- DISTINGUISHED DAUGHTERS
- JOURNAL OF THE PRINT WORLD
- THE BLACKWOOD EXPERIENCE
DISTINGUISHED DAUGHTERS REMARKS
Pennsylvania Governor's Residence
A naïve, young MFA Graduate Student
As she & her Teacher
— A man who had known the tyranny of ignorance —
Walked slowly, beside a Spring-rising river
In the heartland of a Country & a University
That had welcomed & cherished him.
Was he prescient?
Could he anticipate then
That for 50 years his carefully chosen words
Would subtlely echo through & shape another's life..?
'It does not matter
How good you are.
What matters is how much better you become.
It is your obligation
To learn all that you can from me,
To add the gift of your skills to the insight of your insatiably,
Inquisitive working self
& to honorably
Pass it on.'
THE JOURNAL OF THE PRINT WORLD
Suddenly, unexpectedly, while reading of the loss of Mauricio Lasansky — in an April 7, 2012 newsprint edition of the New York Times — the memory module 'MA / MFA Iowa City' 1964-1967 lit up. Those 3 extraordinary years of study hove front & center. Never were there conversations about printmaking techniques, by graduate school a practicing artist was presumed to be well versed in fundamentals, or had developed the capacity & ingenuity to research the voids. There was no dwelling upon processes, other than the assertion that they were an exquisite means to storytelling ends. It was always about challenging assumptions, about not accepting stasis, about continually raising the bar on skills & talents, about acquiring & editing knowledge, understanding & respecting history; about formulating & running with a unique perspective, in an ever-changing new world. It was about giving back to that world, what others had unselfishly given to you.
In those 'after' years, of personal studio building & marriage a 30" x 50" Bed Plate, Floor Model, 'Rembrandt' Etching Press was purchased. Almost immediately it was superseded by a more amenable (size-wise) custom-built 42" x 72" Bed Plate, Floor Model 'Kemenyffy' Etching Press - courtesy of my ceramic sculptor husband Steven. Currently it proofs a Linoleum Cut 'Go With a Smile' & will soon begin proofing a series, on polished copper of Drypoint & Mezzotint images of granddaughter 'Chloe as a Paper Doll'. A Pop-Up book of etched images including the 18 gardens, 14 ponds & 1 'mountain' of our gardens at Raku Place, proceeds slowly, as paper engineering skills are developed & mastered.
Drawing — with scraper, etching needle, printer's ink, oils, Pelikan India Ink or Uniball archival pens — has always been the departure point for whatever project was currently 'on the boards' in the studio. Whether the images were captured: within the 6" x 9" facsimile published sketchbooks originally drawn in Prague, Krakow & Budapest while meeting with Ministers of Culture & Ministers of Education as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts under Governor Tom Ridge; or visiting Rome in that same capacity with the Philadelphia Museum of Art; or absorbing the serenity of Zen gardens in Kyoto & Tokyo — soon after experiencing the power of Henry Moore sculptures within London's Kew Gardens; or segueing into 2300 square foot Linoleum floor 'drawings' for theater lobbies in an elementary school & an environmental center, it is always drawing.
The core of the work is a cyclical balance of engaging the act of drawing, in continuously reaffirming classical skills, attitudes & reflexes, in combination with calmly looking media (new tools) in the eye. Dramatizing their respective & respectful relevance in memorable public & private hours, continues to be a rewarding challenge.
As a consultant to the British website 'Tracey - Drawing & Visualization Research', critiqueing the world's students from Australia, South Korea, Poland & the UK, or as a juror for the 2013 National Society of Arts & Letters — a first prize $15,000 Competition in Printmaking — those lessons shared so long ago — in an engaging, supportive Iowa City studio, mischievously presided over by one of Picasso's etched mysteries of light & dark, of passion & conceit — continue to flow & coalesce. Forty five years on: new plates are inked & endlessly proofed; new monoprints quickly prove their merit - or not; gorgeous papers both receive & reject ideas.
Laughingly one remembers how long it took to automatically think in reverse, as creating & creation in prints are forever opposing. Today, one learns not to be seduced by magically luminous back-lit monitors or an ephemeral color spectrum. Beyond the 'relative' instant gratification of monoprints & digital media, there is the no nonsense, factual, developmentally time-consuming nature of many printmaking processes. In this studio all 'tools' work to gracefully combine singular thoughts, suitable to steadily emerging, gentle images portraying a life not far removed from the essence of those long ago revelations — whose sole purpose was to make you stretch further than you ever thought possible.
THE BLACKWOOD EXPERIENCE
Blackwood is a world whose apex is the Blackwood Theate Organ Society. It formalizes fascination with an arresting black & gold Art Deco theater organ console commanding — with great self awareness — an especially constructed music room catering to its unique mechanical, engineering & digital specifications, while providing organ aficionados an intimate, gracious, communal theater-space for listening to superb artists challenge & display its splendid sound.
