Gary Groves [born 1938]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

GROVES, Gary (born 1938)

“Entangled no. 1”

2017

woodcut / 15 3/8 by 16 1/8 (image)

Bainbridge Island resident Gary Groves’ series of woodcut prints titled “Entangled” are intimate studies of nature found in the Pacific Northwest. Removed from their context and seen at close range, they become abstract gestures, arabesques, the graceful curves of Japanese calligraphy. They are also akin to the insights of other artists working a wildly different media. Almost a century earlier German photographer Karl Blossfeldt was also fascinated by plant forms; “urformen” or archetypes, he called them, and published a collection in 1929 as Urformen der Kunst. Likewise Blossfeldt’s images bear uncanny resemblance to the cast iron and terra cotta ornamental forms of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, working in the late 1880s and early ’90s.

“If I give someone a horsetail he will have no difficulty making a photographic enlargement of it. Anyone can do that. But to observe it, to notice and discover old forms, is something only few are capable of.” — Karl Blossfeldt

Blossfeldt might have said the same of Groves’ woodcuts.

“Cucurbita” / photograph by Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865 – 1932) (25.9 × 20.3 cm  / 10 3/16 × 8 in.)

Liturgical Arts

“Madonna of the Butterflies with Sts Michael and Jerome” by P J Crook (born 1945) / used without permission but a whole lot of admiration

A few words on continuity

Short of buying property in London itself—I don’t recommend even looking—the region in Gloucestershire known as The Cotswolds might run a close second in property values.

We’ve spoken of emigration to the U.K. (while it’s still “United”) but the land of the Scot is about what we can afford, and then some miles from the amenities of shops and a decent latté. I spent two weeks on Skye some years ago and learned the limits of charm and the country life. And I was considerably younger then, so the two-mile trek to the Ardvasar Lodge was fun and even the two-mile walk home by moonlight in a single-malt haze wasn’t all that bad.

So when the latest TLS arrived with this triptych on the cover, and when the photo credit informed me it had recently been installed in the church of St Michael & All Angels in Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire, I had to learn more.

Bishop’s Cleeve—think St Mary Mead Times three—is a village in Gloucestershire a few miles from Cheltenham. Rent a car, because the trains quit running there some years ago, even prior to privatization of British Rail, but it will be worth the trouble and time to see the 12th century church and its new altarpiece.

St Michael and All Angels, Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire, UK

 

The church was dedicated in 1066 but the style is Early English. I’m certain the church has elements from the entire mediæval period; that’s just the pace of building off the grid. In fact P J [Pamela June] Crook’s contribution attests to the never-finished-ness that architecture can sometimes exhibit.

Crook’s painting resonated with me because the current Agincourt exhibit includes a triptych by Philip Thompson, a 1967 work I bought from his garage sale more than thirty-five years ago. Looking around for artifacts to interpret the evolution of St Joseph the Carpenter in Agincourt, I was an idiot not to have noticed Thompson’s painting on our dining room wall. It was the perfect balance of color, size, and style, and especially “Lutheran” for Episcopalians.

Then came the long-standing need for a baptismal font—a story almost as old as the project itself. Strapped for cash early in its history and lacking a well-healed donor, the church had used a common green enamel kitchen basin for Christening until something better could be got. That came shortly after the 1898 remodeling by Proudfoot & Bird, when a beautiful embossed copper bowl was acquired from The Roycrofters (of Arts & Crafts fame) in 1910.

As we approached the 2015 exhibit and I hoped to incorporate more craft in our offerings, I searched for an artisan who works in copper but failed miserably. Oh, I found people; they just laughed at me. OK, so copper wouldn’t be our medium. What about wood?

Workers in wood were even rarer. So I modified the story line and changed medium again. Now the basin could me the contemporary replacement for the Roycrofter piece, stolen on the eve of the church’s 150th birthday. And the replacement would be ceramic, crafted (we hoped) by Richard Gruchalla and Carrin Rosetti. That, indeed, came to pass on the afternoon of the exhibit’s opening, and the group of two paintings of St Joe’s, the Thompson triptych, and the new baptismal basin were an ideal ensemble. Not quite the same as Bishop’s Cleeve, but perfect for our time and place.

Leslie Moffat Ward [1888-1978]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

WARD, Philip Leslie Moffat (1888–1978)

Village

ca1930

color woodcut on paper / 7 3/4 inches by 8 1/4 inches

It may seem at times that the Community Collection is heavily weighted toward the Arts & Crafts imagery of the World War I years into the 1920s. Depending on the current display selection, that may appear to be the case. Newcomers to the community, however, may not be aware of the Arts & Crafts Society that thrived during that time, especially after the disappearance of Anson Tennant in 1915, when his parents established a center for arts and crafts in his former architectural studio-residence, a place for lectures, classes, and exhibits, and guest quarters for visiting artisans. So the presence of so many woodcut prints, for example, is understandable.

Leslie Ward was a British artist known for both woodcuts and paintings.

