Sunday, June 28, 2015

Time, like an ever-rolling stream

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all our years away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

It has always been the case for me that I was an outsider, introspective, and introverted. Even as a young child I didn’t fit into any expected sort of friendships with other boys. My close friendships were with girls, and a few cousins, but my interactions with the boys in the neighborhood were traumatic. I was bullied, ambushed and beaten, ridiculed. I was different- a queer. This term was heard by me, and I’m pretty sure meant by them in its denotation, something odd or strange. While it was said with malice I am fairly certain that the sexual meaning was not present, at least not consciously. I am certain of that because the issue of sexual preference simply wasn’t spoken of during the the early 50’s in suburban Rhode Island, or perhaps anywhere except some very sophisticated urban centers. I was certainly aware that I was “different” but my differentness was attributed to my interest in Art. I would read rather than play ball. I wasn’t wanted by the boys, was afraid of them, and they certainly made every effort to exclude me. I went off to art lessons and took long solitary bike rides

There was much to be afraid of in those days. In addition to the bullies there were larger threats. The Providence Journal often published maps showing where we should go in case of nuclear attack, evacuation routes, maps with rings radiating out from Providence showing what kind of destruction would occur in each zone if an “A” bomb was dropped on the city. We had drills in grammar school, were taught how to get under our desks quickly. When they were building Interstate 95 through the city they built bomb shelters into the abutments, we were given assignments for which one to go to. There were training sessions on how to build a makeshift shelter if one heard the siren go off, lists of canned foods to stock up on.

In junior high I had a “girlfriend.” There were actually two, and in both cases the friend part was much more prominent that the girl part, and they both moved on to situations where the girl part had a higher priority.

During High School, in the mid 60’s one started to see, in the national press, articles that mentioned sexual preference. The Kinsey reports had precipitated comment and every once in a while Time Magazine, or Life magazine would make some reference. Prior to that time any sense I might have had about my own sexual interests left me feeling more than queer, they led to feelings of total isolation. Such tendencies were, to my knowledge, unique to myself. I wasn’t becoming something, there was no “thing” to become. I was weird, strange beyond strange. In my senior year I made a very inept attempt to “end it all.” I jumped out of a tree into a brook; from a rather low branch, into a shallow brook that I was quite accustom to wade across, so there wasn’t any danger. The point was made, however, and I was sent off to see Dr. Gunnar Nirk.

It is with great gratitude that I relate what Dr. Nirk had to say. He told me that some boys like boys, some boys liked girls. It is no big deal. It’s normal. Try one each, he said, see what you like best and just stick with that, it’s perfectly fine!

I entered R.I.S.D. in the fall of 1967, and it was there that I finally acted on Dr.Nirk’s advice- at least the boy part, which was so fine I never conducted the second half of the experiment.

At that time bars, “Gay Bars,” and certain public parks were the only places gay people could meet and socialize. In downtown Providence there was the “Fife’n Drum.” One could dance there, except when the police came in- one would be arrested for dancing with another man. The bartender in the first room had a switch that would kill the music in the third room. When the music went off everyone stood around innocently, when the police left the music resumed, the dancing resumed, until the next visit. At closing time police cruisers would follow people to their cars, harass them, and stop them for petty violations. In the early 70’s, after college, I met a man with whom I wanted to live, so we started looking for an apartment. There was a local law that made it illegal for a landlord to lease an apartment to two unrelated men. We ended up in New York for a year or so, and when we returned rented in the next town over.

Things were manageable in the 70’s. I have been partnered for most of my life, and even in the seventies and eighties found living as an out, partnered gay man to be reasonably easy. I am what someone once referred to as a “serial monogamist.” Looking back there has been quite a series, and one of the things I’ve been thinking about this week is that in an environment where marriage was not an option, there are certain difficulties in testing a partner’s intentions and willingness to make commitments.

