John Heliker (1909-2000) was born in Yonkers and spent his adult life dividing his time between Manhattan, where he taught art for decades, and Great Cranberry Island, Maine, where he shared a summer house with his partner Robert La Hotan. He was deeply involved with the avant-garde world of music and dance in New York where John Cage and Merce Cunningham were among his close friends. Likewise much of his own art was created in Maine.
The following is from the website of the Heliker LaHotan Foundation:,
Heliker studied painting at the Art Students League from 1927-29. He taught at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and was a Professor of Art at Columbia University for twenty-seven years. He has also taught at the Art Students League, the New York Studio School (he was a founding faculty member), and in the MFA Painting Program at Parsons School of Design. His work was exhibited nationally in the major survey exhibitions of the Carnegie Institute, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art's ABSTRACT PAINTING IN AMERICA, and many others. The Whitney Museum of American Art honored Jack with a mid-career retrospective in 1968, and he has been included in numerous Whitney Museum annuals and biennials. He was represented at the Bicentennial Exhibition AMERICA: 1976 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC that traveled through the country, and his work toured Europe through USIA in the 1950's and was featured at the World's Fair in Brussels in 1958 and in Osaka in 1969.
Among the artist's many awards are the Prix de Rome (1948), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1951), three Ford Foundation Purchase awards, and numerous awards from the National Academy of Design including the Benjamin Altman prizes for Landscape, Figure and Still Life. Heliker was elected a member of the National Institute for Arts and Letters in 1969 and was an Academician of the National Academy of Design. From the American Academy of Arts and Letters he won a Gold Medal for Merit and a Purchase award and grant in 1967. The artist was awarded Honorary Doctorates of Fine Arts from Colby College, Maine and from Bard College, New York.
His works are included in numerous public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Philadelphia Museum and the Whitney Museum, among many others. In Maine alone, his works are in The Farnsworth Art Museum, The Portland Museum, The Ogunquit Museum and in the museums at Bowdoin and Colby Colleges.