Over a five-year period, I made thousands of photographs of sculptor Neil Estern creating the full-round statues of President Roosevelt, Eleanor and their dog Fala for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Park in Washington, DC. Dozens of the images were reproduced in the book Shaping A President: Sculpting for the Roosevelt Memorial, written by Kelli Peduzzi; and a large group of black & white darkroom prints and color photographs appeared in solo and group exhibits across the United States. (Many of these images are on my website.)
I followed Estern working on this historic project as he sculpted the tiny maquettes and larger scale models in clay in his Brooklyn studio, enlarged them in clay at Tallix Art Foundry in Beacon, NY, and supervised the many phases of bronze casting. At each stage of creation, I was struck by the forceful personae emerging out of inert substances. Neil’s concentration was total. The figures, even in armature form, seemed to interact with him and appreciate his perfectionism.
I felt like a fly on the wall. I endeavored to illustrate the unfolding emotional relationship between the sculptor’s artistic intensity and the complex personalities of the President and First Lady emerging from armature and clay.
The Memorial Park was inaugurated in May 1997.
Last summer, I contacted various government archives to find a home for my archives. I was thrilled when they were accepted by the National Park Service. Their offices and storage facilities are located in Washington, CD and Maryland, where objects related to the monuments on the National Mall and Memorial Parks in this area of the country are preserved. Here are the materials in my studio before I packed them up:
I still retain the copyright, however, and sets of exhibition prints. My husband and I drove to Maryland earlier this year to deliver them to Curator Laura Anderson.
The next day we were given a tour of the facility by Tom Sonderman, Director of the NCR Museum Resource Center,. It was fascinating. Along with historical documents, there were objects left at the Vietnam Memorial by visitors, furniture from historic homes and all sorts of interesting ephemera.
I am honored that these historic materials – negatives, slides, darkroom notes, work prints, shooting diary, etc. are now part of this wonderful archive, where they are available to the public for research and exhibitions. 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of the monument park and there is talk of an exhibit. Meanwhile, I am on to new projects!
In November 2015, my husband and I traveled to Ponce, Puerto Rico to visit the beautiful Rafael Hernandez Colon Library and Museum. In Spanish, La Fundaciòn Biblioteca Rafael Hernández Colón (FBRHC).
From 1972-6 I worked for Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon of Puerto Rico. As his aide in the states, I accompanied him on his many trips to New York and Washington, and produced a variety of television programs for him in Puerto Rico, such as the first televised news conference and the first televised address to the nation. I carried my camera with me everyplace.
Hernandez Colon served as governor again from 1984-92. We remained in touch, but I was working elsewhere. This past year the Rafael Hernandez Colon Library and Museum was inaugurated in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It is a beautiful combination of two buildings; one a renovated colonial building and the other a new state of the art modern archive of the Governor’s papers and records. My negatives, slides, and campaign ephemera have been added to the collection. I was so impressed by the design of the archives and thrilled to see my material included.
There is a beautiful, large exhibit area illustrating the governor’s life and accomplishments during his total of 12 years in office. Several of my historic photographs have been printed and hung. This column of my photographs depicts the arrival of world leaders for a summit conference in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico in 1976, greeted by Governor Hernandez Colon.
Here is Hernandez Colon talking about the museum to my husband and the Director of the Archive and Museum, Jorge Figueroa Irizzary:
After touring the museum, we screened the two half-hour documentaries I produced in 1972 and 1976 for RHC’s gubernatorial campaigns. It was the first time my husband had seen them!
During those exciting years I traveled all over the island, made many good friends and learned to love Puerto Rico and its people.
Although I edited my book, Love & War: The World War II Letters of Arthur Smook primarily for my family, the story is really interesting, so I sent a press release to a number of people and publications. I am thrilled to share two reviews with you:
The first appeared in the August 10, 2015 edition of the Register-Star Newspaper, written by Katie Kocijanski; and the second in the on line publication of the New York Book Society, written by Catherine Kirkpatrick. Both are really thoughtful discussions of the book and I am grateful for the care taken by the writers.
Here are a few more of the photographs in the book:
I am proud to announce that Love & War: the World War II Letters of Arthur Smook, which I edited is now available on Amazon in print and for Kindle. This has been a labor of love for me as I have edited 450 letters that my father wrote to my mother during World War II down to all or part of 150. There are also two wonderful letters that my mother wrote to her parents when she visited my dad in Paris, Texas, just before he was shipped to Europe. Here is a link to the description on Amazon:
Throughout our childhood, my brother Richard and I were aware that our mother saved all the letters that our father wrote to her during his service in the 395th Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division during World War II. Periodically, she considered throwing them away during a house cleaning, but the letters always remained in the box in the attic. If I mentioned wanting to read them, she was doubtful, saying that they were mostly love letters, repetitive, and not that interesting.
During dinnertime, Dad sometimes told us stories about the war – usually the same old yarns about taking a farmhouse and getting to sleep in a bed, or liberating a cow that was then slaughtered by one of his men who had been a farmer so that they all could have a meat dinner after weeks of rations. As a First Lieutenant who attended Officer Candidate School and trained troops in various camps in the American South before he was shipped overseas, my father was clearly devoted to the men under him. He fought on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Bronze Star and four Purple Hearts. Yet he never attended post-war 99th Division reunions, and never traveled to England, Belgium, Germany or France on vacations. As annoying baby boomers, my brother and I groaned at the stories and knew all the endings. Mostly, I quarreled with my dad about his overly strict rules that governed my teenage social life. My brother was disappointed that he and Dad never did the things that other boys and their dads did together, like going to ball games.
