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Paint America green.


The way artist Dean Fausett tells it, the story of why he is doing a series of paintings for America's Historic Forests starts back in 1769,with a tale of horror.

Ask this renowned artist-whose portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower hangs in the Eisenhower Museum, whose portrait of Ronald Reagan with actor friend Antonio Aguilar helped deliver the Hispanic vote-ask Dean Fausett why he is painting a collection titled America's Historic Trees, which will tour the nation's museums on behalf of AFA'Ns GIobal ReLeaf crusade, ask him about this munificent contribution to the environment-and you end up in pre-Revolutionary days.

It all started when William Dean, the Vermont ancestor after whom Dean Dean Fausett sits beneath the "Spirit of America" sugar maple in front of his Vermont home. Fausett was named, journeyed from his land at Windsor over to Concord, New Hampshire, to petition for a contract to harvest some of the giant pines reserved under royal law for mastheads for the King's navy Promised by an underling of Sir John Wentworth, colonial governor of New Hampshire and surveyor-general for the King's Forest, that he would receive a contract, William Dean rode back home. There he and his sons, Willard and William Dean III, proceeded to axe six pines. Bad mistake.

Hearing that Wentworth had issued an order for their arrest, Dean and his sons turned themselves in to a New Hampshire judge. In late November a posse of New York militiamen loyal to the King surrounded the house where the Deans were incarcerated as voluntary prisoners.

"My family has stories of this," says Dean Fausett, who is descended from William Dean III. "This band of ruffians chained them, stole their boots, tied them behind their horses, and dragged them from New Hampshire to Manhattan through snow and ice. They almost died."

The case went to trial before the Admiralty Court in New York, and the Deans were stripped of their land and sentenced to heavy fines and six years in the notorious prison, the Tombs. The three were eventually freed and allowed to return to their families, who had been taken in by compassionate neighbors.

The oppression of the Dean family was one chapter in a landmark of American history-the power play between john Wentworth and the colonial governor of New York over the lands known as the New Hampshire grants. Eventually, the dispute was resolved by the creation of the state of Vermont, but not before the settlers who had bought land in the New Hampshire grants found themselves pawns in the royal governors' power struggle. Forced to pay for their land a second time or face ejection,the incensed settlers formed the Green Mountain Boys.

Here the story takes on its first footnote: Another one of Fausett's ancestors, John Fassett Sr. (the original spelling), helped organize the Green Mountain Boys. Three of his sons joined up, as did William Dean.

Now take a time machine forward to 1946: Dean Fausett's career as one of the foremost landscapists, portraitists, and muralists in American realism is well on its way. His works are about to hang-or already do-in such top museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and the Department of the Interior. A native of Utah, the budding young artist has decided to settle in New England.

His father tells him, "If you're going to buy a house in Vermont, you should look up your ancestors. You're named after William Dean, a famous Green Mountain Boy."

The artist buys a house in Dorset built in 1773 and does some research. He learns the names of the 83 Green Mountain Boys who helped Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold capture the fort at Ticonderoga-the first great victory of the American Revolution.

Now the story takes a weird twist. The artist also discovers that the house he has bought was the place where the Green Mountain Boys reconnoitered in 1775 before the attack on Ticonderoga and Crown Point.

Another footnote: One of Fausett's paintings depicts the valley through which the Green Mountain Boys marched from Dorset to Ticonderoga, and President Eisenhower-himself an amateur painter-liked the painting so well he hung it in his White House study

And another: Fausett was one of 13 leading artists commissioned by the Bicentennial Commission to design a series of commemorative pewter plates. Fausett's is titled the "Capture of Ticonderoga."

Back to the main tale: When town officials insisted Fausett move a wall that protected the stately 500-year-old "Spirit of America" sugar maple in front of his historic house, Fausett spent five years in court to save the tree. Ultimately his suit went to the Vermont Supreme Court,where he won. He says, "The case made national press-and almost put me into bankruptcy."

The love of trees and nature is in his genes. Dean Fausett comes from a long line of woodsmen, which produced a nephew and a cousin who are foresters as well as a brother, Adelbert, who helped identify and list the bristlecone pines for the Forest Service. An elder brother, Lynn, also a prominent painter, helped create Canyonlands National Park.

The trees in Dean Fausett landscapes, such as "The Green Mountains,"which won the prestigious Carnegie International Prize, stand in the foreground giving scale and depth to his vistas. "I used to be accused of flanking all my landscapes with trees," he says. "I think of them as gateways to the landscapes. Trees are guardians of the views."

End of tale: The series of paintings, America's Historic Trees, will become part of the corporate collections of major sponsors of America's Historic Forests. The painting on the cover of this issue of AMERICAN FORESTS is the first in the series. Final footnote: The Spirit of America sugar maple in front of Dean Fausett's home has already contributed its seed, and its offspring will soon be growing in America's Historic Forests.

"I believe in what AFA is doing to make the youth of this nation conscious of global warming," says Fausett. "Old trees become monumental and symbolic of life. America's Historic Forests will extend the vitality of those trees by replanting and reforesting with their lifeblood. The Historic Forests will give our youth direct contact with history and nature and the earth."
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Focus; Dean Fusset's paintings of historic trees
Author:Davis, Norah Deakin
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:The seed gatherers.
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