THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 28  artist Donald Alter

I fell in love with the story of Black Mountain College and I have done posts on many of the people associated with the college such as  Anni Albers, Josef Albers, Donald AlterSylvia Ashby, James BishopJohn Cage,   Willem de Kooning (featured  in 3 posts)Ted Dreier, Ted Dreier Jr. Robert DuncanJorge Fick, Walter Gropius, Heinrich Jalowetz, Pete Jennerjahn, Wassily Kandinsky,   Karen Karnes,  Martha KingIrwin Kremen, Charles OlsonCharles Perrow, Robert Rauschenber,  M.C.Richards, Dorothea Rockburne,  Xanti Schawinsky, Claude Stoller Bill TreichlerSusan Weil,  David Weinrib,  and Vera B. Williams

Airplane Landscape, Don Alter


by Abby Luby

Don Alter was very much at home in the well lit Hudson Beach gallery in Beacon. The 81 year old artist was surrounded by his latest body of work — a stopping point of sorts to mark more than six decades of painting. Alter is one of the sole remaining students of the famed Black Mountain College of the 1940’s, an experience that shaped him as a maturing, young artist. Today, Alter is more like a philosopher who articulates his theories through painting, and who is informed by a diverse set of life experiences .

Don Alter

Alter was a first generation American who was raised in the Bronx by his Polish immigrant father Sol Alter, a bread baker. As an artist, the young Alter attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, after which he was accepted at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The small college was an artists’ mecca and Alter met and worked with such artists and thinkers as Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, John Cage, Alfred Kazin, Merce Cunningham, and famed authors Arthur Penn and Paul Goodman, among others. On the board of directors was Albert Einstein and William Carlos Williams.

Alter was just under 18 and the youngest one at the Black Mountain campus, a small, open community of artists who embraced a liberal life style in and out of the classroom. For the young artist it was like being a kid in a toy store. “It was innovative and exciting,” says Alter. “It was like Shangri-​​La and everyone was very close.”

Alter studied drawing, painting and color under the rigorous tutelage of Josef Albers and textile design with Anni Albers, both who had just fled Nazi Germany after closing that country’s famous Bauhaus school.

The Albers taught us about the Bauhaus philosophy,” recalls Alter. “They taught us that there is a social responsibility between artists and the world. It got me thinking about my economic identity and how one makes their way in the world.”

The training paved the way for Alter’s successful career in textile design, but before he could test the commercial waters of the design world, he was drafted to serve in the Korean War. In the military he completed the vigorous combat training for overseas, but ended up state side creating military training aids and signs because of his artistic talent.

After his stint in the military, he set his goals towards the textile world and eventually became a well known and respected designer and founded Design Logic Inc. in New York City. His ideas grew from his art background — a rich mix of abstract and real imagery.

The work I did was very innovative in a competitive world.  It was a time when a lot of visually exciting things were happening in the world. People were working and there was a sense of optimism and an energetic retail market.”

As a successful textile designer, Alter always had his finger on the pulse of the visual world — both commercial and artistic. He created and produced textile designs for home furnishings, fabrics, wall paper and other products. He had commissioned and noncommissioned designs that were sold nationally and internationally. By the time he retired in 1990, he was ready to return to painting full time. Today, he lives with his wife Alice Himmel in Newburgh and his studio is a small space overcrowded with stacks of canvases.

Over the years, Alter has seen the growing number of surfaces with images that fill our everyday lives are a “bombardment of visual media where it has become so super saturated without intellectual comparison and too disparate.”  To that end, Alter says he wants to simplify the artist-​​viewer relationship. Today, his has deftly expressed his ideas combining abstract and realism. His colors are extraordinary and the subject matter is compelling. In “Airplane Landscape” rainbow colored flora and fauna grow off the canvas, a subtle, tiny airplane hints at a sense of perspective.


Apple Orchard” shows a young man integrated with nature, a mysterious ladder reaches up to a sky of ethereal plumes. Other work includes fantasy landscapes, beguiling faces and abstract explosions that reverberate off the canvas. Alter says as he gets older, experimenting and stepping outside the box becomes easier, as does showing his work.

