Alumni in the Arts
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B U L L E T I N Spring 2003 Volume 73 Number 3 Bulletin Staff Director of Development Chip Spencer ’56 Editor Julie Reiff Acting Editor Linda Beyus Alumni Notes Anne Gahl Jackie Maloney Design Good Design www.goodgraphics.com Proofreaders Nina Maynard Bob Campbell ’76
Bulletin Advisory Board Todd Gipstein ’70 Peter Kilborn ’57 Nancy Novogrod P’98, ’01 Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 Josh Quittner ’75 Peter Frew ’75, ex officio Julie Reiff, ex officio Bonnie Welch, ex officio Mail letters to: Linda Beyus, Acting Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. BeyusL@TaftSchool.org Send alumni news to: Anne Gahl Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Summer–May 30 Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com This magazine is printed on recycled paper.
Around the Pond FEATURES A SPECIAL ISSUE ON ALUMNI IN THE ARTS
The Stories and Work of Eight Alumni Artists
21 The Taft Bulletin is published quarterly, in February, May, August, and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100, and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school.
The Arts at Taft Today 38 By Bruce Fifer
E-Mail Us! Send your latest news, address change, birth announcement, or letter to the editor via e-mail. Our address is TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org. We continue to accept your communiqués by fax machine (860-945-7756), telephone (860-945-7777), or U.S. Mail (110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100). So let’s hear from you! Taft on the Web: News? Stocks? Entertainment? Weather? Catch up with old friends or make new ones, get a job and more!—all at the Taft Alumni Community online. Visit us at www.TaftAlumni.com.
Patsy Odden Girls’ Hockey Tournament, squash team in Scotland, and winter season highlights By Steve Palmer
Deane G. Keller ’58 Fred X. Brownstein ’64 Langdon C. Quin III ’66 Alan R. Smith ’67 Susan Condie Lamb ’77 Rachel Bullock ’84 Jonathan Selkowitz ’84 Palmer West ’92
From the Editor
Potter Gallery photography, Kilbourne artists, student art awards, operatic duo, Mothers’ Day Weekend, Dr. Henry Lee
What happened at this afternoon's game?—Visit us at www.TaftSports.com for the latest Big Red coverage. For other campus news and events, including admissions information, visit our main site at www.TaftSchool.org, with improved calendar features and Around the Pond stories.
Books on Lafayette and living abroad, multigenerational hockey players, young alumni network, PBS series on freedom, band Mile 35, Hartford gathering, iceboat racing
䉳 Mark Potter ’48 teaching students VICKERS & BEECHLER
On the Cover “Eastern Mountains,” 2001, woodcut on Japanese paper, 17 in. x 34 in. Copyright Sabra Field. Sabra Field is an accomplished printmaker based in Vermont, known for her woodblock prints. Field was Taft’s first full-time female faculty member, 1963–1968, and significantly expanded Taft’s offerings in the arts. Visit Sabra Field’s web site at www.sabrafield.com to view her impressive catalog of prints. 䉴 “Self Portrait,” Sabra Field
From the Editor The season of spring often means newness, especially here in the formerlyfrozen Northeast, as we see green landscapes again. Former faculty member Sabra Field’s exquisite woodcut “Eastern Mountains” on this issue’s cover captures this well. Sabra was Taft’s first female teacher and taught art from 1963– 1968 so we are especially grateful to her for use of this piece. A sampling of graduates who later became professional visual artists makes up the Alumni in the Arts feature section of this issue. When we researched how many alumni were working artists of all kinds, visual, performing, we were awestruck. The challenge was to select eight of you knowing that meant we’d be unable to include the large number of other talented alumni artists who have passed through this school.
Taft Dance Ensemble, 1991 4
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Many to whom we spoke did not catch the “art bug” until later in their careers. Some never took art classes here, yet others were inspired by teachers like Mark Potter, Sabra Field, and all the other painting, music, dance, photography, theater, and pottery teachers at Taft who have encouraged their students. Read Bruce Fifer’s piece “The Arts at Taft Today” and you’ll see how vibrant a place for the arts this is as you walk the hallways through his words. As I worked with faculty, writers, and alumni—artists and other gifted professionals—I was impressed by the willingness to go above and beyond, helping share both stories and images with the
wider Taft community. How lucky I have been to work with you on this and past issues, meeting you on the telephone, by e-mail, and best of all, in person. —Linda Beyus Acting Editor We welcome Letters to the Editor relating to the content of the magazine. Letters may be edited for length, clarity, and content, and are published at the editor’s discretion. Send correspondence to: Linda Beyus, Acting Editor • Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. or to BeyusL@TaftSchool.org
Correction In a photo on page 31 of the winter issue, David Brooks ’60 is on the right. Our apologies.
Alumni S P OT L I G H T
A House Somewhere: Tales of Life Abroad Edited by Don George ’71 and Anthony Sattin LONELY PLANET PUBLICATIONS, 2002
Not everyone dreams of being a travel writer, but there are plenty who do. Don George’s career has gravitated around the art of wandering in more than 60 countries. His new book, with co-editor Anthony Sattin, is a collection of essays on the experience of living in a foreign country—a book you just want to immerse in, viewing a lunar eclipse on a remote island in the Philippines or living on a boat moored on the Seine. Included are original and selected essays by some of the finest names in contemporary travel writing, such as Isabel Allende, Jan Morris, Pico Iyer, Peter Mayle, Paul Theroux, and Frances Mayes. Distilled from Jan Morris’s words, the book’s title perfectly names a familiar longing or fantasy—“I know well the
delectable thrill of moving into a new house somewhere altogether else, in somebody else’s country, where the climate is different, the food is different,
the light is different, [and] where the mundane preoccupations of life at home don’t seem to apply.” Don, too, has been seduced by living somewhere else for a good chunk of his life. When asked what parts of the world draw him most, he states, “I haven’t found a place I don’t like.” His travels started way before he had an inkling that he’d end up being a travel writer. Don meandered into travel writing on his way to being a poet and teaching creative writing courses. After graduating from Princeton, he, like other tortured undergrads, wondered what he was going to do with his life. Awarded a teaching fellowship at Athens College—“an exclusive prepschool-cum-junior college in an Athenian suburb”—Don headed for Greece. En route to his first teaching job, he spent the summer in Paris, and later, in his free time, visited Italy, Turkey, and Egypt. He fell in love with living in a foreign country. Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
When his teaching stint was up, that question about what to do with his life resurfaced. Don says, “After one long Athenian night listening to my soul, I decided to reject the professor I had been programmed to become and to embrace the poet I was just learning to love: I decided to follow the writing route.” Don entered an intensive master’s creative writing program at Hollins College in Virginia. “I lived in a log cabin on a lake,” Don says, “and wrote a collection of poems, a few desultory
chapters of a novel, and a description of an impromptu expedition I and a traveling companion had made up Mt Kilimanjaro the summer after my stay in Greece.” That story was the linchpin to his career to come. He applied for another teaching fellowship in Tokyo. Before leaving for Japan, he said, holding back laughter, that he wrote to some major magazines, naively asking if they wanted him to be their Japan correspondent. (“Thank you very much,” they told him, “we already
have someone covering this.”) To his astonishment, Mademoiselle magazine asked to meet with him to talk about writing for them, so he gave them his college story of climbing Kilimanjaro as a writing sample. “When I arrived at my campus apartment in a suburb of Tokyo, a telegram was waiting for me,” Don said. “It was from Mademoiselle and said: ‘Dear Don: A hole opened up in our November issue and we put your Kilimanjaro story in it. Hope you don’t mind.’”
Lafayette By Harlow Giles Unger ’49 JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC., AUGUST 2002
Why is Harlow Unger so taken with the “forgotten Founding Fathers” as he calls them? They have become the subjects of his research for the last three books, and possibly his next. Heroes like the young Lafayette, Unger points out, have disappeared from American consciousness. Having grown up surrounded by stories of historical and modern-day American heroes, Unger wanted to look at our origins as a nation and where we came from by writing about the lives of early American heroes. The result is three books on patriots’ lives: Noah Webster (1998), John Hancock (2000), and now Lafayette. 6
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He chose Lafayette as a subject for this impressive biography because, next to Washington, Lafayette was the most important figure in the American Revolution. Lafayette is a gripping account of the heroic French knight who, at age 19, played a key role in saving American liberty and independence. Unger said he enjoys speaking to youngsters “about the 19-year-old hero who abandoned a life of incomparable luxury in France to serve with Washington (and 19-year-old Alexander Hamilton) for American liberty and independence.” It is hard to conceive of this young marquis leaving his comfortable life of nobility to become a freedom fighter for America’s inde pendence from Great Britain. Harder still to realize that Lafayette did it for his belief in the principles
The irony was that Don had written only one travel article, ever, and it was going to be published in a national magazine, yet he had reams of poetry that had mostly garnered rejection slips. Don worked steadily at freelance writing after Japan and seemed to have the skill of putting himself in the right place at the right time. His travel articles were published in a number of well-known magazines, and he subsequently landed a position at the San Francisco Examiner where he was their travel editor for 15 years.
Don writes in his Lonely Planet online column, “So, to all those people who dream of having my job, my advice is to pull away from your keyboard, take out a map and follow your wanderlust to wherever it takes you. Heed that small, still voice inside and pursue your passion. In my experience, that’s what will take you exactly where you want to be.” Before working for Lonely Planet Publications, Don founded and edited Salon.com’s award-winning travel site, Wanderlust. He has edited two antholo-
of freedom, not for monetary rewards or prestige. After pushing the American revolution forward and cementing America’s ties to its ally, France, he returned to his native country to command during the French Revolution which turned tragic for him and his family. “It seems to me,” Unger says, “that Lafayette (and the other heroes of the American Revolution) represent the embodiment of the Taft motto…I’ve had enormously rewarding experiences talking to high school kids [all over the U.S.]. Many, I found, had focused so intently on shrinking opportunities in high-income occupations that they had failed to consider the expanding (and rewarding) opportunities in areas that serve their communities, states, or nation.” Unger did half of his massive research for this biography in France and half here in the U.S. He lives in both New York City and Paris. [As we went to press for this issue, he was recovering from a broken leg sustained while skiing in Europe, but intrepidly still doing his book tour and lectures.]
