Found in a Woodstock funeral home: Clarence Schmidt's ashes

Above: A Flickr slideshow of photographs of Clarence Schmidt and his art, taken in 1970 and 1971 by David E. Johnson. All rights reserved.

This week's Woodstock Times has an incredible story about local outsider artist Clarence Schmidt, written by author, musician and longtime Woodstock arts-scene fixture Tad Wise. It seems the Lasher Funeral Home has been sitting on Schmidt's ashes for over thirty years:

Earlier this year Grace Schmidt, reclusive cat-woman of Spencer Road in Glenford, died after a long illness. A call came in from Lasher Funeral Home here in Woodstock to local attorney Jim Myers, who’d represented Grace pro bono for 30 years, requesting that he retrieve her ashes. Upon his doing so, Lasher’s director Ken Peterson was uncharacteristically flustered. “You’ll never guess what else I found — Clarence’s ashes! They’ve been here...32 years! You might as well take them, too...”

Wise, who knew Schmidt as a kid, paints a Technicolor portrait of the artist and his legendary castle of junk on Ohayo Mountain Road -- destroyed by fire in 1968, and rebuilt, only to be burned again. An excerpt:

Around 1940 Schmidt cleared a more westerly corridor down Ohayo and built a cabin for his own use at its base. (The question of property, what was his and what was not, is a Byzantine subject, for more a cleric-like investigation.) Clarence should have called this building, “Journey’s Beginning.” For it was here, above, below and to all sides of it, that additional rooms, terraces, caves, gardens, grottos, a pool, shrines and further wings stacked one upon the other, advancing up the mountain’s face, as if the building itself were a living entity demanding continuous expansion, granting its builder no rest, until — at full flower — a seven story homunculus hung off the backside of Ohayo. My step-father, David Ballantine, (who together with co-author Bob Haney, dedicated their Woodstock Handmade Houses to Clarence) used to joke, “Clarence Schmidt suffers from an edifice complex.”

After 32 years, Clarence Schmidt's ashes will at last be scattered tomorrow:

Saturday September 11, 2010 at 11a.m., at 56 Spencer Road, join us for a hello and at last goodbye to Clarence Schmidt on the 113th anniversary of his birth.

Help us finally set the Magician free

Where his magic manifested most magnificently.