Don Alter_Heads #11 of 12

I’m opening up more, maybe because it’s easier to get rejected at my age. You wait to be a unique voice. I want to take the time and develop skills to make something exciting. I am, after all, a provocateur.”

Two very dedicated friends and artists have helped Alter regularly show his work here in the Hudson Valley. Tony Moore, a sculptor, and Harald Plochberger, a painter, have curated the current two-​​part show of Alter’s work at the Hudson Beach gallery in Beacon, a community based gallery. Both men have produced the DVD film, “Donald Alter: A Dialogue on Painting,”  Both shows  (the second one started June 9) are calledChromatic Tales, Part 1 and Part 2.  

DONALD ALTER: Chromatic Tales – Part 1 and 2
Paintings, Drawings, Prints
May 12 — July 5, 2012

162 MAIN STREET, BEACON, NY 12508 T 845 440‑0068

Abby Luby, author of the recently published e-​​​​book Nuclear Romance, has been in the field of communications for over 20 years and a journalist just over 10. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications/​​Music from Indiana University and attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City.

She is a freelance journalist for The New York Daily News, a regularly featured art critic for the Stamford Advocate/​​Greenwich Time and for the past five years has written for The Hudson Valley Table, a quarterly food magazine. Ms. Luby has contributed several articles on art events, gallery openings and artists in the Hudson Valley region to Roll Magazine. www​.abbylu​.com

My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards. In the 11th post I discuss the fact that Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain.

In the 12th post I feature Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who was featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE and the film showed Kandinsky teaching at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE which was not true according to my research. Evidently he was invited but he had to decline because of his busy schedule but many of his associates at BRAUHAUS did teach there. In the 13th post I look at the writings of the communist Charles Perrow. 

Willem de Kooning was such a major figure in the art world and because of that I have dedicated the 14th15th and 16th posts in this series on him. Paul McCartney got interested in art through his friendship with Willem because Linda’s father had him as a client. Willem was a  part of New York School of Abstract expressionism or Action painting, others included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Clyfford Still, and Richard Pousette-Dart.

In the 17th post I look at the founder Ted Dreier and his strength as a fundraiser that make the dream of Black Mountain College possible. In the 18th post I look at the life of the famous San Francisco poet Robert Duncan who was both a student at Black Mountain College in 1933 and a professor in 1956. In the 19th post I look at the composer Heinrich Jalowetz who starting teaching at Black Mountain College in 1938 and he was one of  Arnold Schoenberg‘s seven ‘Dead Friends’ (the others being Berg, Webern, Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos). In the 20th post I look at the amazing life of Walter Gropius, educator, architect and founder of the Bauhaus.

In the 21st post I look at the life of the playwright Sylvia Ashby, and in the 22nd post I look at the work of the poet Charles Olson who in 1951, Olson became a visiting professor at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, working and studying here beside artists such as John Cage and Robert Creeley.[2] 

In the 23rd post is about the popular artist James Bishop who attended Black Mountain College towards the end of its existence. In the 24th post I look at the Poet-Writer Martha King. In the 25th post I talk about the life of the architect Claude Stoller and his time at Black Mountain College. In the 26th post I look at Ted Drieir. Jr., who was a student at Black Mountain College and the son of the founder. In the 27th post I look at the work of the artist Dorothea Rockburne and in the 28th post the artist Donald Alter.

Sparks Adaptation The Longest Ride Works for Both ‘Rom’ and ‘Com’

  • Susan Contributing Writer
  • 201510 Apr

Sparks Adaptation <i>The Longest Ride</i> Works for Both 'Rom' and 'Com'

Release Date: April 10, 2015
Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action
Genre: Drama, Romance
Run Time: 139 minutes
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Cast: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin

It’s Spring, and when a young movie-goer’s fancy turns to love, best-selling author Nicholas Sparks is ready to take her there. Based on the Sparks novel of the same name, The Longest Ride is a sweetheart of a movie that may not break new ground but is almost certain to please.

