Saint Harley of Davidson, 2001 (with detail on right)
paper and acylics
Anonymous gift, 2002.2a
Explaining the style of works like Saint Harley of Davidson, immigrant to North Carolina José Augustín Fumero once said that “My work is called woven fiber mosaics. I find that working with a woven grid, an image can be seen through many facets. … I think and create on many levels, combining the [vertical] warp (used as a platform for the beginning expression of an idea) and the [horizontal] weft (used to expand the ramifications of the original expression) to create a complete piece.” To create Saint Harley of Davidson, Fumero imagined a Medieval-sounding fable that concludes, “This ends the legend of St. Harley of Davidson, a legend expressing the knowledge of being able to perceive and sense the peace of freedom.”
Born in Havana, Cuba, Fumero emigrated from Cuba with his family just before his fifth birthday. They did not speak English, so he became the family translator, after learning the language from movies. He graduated from City College of New York (CUNY) and Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York in the 1940s, and went on to work with Collins & Aikman, in Albemarle, NC, where he designed jacquard upholstery fabrics for cars and airplanes. Fumero’s pre-computer training in designing jacquard fabrics enabled him to visually analyze the structure of any fabric, and many of his art pieces contain weave structures no longer familiar to textile designers using computer-aided design.
In 1956, a mutual friend introduced Fumero and Herb Cohen, a potter and sculptor who at the time was working at hyalyn porcelain co. in Hickory. (The hyalyn name is not capitalized.) The two have been professional collaborators and a personal couple ever since that time. They worked in the 1960s and ’70s at the Mint’s Golden Circle Theatre in Charlotte; and then in 1972 they abandoned well-paying jobs to move to Blowing Rock where they lived until 2010, committing themselves to uncertain lives as artists. Said Fumero, who was 47 when they moved, “It was a hard choice, but we couldn’t do both things [have full-time jobs and do art] at the same time. I had always supported my family – my parents, my sister and her child – and we were very close. Now I had to tell them, ‘The golden goose has died.’ ” In Blowing Rock Fumero and Cohen helped jump-start the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM), even while both continued separate successful careers in their respective artistic expressions.
"Fumero had lost an eye as a teenager and suffered a failed cataract operation on the other eye in his 80's. So he found a new way to paint: he scanned images into Photoshop, magnifying them to examine small portions. He painted these images with digital brushes, then painted them again on canvas with acrylics or oils and handheld brushes, keeping his face a foot from the canvas. ... Fumero says he `can’t see the pieces I’ve painted' anymore, including large, potent swaths of color .... So he is working on that computer in his home studio, trying to create a keyboard that can be operated with one hand by a visually impaired person." (The Charlotte Observer, July 13, 2012) Fumero is pictured below with Herb Cohen (wearing glasses) in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The custom-built Mid-Century Modern house [above right] at 1154 Cedarwood Lane where Cohen and Fumero first lived in Charlotte was proposed as a historical landmark in 2012 as an example of an architectural style that remains unusual for the city. "The home became a center of the creative and social life of the artistic community in Charlotte in the 1960s, with guests including prominent regional, national and international artists." (From the Historical Landmark designation application.) "Fumero would cook from his well-stocked pantry. Guests would sing, dance, read poetry, play instruments. And the members of Charlotte's small arts community would talk and dream about the future." (Plan Charlotte", UNC Charlotte, Jan 08, 2013)
As a painter and fiber artist, Fumero has exhibited at the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem; Palazzo Venezia in Rome, Italy; and in other museums and galleries throughout the Southeastern United States. He has also held teaching positions at several North Carolina universities, as well as at the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte.
Fumero has been a naturalized American citizen since 1946, and Fumero and Cohen were legally married in 2014. Fumero has donated to HMA selections of of the fiber art creations of his parents Pablo (1886-1981) and Melitina (1888-1968), most recently in Spring 2015. Both parents learned this craft from their son.