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Lowell Naeve’s Phantasies of a Prisoner

February 1, 2008

A few years ago I found a copy of the book Phantasies of a Prisoner, by Lowell Naeve. I’ve had a hard time finding information on Naeve, but fortunately his autobiography, A Field of Stones exists as a testament to his personal politicization. Naeve was initially imprisoned for being a resister to the draft during World War II. His book is filled with original poetry and black pen dreamscape images of miniscule figures traveling through endless deserts, standing or falling off the edges of cliffs, and wandering trapped in prison mazes or being chased by officials riding on giant ostrich like creatures. This is his blunt statement about the monotony of serving time.
Fantasy is the only true escape, revealed through images of birds flying over gates and walls, prison cells are giant flowers with views to the outside, and ladders squeezing through windows to carry people to freedom. The drawings were later published in Phantasies of a Prisoner in 1958- 14 years after he was released.

Naeve objected to all forms oppression, and his personal identification as an anarchist resulted from his own observations from every day occurrences. He was opposed to the indiscriminant killing of animals for sport or so called necessity, the celebration of war in children’s schoolbooks, and US control over foreign resources, which he learned of from his travels in Mexico. After registering for the draft, he refused to serve, and was subsequently imprisoned twice, serving a total of four and a half years in nine prisons.

While serving time, he continued to engage in political activity, and protested against censorship, poor food quality, and the segregation of black prisoners. He also wrote a prison newsletter called The Clink. Naeve resisted through his artwork, created by wiping ink off of copies of Life magazines and drawing with whatever tool he could find.
While serving a year long sentence in Danbury Prison, he decided to ask the warden for art supplies. Surprisingly the warden agreed, but with the ulterior motive of making an example of Naeve as a model prisoner to visiting authorities. In addition the warden tried to make Naeve produce portraits of his family. Naeve refused to comply and said he will instead draw lots between the prisoners and officials to see who will get a portrait painted, refusing to place the oppressors on a pedestal.

He published his books with David Wieck, an anarchist he met in prison and life long friend. Together they later formed the anarchist group WHY?. I’ve had trouble finding out more info on Naeve, but know that he continued to be involved in activism with his wife, and his son, who was later accused of resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. If anyone has any other info please send an email! I think Naeve is still around in Vermont or Canada, and I would love to interview him!


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52 comments on “Lowell Naeve’s Phantasies of a Prisoner”

I have, what I believe to be, an original Naeve drawing. I bought Phantasies of a Prisoner on eBay thinking I’d be able to 1. find reference to my drawing, and 2. a copy of Naeve’s signature. There was nothing of either in the book.
I live in Vermont and have heard that Naeve lives(d) here. Have you had any response to your request for information, or have you uncovered anything further about him?
If you email me, I can send (attach) a photo of the print. I’d like to find out its worth someday.
Interesting man……
Thanks. Jody

Hello –
Enter Lowell Naeve in the search bar. There are many articles about him and his wife Virginia.
I have what I believe to be an original, signed drawing by him. I inherited it from a friend who lived in Woodstock, VT where Naeve used to reside. They knew one another. I live in Woodstock, also.
I can not find any referrence – in “Phantasies…..” – to the art piece I have, nor can I find any sample of Naeve’s signature.
FYI – His wife is Virginia, they had two sons Brandon and Gavin. I’ve followed them, via internet research, from Woodstock, VT to Jamaica, VT, Ayers Cliff CN, North Hatley Quebec, and into Florida after Virginia started the Box Project many years ago.
I doubt Lowell is still alive. Here is a video of him:
Let me know if you find out anything more. I have a letter outstanding to a Brandon Naeve, whom I believe to be his son, in Florida. I’ll know more if he replies.
Good luck in your quest.

Lowell was my art teacher during the 1962-63 school year at the Woodstock Country School in South Woodstock, VT. When I returned the following year I was disappointed to find that he was no longer on the faculty but I did run into him a few years later in New Hampshire – he was on his way to Canada, moving his family there because his son Gavin was turning 18 and that was how they chose to deal with the draft.
I woke up this morning thinking about Lowell and realizing what an influence he had on me so I googled his name and came to this page.
Thanks for your work,
Mark Hurwitt

I spent two summers with Lowell and his wonderful family at their home/camp up in Canada. This was in 1968/69. They were amazing people and I think of them often. I learned a lot during those wonderful days. How to throw a pot, paint a 20 foot by 20 foot rooster on the side of a barn, bake bread etc. I went back to visit in 1982 and found them gone…but some pottery from their daughter was still on display and for sale. I bought everything. Thanks for the memories. My parents still have one of Lowell’s original scrap metal statues in their living room. Junior Executive of a large corporation.