Even though an enormous amount of writing has been done on Lafayette, Unger was undaunted, choosing to see what he, as a journalist turned biographer, would learn from this young patriot’s own writings. Unger writes, “An early (1930) bibliography listing all the works written by and about Lafayette at that time runs more than 225 pages. There is no need for guesswork—only legwork, objectivity, and a willingness to let Lafayette tell his own story and let those who knew him speak for themselves—without cynical interruptions and specious interpretations.” “Private schools are the last bastion of where history is being taught,” Unger states. He affirms that history as part of one’s education is vital and, regrettably, is getting pushed aside in many public schools. Current events, which he wrote about as a journalist, become history a minute later, Unger observes. After graduating from Taft, Unger received his B.A. at Yale and master of arts in humanities from California State University. He has served as editor, foreign correspondent, and American affairs analyst with the New York Herald Tribune
gies of travel writing and is frequently interviewed on radio and TV as a travel expert. Don is also a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children. Ed. note: The labyrinth-like twists and turns that landed Don George in this field are chronicled in his article called “How I Became a Travel Writer” on Lonely Planet’s web site: www.lonelyplanet.com.
Overseas News Service, the Times and Sunday Times of London, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Unger is also a former associate professor of English and journalism and has authored eight books on education. He is a member of the Société des Gens de Lettres, founded by Balzac to combat censorship and propagate freedom of expression in literature and the press. Unger will speak to the Taft community in the fall of 2003. “Harlow Unger has cornered the market on muses to emerge as America’s most readable historian. His new biography of the marquis de Lafayette combines a thoroughgoing account of the age of revolution, a probing psychological study of a complex man, and a literary style that goes down like cream. A worthy successor to his splendid biography of Noah Webster.” —Florence King Contributing Editor National Review Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Don’t Hang Up Those Skates!
Day Brigham ’44 and teammates of the Rusty Blades at the 2003 Senior Olympic Hockey Championships in Buffalo
Day Brigham ’44 advises that he has no intention of hanging up his hockey skates, particularly as he has found the fun of competing with players his own age. He reports playing in mid-January with a Central Massachusetts team, the Rusty Blades, in the 2003 Senior Olympic Hockey Championships in Buffalo, N.Y., sponsored by the National Senior Games Association. There were 16 teams in the
Producing Historical Documentaries 8
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tournament, divided by age among the over 50s, over 60s and over 70s. By winning three of their first four games Day’s over 70s team reached the Gold Medal game in which they faced the Gray Wolves, a team from northern New York. The teams were evenly matched and the game became increasingly competitive and tense with the score tied 1–1 late in the third period. “Neither team wanted it to
end in a tie and come down to a shootout contest on the goalies,” Day said, “but indeed such a result was averted. A right winger for the Rusty Blades came up with the puck in the right lane in the forward zone, crossed over towards the net, got tangled up with the defensemen, managed to get a shot off and then poked in his own rebound for the winning goal! Guess who?” Brigham quipped.
Dyllan McGee ’89 served as coordinating producer for a 16-part series called Freedom: A History of Us that aired on PBS this spring. Kunhardt Productions, where Dyllan has been producing since 1993, worked on the impressive series for about five years. The overall theme of this series, freedom, is based on the award-winning history books for children by Joy Hakim. Dyllan started at Kunhardt as an intern straight out of college, knowing she was “hooked on documentaries,” she says. She was a theater major at Trinity
Scoring Ten Taft’s ability to develop and send off skilled hockey players is no secret. But the phenomenon of four alumni from one class all becoming captains of their college hockey teams is amazing. Jol Everett, former faculty member and avid hockey fan, sent the Bulletin the following letter: “Now that I am retired on the Cape and have plenty of time to read the Boston Globe and to go on to various college hockey web sites, I have been happy to discover that four members of the Class of 1999 are now captains of their men’s Division I hockey teams: Brad D’Arco at Colgate, Evan Nielsen at Notre Dame (he was captain last year as well), John Longo at the Univ. of Vermont, and Denis Nam at Yale. This is quite an accomplishment for one class of men’s hockey players. If there are other hockey captains at college from the Class of 1999, men or women, I apologize for leaving them out.” An unplanned reunion came about through competition on the ice January 31 at Yale University when Yale played against the Univ. of Vermont (UVM).
College in Hartford, Conn. but knew she didn’t want to be an actress after graduation in 1993. The closest she got to filmmaking while at Taft was as editor of her class’s video yearbook. “I was a disaster of a history student at Taft,” she laughs, “and I’ve now done a documentary on history,” working for a company that specializes in this. Dyllan serves as a trustee of Taft, is married and lives in Ossining, N.Y. with her husband Mark and one-year-old son Max. The educational outreach component for the “Freedom” series is major,
Kneeling, left to right, Ryan Trowbridge ’01 and Ben Driver ’02. Standing, left to right, Travis Russell, Jaime Sifers ’02, Christian Jensen ’01, Tim Plant ’01, John Longo ’99 (UVM captain) and Denis Nam ’99 (Yale captain). ANN RUEGG
Eight talented Taft alumni played in that game in which Yale defeated UVM 6–2. The talent of Taft’s former hockey team members is ongoing proof that Coach Mike Maher has superior skills at honing young hockey players who go on to maximize their abilities.
“I am extremely proud of all my former players who have moved on to play college hockey,” Coach Maher commented. “That so many of Taft’s players have become captains of their college teams is a credit to the School and the lessons Taft teaches about leadership.”
Dyllan notes. The series is the largest web site that PBS has, with PBS considered the largest “dot org” in the world, due to a huge amount of traffic for its plethora of information. The web site section for the series notes,
obstacles to American freedom— the ‘unfreedoms’ that have littered our national story, and in some cases have called its very integrity into question. But despite all the mistakes and all the tragic setbacks, there is an overarching positive message to this series. This is a history of the United States as the unfolding, inspiring story of human liberties aspired to and won.”
“Freedom is what has drawn to America countless human beings from around the world; it is what generations of men and women have lived and died for; it is, in a profound sense, our nation’s highest calling. This is also the story of the chief
The series’ web site can be found at www.pbs.org/wnet/freedom Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
In Brief Band Reunites Tom Davis ’92 is part of a band called Mile 35 made up of four Taft alumni that reunited in New York City this winter. Tom wrote, “I thought this would be a fun update for the next Bulletin because our band is composed of four former Tafties: Molly Webb ’92, Ben Randol ’93, and Jeremy Randol ’95 and me. Since we played together while attending Taft almost ten years ago, we decided to reunite and kicked off a mini East Coast tour with our latest CD inviting many of our lost Taft friends this past January. The guests were a span of my entire four years at Taft and it was a great time seeing faces come out of the woodwork and venture into the nightlife of New York.” The band’s web site is www.mile35.com 䉲 The band Mile 35, comprised of Ben Randol ’93, Molly Webb ’92, Tom Davis ’92, and Jeremy Randol ’95, strum into action at the Lion’s Den in New York City this winter.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Seated, left to right, Dave Kirkpatrick ’89 and Christina Rogers ’85; Standing, left to right, Dick Williams ’89 and Brooks Gregory ’89. Not in photo, Bob Cramer ’78 and Matt Allen ’88
Young Alumni Network… the Start of Something New! You’re going to graduate from college and you pick a city where you think you want to live and work. Then it hits you—you have no idea what to do next! You have lots of questions, but aren’t sure whom to ask. You have to find a job, but you’re not sure what you want to do. You need to rent an apartment but you don’t know where. It’s a dilemma that greets many young men and women every year. Six alumni in Atlanta, Ga. have offered to help by forming the Young Alumni Network of Atlanta. Bob Cramer
’78 is the CEO of A.D.A.M., a computer health service company. Christina Braisted Rogers ’85 is a partner at Alston & Bird, specializing in real estate. Matt Allen ’88 is a partner at Goetz Allen & Zahler, concentrating on personal injury work. Brooks Gregory ’89 is a partner at Gregory Financial Services, financial consultants. Dave Kirkpatrick ’89 is the Director of Marketing for the Collegiate Licensing Company which handles the marketing for over 180 universities, athletic conferences, bowl games, and the NCAA. Dick Williams ’89 is a principal for North American Properties, a national real estate development firm specializing in urban renewal projects. All six alumni jumped at the chance to help other Tafties who want to move to Atlanta or want to question them on their specific careers. They also plan to organize several social gatherings throughout the year “just for fun.” Hopefully, their idea will be a prototype for alumni in cities around the country. If you would like to talk to any of the six members of the Young Alumni Network of Atlanta or if you live in Atlanta and would like to join them or would like to start a similar organization in your city, please contact Olivia Tuttle, the Director of Alumni Planning, at 860945-7743 or TuttleO@TaftSchool.org.
Making Light of Gravity Several classmates of Jonathan Hix ’53 have wanted to know about iceboat racing without necessarily trying it, but these veterans of big regattas say very little about the feat itself. Controlling such sinewy crafts on the verge of flight, keeping in touch with some frictional resistance, becomes second nature to them. For Hix and others, the most compelling challenge is to design, build, and hone the boats themselves. Moreover, the adventure in racing is also the regatta as a social event. Iceboating clubs race sail to sail on miles of frozen rivers, lakes, and bays. Jon enters as many races as he can reach—that is, with his boat whistling, well-secured to the top of his van. So much for one man’s passion in retirement. He shared some of his captivation with this growing sport with us: “In the early sixties I was fascinated when I found that my wife Charlotte’s father had sailed on the ice of Long Island’s Great South Bay. As a new homeowner, I spotted an iceboat plan in a how-to book…I built a boat-building bench and constructed a DN, a class boat. On her first time out my head was in the clouds; so was the portside runner blade. Hiking a runner at real speed gathered in seconds was something you do only once. I didn’t know about steering off, while gently letting out the sheet. Well, dropping the runner back to the ice with a ‘thud’ convinced me that I had a strong boat. “A memorable outing with my DN was doing Lake Winnipesaukee end to end. This race is renowned as the Great Long Distance Ice Yacht Race. It takes place only when the ice is suitable. Between 1991 and 1996 I’ve made the trip four times. Each time, people gathered along the banks, some even from the colder parts of Europe. I met a number of racers who still used the older boats known as Hudson River Stern Steerers.