Sophia (Britt Robertson, Dan in Real Life and the upcoming Tomorrowland) is an art lover on the cusp of a brilliant career at a Manhattan gallery, just as soon as she finishes her last semester of college. Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) is a professional bull rider, a cowboy who has already had a spectacular rise and fall and is desperately trying to make a comeback. The two have little in common and almost no time to be together. Clearly, they’re meant for each other.

They do make an adorable couple. Sophia is cute and intense with a sweet, lively face that crinkles into any number of interested expressions. Luke is charming and a little old-fashioned with plenty of the smoldering appeal that made Eastwood’s movie star dad a favorite for an earlier generation of female fans. Their budding romance is delightfully awkward, but it’s all for naught as these two are clearly going their separate ways (or are they?). As if the glorious North Carolina scenery, romantic candlelight, etc. were not enough, their first date takes an intense turn when they happen upon a car accident and rescue the elderly driver and his box of mementos. Ira (Alan Alda, Tower Heist) is banged up but not so much that he loses his gift of good-natured, crotchety banter. When Sophia befriends Ira and gradually comes to know his story—mostly through the letters in his box—one tale becomes two as the relationship between young Ira and his beloved Ruth (Oona Chaplin) is woven into that of the modern couple.

While Sophia and Luke’s romance is sweet and all, when they were onscreen I found myself waiting for the next chapters of Ira and Ruth’s far more interesting love story. Set against the backdrop of WWII, and covering a span of many years, there’s a depth to the older couple’s love that is (naturally) missing in the newly-connected modern-day couple. The two couples have so many parallels it strains belief a bit, but this is a starry-eyed fantasy, after all. Sometimes reality is overrated.

In addition to all the sweetness, there are enough funny moments to justify both the ‘rom’ and ‘com’ labels. Both male and female viewers in my audience burst into laughter on several occasions, several confessed to a tear or two, and a good time was had by all… except maybe Rango, the bull who is Luke’s nemesis. All that bull riding—and there is a fair amount—is shown from a variety of interesting angles, including the rider’s. The film features a number of real-life cowboys from the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) circuit, adding a nice touch of gritty reality.

The soundtrack is more than just background music; it provides commentary on the action. Like the dulcet tones of the Pistol Annies singing “I feel a sin comin’ on; please Jesus don’t hold me back” or Ryan Adams crooning about “Desire.” As those titles suggest, Sophia and Luke’s is a modern relationship, which means they don’t bother with anything so quaint as waiting for marriage; they consummate their love in several scenes that are steamy in more ways than one. To director George Tillman Jr.’s credit, those scenes are, at least, artfully filmed and have a dreamy romantic feel. This is a true love story, not just a relationship movie.

The Longest Ride is the is the tenth Sparks book to be made into a movie, and at almost 2 hours, 20 minutes is the longest of them, but the time passes quickly. While the big “surprise” ending may not be much of a surprise to those familiar with the inspirational stories that populate Facebook (it’s a variation on a tale that made the rounds a year or so ago), it’s satisfying nonetheless. All ends as it should, making this an enjoyable girls’-night-out movie that, thanks to all the bull riding action, guys may actually enjoy, too.

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking at bars, wine with dinner, occasional drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: A couple of muttered “Shhhhhht” one d-word and one exclamation of “Jesus.”
  • Sex/Nudity: Sophia’s friend pulls down Sophia’s t-shirt to expose more cleavage for her date with Luke and tells her “You’re the only girl I know who wouldn’t have a fling with a cowboy.” Teasing comment about not wearing underwear (more funny than sultry). Several kisses, some artistically-filmed sex scenes that show relatively discreet side and back nudity. We see a good amount of Luke’s muscular backside and hands caressing. Some slow stripping scenes and semi-skinny dipping (swimming in underwear).
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Bull riding is an intense, competitive, dangerous sport and we see it from a variety of angles. Some war scenes show troops under fire. Men are injured in a variety of ways. A victim is pulled from a wrecked car.

