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I had known only the outline of Clover Adams’ life, wife of Henry Adams, familiar to all students of architecture for the prize that bears his name. NDSU’s recipients of the Henry Adams Medal and Certificate will be acknowledged in a few weeks at the culmination of the academic year and, more importantly, the thesis process. Natalie Dyksatra has published a biography of Marian (known to family and friends as Clover) Adams and I finished a first reading this morning. I shall read it again, probably more than once.


Perhaps the only thing generally acknowledged about Clover Adams was her suicide–an amateur photographer who drank her own developing fluids and must have died in agony. Three albums of Clover’s photographs provide the spine of Dykstra’s writing. And Clover’s creative outlet through the new medium of photography becomes a metaphor–uncomfortably close to home:

“Creativity can be compensatory, redemptive, a release, a reach toward freedom and hope. But this is not always the case. Artistic expression is not always consolation for emotional pain. Things can sometimes go the other way. Creativity also undoes, overwhelms, gives power to hidden undertows. What’s brought forward in expression is exposed and becomes irrefutable.”

Will Howard make some sense of this, I wonder.

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