Jonathan Hix ’53 with his J-12 on Candlewood Lake in Connecticut
One sage of these boats, Raymond Ruge, took me for my first ride on a boat that had 765 sq ft of sail (compared to my 60 sq ft) and weighed in at almost 2,000 lbs for 50 feet in length. I ended up buying a smaller version that needed work and took up a lot of backyard, plus 18 feet of running plank suspended over the cars in the garage. I worked on “Northwest” (375 sq ft of sail and 30 feet in length) for over 20 years, renewing much of the hardware as well as the yellow pine hull.” Increasing his iceboat building skills through these restorations, he began build-
ing a new class of boat, the J-14, that was light due to its hollow spar and runner plank. Later, while “grounded” due to hip replacement surgery, Hix says he started working on a new design called a J-12, a shorter and even lighter boat. Once built, he had to face what they call “the great wait.” “Where was the ice going to be?” He finally got his new craft out on Connecticut’s Candlewood Lake in midJanuary. “Handled like a dream,” he says. One can only imagine what his next design will be. This iceboat builder and racer is unstoppable. Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Hartford Gathering On January 16, over 90 alumni, parents and friends met at the Hartford Club to welcome Pam and Willy MacMullen ’78 to the Hartford, Conn. area. The party was hosted by Leslie and Sam Acquaviva P’02, ’04, Mary and Jim Barnes P’00, Mary and David Dangremond P’05, Scott Frew ’70, and Karen and Tim Largay P’89, ’93, ’97. At the party, Willy
Taft Telethon Class agents Brian Lincoln ’74, P’05 and Mac Brighton ’74, P’05, ’06 busy raising money for the Annual Fund at the New York City Telethon in February.
䉴 Seated: Pam MacMullen and Nancy Schoeffler; Standing: Sam and Leslie Acquaviva, Mary Dangremond, Scott Frew and David Dangremond 䉲 Seated: Karen Largay, Willy MacMullen, Mary Barnes and Tim Largay; Standing: Peter Frew, Jim Barnes and Jim Lyon
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announced that Mary and Jim Barnes, parents of Sarah ’00, had made a leadership gift by way of a challenge to establish The Hartford Area Scholarship. The Barneses will match dollar-for-dollar all gifts up to $50,000. Anyone interested in participating should contact Clayton B. Spencer ’56, director of development, at 1-800-959-8238.
AROUND THE POND
pond Potter Gallery
䉱 Photographer and faculty member Laura Harrington (second from left) at her Potter Gallery opening with students Veronica Torres ’04, Roody McNair ’04, Ashley DeMartino ’04 PETER FREW 䉳 “Tire (d) Tree,” Cyanotype, Laura Harrington
“Place and Preservation,” a powerful solo show of work by photographer Laura Harrington, was exhibited in the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery early this year. Taft faculty member Harrington was educated at the University of East Anglia in England and at Muhlenberg College.
She received her master’s degree in photography from Syracuse University and has been Taft’s photography teacher since 1999. Exhibitions of her work have been held throughout the eastern U.S. In an excerpt from Harrington’s statement for the exhibition, she wrote, “This
show brings together some of my early environmental work with some of my more recent explorations. I began my first major environmental photographic body while working towards an MFA at Syracuse University. I discovered, just miles from where I was living, Onondaga Lake, Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
AROUND THE POND
one of the most polluted lakes in the Unites States. I decided to begin researching Onondaga Lake, and quickly became appalled by the level of pollution routinely being dumped into the lake. The research led me into the long and incredible history of the lake and revealed all those who, over the years, were responsible for the lake’s current state. Only after I had finished this research did I begin to photograph the lake.
“Recently I have been working around the theme of preservation. Preservation is not simply about land use and management, but also about personal memory, time, and our relationship to place. “There is a series with the Kallitypes that reflects my continuing interest in how we choose to live, and what we do with our waste. For example, we turn cell phone towers into oversized me-
chanical fake trees, as if to try and fool ourselves into believing in them. We buy cheap goods at Wal-Mart, and throw the bags back out into nature to get caught in the trees, completing a giant disturbing cycle. But I also see humor in these images when I come across a beer bottle impaled on a tree, and a tire hanging from an improbably high branch, dangling there, as if mocking the reality of its existence.”
In Pursuit of a Passion: Kilbourne Grants Enrich Students’ Artistic Interests By Joanna Szymkowiak ’03 and Emily Marano ’03 This summer, six Taft seniors, Alex Britell, Peter Granquist, Emily Josephs, Emily McArdle, Jenn Palleria, and Susie Tarnowicz, pursued their artistic interests by attending summer programs through the help of a Kilbourne Grant. Established by John Kilbourne ’58, the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund provides Taft students with opportunities to participate in enriching summer programs in the arts. Alex Britell, a cellist in Taft’s Chamber Ensemble, used his grant to attend a three-week program of musical performance and theory at Brown University. At Brown, he was able to play on his own and in an ensemble with a flutist and a pianist. He remembers his cello teacher at the program as having “a huge influence in helping me enjoy playing just for the sake of playing.” Because of the manner in which he was taught at Brown, Britell said, “It changed the way I feel about music.” Britell has been playing the cello for ten years, and is currently writing a symphony for the Chamber Ensemble. In addition to playing the cello, Britell plays banjo and electric bass. He is editor-in-chief of the Papyrus and the head of Taft’s Jewish Students’ Organization as well as a corridor monitor. 14
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With the help of his grant, Peter Granquist studied percussion at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Granquist applied for the grant as a junior because, he said, “It sounded too good to be true—get money to do what you love, no strings attached.” He feels the program forced him to look at his playing in a whole new way, and showed him that there is always more to learn. Granquist continues to take private drum lessons, and plays in various bands both in and out of school. He also sings in Oriocos and Collegium Musicum and has performed in several school plays. After taking a pottery course during her sophomore year at Taft and completing an independent studies project in pottery during her junior year, Emily Josephs used her grant to attend a three-week pottery program called Snow Farm: the New England Craft Program in Williamsburg, Mass. There, she studied ceramics, glass blowing, and even making pots with her feet. “My experience at Snow Farm exposed me to not only an environment devoted to artistic creativity,” said Josephs, “but also one that encouraged risk-taking and the boundless possibilities of personal expression.” After attending the Snow
Farm program, Josephs held a summer job at a bead shop designing jewelry and is now completing a second independent project in pottery. In addition to her work in ceramics, Josephs is a skier, and is on Taft’s Volunteer Council. Emily McArdle is a devoted dancer who dances with the Nutmeg Ballet in nearby Torrington year-round for approximately 36 hours per week, performing with them three times a year. Emily chose to attend a threeweek ballet program called the Joffrey Workshop in San Antonio, Texas. Although her previous dance classes were rigorous and educational, McArdle’s summer experience gave her a different perspective on ballet. “The Joffrey Workshop was the most intense ballet program I have ever been to,” she said, “and I learned more about the life of a professional dancer in just those three weeks than I have ever learned from talking to pros or going to Nutmeg.” She added, “The teachers I had at the workshop inspired me to change the way I work in ballet in order to improve more quickly.” Emily is using what she learned in other aspects of her dancing, including in her roles as a teacher and competitor in Irish Dancing.
AROUND THE POND
Student Art Award Winners Scholastics Art and Writing Awards are given each year, at the regional and national levels, to students in grades 8–12. In the state of Connecticut, each art teacher is allowed to submit only four works of art from her students. Silver Keys are awarded to only 25 works in each category, and Gold Keys are awarded to only 25 works in each category: drawing, painting, mixed media, sculpture, and more. In the state of Connecticut, Susie Tarnowicz ’03 received a Silver Key for her pastel drawing, and Ann Kidder ’04 received a Gold Key for her conte drawing. Ann’s drawing travels now to New York, where it will be judged in the National Scholastics Awards.
Jenn Palleria used her Kilbourne grant to attend a Cap-21 pre-college summer program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. During this six-week program, Palleria commuted daily to the city and attended vocal performance, vocal technique, acting, music theory, tap, jazz, ballet, and improvisation classes. “I decided to apply for the grant because I thought it would be a perfect way to get some really intense musical theater training, meet new people, and accomplish new performing goals,” Palleria said. “My grant allowed me to meet new people in the business, and learn about what it takes to go to school for musical theater. On top of that, I was in my favorite city, going to Broadway shows.” Prior to attending this program, Palleria appeared in many musicals at Taft as well as at Torrington’s Warner Theater. In addition to acting and dancing, Palleria studies voice, and sings in Hydrox as well as Collegium Musicum. Susie Tarnowicz’s grant allowed her to pursue her passion for painting and to study art at the Rhode Island School of Design during the summer. For six weeks, Tarnowicz attended daily classes in visual arts and took drawing, art his-
Left to right, music teacher T.J. Thompson with seniors Peter Granquist, Jenn Palleria, Susie Tarnowicz, John Kilbourne ’58, Alex Britell, Emily McArdle, Emily Josephs, and arts department head Bruce Fifer PETER FREW
tory, and design classes. She also learned about anatomy and the human form during figure studies classes. However, Tarnowicz learned the most by critiquing her own works as well as the works of others. “Being around different styles was how I learned,” said Tarnowicz. “Everyone was so interested in and enthusiastic about what they were doing, and the entire campus was covered in murals and textiles.” Her most valued accomplishment was gaining a bigger understanding of creativity, she said. “Even though I may not have been doing my best work ever while I was there,
I came back from it and I’m doing my best work ever now, because I just absorbed so much,” she affirmed. Established three years ago, the Kilbourne Grants take Taft students’ talents beyond the brick walls of Taft and allow them to explore and expand their passion for art, which they bring back and use to inspire the rest of the Taft community. “I didn’t know about the Kilbourne Grant until I listened to the Morning Meetings last year,” said Jenn Palleria ’03 during her speech to the school on February 11, “and now I can’t imagine where I would be without my experience.” Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
AROUND THE POND
Taft’s New Director of Development Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 announced recently the selection of John Ormiston, Director, Principal Gifts, at Yale as the new Director of Development at Taft. John will succeed Chip Spencer ’56 who will return to his previous job of Director of Planned Giving. John Ormiston was selected after an extensive national search was conducted by a Search Committee chaired by Steve Potter ’73 that included fellow trustees Drummond Bell ’63, Julie Brenton ’81, Susan Carmichael ’83, Archie Van Beuren ’75, Chip Spencer ’56, and Bonnie Welch, Associate Director of Development. John has been at Yale since 1990 and, before becoming Director, Principal Gifts, was a regional director in their
$1.7 billion Capital Campaign in which role he advised the National Campaign Executive Committee in a focused effort to raise more than $100 million from the top prospects. As Director, Principal Gifts, he managed the university’s relationship with the top donors and prospects, a group that has provided major support for the university. John started working in the Alumni and Development Office at Yale right after he graduated and stayed for six years, concluding as Assistant to the President for Campaign Affairs. He left Yale to work for two different sailmakers as well as a real estate company and a consulting firm before returning to his alma mater in 1990.
Operatic Duo In late January, an extraordinary and rare musical event took place in Walker Hall. Patricia Schuman, soprano, and David Pittsinger, bass, performed in a vocal recital. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 grew up with Mr. Pittsinger and welcomed this husband and wife duo to Taft. They have a combined resume that includes performances in most of the major opera houses and concert halls of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Their rich and varied performance at Walker Hall included selections ranging from opera and lieder to a medley of songs from Broadway musicals. A packed house was treated to an impromptu duet when Pittsinger asked Taft’s own baritone and arts department chair Bruce Fifer to join him in a song from Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon.