Publication date: April 10, 2015

The Longest Ride Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Britt Robertson Movie HD

It has been my practice on this blog to cover some of the top artists of the past and today and that is why I am doing  this current series on Black Mountain College (1933-1955). Here are some links to some to some of the past posts I have done on other artists: Marina AbramovicIda Applebroog,  Matthew Barney, Aubrey Beardsley, Larry BellWallace BermanPeter BlakeDerek BoshierPauline BotyBrenda Bury,  Allora & Calzadilla,   Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Heinz Edelmann Olafur EliassonTracey EminJan Fabre, Makoto Fujimura, Hamish Fulton, Ellen GallaugherRyan Gander, John Giorno, Rodney Graham,  Cai Guo-QiangBrion GysinJann HaworthArturo HerreraOliver HerringDavid Hockney, David Hooker,  Nancy HoltRoni HornPeter HowsonRobert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Martin KarplusMargaret KeaneMike Kelley, Peter KienJeff Koons Annie Leibovitz, John LennonRichard LinderSally MannKerry James MarshallTrey McCarley, Linda McCartney, Paul McCartneyPaul McCarthyJosiah McElhenyBarry McGee, Richard MerkinNicholas MonroYoko OnoTony Oursler, John OutterbridgeNam June PaikEduardo PaolozziGeorge PettyWilliam Pope L.Gerhard Richter, Anna Margaret Rose,  James RosenquistSusan RothenbergGeorges Rouault, Richard SerraShahzia Sikander, Raqub ShawThomas ShutteSaul SteinbergHiroshi SugimotoStuart SutcliffeMika Tajima,Richard TuttleLuc Tuymans, Alberto Vargas,  Banks Violett, H.C. Westermann,  Fred WilsonKrzysztof Wodiczko, Andrew WyethJamie WyethDavid WynneAndrea Zittel,


Donald Alter and W.P. “Pete” Jennerjahn

As a supplement to the Mountain Xpress article, A Tale of Two Painters about Black Mountain College alumni, Donald Alter and W.P. “Pete” Jennerjahn, I am posting these excerpts from my conversations with each, respectively. The opportunity to speak at length with these two artists was tremendous. Both were incredibly accommodating and very pleasant to chat with.

Donald Alter

Donald Alter lives and works in Newburgh, NY. He was born in 1930 and attended Black Mountain College in 1948-1950. These are some comments Alter made during our telephone conversation November 19, 2010. See more of his work at

On Black Mountain College:

“Sometimes I smile at the realities of Black Mountain College, but I think that it is probably one of the main experiences of my life. That was a very very unique experience for me. Specifically there was contact with very exciting people. These were many artists in many areas and they were all accessible. It was very removed from the real world.

“We had a geographical location (Black Mountain) where all these artists could converge. That became a community where any talent could shine and emerge. Nobody would every think that Rauschenburg would be one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. We didn’t realize how unique it was.

“At Black Mountain it was all primarily painting, but I did everything that I could touch. I did sculpture, weaving, all kinds of crazy stuff. Albers encouraged that kind of thing. We did a lot of artwork that required no paint and brush at all.

“In 1948-50 this was a very exciting time for art. Art started to really gel and young people had opportunity. Those are days that I think are gone now. I don’t see that happening today.
This is a lesson I try to impart to young people: they stand in awe of this great place where all of these great artists live but I keep telling these people that there’s great talents all over and you cant recognize it until they develop it and let it emerge.
I’m not particularly excited in the world of academia or how art is taught and what happens to youngsters who get into it.

“[After I left Black Mountain College] I never went back to school. It’s an individual pursuit. Once you learn yellow and red make orange you’re off and running.

On painting and career:

“I went into the textile design field in NY, but I always had a paintbrush in my hand. I was always involved in the arts. At a later age I went back to painting. In my mind I differentiated between the commercial world of art and the fine art world. I opted to go back into the world of painting at the age of 65.

“Back then people needed textiles. There were retails markets that were selling textiles, now that’s all being done in China. The markets have shifted. But that’s a whole other conversation.

“I tried to live my life with integrity as an artist. Being an artist is a very risky endeavor. Really at this stage in the game I feel humble and modest. There’s a lot of nonsense in the world.

