Art with Familial Connection

Artists Harry and Lynn Powers extend their marriage with 'Creative in Common' show
Harry Powers
Two paintings by Harry Powers: 'Curved Time' (left) and
'Starbirth.' Images: courtesy Harry Powers.
Harry and Lynn Powers
Harry and Lynn Powers.
Lynn's 'Enough' assemblage.

Harry Powers, who as a young man showed his art in Eichler model homes, is displaying it today at the de Saisset Museum, at Santa Clara University, along with art by his wife, Lynn Powers, in an unusual exhibition that's all about family.

The show is called 'Creative in Common'—and it "explores family by bringing together work by artists who share a familial connection—partner to partner, parent to child," the museum states on its website. The show features ten artists in all and runs through March 15.

"The show focuses on two people who are artists in same family, artists working independently and supporting each other. I think it was a very good idea," says Harry Powers, a painter, sculptor, mosaic artist, and more, who taught art for more than 30 years at San Jose State before retiring.

His wife of 25 years, painter Lynn Powers, also taught there. They share a downtown San Jose home with a separate studio. Each has their own studio, with a common area in between.

"She goes into her studio in the morning and I go into mine," Harry describes a typical day. "We meet for coffee later in the morning, and then later we get together for lunch. When we work, we close our doors. Each of us has a good music system. We can't hear each other's music, unless we crank it up a lot, which we don't do."

"We very often end the day with, 'Let me show you what I did today. I'm not finished yet. I kind of want that edge to be softer.'"

Yes, they critique each other's work. "There are side comments, but they don't influence you too much," Harry says, "unless you have a really thin skin."

"We're tremendously supportive of each other. Neither one of us tries to out-stage the other person. It's just wonderful. She's an independent imagination, and I am too."

Harry, who grew up in the South Bay, first encountered Joe Eichler as a boy, around 1950, when Joe was associated with Harry's uncle, a contractor. "Sometimes I talked with him," Harry says of Joe, "although he did not seem too interested in a college kid studying art."

"I later met him again when I was in grad school at Stanford. Through a professor there, Matt Kahn, some of my work was used to embellish an Eichler model."

"I have always admired this man who brought good design to routine city life."

Powers went on to own an Eichler—and recalls what happened when it was time to sell.

"During an open house a very interested woman asked me about the plywood walls. She asked 'Will there be any problem putting wall paper over the wood?' I said 'Ma'am, if you are planning to put wall paper over the wood, I will not sell you this house.' She quietly left."

For more on 'Creative in Common,' click here.