䉱 Soprano Patricia Schuman 䉳 Art department chair Bruce Fifer joins baritone David Pittsinger in song. SAM DANGREMOND ’05
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
John and Jane Ormiston
John and his wife Jane currently live in Madison, Conn. and will move to campus in May when he assumes his duties. Jane is a senior vice president for Research International in charge of new business development. John graduated from Marblehead High School and Yale, Class of 1971, where he was an English major and captain of the hockey team. He has been president of the Yale Hockey Association, a Fellow of Davenport College at Yale, a member of Wolf ’s Head Society, and a co-chair of Yale Youth Days. John’s brother, Mike, graduated from Taft in 1975. In commenting on John’s appointment, Headmaster MacMullen said the following: “That John Ormiston is an experienced and brilliantly successful development officer is obvious to anyone who has looked at his career, but what is more important is how profoundly he understands Taft and its mission and how quickly he has already become a part of this place—in the hallways, the hockey rink, the office. John has known and admired Taft for years, and he left behind an extraordinary role at Yale because he saw something special here that he wanted to be part of. We are very lucky to have someone of his character and abilities working for the School.”
AROUND THE POND
Art from the Heart
Taft’s Jazz Band
Taft’s Dance Ensemble during one of many Mothers’ Day Weekend offerings called Art from the Heart that included a play and performances by the Jazz Band and Collegium Musicum. PETER FREW
Super Sleuth Who would think that a man dealing with the grim world of homicide investigation could make a student audience erupt in laughter by his practical sense of humor? Dr. Henry C. Lee, a worldrenowned forensic scientist and favorite speaker here, captivated the Taft community at Morning Meeting in January with his stories of difficult cases and his wit. Lee quizzed the Taft audience for crime scene clues while showing slides of actual investigations. This was Lee’s second visit to the school where his niece Xia-Yi (Sandy) Shen ’04 is studying. Dr. Lee is currently the chief emeritus for the scientific services and was the com-
missioner of public safety for the state of Connecticut for over two years. He served as the state’s chief criminalist from 1979 to 2000. Dr. Lee was born in China and grew up in Taiwan. Lee began his career with the Taipei Police Department, where he became captain. He has worked on famous cases such as the Jon Benet Ramsey murder, the O.J. Simpson trial, the post-Sept. 11 forensic investigation, and the Washington, D.C. sniper shootings. He solved some of his cases up to 17 years after the murder was committed, resulting in perpetrators being brought to justice. While interrogation was once the only method of homicide investigation,
䉲 Francois Berube ’04 receives a prize ruler from Dr. Henry Lee.
Lee noted that investigators now use artificial intelligence and DNA testing along with a host of other techniques. “Everything I want to know is already on the scene,” he pointed out. But to his exasperation, the crime scene is often disturbed, sometimes by law enforcement people, erasing valuable clues. His humor pervaded, saying, “Profiles [for a possible suspect] are okay for mystery movies, but are not reliable most of the time.” He added, “Forty percent of the time, witness identification is erroneous.” There’s no question he is dedicated to his work, proven by the fact that he says he has tried, unsuccessfully, to retire three times but wants to continue helping with difficult cases around the world. Lee reflected on his work in Bosnia with mass graves and helping relatives identify deceased loved ones, “The universal language is called ‘loving care’ and differences of culture and language don’t matter.” He ended his riveting talk saying that he’s often asked what the most important thing in life is. His answer, shown on a slide to the darkened auditorium, is “a collective vision for the future,” and the importance of trying to make things happen. Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
sport Winter Highlights by Steve Palmer BOYS’ HOCKEY 20–3–2 Housatonic League Champs, New England Semifinalist Once again, the boys’ hockey team distinguished itself as one of the best in the New England prep ranks. Their 19–2–2 regular season included two wins each against rivals Avon, Choate and Hotchkiss, and a fourth consecutive championship at the highly competitive Lawrenceville Christmas Tournament. In perhaps their finest game of the season, Taft defeated top-ranked and undefeated Deerfield (4–2) to continue its four-year streak against the Big Green. The Rhinos then powered past Hotchkiss with an 11–2 win in the first round of the New England tournament before coming up short against two-time defending champ St. Sebastian’s in the semifinals, a 3–1 loss. Seniors Todd Ogiba, Casey Ftorek, and Ryan Ahern were selected to the AllFounders League Team, and goalie John Curry, along with Ftorek, was named to the NEHPSA All New England Team. 䉳 Will Blanden ’03 drives to the basket in Taft’s season opening victory over Gunnery. Blanden led the league in rebounding and was second in scoring. PETER FREW 18
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
With a host of highly talented upper mids, including leading scorers Keith Shattenkirk, Todd Johnson and Alex Meintel, Taft should once again be a force to be reckoned with; the boys’ four-year record of 84–9–5 speaks for itself.
BOYS’ BASKETBALL 17–7 New England Quarterfinalist The boys’ varsity basketball team finished with a school record 17 wins and made the New England tournament for the first time in six years. The regular season included sweeps of Kent and Hotchkiss and a thrilling 83–81 win at home late in the season against then 18–2 KingswoodOxford. That victory along with a key win over Avon ensured their number 6 ranking in New England. The team bowed out in the first round of the tournament with a tough 64–61 loss to Loomis, but this was the finest basketball team at Taft in many, many years, perhaps ever. Seniors Robbie Madden, Michael Bryan, Kofi Ofori-Ansah, and Adam Kowalski were a big part of this squad’s tenacious defense and perpetual hustle. Junior guard Brian Baudinet, a Second Team League All Star, averaged over 15 points per game and may well have a shot at becoming Taft’s first 1,000 point scorer next year. Post graduates Brandon Miles and Will Blanden were central to the team’s success, both being named to the Tri-State All-League team. Miles led the league in free throw average (81 percent), pulled down nine rebounds per game and did much of the inside work all winter. Will Blanden was simply one of the best players in New England this year, leading the team in points (20.5 per game) and rebounds (10.3 per game), and coming up with big plays at both ends of the court whenever Taft needed it.
GIRLS’ HOCKEY 17–4–1 Founders League Tri-Champs, New England Semifinalist
The girls’ hockey team pulled out a series of wonderful wins throughout the middle of the season to earn a number 4 ranking in New England. Their determined string of 11 straight victories included triumphs over several of the strongest prep teams this year: Loomis (2–1), Choate (1–0), Pomfret (2–1), Deerfield (2–0), Tabor (4–3) and undefeated Cushing (1–0). That this team played with heart and perseverance goes without saying, and with that midseason momentum, Taft battled past Pomfret with another 2–1 win in the quarterfinals of the New England tournament before dropping a 5–2 decision to Cushing. Nicole Mandras was named to the All New England Team (one of only seven players), and was also a Founders League All Star along with teammates Jennifer Sifers and Kim Pearce. Captain-elect Jaclyn Hawkins led the team in scoring, followed closely by Pearce and Patsy Odden Award winner Shannon Sylvester; middler goalie Lacey Brown compiled an impressive 1.18 goals-against-average.
GIRLS’ SQUASH 9–2 Founders League Champs, 2nd New England Tournament The girls’ squash team followed up their finest finish in New England last year (3rd place) with an inspiring second place finish this year. Though the girls could not overcome seven-time New England champ Greenwich Academy during the season (a 2–5 loss) or at the tournament, Taft did defeat rival Deerfield (5–2) and blanked Hotchkiss, Andover, Loomis, Choate, and Westminster in dual matches (7–0 for each match). Uppermid Supriya Balsekar and lowermid Sydney Scott both marched through the season undefeated and went on to win the No. 1 and No. 2 draws at the New England tournament. Balsekar did not lose a game at the tournament in defending her individual title, and there is no doubt that she is the finest high school player by some measure. Syd Scott may well be the second best
Hannah Baker ’03 stretches for a backhand. PETER FREW
individual player in New England with her present ranking as the top player under 17 in the nation. Seniors Hannah Baker and Katherine O’Herron both also made it to the final in the No. 3 and No. 7 draws at the tournament to help the team to their second place finish. The 2003 team set the standard for girls’ squash at Taft as a talented, spirited, and undaunted group of athletes.
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL 18–6 New England Semifinalist After a slow start this winter, the girls’ basketball record stood at 6–5, yet this Taft team surprised many opponents as they battled their way to twelve straight wins, a 17–5 regular season record, and a No. 5 ranking in New England. The impressive run by Taft included second-chance wins over tournament-bound Choate and Loomis and was based on flawless team defense and the play of uppermid center Katie McCabe who averaged 23 points and 9 rebounds a game during that critical stretch. The New England tournament began with a strong 47–40 win over Exeter, but the girls then could not get by two-time New England champ Tabor in the semifinals. Senior Katie Franklin led the team in steals and assists at point guard, while classmate Caitlin Grit regularly scored in double figures and was the team’s second leading scorer. Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
BOYS’ SQUASH 13–1 New England Champs, Founders League Champion The boys’ squash team brought home the New England title for the fifth time in seven years, but this championship was perhaps the most tense and hard-fought. Taft’s triumph over a very talented Brunswick team (167 pts to 164 pts) was one of the closest finishes ever, and the heroics at the end were provided by seniors Gary Khan (No. 2 draw) and Alex Ginman (No. 7 draw) who both prevailed in 3–2 championship matches. Captain-elect Tucker George also won the New England No. 3 draw, avenging his only loss of the season with a flawless 3–0 victory. Highlights of the team’s spectacular regular season included a 5–2 win over Chestnut Hill Academy (CHA’s first loss in over 2 years) and a competitive trip to Scotland where the Taft boys played against the University of Edinburgh and some of Scotland’s best junior players. The trip was hosted by John and Bridget Mackaskill (parents of Ben ’04 and John ’02) and John and Jennifer Harding-Edgar (Georgina ’03). Lower middler Michael Shrubb went undefeated during the season and finished second at the tournament
The boys’ varsity squash team during their Thanksgiving Scotland tour visit the Ivy Wu Gallery at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. PETER FREW
(No. 4 draw), while senior captain Auloke Mathur played in the No. 1 slot for much of the season. Mathur’s best match was a dominant win over Brunswick’s top player, though Taft lost the dual match 3–4 for their one loss. This was Taft’s ninth consecutive Founders League title.