Blackwood is a state of mind, where for decades two men continue to labor creating a distinct ambience of sound, silence, sight & insight. Over decades the crisp, erudite, structural systems drawings of Don Fink have come alive with the aid of supportive scores of friends, giving thousands of hours in service to a vision. Ben Robertson's passion & commitment to the theater organ sound has trod a convoluted path, whose results are individually & institutionally memorable. With the fine fortune of an encouraging family, innumerable patrons & friends, Blackwood produces defining concerts within a limpid atmosphere, where, with time & repetition, guests become more than visitors.
Geographically nestled astride a mineral rich, rolling landscape fifty miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Blackwood experience begins with a car's angular departure from a self effacing country lane a few miles east of Harrisville. Progressing from the known to the unknown — as through a Torii gate's transition — one travels to participate in summer's months of concertizing through an 'Eastern Woodland' passageway redolent with species ferns softly spiking in damp shadowlands.
When inevitably, green bows to announcing, departing cadmium, gold & purple, another concert season ends. In an annual autumn planting ritual completed within sound of the Tower Clock's fleeing time, Allium, Lilium & other next Summer blooming bulbs tuck into the Sun Garden's quadrants. With the comforting notes of the Carillon enchanting cherished acres, then flowing on & out over a distant, scarred landscape there is time for reflection. As Don says, 'It may appear to an audience that this is an idyllic place to live — what is not realized is that we built every structure ourselves, poured every yard of concrete for every sidewalk & driveway ourselves, while building structures to defend our property from mining encroachment'.
Latent winter begins crossing increasingly somber Western Pennsylvania hills, settling into silver months of chill, silent waiting. Late summer's fugitive thoughts of next season's possibilities morph into concrete plans, schedules and budgets. With meadows devoid of exploring visitors, & footprints left only by Ben & Don, thirteen year old Cocker Spaniel Cookie, resident small wildlife & a herd of cosseted deer twenty strong, the end of day Clock Tower ritual continues, finding the three of them — one devouring her evening meal & two decompressing with wine and chips — revisiting previous hours, strategically planning those to come.
|From: Susan Kemenyffy
Subject: Fw: Postcard Project-- Chloe's school
Dear Family & Friends:
Postcards have not gone the way of landlines, they continue to live & serve. Today Maya & Wayne sent on an email postcard request (see attachment) project from her new school... If you can spare a few moments, just to send a card to Chloe at the address of her school on the attachment — even if you are not traveling — I know that this 9 year old would be deeply appreciative. From my perspective — selfishly — your gesture would remind her of caring family & friends only a short distance removed.
|From: Susan Kemenyffy
Subject: Fw: Postcard Project-- Chloe's school
Trumpets signaled a call on the iphone a few moments ago. It was Chloe calling with good news that her teacher told her that she got more postcards than anyone else in her school. She was proud that fact would be announced by the Principal tomorrow.
Perhaps, if I can figure out an uncomplicated way for her to acknowledge that it was a team effort, that all of you were responsible for her win, it might prove a gentle, lasting life lesson — that often magic holds hands with strategy, effort & focus.
Thank you all for participating; you should have heard the
wonder in her voice...
NORTH OFF ROUTE 81 NEAR HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Sometimes, after temporarily losing one's way, in brazen sunshine, with a tank full of gas — with unexpectedly gifted hours & unexplored spaces pushing logic toward beckoning delight — the thought comes, 'why not'?
Careless or misdirected — it did not matter — Gray Ghost carved curves quickly north on a too broad, blinkered highway. Still brightly mid-day, with both of us refueled, a tantalizing billboard drew us off the next exit ramp. Gliding up and down ever narrower roads, past comfortable homes whose architectural vernacular was just ever so slightly different than that of our home's lake county, we soon found ourselves parked, startled, staring at a gate ajar in liminal time.
Hunting for the increasingly elusive 'McCoy' pots could wait — forget teal Art Deco — here was a more curious journey. Why was 18th century Williamsburg apparently still vital & viable in this Dauphin County village? How did this obviously well loved modest anachronism — nestled a Windstar's breadth from the road — manage to still appear as a 'legitimate' private home & sanctuary, while chronologically far removed from its origins — an ambient offshoot of Jefferson & John Bartram.
The long, narrow, urban lot defined its margins with a rail fence that did not exclude an outsider's appreciation for the carefully tended borders, the exquisite proportion of fullness to emptiness, of complexity to stillness. Was the open gate an invitation for strangers to share the pleasures of the gardens beyond the log house, or had it been accidentally, thoughtlessly left ajar? There were no guiding signs to signify a 'public' space, no trace of errant tools left behind as a gardener paused for other tasks. There was no sense of thoughtlessness about, nor was there that cloying quality that sometimes hovers about too deliberate restorations. There was only arrested time & gentle welcome.
