[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 146 (2000), Part 2]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page 1779]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

                     A TRIBUTE TO DR. LITA HORNICK


                        HON. BENJAMIN A. GILMAN

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, February 29, 2000

  Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, I regret to call to the attention of our 
colleagues the recent death of Dr. Lita Hornick, a truly remarkable 
woman, and a former resident of my constituency in Rockland County, New 
  Dr. Hornick was a prominent figure from the 1960's to the present 
day. Her efforts in the worlds of art and literature are legendary, 
encouraging the advancement of the avant-garde and ``beat'' poets, who 
struggled for recognition, but survived with the dedication of Dr. 
Hornick. She spoke her mind, and she never hesitated in furthering the 
ideals in which she so fondly believed. Additionally, she founded the 
avant-garde publication Kulcher Magazine, published over forty-two art-
illustrated manuscripts of poetry and writing, and she became know as 
the ``Kulcher Queen,'' the title of her 1977 autobiography.
  During her life, Dr. Hornick collected several fine pieces of 60's 
art and selflessly gave many of her major works to the Museum of Modern 
Art (MoMA), including self-portraits painted by the famous Andy Warhol 
and Alex Katz. She also sponsored several poetry readings at MoMA, 
which gathered poets and artists alike in support of their crusade in 
advancing education of modern art and poetry.
  Dr. Hornick was extremely involved with the St. Mark's Poetry Project 
and Columbia University, where she recently donated her archive of 
papers and writings.
  Dr. Hornick received her B.A. from Barnard and her M.A. and Ph.D. 
from Columbia. An evening poetry reading memorial will be held at MoMA 
later this year in her honor.
  Mr. Speaker, I wish to insert into the Record a biographical article 
written by Dr. Hornick's family entitled ``Lita.''
  Dr. Lita Hornick will be sadly missed, and I extend my thoughts, my 
condolences, and prayers to the Hornick Family.