Margaret Iannelli [1893-1967]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa.]

IANNELLI, Margaret Spaulding (1893–1967)

May Pole

ca1925

opaque watercolor on tracing paper / 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches

In the history of early 20th Century art, there are a handful of genuine husband-wife creative partnerships. Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney brought the Midwestern “Progressive Movement” to both Australia and India. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald collaborated in Glasgow, Scotland. And, less well known, even Frank Lloyd Wright found his intellectual soulmate in Mamah Borthwick, wife of client Edwin Cheney. [Yes, he was related to the former vice president.]

This minuscule watercolor was painted by another Chicago artist, Margaret Iannelli. She is regrettably far less well known than her husband, Alfonso, who collaborated with Wright on important projects like the Midway Gardens project of 1914. Just as regrettably, Prohibition put the Gardens out of business and it was demolished in 1929. As with many collaborations it is difficult to identify the contributions of Margaret and Alfonso. In this case, however, the drawing is hers, one of many she did for advertising and book illustration. We are fortunate indeed to have such an ephemeral piece from an important American artistic period.

[Anonymous Gift]

[#1235]

NITC in good times and bad

the 1920s were the Golden Age of poster art. Whether this travel poster, enticing the British rail traveler to consider a holiday in Wales — a spectacular example of the art of Michael Reilly — or Alfonso Iannelli’s circus promotion, graphic design became a highly respected form of expression. [If the Iannelli has some familiar elements, it’s because he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on projects like the Midway Gardens. The dog balancing a ball on its head has qualities similar to the “Water Sprites” at the Midway Gardens.] I certainly have an affinity for both styles, though it was the Great Western Railway’s advertising campaign that first came to mind. Oh, and if you’re curious, theses two artists were born in 1898 and 1888, respectively.

I had hoped to incorporate a few “vintage” Agincourt posters in the current exhibit — the exhibit will possibly up through New Year’s — but that, like several other components remain in my mind’s eye. 
Imagine, for example one of two campaigns by the Northwest Iowa Traction Co., promoting ridership on the line, which ran from Fort Dodge to Storm Lake, with the intent to push on the Sioux City and/or Omaha. The first in the 20s, while times were good, suggesting seasonal travel to Sturm & Drang; these might reflect “lake life” in general or one of the resorts, like Smith’s Hotel, in particular. Other NITC-connected travel destinations might include the Fennimore County Fair or the home games of The Archers, our Double-A baseball team.

Then there were the 30s, the Great Depression, and the cheap travel afforded by the NITC. Similar motivation probably underwrote conditions during the war years: free travel to the community’s “Victory Gardens” on weekends, for example, or free travel for military personnel.

We don’t have dramatic landscape to promote. Nor is Corradini’s Menagerie likely to have passed through town. Still, I can dream.

Hilde Kayn [1894-1950]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

KANE, Hilde B. (1894–1950)

“Stranded”

1945

oil and tempera / 11 3/4 inches by 15 3/4 inches

Hilde Kayn is a case study in why the internet shouldn’t be the only source. Hilde Kayne’s on-line biographies are remarkably short and repetitive; and their tidbits of information seem to have been routinely cut and pasted from one page to the next. Her dates, for example, are most often given as 1903-1950, and there is nothing particularly earth-shattering about her death at age forty-seven. But on further investigation, the 1903 birth year doesn’t hold up.

Other genealogical sources almost consistently suggest a birth year closer to 1894-1895. A 1935 passenger list for her arrival at the Port of New York gives her age as forty. Another, from ten years previous, gives her age as thirty. Her petition for naturalization offers a birthdate of 19 September 1894. The smoking gun for “1903” appears to be the Biography & Genealogy Master Index (BGMI), and until that can be consulted, their source remains a mystery. Saying more about this enigmatic artist is difficult because, by some accounts, she was shy, refusing even to do gallery talks as part of her many exhibits.

 

 

The Buses Headed for Scranton

The Buses Headed for Scranton

by Ogden Nash

 

The buses headed for Scranton travel in pairs,

The lead bus is the bolder

With the taut appearance of one who greatly dares;

The driver glances constantly over his shoulder.

 

The buses headed for Scranton are sturdy craft,

Heavy chested and chunky;

They have ample vision sideways and fore and aft;

The passengers brave, the pilots artful and spunky.

 

Children creep hand in hand up gloomy stairs;

The buses headed for Scranton travel in pairs.

 

They tell of a bus that headed for Scranton alone;

It dwindled into the West.

It was later found near a gasoline pump—most grown,

Deserted, abandoned, like the Mary Celeste.

 

Valises snuggled trimly upon the racks,

Lunches in tidy packets,

Twelve Daily Newses in neat, pathetic stacks,

Thermoses, Chicklets, and books with paper jackets.

 

Some say the travelers saw the Wendigo.

Or were eaten by bears.

I know not the horrid answer, I only know

That the buses headed for Scranton travel in pairs.