Sam Francis study

Pont Reis
Text by Valter Rossi from Life is a sign

Galvanized by the results, we set up a work project, also in New York, in the spring of the new year. Once again it was not possible to realize it because Sam was very busy for a large retrospective, traveling exhibition, organized by Pontus Hulten and, also, for the new house under construction in Point Reyes, where he intended to move permanently.

This decision was dictated by the need to live in an environment as less contaminated as possible, with the assistance of his oriental therapists who had followed him for years to help him overcome his illness, for many incurable, for him a continuous challenge in which he was still winner.

We often spoke on the phone to fix hypothetical dates that served, more than anything else, to show us the affection that bound us.

Once again it occurred to me to revive the famous walking printing house. Sam was waiting for nothing else, even if in Point Reyes, having not yet finished the new house, he had no way to accommodate us, besides the space for the study. We went to a small Motel on stilts, recommended by him, in the bay of the village. I must say it was a fantastic retreat for us, where we stayed for 59 days.

The beginning was burning because by now Sam no longer needed to imagine the results with approximation and, sure of his means, he went further.

As a good dreamer and interpreter of his dreams, he happened to find himself stunned by an image that he himself was creating. Thus he produced a large number of subjects, all very different.

This first great effort immediately showed us how much it cost him.

The therapists took several days to bring Sam back to a normal situation and we realized that the splendid work he did was a true tribute to life: the shapes, the rhythms, the brightness of the color, the tension, the vibration,

balance and joy… he also put art above his own life.

At this point we tried to pause between one phase and another and we spent a lot of time talking to him and touching on those topics that Sam was proud of: the Foundation he created for cancer research, the research group from he financed for wind energy, the publishing house, the litho-shop where lithography, screen printing and engraving were printed in a classic way, his children, his wives, his families, his painting studios, his countless exhibitions, closest friends, bike rides, tennis matches… and his dreams… and ours… that we told each other every day.

It was he who called us when he was peaceful, knowing that we did not place any limitations. We were, though suffering, in the position of having to finish that splendid work only on the condition that he was happy and felt genuinely disinterested. Even if we had stopped at that moment, we had already been able to appreciate the joy of those works.

After 50 days of rain, the weather decided to improve. At first they told us that it hadn't rained for three years.

I had never seen so much water and, soon after, California so green. The light so intense, the flowers that went beyond known limits.

The climate in the house changed, the black clouds moved away, and even the work to complete the carvings was practically done. There remained the part of fine-tuning the colors.

It was the most exciting week. Colors and shapes enveloped us and extended from one engraving to another, as if it were a single composition and at the same time an indefinable number.

The sunrises from our room were incredible, with water birds practically passing under our bed at high tide. In that atmosphere, we recognized the colors that Sam used and, as the sun rose, they lit up more and more, until they dazzled.


Valter Rossi