Archives For architecture

Frida and Fallingwater

July 23, 2014 — 1 Comment
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Frida Kahlo, of course. Taken at her studio.

 

Frida Kahlo visited Fallingwater in the late 1930s after Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann purchased two of her paintings at the Julian Levy Gallery. The story goes that Frida was accompanied by Julian Levy and that he and Edgar Kaufmann competed for her affections that night. (And that Levy won.)

In my book, Liliane’s Balcony (which – can I mention? – has received a couple awards since I last blogged), I invoke bits of this story and imagine that it is Liliane Kaufmann who is so drawn to Frida’s dark imagery of open wounds and painful births. These are the two Kahlo paintings the Kaufmanns purchased:

“Recuerdo de la Herida Abierta” (“Remembrance of an Open Wound”) combines Frida’s ongoing physical pain with the emotional pain of Diego’s infidelities:

“Mi Nacimiento” (“My Birth”) is a graphic image created in the wake of one of Frida’s several miscarriages as well as the death of her mother. The painting is currently owned by Madonna, who bought it from Edgar Kaufmann jr. She told Vanity Fair in 1990: “If somebody doesn’t like this painting, then I know they can’t be my friend.”

There are several works by Diego Rivera at Fallingwater, but I’m not nearly as excited about those.

Anyway, earlier this month I was in Mexico City where I was geeking out on all things Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington. I got to go to Frida’s home/studio/museum, and there on the wall was a picture of Fallingwater!

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(It’s the one in the middle.)

More images from her studio to come. It was freaking amazing.

 

In April 2014, I led a four-day writing workshop with a dozen graduate students at Miami University. The subject: The Architecture of Stories. The assignment: Write a story inspired in both form and content by a significant architectural structure.

I’ll be posting excerpts from the stories along with info about the architectural structures. Here’s the second one!

Architectural Inspiration: The Cincinnati Art Museum…

 

 …and a failed exhibit that involved a gun being fired in the building. The bullets were aimed at this box…

 …and were supposed to form the shape of a crown. Oops.

 

The Story: excerpt from “Dead Art/Not Relevant” by Curtis Dickerson

“It takes bold, very genuinely thoughtful people to understand that it’s not a crazy thing to do.”

The sniper is anonymous. The artist name on banners hung from light posts and museum walls. Ballistic gel in place, calculations calculated. The sniper asks if the artist would like a particular shape in the target. Between the two: Ann Ford, Portrait of a Man in Armor, Whistling Boy, Vase, Blue Hole, Commode, Shiva, Reclining Female Figure, Human Figure, Romanian Blouse, Soup Can, Dancer, Greek God or Hero, Mummy of Adult Male, St. Stephen, St. Christopher, Bill Curry, Eve. Circa 2500 BC – 1980 AD. There are no female artists represented. Where is the artist? He is adjusting his monitors. Where is the sniper? S/he is calibrating his/her weapon, s/he is picturing the target penetrated, s/he is not a talkative person.

“For young people with no real idea of how to make anything, or any real talent or skill or inspiration, this kind of work comes easy.”

From ten to five, Eden Park is rife with gunfire, normally regulated to less desirable/bad/problematic/depressed/scary/different parts of town. We were cautioned with fliers, with reports on the local news. We are interested, we are angry, we are excited, we are annoyed, we are confused, we are repulsed, we are thrilled; our concerns are not considered. We must relive it again a year and a half later when the exhibit opens. The artist is profiled in the Enquirer. He is a “Cincinnati artist” who lives in New York City. We are Cincinnati artists/lawyers/teachers/editors/housewives/businessmen/actresses/clergy who live in Cincinnati. His point of reference is a film that came out eleven years before he was born. We saw it in theaters, have rented it from the Cincinnati Public Library. “It is disturbing, but is it disturbing in a meaningful way? This seems so far from the mission of a general art museum, which is to preserve, display and exhibit art.”

A column, plume–a geyser of energy, instantaneous, captured with/through six blinking cameras–propels projectile. Sheriffs stand arms sheathed smirking: better than a day spent on a beat or in the office at least. The ghosts of greats trapped in canvas are anxious, the pulses of nervous energy from the living they sense through pores. Watch as it passes, if you can. And you can, a year and a half later. And you can feel it, perhaps in a century. And you can feel it coming, though once you feel it it’s already past.

“To shoot a gun in the halls in the museum, it’s in bad taste. The speeding bullet is going in front of 18 iconic treasures. I think it’s his way of showing that it’s dead art and not relevant.”

(quotes taken from the Cincinnati Enquirer article “Cincinnati Art Museum’s ‘Crown’ exhibit under fire” written by Janelle Gelfand and published 15 March 2014)

The story behind the story (as told by Curtis Dickerson)

I happened upon this story listening to our Cincinnati NPR affiliate. A museum curator was being interviewed for WVXU’s local program “Cincinnati Edition,” and when the prompt for our sprint week was explained, I immediately thought of this instance. I’m not sure I have a position on the correctness of firing a gun in a museum, especially one that houses works as old as the Cincinnati Art Museum does, but it’s a heavy decision to make, and I don’t envy anyone who had to look at the artist’s proposal and decide whether or not that this was a thing that should have been done.

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About the author

Curtis Dickerson, a native of Dayton, Ohio, studies and teaches writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he lives alongside his partner and dog. His interests and passions include social justice, reality television, and animal advocacy. The most recent book he has read which he highly recommends is George Packer’s The Unwinding.

In April 2014, I led a four-day writing workshop with a dozen graduate students at Miami University. The subject: The Architecture of Stories. The assignment: Write a story inspired in both form and content by a significant architectural structure.