Lowell was my Mother’s cousin (more like a brother)–I have lost touch—Does anyone have an email address or address of Brandon or Gavin??

Lowell Naeve is my great uncle. his sister Lewella (their parents must have had a thing for that sort of name) is my grandmother. He sent me several of his drawings so I could pick one for an album cover 20 years ago. I still have them. Email me and I will send you copies.

I was at Woodstock Country School for only one year ’62/’63. After all these years, I still have wonderful, vivid memories of Lowell Naeve. I would love to either be able to contact him, or at least, get some information about how he has fared in the years since then.
David A. Greene
North Huntingdon, PA

I have a painting (oil on wood 33.5 x 23 cm ) entitled “Vermont Fall” by Virginia Paccassi that has been in my family for nearly fifty years – and is treasure by us all. I’m wondering if anyone can provide contact information for the artist or kin so that we might be able to get some history of the painting? Thx!

Lowell Naeve is still alive and well .He lives in Creston British Columbia. Someone was correct he is 91 years old.He is working on writing and finishing years of literary projects. I am proud to say he is my grandfather,he is a wonderful man.Glad to see he has touched other peoples lives with his writing and artwork.

Yes my grandfather is still alive and well living in Creston BC.So glad to see the man and his work has touched so many peoples lives. He is working on his writing still to this day,Lowell is 91 and my grandmother Virginia is still doing well at 86.

My husband Donn and I were near neighbors of Lowell and Virginia in Jamaica, VT. Donn was also a draft resister and spent time in prison.
Lowell and Virginia’s fight to enter Canada opened the door for us to come without a fight. The Canadian parliment spent a day debating whether or not to let Lowell in because of his felony record in the U.S. They decided that since his offense was not a felony in Canada that they could let them in. We were the second couple to come in because they won their fight to enter and we were very grateful for their efforts.
Shawn, when next you are in touch with your grandparents, please tell them that Jean and Donn Reed have thought of them often over the years and it’s nice to know they are well. We also lived in BC for 11 years and had we known they were that close would have come to visit.

I was a good friend of your mother’s, Shawn, though we lived miles apart. Sorry to hear she passed away. I would greatly appreciate if you wouldn’t mind emailing me.

I knew Lowell and Virginia in 1957-59 when my husband was a teacher at the Woodstock Country School. I have a painting of Virginia’s of bottles – vibrant and beautiifully composed. After a long search I was able to buy a copy of “A Field of Broken Stones.”
Recently I went online to find out what I could about Lowell and Virginia and saw that Juliet wrote that Virginia had passed away. I’m so sorry to hear that, she was a vital and exuberant lady. I would like to contact Lowell. Can you send me his email address.
Lucia Deaville

Hi …Virginia is still exuberant and she and Lowell do live in Creston as mentioned in a previous email.
Today I’ll be interviewing and filming Lowell so will mention your name.
Contact me and I’ll help you get in touch.

Hi Maureen,
Please contact me with Lowell and Virginia’s email address. One of the prior comments said Virginia had passed away, but evidently that is not true.

I also have a drawing that is signed in pencil;the drawing was named “Off the Banks” if you have a copy of his signature,please e-mail, to make a comparison.
Gracian Casas

My father, Albert Henry Ebeling (who was also a draft resister), was in prison with Lowell and is mentioned in his book, A Field of Broken Stones.

Lowell Naeve is my uncle…. my mother’s brother. How awesome to find this site! I would love to hear from Gavin, Brandon or Serena…. or any of my Miller cousins or other relatives!! I have one of Uncle Lowell’s woodblock prints titled Vermont Winter and also have a drawing that he did while in high school at East High in Sioux City, Iowa. I have copies of both of his books and treasure my times with this wonderful man!!

Lowell & Virginia are old friends of ours from Woodstock VT, the country school days. We were excited to come across this blog, and would love to have contact with them. We’re still living in Scottsburg, VA.

Lowell and Virginia are my aunt and uncle. My grandma, Virginia’s mother was also an artist (a potter) as well as myself. I have many pieces of their work and appreciate the legacy they have given me that allows me to be a third generation artist.