Hesitantly, I walked through the gate into the first garden, conscious of slipping into another century; but, feeling an intruder, I turned to knock upon the door, to inquire of the history of the house & its setting —inadvertently reprising another adventure.
Once, in Maryland, returning from a first pilgrimage to Ladew Gardens & Kurt Bluemel's gracious hospitality — with outdated guidebook in hand — a similar knock on a once-elegant door brought a cautious housekeeper. She spoke of the Gardener's advanced age & lingering illness, & after reluctantly enduring an insistent assertion to pay the modest listed entry fee, she invited me to 'enjoy the gardens'. The octagonal teahouse's coloring had softened with age, but each point's bells still trembled soundlessly in late afternoon breezes; the house's moon viewing window still looked upon enchantment.
Despite oceans & diametrically opposing cultural sensibilities separating their makers' visual & intellectual choices, this newer discovery shared the same passions flowing through the making of most gardens: the desire to create sanctuary & to inhabit the poignant, mesmerizing stillness that comes with that creation; the desire to share - beyond ego & vanity - the joy, wonder & acceptance that is life.
On that later day there would be no answer to a gentle mystery, & now thinking of it, perhaps it was better that way. Is it not enough that a seemingly random journey unerringly presented a still precious 'moment in time'? Does one require knowing all the precise, historical details about how & why a garden came to exist, to experience the wonder of its speech, the scent of its colors, & the joy of its conclusions? Is it not enough that an awed traveler fatefully stood close by two stolid entry posts, & accepted an obliquely whispered invitation to inhale an especial peacefulness of place?
A long ago friend once said that in fifteen years, he could not string together seven days of moments. Had another spoken, she might have repeated that in double-time; two had never left off work for a single day's adventure - much less two, three, four, five, six, or even seven days. Within the calmness of my own gardens, I have come to understand that sequences of numbers on a calendar do not define a fulfilled, refreshed life. It is the sweet moments encountered unexpectedly — yes, sometimes even those denying reality — that allow one to endure reality.
The first French roses have been sheared, shortened to float in an opaquely echoing pink-green bowl. New hybrid Astilbes — swept up in State College — have been planted to prosper in well-sieved compost, ready to share with a friend in the next growing season. Colchicum leaves, languid, limp — their renewal done — yellow too obviously in the 'Terrace Garden', but they are forgiven. Soon enough, impossibly perfect, pink vases will rise in innocent formation, challenging Fall's other sensulaities.
A year ago another letter became a poem. Its observations — valid after a lingering, difficult, winter — seem now out-of-context after the ease & grace of these later, fresher months. Words written of cherished spaces — across seasons & geography — cannot always adequately brook connections, but by interweaving memories, it is as if, in this new year, another gate has been opened, & walking through it, we are embraced by all that gardens are meant to be.
We are remembered by the choices we have made:
the kindnesses offered with delicacy & grace in a friend's fragile hours;
the stoic decision to honor a promise, despite premonitions;
the unselfish sharing of knowledge & skills, garnered throughout a life's immersion in horticultural passions, whose basic tenets of interactive time & patience often wind inexorably through others', more distant life–strands.
Always, Lynn was the decisive, knowledgeable, professional,
accessing a situation, determining its needs, requirements, & ramifications, then, with clarity & hope, moving unerringly towards its solution. Whether it was helping her beloved daughter navigate the shoals of her life's journey, or continuously contributing for 39 years to the qualitative, collective history of the Carrie T. Watson Garden Club, or taking time with a friend to 'catch up'over 'Tea & Crumpets' on Sunday mornings too numerous to count — after chores in other gardens were complete — she always displayed that preternatural ability to quietly survey the whole, & distill its essence.
Lynn's gifts were profoundly simple, honorable words & actions
filtered through a prism of pragmatism.
Once, long ago, in a nearby garden — not far from the tranquil elegance of her own serene forest home — a teak bench sat its solitary vigil, waiting for those interludes, when it too glowed with function & purpose. Inscribed with Camus's insight,
'In the depths of winter, I discovered, deep within, an invincible Summer', its literary empathy was solidly apparent, but, its physical placement was disconcertingly tenuous. When asked for advice, Lynn instantly sorted out the confusion. A lifetime of research & study recognized that four legs were not nearly enough to provide & receive visual connection to, & comfort from the earth. Psychological safety & security finally came with the placement of a large flat stone before the bench, safely anchoring both it & its occupants to greater forces.
Sharing 'her' magical Kyoto gardens in Cherry-blossom springtime,
shortly before leaving us, she calmly guided neophytes back through centuries of others' explorations & discoveries - gradually revealing the beauty & mystery of a culture that had become her life's passion.
As an adventurous duo, one walking steadily in memory through youth's side-streets, quietly recalling with laughter & fondness another time, the other transported by the incongruous familiarity of it all,
one sensed but could not then put a name to the stoicism
that was threading through those days.
We are remembered by the choices we have made.