How The Noel Rockmore Project Began
The “Noel Rockmore Project” began one year after Katrina in Sept. of 2006. Tee and Rich Marvin of Cape Cod were unexpectedly terminated from their jobs so they took the opportunity to help Rich's mom, Shirley Marvin, go through her storage in New Orleans, LA which had not been visited since Katrina.
We knew she had a lot of Noel Rockmore artwork and asked her exactly how many paintings she had in storage so we could plan on how long we would need to document them. Shirley said, "I’m not sure, I think I have somewhere between 20 to 70 pieces." Rich said, “Mom that's a big range!” She replied, "I'm 84 years old, I don't remember, there are a lot of paintings and I could use the help sorting them out."
So we went down to New Orleans and put on the hazmat suits, because there was some mold in the storage, and we start what we think will be 2 days to document 20-70 paintings. Turns out Shirley had 3 mostly undamaged storage units with 300+ boxes, many with multiple paintings. We found over 30 complete art books with 700 works that had never been seen. We also found several boxes with brochures from the gallery shows, 30 years worth of letters from Rockmore to Shirley Marvin, newspaper articles, photos, partial manuscripts for Noel books and a 30 minute documentary "Rockmore" that Shirley produced in 1992. The final total of Noel Rockmore artwork in the “Shirley Marvin Collection” was over 1500 pieces!
To be perfectly honest, we were stunned, why on earth had she preserved all of this from one artist for over 30 years and put much of her life's savings into it. Then came the bombshell, Shirley was NOT interested in selling any of Noel's works, she wanted to keep his work together as a collection. My new thought was my mom might be losing it. What could she be thinking? I questioned her on it.
Shirley said, “I believe that Noel Rockmore was an artistic genius and an unrecognized American Master of the 20th century. The only way to prove it at a future date would be to have a significant bulk of the work together in one place.” That is it in a nutshell. As time passed, she simply lost track of how much she had done on this project until Katrina intervened.
We then began the documentation of all of the artwork, the transcription of the letters and news articles and the internet research. After six months we came to a stunning conclusion, we believe “Noel Rockmore was an artistic genius and an unrecognized American Master of the 20th century.” The more we looked at his work and the work of others who were recognized, the more we researched his credentials and his awards, the more we talked to others, the picture became clear. We had unearthed an important “artistic archeological” find that would impact New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, Paris, Israel, Haiti, Mexico and countless other places and people that Noel documented with his art. When we are successful in our goal, others will be able to share in this find of an unrecognized American Master Artist.
We began to research his family and we came upon another amazing discovery. Noel’s parents Floyd MacMillan Davis and Gladys Rockmore Davis were two of the most influential artist in New York City in the 1930-1950 time periods. Noel had an art pedigree from a mother who was called the “10 year wonder of American Art” and a father recognized as a “top illustrator in America”. Noel’s parents had multi page spreads of their artwork in Life Magazine (10 times), Colliers, Saturday Evening Post and more. They were well known celebrities and the only husband /wife war correspondent team.
The next step of our adventure was to make contact with Noel’s family to let them know what we had discovered and talk about what to do next. That summer we went with Shirley to meet with Noel’s family all across the country from San Francisco to Santa Fe and New York City. Two of Noel Rockmore's three children, Chris Davis and Emilie Rhys-Heller are talented artist as well.
We came up with the goal to “create awareness and recognition of Noel Rockmore and his talented family” representing three generations of American artists. We would like to share the story, by creating a free website, published books of the found works, additional footage to the "Rockmore" documentary and eventually a motion picture screenplay.
Our travels then took us to New Orleans where we met with Noel’s girlfriend Rita Posselt, quarter friends Gypsy Lou Webb, JoAnn Clevenger, Andy Antippas, Dodie Smith-Simmons & John “Kid” Simmons, Sandy Miller Schweitzer, Sacha Borenstein Clay, her sister Rachel and Sacha’s family. In Boston we met with Noel’s girlfriend Mary May Impastato and we also visited George Wein in NYC. The amazing part is that we are just beginning and that is where you come in.
We want the chance to include you as we go along on this adventure. We know that many of you will not be able to make our next event but might make a future one and would want to be kept up to date on the progress of the project. Our guest list falls into actual “Characters” in the story that knew Noel personally in some way. Then there are the “Insiders” that have a connection to Noel, or the “characters”, or the families involved, or the art. Eventually, the goal is to create and include the third group of “New fans” of Noel Rockmore and his art.
We plan on having Rockmore Get-Together events across the country. We know that many of you have your own Noel Rockmore works, stories or interest in Noel and we would like to give you the chance to meet us (Shirley, Rich & Tee) in an informal setting. We will introduce ourselves and the “Characters” in attendance, show a slide show overview of the project and then meet you and answer questions. Eventually, we hope that you feel comfortable enough to have your works included in the project, tell us your story and when it is time “help get the word on Noel out.”
Your “Call to Action” is to respond in some way that lets us know at what level you wish to be involved. You can sign up as an "Insider" on this web site. You can email us at The Noel Rockmore Project Team and tell us your thoughts. You can also submit a Rockmore story, tip or anecdote via the website, hopefully that relates to the art but all stories are welcome.
We look forward to hearing from you - The Noel Rockmore Project Team
Shirley, Rich & Tee Marvin