Patsy K. Odden Girls’ Invitational Hockey Tournament The girls’ ice hockey tournament held at the start of the Christmas vacation has been going strong for two decades. This year, the contest was renamed in honor of Taft’s longtime coach and women’s ice hockey pioneer Patsy Odden. The holiday event began in 1983 and was co-hosted by Taft and St. Paul’s, with each school winning the title in the first two years. Taft then went on to dominate the yearly event by winning eight straight titles. Along the way, coach Odden and Taft took over the tournament permanently and expanded it to include eight teams. The three-day event begins with a formal dinner in the Armstrong Dining Hall, and many of the visiting girls stay with Taft students in the dorms. In recent years, Taft, Tabor 䉳 Patsy Odden drops the puck to start the Patsy K. Odden Girls’ Invitational Hockey Tournament held at Taft in December. PETER FREW
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Academy, Hotchkiss and Loomis have all won the championship, and Groton, St. George’s, Andover and Lawrenceville have been regular competitors. Patsy Odden is well known among the girls’ hockey ranks throughout New England, and in fact the Prep School Championship Trophy bears her name— an honor that came out of her incredible 25-year coaching career for Taft. In those years, she built a dominant program that compiled a 371–99–13 overall record, including three consecutive New England titles (’91, ’92, ’93) and a two-year undefeated streak. Yet, Patsy Odden’s legacy goes far beyond the impressive numbers and championship banners, with two former players having earned Olympic gold medals and over 95 percent of her players going on to play college hockey. It is clear that the passion and dedication she had for the game was and is carried on by so many that she coached, including Taft coach Jessica Clark ’94 and Harvard coach Katie Stone ’84. Odden helped to spread the movement for women’s ice hockey beyond our borders with numerous international trips, and some of her teams even won major tournaments in Germany and Russia. In fact, Taft played the German National team (4–2 loss) and the Unified Russian National Team (1–1 tie) in the ’92–’93 season. The game and her players have always been first in Odden’s heart, and it is fitting that this wonderful holiday event is named in her honor.
Alumni in the Arts
The alumni community of Taft holds more artists than anyone might imagineâ€” so many, that choosing a few of you to highlight was both a delight and a challenge. We applaud the work all of you are doing in and around the arts, and hope you will find these few stories of eight visual artists entertaining and inspiring.
Alumni in the Arts
䉱 Deane G. Keller ’58 䉳 “Figure Study, Cairo,” charcoal, 60 in. x 34 in.
Deane G. Keller ’58 Figure as Metaphor By Loueta Chickadaunce “To draw is to know by hand—to have the proof that [St.] Thomas demanded.” —John Berger 22
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A name well known to all Taft students who frequented Mark Potter’s art room was Deane G. Keller ’58, an extraordinary artist whose father, Deane, was a distin-
guished painter, teacher, and member of the Class of 1919. His father was a profound influence for Deane. Mr. Keller’s teaching was passionate and clear; it made him direct, sometimes blunt, in his criticism, while consistently offering ways to improve. It was an approach Deane found again at Taft. “If something goes poorly, fix it. Taft gave that to me,” he said. I spoke with Deane while he was busy selecting work for a March show at the Carriage Barn Arts Center in New Canaan, Conn. The exhibition is mostly figure drawings inspired by his travels in Egypt and Syria. The drawings are large, around 60 in. x 34 in. His work of the last 15 years has been mostly drawings, with a few paintings scattered among them. Deane is both patient and insistent when he talks about art. “Drawings don’t lie,” he noted. “The quick and casual shows, the struggle shows, the substance or lack of substance shows. Drawing keeps you on a sure course of recognizing and organizing your own thoughts.” He quoted John Ruskin, “Art is about gathering and governing.” The gathering, Deane explained, is about attaining the raw material, the field sketches; it is about addressing life as you discover it. He has thousands of drawings done on location. They represent the start of countless ideas. “You govern with
䉱 “Drapery Study,” 1998, oil
䉱 The Keller family at work: Deane’s brother, Bill, posing for a portrait which Deane G. ’58 is working on, with their father Deane ’19 offering criticism.
art, with your sense of design,” determining the work’s strength, its density. Choices are made according to one’s own sensibilities. His work occurs in the combination of the rawness of reality with the classicism of design. Nothing is made with the use of photographs. Drawing is not reproduction. “You have to assemble all of the assets that you have. All of the dimensions of your life come together when you draw.” The figure represents all things coming together for Deane—what he sees and what he knows. Early in his career he was given a solid grounding in traditional drawing technique. At the age of 24, he was encouraged by his father to spend a year in Italy, living with an Italian family and studying in an atelier in the east end of Florence (the same atelier as Fred Brownstein ’64; their Italian stays were about ten years apart). In the east end of Florence, the bells of Santa Croce, which houses the tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti, can be heard. His studies with Nara Simi in that small atelier formed the building blocks of his life. It was training “that had not been greatly jostled and modified by modernist trends.”
“My father made sure that I had a range of experience so that I had the appropriate skills with which to find my own style. I spent 30 years discussing art with him; he always had suggestions and recommendations. He died in 1992, before he saw any of these large drawings.” Deane speculates that his father would only ask that his son know why he was creating drawings this size. He maintains that the exploration of light and form is more direct this way. “Reduction in size reduces its impact. When you don’t translate the figure down in size, there is a more visceral appreciation of it. The figure for me is a metaphor for feeling. I can address what is in my mind and my heart through drawing.” Another origin of these life-sized drawings would be from his countless anatomy lectures (he has taught anatomy since 1979), for which he draws at a scale large enough for everyone to see. Presently he lectures on it twice a week at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Conn., and at the Art Students League in New York. His students visit the gross anatomy labs at
Yale School of Medicine to experience and to draw “the harness of musculature.” Deane and his wife, Dorothy, have traveled extensively for the last 24 years; the north coast of Africa, Italy, France, Greece, Holland, Spain, Turkey, and Syria have seen him furiously note gestures and poses in his drawing books, while Dorothy adds to her extensive slide collection for art history lectures at St. Joseph College, where she is department chair. Standing in spaces famous in the histories of Alexander the Great and Lawrence of Arabia adds another dimension to the work that develops from his drawing books. Last summer they were in the Archaeological Museums of Cairo and Athens. Moving from one marble to the next, Deane found them jarring in their energy. He laments that these sculptures have become somewhat remote and iconic for us. Even the most ancient of those sculptors were interested in the evocative power the figure holds. Deane Keller certainly feels their kinship. Loueta Chickadaunce is a painter who holds the van Beuren Family Chair and teaches in Taft’s Arts Department.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts 䉳 “Still Dreaming,” 1994, marble, 23 in. x 13 in. x 22 in.
Fred X. Brownstein ’64 One Man’s Journey in Art By Kate Jellinghaus ’89 The artist’s path is rarely a straight one. Particularly in this postmodern era—in which eclecticism in art reigns supreme— it is intriguing to see how each artist comes to find his or her place within the larger context of art history. For sculptor Fred Brownstein ’64, like so many other Taft graduates who went on to become artists, things began 24
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rather unexpectedly, in the studio of Mark Potter ’48. As an upperclassman, Fred had wandered into Potter’s studio one afternoon and dabbled in painting. Potter, quick to react, was immediately encouraging. Even though Fred never officially took an art class at Taft, Potter ran up to him on the day of graduation, put his hands on Fred’s shoulders and
exclaimed, “Fred, don’t make a mistake! Take some art classes in college!” Apparently, these words got through to him. Despite being a premed student at Tulane, every free elective Fred took was either drawing or art history. After four years of study, he gave up medicine and headed for the San Francisco Art Institute. These were exciting years to be out West: 1968–1970. Already, art in San Francisco “had a long and wild history of being on the cutting edge of it all.” It was influenced by the raucous political and cultural events that swept the nation and was shaped by artists like Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, Bill Allen, Allan Kaprow, Manuel Neri, and William Wiley. “It was a good time for me,” Fred said, “because I got to experiment with the extreme ends of things—with abstract painting and conceptual art— and to see that I gradually became dissatisfied with it.” In spite of the pressure to create “art built on art” (the self-referential art of the conceptualists) or art built directly on “what was happening right then” (with its inevitable political slant), Fred found himself longing for the missing piece in his arts education up to that point. Wanting to explore the relationship between art and art tradition, he set off on a boat to Holland. The trip was, as he describes it, a self-education tool— an attempt to connect with past artists through following in their footsteps and trying to see what they saw. “I went to Arles,” he says, “to see if I could stand in the same field as Van Gogh and see what he was looking at—try to understand what he was looking at.” This experience deepened his sense that “art is greater than all of us,” and that we can connect with past artists despite the passing of time. It also convinced him of his need for more rigorous figurative study.
䉱 Fred Brownstein ’64 working with Taft’s Advanced Art and AP Studio Art students on their life-size self-portrait sculptures in clay. PETER FREW
䉱 “Shared Vision,” life-size bronze, 54 in. x 37 in. x 33 in.
Fred continued his travels. In Vence, France, he met the Canadian sculptor Jim Ritchie, and there he got his first piece of marble and did his first carving. He then set off to Italy—“where marble comes from”—on a trip that he says changed his life. He describes his wonder upon visiting the marble quarry in Seravezza: “We turned the corner and there was the marble rising up ahead of me—it was like being hit in the face!” Fred quickly became enamored of sculpting in marble. He stayed in Italy for the next 16 years (1975–1991), spending four years as an apprentice to learn how to carve marble the Italian way and many more studying the figure under the respected Signorina Simi. Fred’s wife Stella, an artist herself, also spent these years studying drawing and painting in the Simi studio. During this time, the couple supported themselves by living frugally, working and gradually winning commissions for their work. These 16 years of work and study proved crucial to Fred’s becoming a sculptor and to his finding a place for himself in the long
need for helping others. For Fred, the line between the craft and the art itself is undefined: “To be a good artist, you must be a good craftsman.” Fred also speaks passionately about the greater role of the artist. “There are archetypal figures, in the Jungian sense— such as the ‘doctor’ or the ‘priest’.” The artist, he continues, “whether a caveman or Renaissance artist,” is someone who has fully accepted this archetypal identity. “The concept is that one must prepare oneself to be a good tool so that we may be used by Art [in the greater sense] to make our art,” he states. “The art moves through us or through our hands into the material of our work to create the artwork.” Ultimately it is the acceptance of this receptive creative process that art, and becoming an artist, is all about.