“It is a very difficult area to engage in. When I finish a painting I call it a day and that’s all I do. The more arduous the effort the more depressed I can get. So maybe I go back to it later and it becomes alive again.

“There’s a lot of self-doubt and you have to get rid of that — the self-doubt.
Hudson Valley Weave 2008

On personal creative evolution:

“The subject matter started to change (over the years.) I was no longer painting decorative flowers. If you look at those two paintings, in the gallery next to each other [Transformation 1949 and Hudson Valley Weave 2008]– I picked up right where I was when I was a student at Black Mountain The biological forms, the colors — it was uncanny.

“I went back and used the vocabulary I learned at Black Mountain
On Making a Living:

“Making a living is very difficult. That’s the real test that describes who you are. My neighbors don’t even know what I’m doing but I don’t disrespect them for it. The world is too complicated. You can ask a lot more of it than it’s bound to give you.

“There are people making large sums of money promoting painting. It’s a hard game to play and I don’t play it. I’m an old timer and the world I play in is a lot different.

“When I look at these younger upstarts I get excited, but a lot of it is hype. The art world is a very troublesome place. There are some crazy things going on.

“I figured out a way to make prints and sell them for 4 cents, I call them 4-penny prints. In the market place where art is being sold at Sotheby’s for millions of dollars I’ve been making prints for 4 cents, which I think, is pretty funny.

On criticism:

“It’s very difficult. Sometimes you feel a little bit upset –there’s no question about it. It’s like going to the office and the boss is not respecting your work. Its risky, it takes a lot of self-discipline. You really have to love it to keep up with it.

“Money pressure can get intense. I think that’s part of the real world that no one ever discusses in art school.


W.P “Pete” Jennerjahn and recent paintings

W.P “Pete” Jennerjahn lives near Sedona Arizona. Below are excerpts from our telephone conversation November 19, 2010.

On Black Mountain College and Josef Albers:

“I started life in 1922. I showed up at Black Mountain in 1948.

“I had already been through undergrad and grad programs at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The other schools were traditional as far as the art departments – with regulation of tests and credits. But Black Mountain didn’t deal in credits. You were examined by your faculty involved, I wasn’t there long enough to actually get a degree, but what Black Mountain did was they would solicit from the nation someone who had a reputation in that field and that person would come and examine you and evaluate you if you could graduate or not.

“I was focused on whatever Josef Albers was teaching at the time — primarily color, painting and design.

“I had it up to here as far as responding to teachers in the grad schools I was at. My wife [Elizabeth Jennerjahn] who had been to BMC, recognized that Albers was someone special beyond any kind of other teacher.

“In previous teachers there were the kind of rote lessons on hue, value and intensity –and you did everything based on that kind of thing.

“I passed thru that period of my education during the Depression days when people we looked up to were doing murals in post offices and we were urged to do work murals. Of course that was a phase I passed on thru as I was encountering my teachers in college.

“At Black Mountain they didn’t deal in that at all. It was not the artistic theme we were working on. We were working in basic themes. Colors. In some of the painting classes we would do still life studies and work from the wonderful scenery on campus. There was actually a lake there and we were very influenced by it.

Contrary Shadows, 1952

On Color:

“What was in effect in the US at the time was that you were realistic about color. And the color did not have an independence or a value other than their literalness so if you wanted a whole other feeling to arise from what you were working on you could feel free to abandon the old rules.

“After my working with Albers I taught a color course. I would have the students answer a questionnaire with questions like, “What are your favorite colors? What colors would you not put together? The idea was to have them declare their attitudes towards color at the time. After some time I would have them take the colors they hate and make them shake off those old rules and work freshly with color to have something happen. I told them, ‘I want you to use the colors you hate and put them together so that they support each other.’

“Even in my painting now I’m continually challenging myself. The idea of the subject matter now is not important. I’ll put a color down and think which color I don’t want to see next to that color. So I work with those colors to figure out how to make the colors work together. I might give it some ludicrous type of title. More or less I am still struggling to keep from falling into the same combinations of things.

On the art world now:

“From what I gather from the young people I see submitting to the exhibits – they are much freer than when I was going through art studies back in the 40’s. There are still a number of them caught up in the old attitudes in relation to color so they’re not making full use to what the medium has to offer them.

