“The way that the Hubbards lived and their philosophy of sustainability led many people to change their lives,” Bill Caddell said.
For the watercolor book, the plan is to use interviews with people whose lives have been impacted by the Hubbards as some of the accompanying texts. So far, more than 20 people have been interviewed for the project.
Bill Caddell includes himself among those who altered their lifestyles significantly after spending time with the Hubbards. Not only does he consider Harlan a role model, he credits the Hubbards with inspiring him and his wife to build their house to be energy efficient, with a highly efficient wood-burning stove and a large garden.
Despite the fact that he served as an inspiration to so many people, though, Caddell said that Hubbard never told people how to live. When the coal-burning power plant was being built at Clifty Creek, someone asked Hubbard how he felt about it. According to Caddell, Hubbard responded that “if those people feel that they need electricity, who am I to tell them they’re wrong.”

• For more information on the project or to contribute to the publishing costs of the book, Bill Caddell can be reached at 5068 W. Gasline Rd., Frankfort, IN 46041. You may email him at: bcaddell43@gmail.com.

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