tradition of figurative sculptors working in marble and bronze. Fred now has a studio in southern Vermont and is on the faculty of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Connecticut. He was recently promoted to fellow of the National Sculpture Society. His daughter Vanessa ’06 is a student at Taft and on regular trips to campus, Fred volunteers his time to critique student sculpture in art classes. Fred acknowledges that fewer and fewer people work in this very rigorous and academic tradition, and that in some respects it is a dying art form. Yet, he feels himself deeply rooted in these traditions, and expresses a sense of personal responsibility to keep this knowledge from being lost. “I want to take this tradition and help push it into 2003, 2010—to make sure that it won’t die! You never know what your artistic mission will be. It may not be what the New York art world tells you you’re supposed to think.” He speaks fervently about education—on the need for the “ownership” of knowledge (what the Italians call padronanza), and on the
Kate Jellinghaus ’89 is currently completing her M.F.A. in painting at the National Academy of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria. She was Taft’s Rockwell Visiting Artist in the fall and exhibited her work in the Mark Potter Gallery.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts 䉳 “Last View,” 1999, oil, 47.5 in. x 39.5 in
Langdon C. Quin III ’66 A Light-filled Palette By David Morse Langdon Quin was in his junior year, studying premed at Washington and Lee University, when he made the break that was to change his life. “I think it was organic chemistry or something equally daunting” that prompted him to pay a visit to Mark Potter ’48, his former teacher and mentor at Taft. “That’s when I really decided that I wanted to pursue art for as long as I could.” 26
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Langdon, who graduated from Taft in 1966, had been passionately involved in art while a student there, thanks to Potter’s inspiration. Along with a handful of other similarly motivated students, Langdon had spent nearly all his Saturdays in the art studio. After going back to visit Potter, he decided to get out of premed. He completed a B.A. in art at Washington and Lee, earned an M.F.A. at Yale’s
School of Fine Arts, and went to Italy to paint for a year and a half under a Fulbright Hays grant. Today, he has established a reputation as a serious fine artist, with several one-person shows to his credit, and representation in galleries on both coasts—in Kraushaar Galleries, an uptown gallery in Manhattan, and Hackett-Freedman Gallery in San Francisco. He is an associate professor of painting and drawing at the University of New Hampshire, and is painting as intently as ever. His paintings are representational, whether observed or imagined. They include carefully composed landscapes, figures, and still lifes. He is especially interested in light—in the psychological qualities of light—his palette influenced alternately by the cooler range typical of New England and upstate New York, where he lives during the academic year, and the warmer Mediterranean light in Umbria, Italy, where he has a second home. He credits Taft for providing his early foundation as a painter. The influence of Mark Potter, he says, ultimately had “less to do with his specific aesthetic, and more to do with his example as a person, and as a citizen and a human being and a person that was passionate about what he did.” Langdon had come up from Atlanta, Ga., and saw little of his parents. “I was on my own. I was a southerner. And I had an accent. I had to get over the adolescent trauma of realizing that people were listening to me half the time just to hear me talk, because it sounded so strange to them. I think I worked very hard at losing my southern accent and something about my identity there. “Potter was as good as it gets, in terms of finding a kind of role model in
䉱 Langdon Quin ’66 with son Dino ’05
䉱 “The Slaughter,” 1978–80, oil, 48 in. x 36 in.
the absence of a father nearby. We were completely enamored of this man.” Not surprisingly, Langdon’s own early work was heavily influenced by his mentor. “I worked very much in his vocabulary—his aesthetic and vocabulary for a couple of years, or at least the best I could do, trying to emulate or simulate that. I soon realized it just wasn’t me; the things that he did beautifully were particular to him and his vision. It took a while and it was very painful to sort of wean myself away from his influence.” After studying at Yale and working on his own, Langdon acquired his
own vision. His work makes use of a generally brighter palette—sometimes recalling the frescos on church walls in Italy, sometimes employing boldly saturated, flat expanses of cerulean blue or crimson. His subjects often explore tensions between the erotic and the everyday, between order and chaos. Some of the spatial drama underlying Langdon’s work, however, seems to spring from those early years at Taft. In an essay written for a Mark Potter retrospective at the Findlay Gallery in 1997, two years after the painter’s death, Langdon recalls Potter as an
“athletic” presence, whose sketchbook jottings declared that a painting “should move out expressively towards the spectators, clubbing them with the big design, the big movement. Move the eye around aggressively.” Langdon came to the realization that “I had left the superficial aspects of his imagery…but I never left the kind of guiding spirit of what was underneath. And so although I learned different things and had other very powerful influences…he was really there all along. It just transformed into a different kind of underpinning for my studies.” He observes that Taft, today, with its more culturally and geographically diverse student body, is “even more nurturing in all of these dimensions than it used to be. I’m a fan still.” His son, Dino ’05, is a mid at Taft. David Morse is an independent journalist based in Connecticut and the author of a novel, The Iron Bridge, and essays that have appeared in numerous magazines.
Langdon Quin works shown here courtesy of Kraushaar Galleries, NYC. Quin’s work will be exhibited at Taft’s Mark Potter Gallery sometime in 2004.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts
Alan R. Smith ’67 An Affinity for Expanses
䉱 “5424 feet, Highest Point in Nebraska, Kimball County,” 1996 䉲 “Carhenge, Box Butte County, Nebraska,” 1999
By Linda Beyus Asked when he became interested in photography, Alan Smith says, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a camera. I can remember having a little plastic Brownie camera [as a kid]. My folks got me my first 35 mm camera— an Argus C3—before I went to Taft,” but he was more interested in science in those days. Smith remembers a small darkroom somewhere in the science building, but no photography classes then. He says he always enjoyed art but loved science as a student. “I found there 28
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was a disconnect between the eye and the hand when I tried to draw or paint,” Alan noted. “I used the camera to bridge the disconnect.” The combination of technology and art suits him perfectly. Alan’s affinity for science early in his academic career is explained by the fact that his father, Russell, Class of 1936, was a geology professor. His father eventually taught at the University of Nebraska, after they had lived in parts of the Midwest, which is how Smith ended up in Nebraska. Alan now lives in Lincoln and
teaches photography courses at nearby Doane College. Drawn to wide vistas and vacant landscapes, Alan likes getting away— “a bit of a loner,” he says. A photographer of beautifully graduated shades of black
䉱 “Lancaster County, Nebraska,” 1999
and white, he says he is “no more content than when I’m outdoors under a great sky.” Alan’s favorite subjects are landscapes and buildings in the central Plains, primarily Nebraska, as well as the Native American Southwest with its petroglyphs, pictographs, and ruins. Some of his black and white images are of vanishing wooden grain elevators and old buildings, as well as highways and horizons in wide open landscapes. In his photos, Smith says he is trying to get across a sense of place. “The central Plains are somewhat of an acquired taste,” he explains. His feel for the Plains is expanded by reading writers like Willa Cather, and then shooting. One photo is titled “5424 feet, Highest Point in Nebraska, Kimball County.” A dirt road with two tracks curves gently into the distant horizon while a fenced-in marker notes the fame of the little rise of land at a quite high elevation, yet which appears mostly flat. The juxtaposition of endless fields of grass and the pinpointed preciseness of the marker naming an exact height in a precise spot halts the viewer. A desk next to it holds a ledger full of visitors’ names plus, Alan says, “a note taped inside saying you can get a certificate that you’ve ‘climbed’ the highest point in Nebraska from a chamber of commerce in the nearest town.”
䉱 Photographer Alan R. Smith ’67 in his studio
Color photography also interests Alan, who is doing some color digital work—“you don’t need to deal with labs.” He’d like to do some platinum and palladium printing that “lasts forever.” He uses hand-coated liquid emulsions on paper he makes himself. Alan currently works in a 6 cm x 7 cm and 6 cm x 4.5 cm format. Some of his favorite photographers include the early Western survey photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan and others who hauled their enormous cameras with glass plates through the Plains and wilderness in the late 1860s–1870s. Their phenomenal work encompassed that of William Henry Jackson, whose first surveys of Yellowstone contributed to its becoming a national park. Alan also has great admiration for the work of Ansel Adams. He recalls a wonderful story told to him by the photography historian Beaumont Newhall who, along with Ansel Adams, was escorting William Henry Jackson through a show of Jackson’s work at the Museum of Modern Art. Viewers were “oohing and aahing over the large prints” when, Alan says, Jackson was complaining of lugging heavy cameras on mules around the West. Jackson pulled a little Kodak camera out of his pocket with glee and said, “but now I can shoot with this, and in color too!” In his courses at Doane College,
Alan teaches a “Fundamentals of Photography” course, in which he hits them with history of photography right off the bat. He notes, “Students think photography may be trivial,” but he impresses upon them that their lives are affected every day by photographs relating to politics, religion, purchasing, and family events. “These are not trivial subjects,” he affirms. Studio 15, Smith’s studio, is located within the Burkholder Project, an artists space in Lincoln that has art and design studios and gallery spaces for showing work. He also exhibits his photographs at University Place Art Center in Lincoln. Making a living doing fine art photography is an uphill battle in the central Plains. “In cities and on the two coasts it’s more accepted,” Alan observes, “but as a fine art, it’s not well accepted [here].” He continues to do photography because he enjoys it and the subjects he chooses to shoot. Alan is now doing some work for “his alter ego”—taking shots of live bands, as he did in his younger days, at a local blues bar and for regional blues festivals. Some of his photos are on the Roomful of Blues web site. Alan Smith’s web site will soon be revamped but some of his exquisite and expansive black and white images are viewable at www.alanrsmith.com. Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts
Susan Condie Lamb ’77 Putting Vision to Words By Anne Gahl and Jackie Maloney Susan Condie Lamb ’77 spends her days at her easel transforming children’s stories into vibrant watercolors. A children’s book illustrator for the last 13 years, with some years off for full-time mothering, Susan has created the artwork for several books for HarperCollins, Dutton Children’s Books, and Greenwillow Books. She is currently working on her second book for HarperCollins, by Gloria Houston, due for publication in spring of 2004, as well as a family story of her own. As a student at Kenyon College in Ohio, she was heavily encouraged by her 30
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family to pursue a liberal arts program, steering her toward a more “normal” career path, rather than a career in art. However, coming from a long line of artists, her artistic desire was so strong, that in 1985 she received her master’s in fine arts from Yale in costume and set design, and began her career as a theatrical, costume, and set designer in New York City. There, she worked for designers on Broadway, in opera, and in film. Though she had found this work to be a rewarding experience, “After five years of dealing with actors, unions, and
extremely long workdays, I felt like a doctor on call,” Susan said. She realized that it was time to return to her roots, and focus more on drawing and painting. Around that time, a friend introduced her to the world of magazine illustration, and she began to do some magazine art. Another friend, a children’s book author, introduced her to an editor at HarperCollins, and though Susan did not have a typical illustrator’s portfolio, she brought along her theatrical portfolio, which contained costume and set renderings for everything from Shakespeare plays to opera, mostly done while at Yale. The editor and she hit it off—he especially liked her costume sketches. He suggested she look over the manuscript for My GreatAunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, to see what illustrations she might come up with.