The seventies were a fun and creative time, but as we moved into the eighties strange rumors started. Gay men were dying. Was it a conspiracy, a new cancer? At first we heard this reported in the gay press, but then, here in Boston, shortly after I moved here, people started dying in conspicuous numbers. A new retrovirus was discovered, was it real or was it bogus? Did this virus really cause the disease or was it a red herring. I was member of The Metropolitan Heath Club at that time, and people were falling in such numbers that we actually developed phone trees to check on people if they didn’t come to the gym at their usual time. I know one man who was a member of a “Social” club that had 50 members, he was the only one still living. It is hard to convey the fear and grief of that time. One controversy was whether one should get tested once the test was developed, what did that record leave one vulnerable to? Even looking at the statistics doesn’t convey the sense of devastation. When the numbers are averaged over the state, or the country the impact is watered down, but the reality is that the deaths were focused on urban neighborhoods like the South End, and in the neighborhoods the impact was dramatic.

I have the idea that it was during this time that the process that led to Friday’s Supreme Court Ruling was started. During this period the members of the gay community became visible to their families and straight friends. They were outed by their sickness. Rock Hudson is the most well know, but in many families, many companies, many societies gayness could no longer be viewed as “other” as relatives, friends and coworkers starting dying of this plague. It was suddenly clear that we were everywhere and in every family. The other aspect of this is that the gay community as a community dealt with this problem on the most serious level. “The boys in band” quickly gave way to health workers, gay doctors and researchers, social activists, hospice workers and fundraisers. They all got into high gear and worked hard. Suddenly society was taking us seriously and dealing with our presence amongst them. There was considerable respect and sympathy earned by the way the community responded to the crisis.

The AIDS epidemic is not only a story about medical hardship, but also a story about personal, political, and financial hardship. It was common during those times for committed partners to be barred from hospitals where their lovers were dying; to be excluded from decision making, even from funerals and memorial services. Even in cases where a will was in place surviving spouses were deprived of inheritance. Cohabiting spouses had no protection. I know of survivors who were put out of homes owned jointly when their spouse died and an aggressive and disapproving family inherited the partner’s share. This was especially egregious when the survivor was also sick and unable to defend himself.

We see much talk of love and romance in the recent discussion of marriage, but the real substance is in these problems of protection and the attitudes about relationships between same sex couples. I had for many years a relationship with a man, we lived together, shared an office, I had, or thought I had, a close and loving relationship with his mother, and certainly took care of her when she had need. One time there was a discussion of wills, and his mother was shocked that I would expect any interest in his property what ever. She could see no basis for such an interest. We were not married (we didn’t have that option at that time.) When Aramis died, his mother received his ashes. She followed his wish and scattered them on the ocean, but she did it without including me. In itself that was not the most significant, nor the worst thing I had to deal with just then, but it does show her attitude toward our relationship. 

I bring these things up because beyond the love, and the romance, being married is different from being unmarried, both in the eyes of the law and in terms of the dignity and seriousness with which family and society view a relationship.

So, once again on the outside, I watch, and truly rejoice in all the celebrations that are taking place this weekend. This place outside has become familiar to me. One of the relationships I mentioned earlier ended in 1992. We had been together for some time, during the worst of the epidemic. During that time I had experienced the crisis from a seemingly safe place in a committed relationship. But during Pride, 1992, I was single, and looked at things from a far more more vulnerable perspective. That year the post parade party was on the Common and as I entered I was struck with the stark realization that almost every one there was either 10 years older, or 10 years younger than I. The vast majority of my cohort, people who were my friends, were missing. And we were the postwar baby boom, men born between 1945 and 1955.

I am still here to tell the tale. My life as a sexually aware and active man spans the time from before Stonewall, through the AIDS Crisis, to the national acceptance of same sex marriage. It has been a long and flowing stream of time, and as joyful as this weekend is for me it is weighted by the memory of all the people who perished waiting for it to come.

I have truly lived in interesting times. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good Cop, Bad Cop?

Another report, this morning in the Boston Globe, Mike Brown and Darren Wilson; whose hands were where, what will we ever know, have the facts now been lost irretrievably, and what about that Police Chief in Milwaukee who responded to criticism with a comment placing police violence against the black population in the context of Black on Black violence?

I must say right up front that I am appalled that a few people with whom I am "friends" on Facebook have posted comments in support of his position. I hope they will read this and at least consider what I have to say.