I am Lowell and Virginia’s grand daughter.I live in Brattleboro Vermont and I am flying out to B.C. in Nov. to see them. My mother was their daughter and has since passed but would love to hear from all of you I can say I have all the books and an original painting…

Deirdre: I was at the Farm in Quebec back in the mid 70’s and I remember you. Please email me contact info for you, Brandon and Lowell/Virginia. I have lost touch with everyone but I am always thinking about all of you.

We do not have e-mail but Serena does so she will print them out for us.You can reach us by phone we live in Creston British Columbia e- mail is‘re getting pretty damn dotty, we are almost 88 and 92…..Good hearing from everyone hope to hear from some of you. Lowell and Virginia
Send pictures so we know what you all look like….

Last contact from Virgina And Lowell was Feb. l984. At the time grandaughter Dierdre was living in Winchester, Virginia. Life got busy,time went by,and here I am! I Will be in contact.

Hello there did visit my grandparents in Nov for 10 days and it was wonderful they are moving a little slower and are living in a smaller house but as wonderful as ever. Ian I don’t ahve your e-mail so could not get back to you.Will try to look you up w ould love to chat about the old days at the farm and find out how the love of my life then is Dereck!!!!!! i did bring home some art work from both of them.. Gramp is writing another book and Gram just had her last(she says) art exhibit at the local library..Be in touch.. Jody I will be in touch…

What a wonderful and happy surprise to come across comments on Virginia and Lowell! I am sorry to say that I haven’t kept in regular touch with them-except for occasional cards at Christmas. However,they are in my thoughts and prayers frequently. I met Virginia and Lowell in 1962-’63 when I was a student at the Putney Graduate School of Edu. in Putney,Vermont and went to Woodstock to do my student teaching. They immediately took me into their home and hearts and filled my life with their love and generosity. Virginia often exchanged letters with my mother in India and set my mother’s mind at ease as she saw that I wasn’t all alone in a distant land. I have a copy of Lowell’s book, Phantasies of a Prisoner, given to me by Lowell. It has been with me all these years and is one of my beloved possessions- reminding me of the magical time spent in my youth with some of the finest, most loving and loveable people on earth. I hope to visit with Virginia and Lowell one of these days in the near-future… My love to them.

How great to have come across this site and am astonished! My daughter, Hilary Buttrick (Toronto) and son Michael Buttrick (Tokyo, Japan) were lucky enough to have gone to Lowell and Virginia’s splendidly interesting camp called Farm and Sea Experience in Hatley Quebec in the early ’70’s. Like Lowell, Hilary and Mike’s father, John was a conscientious objector in WW2 and spent time in camps. Virginia and Lowell and their offspring, Gavin, Brandon, Serena played a very important role in our lives. “ALWAYS QUESTION AUTHORITY’ remain our watchwords.

I went to Woodstock 1962-64 and had Lowell as my art teacher too. The School is having a 2010 reunion and would very much like to have Naeves in attendance, if possible. Dierdre, can you come to South Woodstock August 6-8? The whole thing is spelled out on Facebook in a group called “Woodstock Country School 2.0”. Organizers are across WCS generations and they include John Williams ’72-jbwimsATaolDOTcom, WCS2010ReunionATroadrunnerDOTcom, Eve Holberg ’76, snailmail 161 Norwalk Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14216-2421; ’76 classmate Catherine Fort: cwfortATcoxDOTnet; also Laura Gordon Spittle, who owns Upwey and runs the Vermont Horse Company: lauraATvthorsecoDOTcom There is going to be an art show, so Virginia Naeve’s artwork could get some 21st century fans and buyers. Also Lowell’s books. And photos and news of the Naeves from 1970s Farm and Sea Experience in Quebec after 1960s WCS through Virginia’s Box Project and on into the present day. Tell Virginia that Mika Seeger says hi! Tell Lowell that 1950s WCS teacher George Dickerson (a poet after WCS and then an actor, says hi too and his phone number at 137 Bleecker ST., NYC 10012 is (212)228-3745. HUGE fan of the Naeves.
So please email me too and Dierdre I hope can come to So Woodstock in August 2010: admATanitamcclellanDOTcom.
Love to all, Anita 1962-64 and a trustee through 1980