Susan Condie Lamb ’77
There was no promise of work at the time, and although she had been advised never to work for free, she decided to give it a try. The editor loved her ideas and so she began work on her first project. It took a couple of years to come to fruition, but the book was published in 1992 and was very well received. It continues to sell and has won numerous state awards. Her last book, Prairie Primer A to Z by Caroline Stutson, was described by the publisher, Dutton Children’s Books, as “a rhythmic alphabet book that perfectly captures the flavor and feeling of the Midwest at the start of the twentieth century.” Susan’s style of painting captures the era eloquently with humor and dreamy realism. On reminiscing about Taft, Susan told us, “Last year we had a triple reunion at Taft. My father, Charles Lamb ’42, returned for his 60th reunion, my sister, Ashley Lamb Fischer ’72, returned for her 30th, and I came back for my 25th.” Her sister, Ashley, talented in her own right, did not pursue a career in the art industry, but helped Susan form her interest in art from childhood. Susan was also greatly influenced by the late Mark Potter ’48, her art teacher at Taft. “He was one of the best teachers I ever had and I feel that I received an incredible gift from him.” The challenges of the theater gave Susan the background to put vision to the words. “In the theater world, the words of the play along with a director’s
Lamb illustration in My Great-Aunt Arizona
vision give inspiration for the costume and set designs,” she notes, “and so it is with illustrations for a book.” If a manuscript does not immediately inspire her, she chooses not to become involved in the project, but if it does, she usually begins with scribbling thumbnail sketches in the margins right away, and often finds that she stays with those initial drawings for the finished artwork. Though she has done some illustrations in pen and ink, or pencil, she works mostly with watercolors. For her current project with HarperCollins, a book about an “everyday hero,” similar to the character in My GreatAunt Arizona, she traveled to Asheville, N.C., to gain inspiration by walking in the footsteps of the character and to see
her world. “It’s important to me,” Susan states, “that, in today’s edgy world, stories about special people whose lives are about making contributions to the world and human connections get told.” In between her painting, Susan is a full-time mom to Charlie, 13, and Ella, 9, who she is raising in Connecticut with her husband, still-life photographer, Christopher Bartlett. Anne Gahl is Director of Alumni Relations at Taft and Jackie Maloney is Assistant Director. Illustration from My Great-Aunt Arizona used by permission of HarperCollins. Text copyright © 1992 by Gloria Houston. Illustrations copyright © 1992 by Susan Condie Lamb.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts
Rachel Bullock ’84 Shifting Images By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 Rachel Bullock ’84 spends much of her day surrounded by paper. But she doesn’t work in an office. Instead, the papers she’s surrounded by combine into lyrical, dreamlike images of charcoal and chalk. Rachel conceives of her pictures and begins working on individual sheets of paper, each one forming a part of the image. Her works are large—upward of five and six feet in height and width. “I like working large,” she said. “I like getting into (my art). It can surround you, like a window.” As she creates, she places the separate 32
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pieces of paper on the floor, collaging them together. “I’m trying to get some kind of movement,” she said. “I seem to work on them for such a long period of time…it feels like the process gets a lot more organic.” As she works, the overall image can change, sometimes dramatically. One image, called “Bordersong” is a prime example. It depicts four musicians, playing in a snow-covered park with buildings dim in the background. It is a far cry from where it began, Rachel said. “‘Bordersong’ started off with a whole lot of women with guns,” thanks
to the violence of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City, she said. “It went through five or six changes. Each drawing goes through its own story. Even if I have an idea…it takes on a life of its own.” She was flying back to New York from Switzerland the day the planes hit and because her studio overlooked the World Trade Center, Rachel had a hard time dealing with the aftermath. “I’ve always looked in that direction,” she said. “It was very strange coming back and trying to get back to work.” In fact, the trauma forced Rachel to push back a planned exhibition for several months. She is currently showing a collection of her recent work at the Dillon Gallery on Long Island. It can be seen online at www.dillongallery.com
䉱 Rachel Bullock ’84 in front of “Ice Chain 1” 䉳 “Rooftop,” 2002, charcoal and chalk on paper, 60 in. x 76.25 in. 䉴 “Girl and Ginger,” 1996, charcoal, chalk, and acrylic on paper, 74 in. x 46 in.
Though she was always creative, Rachel said she hadn’t intended on becoming an artist. “I’m much more of a mountain girl,” she said. “Maybe a park ranger, or environmental research.” But after moving to New York City, she began “dabbling” in oil painting. She then moved to Norway and began working in the studio of noted Norwegian artist Even Richardson. “I did a lot of work in the corner of his studio,” she said. “It was a good education for me, to be working like that in somebody’s studio.” She eventually got her own studio, and after a couple of years, she returned to the United States. She worked in oils until she developed an allergy to the paints, then moved into acrylics, charcoals and chalks. She said she’s starting to get back into oil painting now that the formulations have evolved. “I’m very much wanting to expand and get into different mediums and materials,” she said. “Charcoal is very physical.” The ideas for her pictures come from inside. Many, such as “Martine in the Snow,” feature female figures floating or swirling in water or snow. Others depict violence, yet even these have the dreamlike quality of a slow-motion event. “I get lots of pictures in my head that
just seem to present themselves,” she said, “sometimes clearly and sometimes not so clearly. I’ll just keep leaning toward certain subject matter.” Snow features prominently in her current collection, perhaps a reflection of her future plans. In June, Rachel and her husband, Jason Brandenberg, will move to Bern, Switzerland.
“A lot of [my art] I understand more in retrospect,” she admitted. “When I look at it a year later, a half a year later, I look at it a lot differently.” Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 is an award-winning journalist who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts
Jonathan Selkowitz ’84 Skier Turned Photographer Finds Olympic Gold By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 Jonathan Selkowitz ’84 is living a dream. He spends his days—and sometimes his nights—traversing snow-covered mountaintops, making breathtaking photos of Olympic athletes in action. His work has graced publications such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Ski, Skiing, Powder, Freeskier, Backpacker and Outside Magazine. But had it not been for a timely fall, Jonathan might just have been another Wyoming ski bum. Growing up in Pittsfield, Mass. Jonathan said he dreamed of skiing the high Western mountains—so different than the smaller hills of western Massachusetts. As a Taft student, Jonathan and Duke Sullivan ’83 founded the Taft 34
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Ski Club. After graduating from Colby College, Jonathan went West, settling in Jackson, Wyo. “I worked as a ski coach and ski instructor for the first six years or so,” Jonathan recalls, but he got tired of the seasonal employment. In fact, he was ready to chuck it all and go back to school to prepare for a teaching career. That is, until the fall that injured his knee. “I tore my ACL and needed to get it rebuilt,” he said. When he was sidelined from the slopes, Jonathan was taking photography classes, trying to learn more about what had been—up until then—just a hobby.
His parents had given him a Ricoh 35 mm camera as a college graduation gift. “I was an enthusiastic amateur,” he says. “My earliest photo experience was taking pictures of my cat as a kid.” But Jonathan’s work wasn’t your typical snapshot variety. The workers at his local photo lab liked his work enough that they recommended he apply for a job as an assistant to local commercial photographer David Swift. “From that very first day, whoa, I loved it,” Jonathan said. “It was something I could understand. I could visually grasp it…I could see how it worked.” Working with a commercial photographer, Jonathan learned the ins and outs
䉱 Jonathan Selkowitz ’84 behind the lens TIM HANCOCK
䉳 Bode Miller on the Downhill portion of the Combined Event of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics where he took home the Silver Medal JONATHAN SELKOWITZ 䉴 Apollo Ohno in the Men’s Short Track Speed Skating at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics JONATHAN SELKOWITZ
of composition, lighting, framing, and other photographic techniques, along with the business aspects. But something was missing, he realized. When the World Cup ski races came to Park City, Utah, Jonathan recalled, he knew what he wanted to try: sports photography. “Now, I’m a photographer, and I used to be a ski coach—I can do this stuff,” he said. Meaning, his knowledge of what a skier thinks and does in a race gave him a unique perspective on what would make perfect photos. He went to Park City and “blasted a whole bunch of rolls” of film just to see how well he could shoot the speedy skiers. “I had a long way to go,” in perfecting the style, he admitted. But he persevered, and thanks to advice from other professionals, Jonathan began to develop his individual look. “One of my objectives is to create visual motion in still images,” he said. “The background is definitely one of the most important parts of the shot. It’s a hunting-gathering process. You’re hunting for the terrain that’s going to produce the most dynamic movement. You’ve got to look for those shots, and then you’ve got
to find the angle. It’s like a recipe that you’re always playing with and adjusting.” He spent four and a half years with Swift before going out on his own and starting SelkoPhoto, his own freelance sports photography business (www.selkophoto.com). SelkoPhoto combines Jonathan’s two loves: snow sports and photography. But those loves nearly got him killed in April 2002. Jonathan was preparing to shoot several athletes for advertisements when he and his dog Wylie got caught in an avalanche in Togwottee Pass, northeast of Jackson,Wyo. “Wylie was sitting right next to me, and I took a picture of a tree against the sky, when all of a sudden I heard this gigantic crack like 20 two-by-twelves snapping in half,” he said. “As soon as I looked up, I saw the crack [in the snow] above me. It was like somebody had pulled the rug out from under me. We were right in the middle.” Remembering lessons from the various avalanche-survival classes he’d taken, Jonathan kicked off his skis and tried to swim with the snow, doing his best to keep atop the massive slide. “The whole surface was heaving and thrusting around me…the noise was like a bowling alley being dragged across a
parking lot,” he said. “I was getting ready to get rid of my camera, and I thought I hope somebody finds this camera and that these are interesting pictures. I thought there was a good chance [of dying].” But fate was with him and his dog. The two ended up shaken but unhurt some 1,000 vertical feet below. Jonathan continues to ascend the mountains, using his skills as a skier to know when and what to shoot. His photos, skillful combinations of timing and composition, spotlight the grace and athleticism of pro athletes. Sharp details, and rich, saturated colors highlight facial expressions and rippling muscles of athletes such as speed skater Apollo Ohno and skiers Bode Miller and Tommy Moe. In each shot, Jonathan says he tries to capture the dynamics of the sport. And when he gets the shot, he knows it. “Sometimes I howl,” he admitted with a laugh. “When you’ve been working with an athlete…and you envision it a certain way—there’s certain times when it happens and you just know. There’s a great intrinsic satisfaction of having it all come together.” Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 is an award-winning journalist who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Alumni in the Arts
Palmer West ’92 The Making of a Filmmaker By Ryan Nerz ’92 When Palmer West ’92 signed up for Rick Doyle’s “Video I” class as a Taft middler, he wasn’t thinking Hollywood. He was just trying to fulfill an arts requirement. Palmer remembers the day Doyle approached him, at the end of pottery class. “He asked if I’d ever done any video. I didn’t know what he was talking about. But I wasn’t doing so well in pottery, so it seemed like a good time to change my artistic focus.” If not for this encounter, he insists he wouldn’t be what he is today—a producer of independent Hollywood feature films. The first day of class, Doyle showed Bridge on the River Kwai, one of Palmer’s 36
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
favorite films. He dissected scenes in minute detail, showing each camera angle and pinpointing continuity problems. “He would say, ‘See, how the cigarette’s in his left hand on this shot, and then you cut back and it’s in his right hand?’ He demystified the movie magic, and showed its imperfections.” Palmer’s first attempt at movie magic was called Fresh Man. It starred classmate Charles Blumenstein as a freshman hero who drinks a potion that strengthens him against the brutalities of the senior class. In a pivotal scene, Fresh Man spins his nemesis—played by Leonard Tucker ’92, a Taft teacher— on his finger like a basketball.