Of all the distressing discourse that we as the American people are currently engaged in, one the most racist comments I have heard is the proposition that the black community is not concerned, outraged, and acting on this question of Black on Black violence. The very term is racist. We are told all about the fact that 80% of black murders are perpetrated by other blacks. Yet we know that the vast majority of murders in any group involve perpetrators and victims within a community. If the percentage of murders in the black community committed by blacks is 80%, then what is the percentage in white communities? Ar least as high, probably higher, but we talk of "Black on Black" violence as though it were some sort of phenomenon peculiar to the black community, that is a racist idea, contrary to all facts. Talk about white on white violence, and compare the two, before being so indignant, if there is a difference, which I doubt, odds are "white on white" violence is worse.

Further, for white people to assume that the black community is not concerned and working on its own problems with violence only shows how out of touch with the black community white people are. It is racism of the worse sort to make the unknowing assumption that the leaders and members of the black community are not working hard with the paltry resources that society allows them to stem this problem. They are, and rather than being vigilantes like the KKK, they work within the justice system and rely on the police to be their allies.

Hence the outrage when the justice system and the police betray their trust.

If we accept that Darren Willson's testimony to the grand jury which has recently been released is truthful, despite the contractions it contains, we still know the following: he acknowledges that he perceived the large black man as being intimidating; he acknowledges that he knowingly entered into confrontation over a petty crime (jay walking or cigarillos, makes no difference) with lethal force as his only defense; that he knowingly placed himself in a position in which the use of his gun was likely.

This is bad policing, and arguments about what happened once the situation escalated simply distract from the point that what ought to have happened was that Willson should have conveyed his observation to dispatch, followed from a distance, and awaited instruction and back up. Instead he precipited a life threatening confrontation. He behaved like the worst kind of anger driven, prejudiced, power hungry dictator. These are the people that the black community has been looking to to help them address their problems with violence, and that is why they are are outraged.

One further thought: of 100 black people murdered, 80 are murdered by other blacks. This is the figure being bruited about right now. White police officers kill 1, or 10, or all the remaining 20, what ever the number it it is at most 20%, so why not focus on the larger number, the 80% rather than being outraged about the smaller number? I believe that was Captain Flynn's point, which a surprising number of people support.

Notice what happened in that equation- the murder of one black person by a police officer was made equivalent to the murder of a black person by a black criminal. The individual murders are made to carry the same significance. In other words, this equation makes the policeman a criminal. Think on that for a bit.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Exploring the border between painting and photography #3

"Look for one thing, find another"

This oft repeated proverb poked up again this week. I was rummaging  through my commonplace books looking for a reference to a book I read some time ago, and I came upon this statement written during August 2008, while I was working on the images in the current show. Isn't it frustrating when one crafts many words to express a concept, then discovers that the work was already done, and probably more clearly and concisely, than recent efforts. So I will share it. Then we will look at a picture of some pixels!

Beauty is an elusive concept; at least understanding what is meant by the word "beauty" can be very elusive. The term is most often used to denote a strange and undisciplined amalgam of associations, remembrances,  aspirations, and evidence of the investment of effort. But these are all external to the object or the place- external to the subject if you will. The subject then becomes a rack upon which this veil of subjectivity is hung.

But the subject has also it's own beauty. The beauty of pattern and light, energy, color and texture which is its own, which is it's own and is available for our pleasure if we have the courage to look at, and appreciate, that which is before us; to see it in its own intense and individual beauty, rather than only seeing its resemblance to, or difference from our preconceptions.

In this series of images I share with you the hours of my days in the month of August. from the most prosaic to the most splendid places that I pass through. Watch what beauty the sky and the light give, even to the alley behind my home. It is a precious gift, the light and sounds and air of our days, and a fleeting one that you or I could be severed from in an instant. I challenge you to treasure every hour of every one of your days- here I make mine a gift to you.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Exploring the border between painting and Photography, cont.

