A Friend to the Artist
Claire Falkenstein & Frank Crockett
Frank Crockett and Bryan Kelly lived together in a home once described as “the most beautiful house in Los Angeles.” The Buck House, designed by Richard Schindler in 1934, was built in the city’s mid-Wilshire area, just a stone’s throw from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “People would knock on the door thinking it was part of the museum,” Kelly recalls. And though it was no museum, the Buck House was filled with Crockett and Kelly’s collection, which included John Altoon, Ynez Johnston, and Peter Voulkos, as well as many works by an artist the pair counted among their friends: Claire Falkenstein.
“Frank was very fond of Claire,” Kelly says. “He was very close to her, he very much admired what she was doing.” Crockett was an artist himself, working largely in encaustic to make textured grids and geometric abstractions. His early studies were in Japan, followed by the Art Students League and Brooklyn Museum School in New York, the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. Crockett likely befriended Falkenstein in the early 1970s, after moving to California from the East Coast with Dr. Louis Heyn. While living together in the Hollywood Hills, Heyn commissioned Falkenstein to create the large-scale sculptural fountain Structure and Flow (now in the collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art).
Crockett and Falkenstein remained friends after Heyn’s passing, and Crockett was a frequent visitor to Falkenstein’s Venice studio. Though fiercely dedicated to her work, Falkenstein would pause long enough to cook a meal from the California Artists Cookbook for Crockett and Kelly, or to occasionally visit the couple at the Buck House. Of Falkenstein’s character, Kelly recalls, “You kind of didn’t mess with Claire! She was very stern and a no-nonsense kind of person – busy and absorbed with her own artwork.” That dedication to art was among the things that she and Crockett shared: as Kelly put it, “Frank’s whole life was art, really.”