       Sometimes you meet people who just don't add up, alluring 
     characters who somehow are not what they ought to be. At 
     first sight Lita Hornick is a charming and urbane Park Avenue 
     doyenne who has devoted her life to her family and her 
     collection of contemporary art. This in itself is interesting 
     enough, but immediately you recognize something quite 
     different behind the smile, quite naughty behind the look. 
     For Lita is also the Kulchur Queen, champion of the 
     irreverent ``beats'' and of avant-garde poets and artists 
     ever since. Behind that demure face are locked the secrets of 
     a life led at the vortex of this counter-culture, that she 
     releases in sharp, tantalizing tidbits, well aware of both 
     their value and her ability to shock.
       ``The paradoxes in my life have been quite deliberate,'' 
     she admits with endearing honesty, ``since they arose from a 
     conscious effort to escape the stereotype, my background and 
     my culture.'' This path took Lita out of her taffeta-lined 
     social groove into the kaleidoscopic world of avant-garde 
     literature where she has reigned for three decades as 
     publisher, editor, writer, critic and patron. Like her friend 
     Andy Warhol, she was an observer of that frenetic era between 
     the late 50's and the early 70's. She was the admirer of such 
     notable ``beats'' as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William 
     Burroughs and Jack Kerouac--a group once characterized by the 
     media as ``the most vicious characters in America''. And 
     throughout it all she gave a steady, supportive voice to the 
     avant-garde movement through her Kulchur Magazine, Press and 
     today's Foundation.
       Yet Lita, although intimately involved in this other world, 
     was never a part of it, preserving instead a steadfast 
     individualism. ``I am not a leftist politically and I have 
     never joined the anarchist pacifists,'' she states 
     emphatically, alluding to the flower generation. Nor was she 
     a member of her inherited social group; ``my work'' she says 
     with understatement, ``was alien to my class.'' For Lita 
     refuses to be pigeon-holed, preserving her independence 
     through a defiance that is generously directed everywhere at 
     once--though never malicious and always with an unfathomable 
     sense of humor. She smiles, ``I just like people who spit in 
     the face of authority, any authority!''
       It was this rebelliousness that impelled Lita first to do 
     her Ph.D. thesis on Dylan Thomas--``because he was persona 
     non grata at the time''--and later to search out those 
     revolutionaries who were instigating change, typically not 
     from the top but from the grass roots of society: the avant-
     garde poets, musicians and artists.
       The poetry has been perhaps the greatest claimant on Lita's 
     considerable talent and energies, appealing to her as she 
     says, parapraising Swift, ``because it raises the human race 
     out of this pernicious gutter.'' Whatever the reason, Lita 
     has altruistically devoted herself and her dollars to 
     Kulchur--promoting poetry to a small, though significant core 
     of supporters around the world. Why? Because she thought the 
     work important and, although not commercially viable, it 
     deserved recognition. Lita boasts proudly of her part in 
     breaking down the pornography laws and attacking the civil 
     rights issue, but considers her greatest accomplishment to be 
     the forty-two poetry books published by Kulchur Press, ``each 
     of which,'' she says, ``is like a child to me.''
       As for music, Lita is equally enthusiastic, calling it 
     ``the purest form to which all art aspires.'' And yet she 
     isn't referring to the classic composers as one might expect. 
     In this, as with everything else, Lita is contrary and ever-
     adventurous. She specifically means those contemporary 
     musicians that rocked the social foundations and her parties 
     during the Sixties. Instead of the usual Park Avenue dinner 
     at eight, Lita recalls with obvious glee those wild evenings 
     spent with her flock of avant-garde friends, loud with the 
     sounds of Nico and the Velvet Underground, Philip Glass, 
     Meredith Monk and a punk rock band called the Stimulators.
       Further evidence of Lita's derringdo is her patronage of 
     contemporary art. In the early days this was another activity 
     frowned upon by her family and society friends, ``until it 
     started appreciating,'' she says with a twinkle in her eye. 
     But for Lita, who sees a connection between all the arts, it 
     was a natural extension of her love for avant-garde poetry to 
     collect its equivalent in visual art.
       Today her collection reads like a list of celebrated names, 
     totalling over five hundred pieces. It ranges from a multiple 
     portrait of herself by Warhol, a sofa modelled by Man Ray 
     after the lips of his famous, though unfaithful, mistress, 
     Kiki, twenty-two Jo Brainard drawings in her bedroom alone, 
     to a fifty-six foot high Alexander Lieberman sculpture. Not 
     to mention the sculpture garden at her country house and the 
     works donated to the MOMA, the Whitney and the University of 
     Pennsylvania. ``In the Sixties I collected hard-edged 
     abstraction; in the Seventies, pattern and decoration 
     pieces,'' she explains, ``then in the Eighties, I started 
     going all over the lot, getting very pluralistic, from 
     landscapes to neo pop-art.''
       But again typically atypical there is that other side to 
     the Kulchur Queen. Throughout her outrageousness and despite 
     her zest for the shocking, Lita also played the sedate role 
     of mother, grandmother and wife. Morton J. Hornick, her late 
     husband, was far removed from his wife's adopted world being 
     the successful CEO of a draperie and curtain manufacturing 
     company that had been in his family since 1917. Morton slowly 
     became absorbed in Lita's avant-garde concerns, until he was 
     working actively as a fundraiser for the poetry readings and 
     an art collector. Although Lita recalls fondly, ``I don't 
     think he ever read anything I ever published.''
       Lita gives out these golden glimpses of her past like jig-
     saw pieces whose only consistency seems to be their 
     inconsistency. Then suddenly, you stumble across a consistent 
     thread that helps make sense of the final picture: for her 
     whole life Lita, the maverick, has been having fun, 
     outrageous fun! She has been laughing at herself, at her 
     class, at the system--at everything. ``It takes strength of 
     character to amuse yourself,'' she explains, briefly shining 
     a light deep into the serious depths of her character, ``most 
     people are taught not to amuse themselves--that's the whole 
     purpose of civilization.''