Two things intrigued me about this world: the digital camera could record information in very low light levels, information that could then be expanded in photoshop, and also, the images themselves were immediately available in multiples to be compounded in ways that allowed for shifts in point of view that greatly expanded the information that could be put into a single image. I started taking pictures under increasingly dark condition- often the image would not be discernible, and then processing them in photoshop to bring an image out of the darkness. I likened this to Raku, you wouldn't really know what would happen and you had to work with what started to develop. For the first time in my life as an artist I was producing abstract images, and using photography to do so.
I also did a series of portraits of friends who came to visit. I kept the light low, and the camera I was using at the time produced rather blurry images that I would then draw detail into. When I paint a figure I usually keep the mass rather vague, and then, at the end of the process I would add a few careful highlights and a few defined lines to make the form "pop." I found myself doing this in photoshop, and it worked. On one of these I was having trouble with the color, and I started playing with layers of solid color, maybe I could do a duo tone and forget the color problem, and one layer that I tried was an earth green, I adjust the transparency, and suddenly I had what traditional painting calls "optical grays." I was stunned! The tricks of image making that I had learned by years of study of old master paintings worked perfectly well in photoshop.  I was using the newest digital technology to created my very old fashioned paintings!

"What old fashion could that be, Paul wondered with a palpitating heart," Like Paul in "Dombey and Sons" by Dickens, I was wondering with a palpitating heart what was old or new fashioned as I was playing with this new technology, channeling Dürer and Velasquez while taking color channels apart and applying gradient maps in photoshop! As dark as the first half of the first decade of the new millennium was for me personally I am firmly convinced that the wonder and excitement of this new way of expressing myself is what got me through.

I produced a series of abstractions, a series of totally abstracted figures and portraits (hats off to some very patient friends) and when I started to be able to walk about again some interesting landscapes that are very obviously manipulated. 

In 2008 I was doing a lot of landscape images. I was walking a lot at that time, and would use the parks around Boston, particularly the Fenway, Muddy river and Arnold Arboretum as raw material for rather pastoral images. They were a vehicle for developing my interest in way of constructing images in what I was  starting to  think of as "irritating the eye." The process of seeing is extremely complex, and is not a reading by the brain of a static image. Our brain is constantly interpolating information from our roving eyes and constructing a surprisingly dynamic image of this constantly changing information. I recommend the work of Semir Zeki, Oliver Sacks, and Dr. Land as a source for this. If you look closely at an eighteenth century steel engraving- completely representational images, and also at certain newspaper pages where the color plates are just slightly off register, you will see how the two dimensional images we process are often composed of nothing but interference patterns. This in fact was one of Dr. Lands great experiments, he used a black and a red transparency to project a full color image. We interpret color not by reading a light frequency but by interpolating between two frequencies.

To me this is all pretty interesting stuff, and experiments in the color channels of my images was what I was mainly focused on, the result being these pretty pastoral images with (I hope) a kind of dynamic vibration that makes them live. I don't intend the viewer to be conscious of the trick, only to be affected by the result.

In fact what I was doing was taking a picture, then editing the image to conform to what I thought of as beautiful- out with those telephone poles- and then doing my processing on the image of this fictional beautiful place. One of the questions I asked in the previous post contains a challenge. The alley behind the house I live in always seems magical to me. Walking through it is always wonderful, beautiful, but it contains all sorts of trash cans and hanging wires. I could- indeed I have, taken pictures in the alley and use photoshop to edit out all those offensive things, but could I put the beauty I experience in an image without removing them? To make the question more specific, could I make a beautiful image of this alley I love so much, rather than creating a fiction about a beautiful place and then making an image of the fiction?

That became my challenge in August of 2008. How I responded to that Challenge is the series of images contained in "A portrait of August." This at least is the formal challenge. There were others as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Exploring the border between painting and photography.

Question from Jason Evans, photographer, Brighton: "What's the difference between a photographer who makes art, and an artist who makes photographs?"
William Eggleston's answer:
"Not sure there is any difference."

This is taken from an interview with the "godfather" of color photography, William Eggleston in the Independent Newspaper (UK) with Michael Glover.
Many thanks to my friends at the Munroe Gallery of Photography for bringing this to my attention.