“I remember in Milwaukee there was a contemporary art exhibit that came through [in the 1940’s] and there were things that came through in collage, that we were just scratching our heads over, and now nobody thinks twice about that kind of thing.

“I don’t subscribe to art magazines so I don’t have a good handle on the current art trends but I would say there is more flowing into the matter of not having things flat on the wall. There’s a lot more collage and layers of things, which was unheard of when I went through as a college level student.

“Many people are doing bulky 3D works that are much more tolerated than my time. It was rare to have things made out of metal and pipes and bent mechanical parts. Artists today are infinitely more adventurous in materials than they were back in those days.

On his own paintings:

“Lately I’ve been working with thin washes of acrylic. I started to give up on oils out of a frustration because I had a studio in the Adirondacks of NY and I would be getting all worked up making paintings and then when it was time to pack up the painting was too wet to ship.

“I began to like the flow of working with acrylics and I didn’t have to worry about drying time.
I enjoy working with acrylics because I can work with them in a way I had been doing with watercolors. I could do more things with liquid acrylics. It felt more on the same territory of expression as watercolor.

On mixing colors:

“It depends on what my need is. If I want a certain color that is opaque and it lies between cadmium orange and an earth color I will mix if I have to. I try to be economical about it — not to indulge so that it takes me 4 tubes to get around to a color. I feel that I should be able to arrive at a color that I had in mind with no more than two tubes.

“Albers would buy tube color but would only add white. He would only add white. The only indulgence he gave himself was to lighten colors with white. To a certain extent I try to keep that same kind of economy. And at time I try to get a variation.

“I have paintings 4 feet high with slight color variations produced as color stripes. I did 10 years in that phase of horizontal stripes. The shift changes very little from stripe to stripe –like in the sky. On most of those paintings there are no two similar stripes of color.

Click to access HarpersMagazine-1936-04-0019125.pdf

Black Mountain College was founded in the aftermath of a faculty governance dispute at Rollins College, a small Florida college.  The ejected parties, which included the College’s first rector, John Andrew Rice, went before an AAUP mediation panel that vindicated their actions but ultimately could not reinstate them as faculty.  They decided to found an educational institution that would avoid the pitfalls of an autocratic chancellor.  Black Mountain College was established with the aim of providing an education in life and pedagogy, loosening or altogether abolishing the types of distinctions between student and faculty, and faculty and administration, that usually served to specialize roles and bolster hierarchical distinctions.  With minimal structure, borne of both ideological inclination and economic necessity, Black Mountain’s experiment in education would prove innovative, yet provisional and ultimately untenable.

Black Mountain College’s institutional organization was peculiar and problematic.  It was wholly owned by the faculty and students, with a governing Board of Fellows (headed by an elected rector) composed of eight faculty members and one student member culled from their respective constituencies.  Non-binding recommendations were made by an external Advisory Board that met infrequently.  A work program was required of all college members, although in practice students executed many of the duties..



By Tony Moore

Donald Alter is a long term resident of the Hudson Valley who will celebrate his eighty-second year in 2012. Although in faltering health, he vigorously paints, draws, collages and creates in a profoundly experimental way, indicative of his scholarship during formative years at Black Mountain College, Asheville, NC. 

Donald Alter attended Black Mountain as a student from 1948 to 1950 and again during the summer sessions of 1950 and 51. Historically, Black Mountain is long renowned as a foremost experimental, liberal arts, and almost utopian college community, ​dating back to its origins in1933. 
​Over a twenty-three year period, only some 1,200 students were enrolled, including the celebrated artist Robert Rauschenberg, among others. The profoundly influential faculty that established Black Mountain as an experimental center for the development of the American contemporary movement included Joseph and Anni Albers who brought with them from Germany the avant-garde provocations of the Bauhaus philosophies of rigorous investigation, experimentation and foundations in many varied visual and material disciplines. These were always coupled with the student’s orientation and personal development.

