In 1928, 31 year Clarence Schmidt (with his beautiful cousin-bride) built a cabin on inherited acreage just outside Woodstock--its stunning view of the Ashokan reservoir worth millions today. Not long after Clarence began building a castle first seen in a childhood dream, constructed entirely from America's cast-offs, AKA: “our garbage.” He worked night and day for the next two generations in all but total seclusion.
Resented, laughed at—if secretly feared-- by most artists of Woodstock; neighbors brought lawsuits to have the “Dadist Disneyland” removed. Clarence had long before been abandoned by his wife and—most would say--his mind. He bought a shotgun and acquired a lawyer to protect his work in ’63. Then the counter-culture flocking to Dylan’s Woodstock supplied a rescue, embracing and defending him, as photographers and journalists fast followed. Arson destroyed the castle. Clarence reeled but rebounded. Fire struck again. Hospitalized, he railed against institutional assistance and vowed to return to his “ miracle on the mountain." He never did.
Clarence died at 81 in 1978 at Greene County Nursing Home (the same day as his polar opposite, Norman Rockwell, two hundred miles away).
His tireless labor of near fifty years, but for treasured artifacts, is utterly gone today. And except among scholars and devotees in Outsider Art he is forgotten. But-- particularly at this moment when Woodstock has all but lost its identity as "haven for marginal figures”--Clarence’s unflagging devotion to his “Land of Ecstasy” cries out for rediscovery.
Join native Woodstock artist, environmental activist, andcollector/defender of Schmidt: Calvin Grimm, along with Woodstock artist and Outsider Art expert, Roger Ricco (retired co-founder of Ricco-Maresca Gallery); and Tad Wise, whose extensive 2010 Woodstock Times article, “Clarence’s
Ashes,” reawoke passionate interest in Schmidt a decade ago…as—with artifacts and films--they bring the legend back to life.
Two short films by Beryl Sokoloff documenting Clarences’ achievements will be shown (available for purchase on DVD by the film-maker’s widow.)