A few weeks ago I was asked to supply a short bio for the RI state house, where one of my paintings hangs, and when I described what I am doing now I felt a little at a loss- well, I guess I'm exploring the border between painting and photography was all I could think of to make sense of what I'm doing. Perhaps that popped into my head because I was very engaged in preparing the one man show at the BCAE which is now open. So, I've been thinking about that, and in conjunction with the show I propose to share some of those thoughts.

Here is another question: when we use the term "Photograph" what are we referring to? I think most people would refer to the process that was developed in the 19th century, but that process only dealt with the fixing of images on paper- or copper- in some permanent way. The camera had been around since ancient times. During the renaissance, developments in lens technology made the "camera obscura" available as an artist tool. Indeed, the only permanent result that the use of these technologies produced was the work of draftsmen and artist who used them as an aid in producing drawing and painting.

In the nineteenth century a method of fixing the images on paper was developed, and for the first time a document of the light from the lens could exist without the intermediary of a draftsman, a separate technology was born, which would evolve into a separate art form as well as being an independent recording mechanism that could represent its own version of an assumed truth.

But artists did continue to use the camera as an reference in their work, at first as blatantly as they had formerly, then somewhat seruptitiously as photography gained recognition as an independent art form, and finally apologetically.

In the world of figurative art today the standard position is that one should not paint from photographs for the following two reasons: first, why imitate in paint what has already been stated by the photographer, second, there should not be an intermediary between the artist and their subject. It is also sometimes stated that the quality of a drawing is diminished by copying from photographs. This is accepted as true, despite the fact that many artists, including myself, have and do use photographs for reference, and there are hundreds of years behind this practice. It needs to be stated that using a photograph for reference, as a memory jog, is different from simply copying a photograph, and when I, and others who I respect, use this method it is as an adjunct to actual observation, and usually involves photos taken during sittings. But not always, I once did a posthumous portrait using a shoe box full of old photos to assemble the image- and that worked out pretty well.

These thoughts were part of my rather testy relationship with photography before the tables got turned and the other side of this question put to William Eggleston came into focus. Using photography as a reference tool for painting and drawing was seemingly clear cut, but suppose by some science fiction it became possible to reverse the equation, and use about 45 years worth of painting and drawing experience as reference material for  photographs. I don't mean simply experience in recognizing a good composition, but actual color manipulation, decisions about scale and composition and lighting. I relate this in a very personal sense- there are great differences between images recorded by the eye and the hand in traditional art versus images recorded by film upon exposure to light passing through a lens; but there are also great similarities and common judgments. I am relating here my own exploration of process.

In the mid 1990's I was sharing an office with a graphic designer. I had studied calligraphy in High school and college, and that lead to typography. This was a side intreats but as often happens with people in the arts these side passions can often be turned to practical-i.e. bill paying use. So, while I had done lots of illustration and been sometimes involved in the production of type, this partnership was a new involvement, at a different level. This was a time of dynamic change in technologies, and many of these changes had not as yet reached our desktops. Most of the images for client presentations were printed for us by "service bureaus" who would take our digital files and print them on high quality photo paper. The state of the art was the "Iris" print, and we were very accustom to calling for them and having "Bike Messengers" (remember them?) deliver them to our office.
One day, a mistake was made. The prints were on matt paper. This was entirely new, to us at least. These prints were absolutely beautiful. It was also during this time that some galleries started talking about a new form of print making: giclée. Because I had some experience with photoshop and Macpaint I was able to recognize that these were images being created on computer programs, and when the matt Iris images appeared I recognized the technology being used to produce them. 
The term Giclée has an interesting if short history. It is presently used too often to designate a photograph of a work of art created in traditional media which is being printed by the new digital process, but at the time I am referring to, in the galleries that I was acquainted with, the term was being used for images that were original digital creations. This is a real distinction, and it is not a new one. Let me illustrate by talking about fine art prints in general. Suppose a particular etching, or lithograph, is reproduced in a book. The print, i.e. the original art, is photographed, and the photograph is printed on a printing press. What is the difference? To answer in a traditional manner-  this answer is presently being examined by many avant guard artists, but it is still valid to say that the intentions of the artist, the method of expression, is integrated with the technology of the printing mechanism, the nature of the line in the case of an etching, that the artist made the line on the plate, that a certain number were printed, and those prints represent the primary intent and the limit of publication dictated by the artist. They are works of art. At first, and still at times, this process applied in the case of digital art. The digital image is constructed in a particular manner, and an artist can manipulate it in ways that reflect the inner logic of the process. The digital image is the "Original"and prints from it can be considered to be unique works of art, particularly if the artist retains control of the image, even more if the artist controls the printing, as Jack Duganne was doing at Nash Editions when he coined the term "Giclée." Let me put a fine point on this- the etching is a linear process, the image is built up lines which hold ink and are transfered to paper. The inner logic of a digital process is points, pixels. when an etching is is photographed and then printed as a "Giclée" the material process is at odds with the conceptual process by which it was originally conceived.