His senior year, West was nominated for a regional Emmy award for acting in Doyle’s short film, Looking for Lake Fairies. Spurred by this success, and uninspired by the technical emphases of film schools like N.Y.U. and U.S.C., he pursued a theatrical acting degree at the Univ. of Montana. “Theater’s been around longer than religion, and I wanted to figure out why. So I went to a theatrically-based school, and fell in love with the craft of telling stories.” After graduation, Palmer moved to New York to start a production company with his sister. Sibling Entertainment’s first feature, Saturn, was a nightmarish learning experience. The director was difficult, the film went over budget, and Palmer couldn’t sell the final product. But the experience had an upside. During postproduction of Saturn he
䉳 Actress Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream, produced by Palmer West 䉴 Still from Waking Life, a film done entirely as paintings
met Darren Aronofsky, the director of his next film. After reading Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream script for the first time, Palmer was shell-shocked. “It was one of the most depressing stories I’d ever read.” Adapted from the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., the screenplay chronicled the harrowing downfall of four drug addicts. But Aronofsky broke the movie down scene-by-scene, convincing Palmer it needed to be grim to have resonance. Effects like dilating pupils, spinning rooms, and living refrigerators would allow the audience to get high with the characters, then accompany them down a long, queasy slide to the lowest of lows. It worked. The message was so strong, in fact, that a prominent critic at the Cannes Film Festival walked out of a press screening feeling nauseous. Still, despite a limited theater release due to its “unrated” status, the film was a critical success, garnering praise for its innovative style and a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Ellen Burstyn. “People have the wildest reactions to that movie,” Palmer said. “From bitter anger, that we put them through that…to epiphany.”
Meanwhile, he had broken away from his sister, who was focusing on documentaries, to start Los Angelesbased Thousand Words Productions. Knowing his next project would help define the company, he employed his filmmaking motto: “If you’re going to fail, fail boldly. Don’t fail making You’ve Got Mail.” This led him to Waking Life, an animated philosophical fantasia by the Austin, Texas-based director, Richard Linklater, known for cult classics like Slacker and Dazed and Confused. Linklater envisioned Waking Life as a 90-minute moving oil painting. To accomplish this, he shot the movie digitally using live actors, then had it hand-painted by 30 animators in Austin. Each minute of footage took as many as 250 hours to paint, using an updated form of “rotoscoping,” the animation technique used in films like Snow White. The result is a beautifully realized daydream that sacrifices plot to examine the ethereal nature of existence. A producer of artistically risky films, West still understands that those who survive longest in filmmaking “realize it’s a business, and try to slip their art into the business.” That said,
his latest offering, The United States of Leland, leans more toward the artistic than the commercial. Co-produced with Kevin Spacey and recently featured at the Sundance Film Festival, the story unravels the twisted motives of a teenager imprisoned for murder. And this fall, Thousand Words will release its most commercial film to date, The Clearing, starring Robert Redford and Willem Dafoe. “It’s packaged as a Robert Redford kidnapping movie,” Palmer said. “But I see it as a lot more than that.” Though he admits that producing and financing feature films is a form of high-stakes gambling, all signs point to a stacked deck for Palmer West’s future. Still, he doesn’t forget his past. He thanks Mr. Doyle in the “Special Thanks” section at the end of each film, and credits Taft for instilling selfsufficiency. “Taft teaches you to stand on your own two feet. And in a cutthroat industry like this, that’s an important attitude to have.” Ryan Nerz ’92 is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Village Voice and Esquire.
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
Picture yourself back in your assigned seat: it’s Bingham Auditorium on a Tuesday morning, and it’s not the seat up in the front that you earned as a senior, but the first seat you had as a new student. You are about to listen to six students speak, for three minutes each, on their experiences as recipients of the Kilbourne Grant, a summer arts enrichment program created and endowed by John Kilbourne, Class of ’58. These students have spent a portion of their summers pursuing their passions all over the country in endeavors such as a drumming program at a college of music, a painting program at an art school, a dance workshop with a world-famous dance company, a pottery program at a New England craft workshop, a program in musical theater in New York City, and an intensive cello playing workshop (see article page 14). Each one different, each one challenging and wonderful. If you didn’t realize it when you chose Taft over other schools, by this time it is glaringly apparent: the arts are vibrant here. Our program is so fully integrated into our community that seldom a day goes by without an opportunity to engage in some form of artistic expression. From the ballet barre in the Pailey Dance Studio to the potters’ wheels in the Humanities Art Room, from behind the curtains in Bingham to the small circle gathered around the Steinway in the choral room, art is alive at Taft. Everywhere you look on the Taft campus there is evidence of this vitality. You marvel at the student drawings, paint-
ings and photographs that adorn every inch of free wall space around the school, or visit Loueta Chickadaunce’s art room and feel as though you have stepped into a one-room schoolhouse, with a beginning student learning the basics of charcoal and perspective next
to the student analyzing his own bone structure to create a self-portrait bust for Advanced Studio Art. Walk into the viewing room and catch Claudia Black’s advanced placement art history class, or pass them in the hall on their way to New York for a field trip to a
By Bruce Fifer
museum, while back in the studio Joanna Schieffelin demonstrates the craft of throwing a pot to a group of anxious learners in a pottery class. Next you enter the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery where you are moved by an environmental photo exhibit with striking and reverberant images, the work of photography teacher, Laura Harrington. Visit her photography studio and meet students engaged in learning the process of developing in one room while, in another, students explore the art of digital photography. In the Black Box you find an acting class or a new production by Helena Fifer or Rick Doyle, always different in scale, design, and concept. As you walk towards the Jigger Shop, the sounds of T.J. Thompson’s Chamber Ensemble and Jazz Band fill the hallways. You might catch the refrain of an early Chuck Berry song coming from Taft Dance Ensemble, 1991
Taft Bulletin Spring 2003
the History of Rock and Roll in the music classroom, or the tinkling of piano keys as beginners tentatively learn their pieces in the piano lab. This area, though relatively small in size, is always a wonderfully noisy and lively part of the school, with 10 adjunct instrumental teachers and several students all coming and going throughout the week. Further along, the rhythmic movements of Elizabeth Barriser’s dance ensemble reflect in the mirrored walls; perhaps her Dance for Athletes class, a large and enthusiastic group of young men and women learning to move like dancers, will meet in a later block. Finally, you walk back towards Lincoln Lobby, where the majestic echo of Collegium’s voices resounds through the main hallway of C.P.T., reminding all who come to Taft that music is an integral part of our lives here.
An Arts Department this alive requires modern facilities and strong continued support from its community. In our never-ending quest to maintain the superb standards that currently exist, the Arts Department ceaselessly strives to meet its mission, in the words of Horace Taft: “to educate the whole person.” Many of you will make, or have already made, the arts your career, perhaps because of your time here at Taft. For others, what you saw, heard, and did while at Taft may have increased your enjoyment and appreciation of the arts. In either case, there continues to be a dynamic world of performing and visual arts both inside and outside of these brick buildings. Bruce Fifer is head of Taft’s Arts Department and holds the Music Department’s Marvin Chair.
Schedule of Events Thursday, May 22 6:30 p.m.
Cocktails and Dinner, Class of 1943 Watertown Golf Club, Watertown
Cocktails and Dinner, Class of 1953 Heritage, Southbury
Roman Comedy, Richard Cobb, H003 Calculus I Honors, Ted Heavenrich, W305 UM English, Christopher Torino, A213
Taft Golf Tournament, Watertown Golf Club
11:00–11:45 French III Honors, Alison Carlson, C023 Int. & Adv. Drawing, Loueta Chickadaunce, H016 Historical Fiction, Steven Schieffelin, W306
Class Luncheons, Classes of ’33, ’38, ’43, ’48, and ’53,
Boys’ Thirds Lacrosse vs. Pomperaug
10:30–11:30 Taft Today and Tomorrow with Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 and selected students, Choral Room
Early Registration, Main Circle
Assembly and Parade, Main Circle
Service of Remembrance Christ Church on the Green
Old Guard Dinner, Headmaster’s House 176 Guernseytown Road
Reunion Class Dinners Classes of ’58, ’63, ’68, ’73, ’78, ’83, and ’93
Alumni Luncheon The Donald F. McCullough ’42 Field House • Announcement of new Alumni Trustee • Presentation of the Citation of Merit • Remarks by Headmaster, Willy MacMullen ’78
Children’s Program, McCullough Field House
Boys’ Varsity Baseball vs. Choate Boys’ Varsity Tennis vs. Kent
Friday, May 23
Saturday, May 24
Student Guided Campus Tours, Main Circle
Registration, Main Circle
Alumni vs. Boys’ Varsity Lacrosse
Classes meet The following are a sampling of the many classes open to alumni:
Student Guided Campus Tours, leaving from McCullough Field House
Integrated Science II, Laura Erickson, W121 American Social Justice, Lynette Sumpter ’90, ISP1 Current Events, Jonathan Willson ’82, W216
24th Annual Fun Run, 1 Mile Run William Weaver Track
Headmaster’s Supper, MacMullens’ Home 176 Guernseytown Road
Class Reunions, Classes of ’88 and ’98
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Published on Feb 2, 2017