 While teachers and students were in flux, some coming for a semester, summer school or for the duration of several years (such as Alter), teaching approaches, administration and philosophically creative approaches also changed. While immersed in the buoyantly creative and social life of the “community”, Don met, knew or interacted with fellow students and teachers such as Rauschenberg, Joseph and Anni Albers (studying painting, color theory and textile design), Joseph Fiore (studying painting and drawing), the painter Kenneth Noland, art critic Clement Greenberg, musician/composer John Cage, dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham and many others.

An example of Alter’s youthful vibrancy at this time might be epitomized by an affectionate memoir by fellow student Martha Rittenhouse: “Bob (Robert Rauschenberg) was one of the students at Black Mountain who had rhythm in their souls --. The other ones were Delores Fullman, Donald Alter, Ulrich Heinnemann-Rufer, and Errissinola Genesi, called Mitzi. I envied them with all my heart.”
In retrospect, Black Mountain College, its community and faculty was to have a life-long influence for the foundation and methodology for Don Alter’s work to come, both as an internationally successful textile designer, artist and member of whatever creative community he is associated with. His knowledge and digestion of 20th Century Modernism, the principles of design, color, line, plane, form, opacity, transparency i.e. the visual language of art and artmaking, are so internalized that he has tremendous facility to almost render anything that should come to mind. 

​While fluent in both figuration and abstraction, and moving fluidly between them without prejudice, Alter, at almost 82 years, in a jammed-packed small single car garage in Newburgh, NY, brings vitality and new thresholds of discovery, daily to his creative practice.

In particular, the exhibition’s curators (Tony Moore and Harald Plochberger) find Alter’s recent Hudson Valley landscapes to reflect and in some ways epitomize his oeuvre. Inventive, abstract, figurative, luscious, naive, sophisticated, mysterious and at times evoking an edgy anxiety, these paintings and drawings are a summation of a life-time of quiet achievement (after Black Mountain being drafted in to the army, a full career as a NYC based textile designer with his own company, husband bereaved and re-married, and father to three children.) 

The works contain something of a utopian vision or apparent innocence, coupled with an anxious foreboding of the “thicket” of both human and natural worlds. Always inventive and “perfectly” orchestrated, these landscapes are peopled with literal and metaphorical references
to space and time, recent and current events, psychological realities and, above all, to a certain delight in the craft and sincere belief in picture making.

Curators Moore and Plochberger propose that Donald Alter’s example of lifelong commitment to creativity and the investigative spirit is an example to behold/uphold.

​“May recognition within his lifetime, carry in spirit, both the artist and new generations ‘Beyond Black Mountain’.” 

SUMMER BREEZE          30″ H x 36″ W          Acrylic on Panel  2007

THROUGH THE BUSH           20.5″ H x 20″ W          Acrylic on Panel  2004

BACKYARD          12″ H x 10″ W          Acrylic on Panel  2006

Curators Biography:

Tony Moore is a sculptor and painter with works represented in several international museum collections including the Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Museum. He has taught, organized, curated and installed numerous exhibitions at museums and colleges within the US. and internationally. Locally organized exhibitions include two “Passionate Fire” exhibitions of international and regional ceramic artists, at Germain Keller Gallery, Garrison, Bronx artists at Bau Gallery, Beacon and most recently “Passionate Fire: Wood-fired Ceramics from the Tony Moore Kiln” at Hudson Beach Glass Gallery, Beacon. After 25 years in NYC, he now resides in Cold Spring, NY.
Harald Plochberger is a painter, multi-media artist and videographer. His work is exhibited internationally and represented in many European collections. He has taught, organized, curated and installed exhibitions and was a principal founding member of Bau Gallery, Beacon, where he was instrumental in organizing and promoting many successful exhibitions, jazz concerts and multi-media events. He has also designed and maintained websites for artists and galleries. He resides in Ellenville, NY.


The Longest Ride Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Britt Robertson Movie HD

Related posts:

THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 22 Poet Charles Olson, friend of Ezra Pound

THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 21 Sylvia Ashby playwright

THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 20 Walter Gropius, Bauhaus,

THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 19 composer Heinrich Jalowetz, student of Arnold Schoenberg


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