Meet your neighbor ... Jay Kane and his mission to ensure his mother’s legacy
DARIEN — For Jay Kane, ensuring the legacy of his mother and her artwork comes second to none.
When his mother died in 2006, she left him her entire art collection. Kane, a former Greenwich resident, decided five years ago to move to Darien and build a more suitable home for her art pieces.
It took Kane, 87, three years to build the property that now houses the sculptures and artwork of his mother, Margaret.
“The house is designed the way it is to show the art,” he said.
Jay said his mother got her start after her father encouraged her to quit college and attend the The Art Students League of New York in the late 1920s.
“She did sculptures for about 70 years,” he said.
While growing up, Jay said he would visit his mother’s art studio and attended exhibitions. Creating art also ran in the family, as Jay’s grandfather was a jeweler.
“He influenced my mother and she had the talent, no question,” he said.
In 1936, Margaret did her first piece that reflected the social environment of the time. The sculpture, titled “Harlem Dancers,” has stood in the entrance of the Smithsonian American Art Museum for 25 years, opposite a painting by Edward Hopper.
“She was influenced by music in Harlem and Louisiana, and it was her way of showing it in sculpture,” Jay said.
The Great Depression and World War II greatly influenced the sculptures she would go on to create. Jay said his mother believed all great art in the world represented the time in which it was done.
“The only way we know what people did in the middle ages is from art,” he said.
Margaret worked to ensure her artwork was always one of a kind, and that she never copied the work of another.
“It’s one reason why as a mature artist she never went to museums,” Jay said. “She didn’t want to be influenced by what she saw in museums.”
His mother believed a artist’s work should be original and beautifully executed, Jay said.
Though Margaret didn’t receive as much attention in her later years, she garnered lots of recognition for her art in the 1930s, Jay said. “She used to say to me, ‘There’s nothing you can do about the work — it has to speak for itself.’ ”
After World War II, the family moved to Greenwich, where Margaraet spent the next 40 years working in her art studio. For a period of time, she stopped exhibiting her art pieces and preferred to work out of the studio behind her house.
After she died, Margaret left over 50 pieces of artwork in the studio to her son.
“She knew I was really interested in it, and I’ve helped in a lot of different ways over the years,” Jay said of his mother’s decision.
However, he soon realized his colonial house in Greenwich was unsuitable for his mother’s pieces.
“It’s one of the reasons I moved up here (Darien) and built this place,” he said.
Last year, Jay met Margaret McIntire, executive director of the Darien Historical Society, and together they created an exhibit to memorialize his mother and some of her key artworks.
Titled “About Time: The Masterwork of Margaret Brassler Kane,” the exhibit will run from Oct. 19 to Feb. 3.
Margaret’s artwork and passion for her field left a lasting impression on Jay.
“I’ve never taken a class in art,” Jay said. “But I’ve been involved in it for 75 years because of her.”