…and the Craft of Art
“I am thinking of architecture all the time I am awake.” — Ernest Gimson
The evolving story of architect and native son Anson Tennant has made him more than a “one-hit wonder”: He gained a backstory and found a future, for which I am grateful to Dr Bob. The good doctor’s query, “Does he have to die?”, rescued Anson from the Lusitania and gave him a family of his own — a wife, children, a trade. His architectural practice began officially in 1912, in office space bartered in the Wasserman Block for professional services. And that space, with its Dutch door and stained glass window — his window on the world — served another related purpose when his family thought he’d gone down with the ship.
The psychology behind that choice — what to do with a substantial physical artifact that would remind his family every day of their loss — presented three options: #1) preserve Anson’s office as a mausoleum, filled with “him” but not himself; #2) retrieve and few special objects, meaningful to the office, and have a garage sale, neither of which were particularly attractive. Option #3 developed from a suggestion outside the family: Anson “died” on his way to England (with shipmates Mr and Mrs Elbert Hubbard, who were lost at sea) to meet figures of the Arts & Crafts movement and see firsthand some of their product, and bring that philosophy home. So, Martha and Jim and some of their friends established an Arts & Crafts Society and endowed it with the office-apartment Anson had created as studio; a place to meet, to present lectures and exhibits (albeit for small audiences); and to offer a place for visiting craftspeople to stay during their time in Agincourt.
As with so many other aspects of community development — people, places, things, events, rumors, love and death — it put our minds in motion. How would this infant institution function? Who would become its operatives? What would be its/their program(me, for British readers)? I have some notions.
Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect
A very recent book on Ernest Gimson by Annette Carruthers and two co-authors is one of the most comprehensive treatments of any character of the British A&C movement, save William Morris himself. Gimson may not have been a household word here in the U.S. but his case is a persuasive one, crammed with ideas to harvest and transplant in Midwestern soil — with apologies for the agricultural metaphor.
There are some characters already present to be involved with this. Others will emerge as the writing progresses. Feel free to share your own ideas. [I make that offer often but few take me up on it.]
“The great supercomputer Deep Thought is the most powerful computer ever built, with one exception.
“It was designed by hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, who wanted to know the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
“Its creation annoyed a fair few philosophers, who felt that it was taking over their turf.
“After seven and a half million years of serious cogitation, Deep Thought spoke the answer. However, it was so inexplicable that Deep Thought then had to go on and design the most powerful computer ever built (with no exceptions) to work out what the question was.”
— BBC Radio 4
Douglas Adams may have been as suspect of deep intellectual speculation as the writers of “Saturday Night Live” when they created Stuart Smalley. I have my own opinions but we know what they’re worth on the open market.
If it seems that in these pages I have attempted to dazzle you with my own cogitation, there was no such intention. That being said…
Several of the entries in this blog have resonated one way or another with the handful of readers with some time on their hands and an open mind. I appreciate your comments and suggestions, especially when my text resonates with some personal aspect or memory. The story of Nina Köpman, for instance, came from nothing personal, but seemed to me to typify the emigrant story during a portion of the American Experience. Miss Köpman, it turned out, was an echo of reader’s grandmother’s story and for that confirmation I am deeply grateful.
The question du jour is simple: Should I measure this project’s worth by the number of visitors or the earnestness of their comments? Consider the question asked and answered.
[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa.]
NAXOS, Ariadne F. (born 1959)
Fortress of Solitude
oil on canvas / 16 inches by 16 inches
The title suggests a connection with Kal-El, a fictional character from popular culture better known as Clark Kent. But the image itself is more reminiscent of the conclusion of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the creature’s trek north into the arctic and oblivion. Ms Naxos attended the Atelier Fusilli in Rome where she studied with Sergio Carbonara.
This and another of her works have been given to the collection in honor of the “Baron Corvo Festival” held at Northwest Iowa Normal College in 1913 — with the hope that it will be staged again soon.