All this was swimming around in head in the late 90's and the first years of the new millennium. When my path veered into the world of sickness, and I had to curtail my professional engagements I started playing with my digital camera. I also started playing with photoshop. There were long stretches when even going outside was an effort, and some of the medications I was put on made me very light sensitive, but the compulsion to make images remained strong, and photoshop could be explored very comfortably at my desk or even in bed, as the day demanded. A further complication arose, I developed "peripheral neuropathy," which really complicated holding a pencil, or a brush. This caused a major shift of focus to the camera as a recording device; as a digital camera obscura.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Once Was Blind....

Today at Emmanuel we had a very special service. As once before after a blizzard, a small group of us sat in the chancel, making for a very intimate and intense experience, and as on that pervious occasion I was moved to tears by one of the hymns, in this case "Amazing Grace," which brought to my mind a piece I wrote some years ago, and which I shared here once before. The epigraph, from the hymn text, was a starting point. Now I look back from much further in time than I expected to reach, and can say that the third verse is where my tears really started flowing: Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. T'was Grace that brought me safe safe thus far...and grace will lead me home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grey Craig, entering the landscape

While Grey Craig has not been the sole focus of my work as a professional designer during 2011 it certainly has been an overwhelming one. This description of the site and my involvement with it will give me an opportunity to explain what it is I do in this odd practice I have, it will be a good and useful exercise for me. When people ask "what I do" I am often at a loss. I don't fit very neatly into any category. The standard answer is that I am an "Interior Designer" which is a useful but suspicious phrase. My academic background was in painting and education. My thesis for the education program at the National College of Art in Dublin, Ireland was the development of a course focused on the history of the Irish craftsmen who built Georgian Dublin. At the time, the late 1960's, the average Irish person considered the 18th century culture of Ireland to be a manifestation of English domination. While there is validity to that view, it is also the case that Irish culture at the time had a very distinct personality, and people creating the material culture were Irish and expressed their distinct Irishness through their art. I was trying, with some success, to document and promulgate this understanding.

My mentor at the time was a man who was in the business of saving the interiors from buildings being demolished so that they could be conserved. In working with him I learned how to dismantle these buildings. Note that one can not simply tear these things out of a building, a great deal of detective work is involved. One must reconstruct the process of construction- find the last peg put in and take it out first. I little expected that this training would be enormously useful to my later career, but it turns out to be the case. The term "interior designer" seems a little off the mark to me because what I do very often involves a great deal of research, both of history and of my clients needs, a great deal of detective work, a certain amout of drawing, sometimes more, sometimes less, a sense of structure and systems, and all this not only inside but often outside as well. At Grey Craig I have been able to exercise all these skills. This is a good opportunity to explain them.

Grey Craig, spelt various ways, has a particularly interesting history. I recommend a book called "Newport Villas" by Michael Kathryns for a well researched relation of it. As Mr. Kathryns states the property came into being when Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont and Cornelius Vanderbuilt along with others purchased 100 acres in Middletown, overlooking Sachusetts (Second) Beach and Paradise Rock. This was a farming area, and the property eventually became a model, or "gentleman's" farm under Belmont's ownership. Belmont sold to J. Mitchell Clark who built the first house. You can read it's history here. This is the area that Newland Archer rides through in Edith Warton's "The Age of Innocence" the horse farm being used as his alibi when he visits Ellen in Portsmouth. John LaFarge lived on the other side of Paradise Avenue, and it remains a rural, agricultural area. The Norman Bird Sanctuary borders the property, and despite having being divided, the original estate has been preserved through the foresight of the Grey Craig owners association.