My dad died in 1984 from an aneurysm, at the age of 65. When my mother died at 74 in 1996, I retrieved the letters, but it was a couple of years before I put them in order and read them. When I read them in order I was stunned. They told a distinct story with a real arc. They were written by an articulate, passionate man who was not the man with whom my brother and I battled.
In addition to detailing military life, these letters bring to life a true love story. They begin as Arthur writes to his buddy Sylvia when he is preparing to leave Cornell after final exams to travel to Camp Croft in South Carolina. My parents never dated at Cornell, but became friends when my mom dated a couple of his fraternity brothers. We follow their friendship as Dad is stationed at several army bases in the south and has a few home leaves in New York. Then, after one wonderful leave, they become engaged. The correspondence becomes passionate. He tries without success to convince Mom to marry him before he is shipped overseas, tells her over and over how much he loves her, and she does visit him in Paris, Texas. Sadly, only two of my mother’s letters survived. Both were written to her parents; one describes her trip to Texas by train, and the other describes her stay at the Gibraltar Hotel and what she observed about military life in Texas. They are gems. As an infantry soldier, Dad could not keep any of the letters Mom wrote to him when he was overseas. He was constantly on the move.
Both before and after shipping out to Europe, Dad writes about army life and his feelings about what he is doing. His letters portray pride in his promotion to First Lieutenant and his good grades in courses in tactics and hand to hand fighting; his eagerness to go overseas; his dislike of having to censor his men’s mail; courage and the lack of courage he observed; and how he copes with the horrors of war. He describes daily activities in the states, on the ship sailing to Europe, in foxholes, on maneuvers, on passes to Paris, in the hospital in the rear, and in running post-war prisoner of war stockades. The letters also reveal a great deal of his love for my mom, and his deep desire to be reunited.
As I now review the letters, I am struck by the parallels between his experiences and impressions, and those of the men and women returning from the wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East during my own lifetime. I wonder about the scars that my dad carried home with him when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was undefined; when soldiers returning from horrific experiences in battle were expected to slip right back into civilian life without missing a beat. Their abilities to do this, after fighting a war in which they believed, are the reason they are known as “the greatest generation.”
It’s a real page-turner!!
We have had a snowy winter here in NYC. It was messy underfoot on Monday, but beautiful above, so I took out my iPhone and began to capture what I saw:
A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are a few that might fill in the blanks left by my reporting:
The fact that Art Creation Foundation for Children offers three meals a day to its youth is very very important. Here is where money for food goes:
And here are more photographs of what the children are learning and accomplishing:
You can see how the children’s imagination and skills have evolved in these images. And they are so proud of their work!
ACFFC will celebrate its tenth anniversary as a 501c3 corporation later this year. This milestone is the perfect time for us to reflect on the amazing achievements of the past decade and move ahead on plans for the future. A future that looks very promising for the Art Creation Foundation for Children youth!
The Art Creation Foundation for Children began to work in mosaics after the 2010 earthquake when Laurel True arrived from Global Mosaic Projects to work with the group. Together they created the Tree of Life as a memorial to lives lost and to hopes for the future. Here is a link to last year’s post.
The wall was a great success and immediately became a source of great pride and a gathering place in the city of Jacmel. And the children loved making the mosaics. Over the past year, panel by panel, they completed the wall along Congo Plage (beach).
A grant from ARCADES propelled their abilities to a new level. Under this grant, wonderful walls and benches have been created all over the city.
Bruno, as head of the design team (here is last year’s blog about Bruno) created a mosaic version of the image of Catherine Flon, La Belle Kreyol,
at a main crossroad:
There is a beautiful wall depicting the history of coffee at a building that was once a coffee warehouse:
Because of the impact that these beautiful projects had on the various neighborhoods, ACFFC was given commissions by the Tourism Office in Jacmel, and by individuals and businesses as well.
Here is bench next to the barber shop:
The Khawly family commissioned two walls – one based on transportation at the Texaco station:
On this trip, I ended working with the kids on a large mosaic commission at Raymond Les Bains, a beautiful beach just outside the city. This work was requested by the Department of Tourism in Jacmel and the Ministry of Tourism of the government of Haiti.
What I love most are the whimsical details that the kids have created – their own interpretations of how, in this case, the sea creatures should appear:
Some of the funds received through these grants and commissions pay for materials and contribute to keeping ACFFC operating. But a portion of the funds are deposited in individual bank accounts for the youth 16 and older. These teens receive a stipend for participation and are learning to manage their money. Financial literacy is a goal of the foundation. Each child can give some of his/her money to his/her family, can use some for immediate personal needs, and must save some for the future. As well, a portion is allocated to families who the youth feel have significant need, whether or not a part of ACFFC. The younger children, who are beginning to learn skills in mosaics, as in papier mache, are helpers. Some funds are set aside for their future.
In this way, an ongoing public art project that is so creative, also contributes to personal growth, financial competency, plans and goals for the future for these ACFFC youth, just as it contributes to aesthetics and pride in Jacmel among resident. Amazing achievement.