How funny and wonderful to come upon this site… How the community opens up. Virginia was honoured this year for her work in starting the Mississippi Box Project. When I spoke with her by phone back in April, she had this to say (per my notes so any errors are mine):
Q: How did the Box Project start?
A: “In 1962 I was at a conference in Geneva with Coretta Scott King and Claire Harvey (sp?)…I was helping a guy from Spain who fled to France because of Franco. They let him stay in France but he had nothing. So I sent him boxes for years…”
Q: Boxes of what?
A: “Oh, clothes, that kind of stuff.”…There was a man in Zimbabwe…I’d read about him in an English magazine and he had asked for help. He was jailed for 15 years. The only time he and his wife managed to see one another was about once a year, and she’d have another baby. They lived 900 miles apart. So I sent seeds. They let him grow stuff. He was a union organizer…Anyway, I had boxes on my mind.”
“I had a German teacher whose husband was Czech … they returned [to Czechoslovakia] and it was just during a terrible time there… There were three families who I would off and on send things to…whatever they needed. We were living in Vermont at the time. During Lowell’s back injury, he was home and we had $40 a week with 3 kids at home. Luckily we owned our house. And we could grow stuff…”
Q: Did you start the Box Project?
A: “Yes. That’s why they wanted me to come down [for the 48th anniversary of the project on July 1, 2010, still running. In April, Virginia was putting together her archived material to send down to the University of Mississippi]…There are 15,000 families now [who receive boxes]. Now, for the first time, it’s headed by a black person.” [This said with definite irony.]
“We had a fair, no admission except a can of food or clothing. This was in Vermont. Potters brought pottery…”
“I found out [about the need] from a friend in Mississippi who was down there during the summer when a lot of young people went to help teach classes.”
“I went down after 25 years. Only personally knew one family. There were two others. So we tracked down one woman and she couldn’t come so we located her and went to see here. When we got there, she was sitting with her husband on the front porch on a swing eating ice cream cones!”
Here Virginia chuckled and I know why. Ice cream cones were a treat and secret indulgence in the Naeve family. Those who know them know they always eat healthy, and in those days whatever they grew and raised on their farm. I recall sometimes she and Lowell would go into town when they were living in Quebec and would separate to go about their errands. I can well imagine each would come across the other eating a secret ice cream cone!
Anyway, I hope Virginia won’t mind that I post this, and I kind of think she wouldn’t.
Reminds me it’s fine to go against the flow. And to do and follow through with what you believe is right, even if no one else around you feels that way.
Hilary Buttrick

In an effort to keep the blog active, I thought I’d jot a follow-up to my entries of 2/16 & 2/17/2008.
I’ve heard nothing further from anyone about my drawing, and I believe it’s because I can find no mailto: links in the blog.
I’ve read requests for copies of the drawing and signature, but I can find no way to respond via email. Maybe I’m missing something…..?
Therefore, here is my address if you wish to email me for a picture of the drawing:

Just found a copy of Phantasies and Prisoners at a bookstore here in Montreal. Brilliant images. Prophetic, minimal. Awesome use of empty space, and intense yet controlled crosshatching creating a play of space/shadow that is a fitting allegory of any confining space, including consciousness in general.

I would love to get in touch with any and all kids that went to Farm and Sail Camp in Noreth Hatley Quebec. Watching you all eat your first real health food brings a twinkle to my eye! Brandon

It was great to come across this web site. The Naeve family had the biggest impact on my life. Virginia, i am in Toronto right now and will call tomorrow.
i lived next door to the Naeve farm. Virginia taught me how to bake amongst other things. She loved my art and i love hers. That pressed apple juice is missed.
If Serna sees this please write me.
My life changed after Virgina and Lowell lef North Hatley. there was no reason to stay after that.
linda singer

I made a documentary film about Lowell’s woodblock
prints when he and Virginia lived in Jamaica VT.
I’d love to tell him what’s happened to the film since, but have no address or e-mail address. Can anyone help me? Kit Davidson 800 460-1842 or

I visited Lowell and Virginia in 1974 at their farm in North Hatley, Quebec. I spoke to Lowell about his time in prison and how other resistors migrated from the states to North Hatley via an escape route. I did lose track of them years later. But a friend who introduced me to them who lives in Vancouver speaks to them every year. His name is Richard Mellen. He is around 67 years old. I believe through him you could find the Naeves. You can reach Richard at