The house was sold to J. Lawrence Mott III in 1917, but was destroyed by fire in 1919. In the mid 1920's the property was sold to Michael Murray Van Beuren and his wife Mary L. Archbold, whose father was one of the founders of Standard Oil.

I must acknowledge that I become very impatient when I am reading about a building because I am interested in the building and all I get is the trials and tribulations of the very rich. I include the "social" part of the history here because it actually will be useful in understanding some facets of this site as a design statement. I will now add two more names. The Van Beurens built the existing house, I should say houses, there are, I think 5, functioning as separate residences and their architect was a man I am ashamed to say I had never heard of: Harrie T. Lindeberg. I have, over the last year developed a rather intimate relationship with Mr. Lindeberg, or at least with his work, and the more I learn the more respect I have for him, and for this building. Let me say, that like most truly great designers he knew when to get out of the way. Never was this more apparent to me than the day before Thanksgiving when my sister and I were guests at the house for cocktails, sitting by the fire in the enormous living room, in this enormous and beautiful house which was yet warm and comfortable and imitate. I can not pay Mr. lindeberg and the his clients any greater compliment than the comfort and family intimacy that this staggering house affords.

I love stories, and there is a story about Lord Kitchener being driven past the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. He asked, rather surprised, where did that building come from? He had never noticed it before, but now, there it was huge and beautiful! His companion told him that it had been built by Christopher Wren 200 years before, how had he not noticed it going past as frequently as he did? Kitchener responded that architect must have been a true gentleman. Amusing story, but the fact is that Wren knew how to get out of the way. Lindeberg did also.

The other name I want to share with you is Ferruccio Vitale. He designed the landscape at Grey Craig. Like Lindeberg, he is not exactly a household name, despite being one of the most import landscape architects in the history of American landscape architecture. He is often compared with the Olmstead brothers, his contemporaries and to some extent main competition, however Vitale was very involved in the formation of the profession of landscape architecture, developing awards and postgraduate education for landscape architects, including the Landscape Architecture prize of the American Academy in Rome and the Foundation for Architecture and Landscape Architecture. His work includes the planning of the National Mall in Washington, The site of the National Gallery of Art, parts of Longwood Gardens, and of course Grey Craig. I have not been able to trace any documentation for his work at Grey Craig and would be very grateful for information. There is now a very fine monograph on Vitale, by R.Terry Schnadelbach.

It happens that the Grey Craig is almost exactly contemporary with Emmanuel Church's Leslie Lindsey Chapel. It has been most interesting to for me to come to this project after the intense research done on the restoration of the altar screen at Lindsey Chapel. On the one hand the structural and systems issues are very similar, in some cases identical, on the other, it is clear that Lindeberg and Vitale, Allens and Collins with Ninian Comper, were thinking about the tradition of western architecture and it's continuing relevance to modern life in a way that was new and intelligent. It is easy to get tied into the romance of luxury, the nostalgia for history, a jaded view of ones own time that leads to a deadening desire for things as they were in the past. That is not what was happening with these buildings from the early 20th century. Understanding their modernity requires a knowledge of the tradition, and that is a vantage point from which they are seldom viewed. In addition to "style" the engineering of these buildings is remarkable. It is to me rather ironic that if one takes the rhetoric of the International School and applies it to these buildings they hold up very well. Yes, Grey Craig is a big grand house, built for big grand people, but the engineers house, and the gate house, both equally beautiful and rather modest in size both function as family houses equally well. Form does follow function here, structure is rigorously expressed, the systems and engineering were state of the art. This is the surprise of these buildings.

So in March I found myself in the position of having to advise my client While he struggled with structural problems, reversing years of neglect of the roof and drainage systems, the need to make changes to parts of the landscape and to paint and furnish the interior working with and advising his wife. The first step was understanding. It is clear that the VanBeurens were intelligent and sensitive people. No other sort would have spent such vast sums in such subtle ways, and fortunately my clients are intelligent and sensitive people who appreciate and are willing to support a rather thoughtful process.