I’ll be posting excerpts from the stories along with info about the architectural structures. Here’s the first one!

Architectural Inspiration: Meera Sky Garden House, Singapore

“The concept of Sky Garden House is strongly influenced by the ambition of enhancing the occupant’s quality of life. This is largely achieved by the roof gardens on every level. As well as having direct access to these, interior spaces have large areas of glazing with views out over the gardens to the sea and sky.” (from Archello)
Click here for more views.

The Story: Excerpt from “Nobody Belongs Here Less Than You” by Michael Stoneberg

When he begins walking toward the house, it surprises him. He doesn’t have a plan, but he knows there’s a pool running along the front of the house, and that submerged basement windows look out into it, and he wants to look into the basement. The ground-level yard slopes up to those picture windows where the man and woman are watching TV, but with the lights blazing, he knows they’d only see the inside reflected back at them.

The pool is long and narrow, but deep.

He is aware of the daughter perched

in the garden above him. He kicks

off his flip flops and sits at the pool’s

edge, easing his legs down. The water

is warm, the pool lights, if it has them,

are off, but cool ambient light

from the basement leaks up through

to the water’s surface, dancing where

his legs leave ripples. He eases himself

down, submerged to his waist, then his neck.

He lets go of the side and sinks.

The story behind the story (as told by Michael Stoneberg)

I did not immediately have a building in mind, but I was interested in sustainable (or green) architecture, and so I searched around for examples. I was pretty taken with the terraced shape of the Meera House from Guz Architects, the sloping grassy roof and pool with subsurface basement windows looking into it. I was also pretty taken with the $20 million price tag, and the way these green projects are often unattainable without fatcat pockets. It’s also on this resort island in Singapore called Sentosa, and the more I read about the island, the more I felt inspired to write about it. So I wanted the story form to reflect the shape of the house, the shape of the actions, in the layout of text on the page (something poets dabble in often, and, hey, why not fiction?), and to have the tension between sustainability and cost at its core.

 

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About the author

Michael Stoneberg is a drifter and writer of fictions, originally from Oregon, currently at Miami University in Oxford, OH working toward his Master’s in Creative Writing. His fiction has been published in a chapbook from Plumberries Press.

 

 

I recently returned from Miami University (that’s Ohio, baby), where I was happy and honored to teach a week-long class to fiction writers in the graduate program. The class is called a SPRINT Class because it’s short and fast and intense: we met 4 days in a row for 2.5 hours of class each. Plus I assigned them 70 pages of reading. Plus I made them write a story. Plus I met with all twelve students in a half-hour conference. Plus I gave a reading. Plus we had a party. So, yes, a sprint. But way more like one of those intense and long 800-meter sprints than, say, a hundred-yard dash.

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I attended Miami my freshman year of college, and here’s a pic of my old dorm, Dorsey Hall.There’s a huge track in front of it that I used to run on VERY SLOWLY. No sprints.

 

The topic of the class was The Architecture of Stories. I asked the students to do what I did in my book, Liliane’s Balcony, set at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater:

Choose an architectural structure and write a story that engages it in both form and content.

So, under the watchful eye of this guy…

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…these students made the most amazing stories!

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I created a tab on this blog with notes and quotes for the class (Architecture of Stories), which I plan to continue to develop – maybe into a craft book of some sort. And I’m going to be sharing excerpts of their work on the blog over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Thanks to Joseph Bates for inviting and hosting me, and thanks to the students for making is such a fun and fulfilling week!

I got to spend a few days at West Liberty University last week, giving a reading and lecture, visiting classes, and chatting with students. Thanks especially to Steve Criniti, who invited me, and who organized everything, and who let me sit in on his British Modernism seminar, which happened to be about Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and which happened to be the anniversary of her death (though we didn’t figure that out till later). Also thanks to Peter Staffel and his wife, who toured me around Wheeling, and to WLU’s graphic design student Corrine Martin, who created this awesome flyer with Fallingwater perched on a book:

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I met all sorts of great faculty and students, but unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of people. Instead, here are a few views from the road. A strange combo of urban and rural along the Ohio River. I kept singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”: Almost heaven, West Virginia…

Visiting Taliesin West

March 19, 2014 — 2 Comments

Frank Lloyd Wright built his winter home & studio, Taliesin West, in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, with money from the Fallingwater commission. I was excited to see my book Liliane’s Balcony on a front table in the gift shop.

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Wright drew on his Welsh background in naming Taliesin (in Spring Green, WI) and Taliesin West; taliesin means “shining brow.” Here are a few other pics from my visit.

Silence of the Blog

February 17, 2014 — 14 Comments

This week’s DP Challenge/Writing Prompt at WordPress is to write about SILENCE. One thing they suggest is “breaking the silence,” which I would like to do right now. My blog has been silent since November. I haven’t even posted any author interviews in my How to Become a Writer Series. So, imma try to get back in the swing. Starting with a new super-awesome interview that will post tomorrow. And who knows what I’ll post after that? Maybe I’ll write about all the places I’ve been traveling to give readings for my book (Chicago! Iowa City! Pittsburgh! DC! Baltimore! Milwaukee! Lubbock! [that’s TX, y’all]). Maybe I’ll write about my New Year’s non-resolution-phrase-of-the-year, which I’ve been meaning to write about since, you know, Jan 1. Or about all the books I’ve almost read.

Until then, I leave you with a strangely silent sight. Fallingwater – the setting of my new book Liliane’s Balcony – frozen. So much of the experience of Fallingwater is the constant sound of the water. And this polar vortex – or whatever the hell it is that is happening this winter – has also managed to silence the waterfall of Fallingwater.

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Thanks to my facebook friend Missy for the link, and to Fallingwater’s FB page for the image.