Bonnie Segal

I knew the Naeves from around 1957 until 1965. The last time I saw them was at the summer’s end festival at The Farm and Wilderness Camps where both Gavin (4 or 5 years older than I) and I went to camp. They were about to move to Canada, and that August of ’65 was the last time I saw them. If my memory is accurate, their children were Adrienne, Gavin, Serena and Brandon. They had the very first camper-truck conversion I had ever seen, built on a 1940’s era truck chassis. They used to drive the camper to Mexico for vacations. I think perhaps-someone may correct me-that Virginia was a native of Mexico. Their home on the WCS campus was a place of brightness and great energy -there were always art projects going on-and making home-made ice cream was always a treat.
I read Field of Broken Stones when I was 8. I had to read it under the covers with a flashlight after my mother forbade me to read it because of the language. (I did learn a few new words.) The book was an eye-opener; I had never heard of conscientious objectors before. My father was an officer in the Navy during that war, and if he had any negative feelings about Lowell’s being a CO, he never intimated it. I think my father probably believed that Lowell paid his dues for being a CO, and respected him for his convictions. My memory of Lowell was that he was a very kind man.

I have a picture by Lowell Naeve. The picture is colored in pencils. Spiders and bugs. My friend who since past away gave it to me. She bought it at a garage sale in the 1960’s for $1. She was an art collector and had several painting hung by different artists in her condo. She always could recognize good art. She had her Phd in literature. I will miss her forever

am delighted to have stumbled across this blog about “Lowell Naeve”, his art and his wonderful family. during the one year I spent at Bishop’s University, (1969-1970), near North Hatley, Quebec, I had the sublime pleasure of regularly hanging out at their farm. I still have copies of two of Lowell’s books and was deeply inspired by the kindness and creativity of the Naeve family. after scanning the various comments, am curious to know if Lowell and Virginia are still with the living. very sad to hear of Adrienne’s passing. though I did spend many years living in B.C., where my mother’s family is from, I now live on Manitoulin Island, where my father’s Ojibwa relatives are from. all the best to the surviving members of Lowell’s family. – Stephen McP

I knew the Naeves when they lived at Woostock Country School. Lowell was the art teacher there. Memorable people. I last saw them at a Farm and Wilderness Camp event in August 1965. They were about to move to Canada so that Gavin would not be drafted. He was 15 in 1965. I will be happy to share what few impressions I have. Email below.

I’m soprry to report that Lowell Naeve died in Creston, British Columbia, in 2014:

“A Field of Broken Stones” was published by the Libertarian Press in Glenn Gardener, NJ, a workers’ cooperative at a commune formed by anarcho-pacifist veterans of imprisonment for draft resistance in World War 2 and their families, including among others Dave Dellinger.

Excerpts from “A Field of Broken Stones” were reprinted in Resistance News in the early 1980s:

I also went to the farm experience camp in Quebec, hosted by Serena I believe, and it made an indelible impression on my 10-year-old self. As an inner-city kid transplanted to glorious natural surrounds with only healthy food options, I had my first ever CARROT cake- very exotic at the time!

This wonderful experience was facilitated for me by Hilary Buttrick, with whom I would dearly like to make contact if anyone could help me with that. (I am happy for Hilary to have my email address)

Although I did not know Lowell and Virginia Naeve well, I remember them from North Hatley QC in the mid- to late-1960s. They were good friends of my late Aunt Emily LeBaron who sold some of Lowell’s work at her antique shop, The Flying Shuttle, while he and Virginia lived in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

Aunt Emily gave my wife and me two of Lowell’s sculptures fashioned from old farmyard scrap of a gentlemen and his lady love (as I imagine) dressed-up for an outing to town to see friends and to be seen. At Virginia’s invitation, I presented a slide show/talk at North Hatley’s Unitarian-Universalist church about a solo rail excursion I had taken in 1996 from Hong Kong to Helsinki through the PRC, Mongolia and the former USSR.

Around that time, I bought another of Lowell’s scrap metal sculptures depicting a bespectacled school marm or librarian. All three pieces bespeak a graceful, kindly humour that pokes fun at our crazy world in a good-natured way.

Looking back, I wish that I had gotten to know Lowell and Virginia better what I had the chance to do so.

This is great -I’m trying to learn more about this artist. A few years ago, my mother-in-law passed on her Lowell Naeve print “The Country Fish”, #26/100. My husband and I have always loved it.

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