I have never worked at this scale before, and I have no staff. Fortunately the client's wife was eager to be involved in the gritty details- in fact she handled all the paperwork which was daunting, and many of the structural and mechanical issues were urgent. Despite the pressures we all read, researched and came to understand this wonderful and subtle place. I should add that my client had been following the trials and tribulations of this building for 30 years, and had tried to buy it twice before. Their love for it was the prime motivating factor, and the house has worked a spell over everyone involved. It has been pure pleasure from the start.

The approach to Grey Craig.

The house and landscape are a unified experience. Lindeberg and Vitale work together on this and the result is so right and so subtle that it is easy to take it entirely for granted. I have learned over the years of looking, learning, and practicing, that beauty and harmony never "just happen" and the greatest and most unified experience of place is usually the result of great discipline, and its success turns on small and subtle points. I am showing you a sequence of photographs that depict the experience of approaching this place. They start at the inner gate, beside the gate house from which one proceeds down the drive through woods and meadow, finally around a bend one sees the front of the house and then the entrance arch comes into view. The experience is pastoral and quite. The trees are magnificent. At one point there is a marshy place to the left that in spring is carpeted with primroses, to the right one can glimpse an open area beyond the trees, then to left again is an orchard, then on the right the front of the house with a background of trees and an open lawn. The single most important element of this is what you can't see, the water. These pictures were taken in March and May. Also, ignore the dragon lamps on the gate posts, the originals are in the basemet and will be replaced.

In Japan, or maybe it was China, I no longer have my books and notebooks so I can not find the correct citation, there was a garden built by a very wise philosopher, built on the edge of the sea. Perhaps someone can remind me of the source of this. The story is that when people came to visit they were amazed that he had built hedges and walls to block out the very beautiful view, but when the reached the tea house, and only when they sat down, was the view revealed through a carefully placed opening in a hedge; only after gaining the location of repose was the view revealed in all its beauty. This story appears in many works on landscape design, and I am tempted to think that it is not a coincidence that Vitale and Lindeberg did the same thing at Grey Craig. It is also an instance of how well they worked together. When going through the gate, and along the drive, and into the arch the view, which is amazing, is deliberately screened. One enters the house in a very dark and compressed vestibule which is inside the arch, this gives onto an entrance corridor which runs into the main section of the house past an enclosed courtyard, then into the stair hall, then the center hallway, both of which look to the back of the house. One then enters the main reception rooms and it is only then, after this long and complex series of views and spaces that the view down the lawn past the rocks and over the beach to the ocean is revealed. The view is held until the last minute as a complete surprise, and one feels like one has entered a different world, a magical world. It is a total tour de force, and depends on having the discipline to deny one of the East Coast's most expensive views when the visitor enters the property.

When I first looked at the plan of the house I could not make head nor tail of this entrance sequence. It seemed odd, and round about to have the entrance in a side wing, to have a small inner courtyard right beside it, why not drive up to center of the house? It is only in experiencing the way the house and the landscape interact with the location that one can understand this master stroke.

It is said that the arch is built on the location of the entrance arch of the previous house. The old foundations are indeed down there, I saw them one day crawling through the foundations tracing some wetness that was creeping into the walls. It is also said that the previous house was built of stone from the site, and that also appears to be true of the present house, which makes it fit in the setting in a most remarkable way. The grey outcroppings of Pudding Stone are everywhere and the walls blend right into them, accented by sandstone from Ohio, and that massive red clay roof.

This may seem like an awful lot of space to give to an aspect of this project that I had nothing to do with, but I am very committed to that idea that good design can proceed only from a very delicate understanding of the site. Further, when working with a creation of considerable worth it is important to come to an understanding of the original designers intentions; to get inside their head, to use a phrase. I have had to make a rather large intervention in this landscape, which I will talk about later, and so I feel that understanding, research and appreciation are required if one is to proceed responsibly.

These are my own photographs. On the website of Windigo Architects, who did some renovations some years ago there is a very nice wide angle photo that shows the relationship of the entrance arch to the main body of the building very nicely.