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A BLURRY PHOTOGRAPH The tree azalea overwhelms the evening with its scent, defining everything and the endless fields. Walking away, suddenly, it slices off and is gone. The visible object blurs open in front of you, the outline of a branch folds back into itself, then clarifies—just as you turn away— and the glass hardens into glass as you go about taking care of things abstractedly one thing shelved after another, as if they were already in the past, needing nothing from you until, smashing itself on the tile floor, the present cracks open the aftermath of itself. Martha Ronk from Ocular Proof (Omnidawn, 2016)
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Letter from the Editor
A Brilliant Lens: The Words and Images of Sally Mann ’69
We See the World with Our Eyes We Shape the World with Our Hands
Eyes on the Sky
Letter from Head of School + Campus Updates
ON THE HILL
On the Cover: SALLY MANN, The Two Virginias #4, 1991, Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches, © Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian. TOC photo: William Xuan ’19, Teeth, from the Vermont Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
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DEAR READERS, LEARNERS, EXPLORERS, AND THOUGHTFUL OBSERVERS,
In his piece on observing the night sky (“Eyes on the Sky,” p. 10), Glenn Littledale ’76 writes, “A piece of pipe can look like a rectangle when viewed from one direction, or a ring when viewed from another.” Reading this, I was reminded that our perception of the world around us always, inevitably depends on two factors: where we stand in relation to what we observe, and the lens—borne out of our life experience—through which we look. What happens when that perception is challenged? What happens when someone takes our shoulders, shifts our position just slightly, and suddenly we see a cylinder instead of a rectangle? It was there all along. How had I not seen it? Sally Munger Mann ’69, on page 6, writes powerfully about this moment, her awakening under the teaching of Jeffrey Campbell during her time at Putney. Working, living, and learning at Putney is an exercise in constantly shifting one’s position. Our vision of the world is challenged by what we read*, who we meet, what we see and hear in morning assembly, and the countless daily interactions with Putney students; it’s endless, enlightening, occasionally exhausting, and always interesting. One recent example of learning and shifting positions plays out in the pages of this issue. For the last year, we (the Putney Post crew) have been discussing whether to adopt a style rule for the magazine that capitalizes the letter “B” when speaking of Black people, recognizing the limitations of the term “African-American” and wanting to be inclusive when speaking of people of the African diaspora.
This issue includes two stories that answer the question differently—one story (“A Brilliant Lens: The Words and Images of Sally Mann ’69,” p. 4) reprints previously published material that used a lower-case “b,” and another (“Uninvisible,” p. 18) takes the upper-case route. We’ve done a lot of reading about this, trying to learn and understand. We haven’t cemented our answer to this question and its many offshoots internally yet, and we encourage our readers to dive into the question on their own. (We found the following articles illuminating: “The Case for Black With a Capital B,” Lori L. Tharps, New York Times, November 18, 2014; “Black and white: why capitalization matters,” Merrill Perlman, Columbia Journalism Review, June 23, 2015.) Lenses. Vision. Perspective. Art. Beauty. The difficult act of capturing the world around us and telling its many stories. We thank the people who contributed to this issue, whose work inspires us to see the world differently and to ask better questions. Best wishes to you all, ALISON FRYE
Editor, The Putney Post *What are we reading at Putney? Recent faculty summer reading highlights include: Exit West, Mohsin Hamid; White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo; Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race, Debby Irving; Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates; She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Jennifer Finney Boylan. Have you read something recently that has changed the way you see the world? If so, we’d love to hear from you.
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SALLY MANN, On the Maury, 1992, Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches, Â© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian.
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A Brilliant Lens THE WORDS AND IMAGES OF SALLY MANN ’69
Above Right: Photo of Sally from her Putney days (Courtesy of Sally Mann). Above: Photo of Sally from 2007 (by Michelle Hood).
At one point in her radiant, irrepressible, haunting 2015 memoir, Hold Still, Sally Munger Mann ’69 describes her art—as well as that of most artists—as ordinary, with success borne more out of tenacity than innate talent. The fruits of Sally’s dogged labor, her insistent pursuit of a good image, leave viewers with the breathless, sometimes-inarticulable feeling of being taken in by something we recognize and understand. Even when understanding is elusive, or the images make us uncomfortable, we are, nonetheless, transfixed. In more than forty years of work, Sally has turned her lens on capital-T Things—Death, Race, Family—with her abiding connection to the American South weaving through them all. Her evocative work speaks for itself, and we have chosen to let it do just that in this issue by sharing three selections of excerpts from Hold Still. With the images and words included here, we hope to do more than shine a light on an impressive career. We hope you, the reader, will dive more deeply into the questions they raise and explore the complicated contradictions that run inextricably through our collective histories. TEXT & PHOTOS BY SALLY MANN • INTRODUCTION BY ALISON FRYE
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SALLY MANN, Virginia, Untitled (Blue Hills), 1993, Gelatin silver print, 30 x 38 inches, ÂŠ Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian.
AWAKENING Like my two brothers, at Putney School I studied under a rotund, pipe-smoking, green-eyed black man named Jeff Campbell [inset, right]. It was Jeff who assigned, with the infinite despair of the defiler, the novels of William Faulkner. Through the cold Vermont nights, the windows of my dorm room steamed up with southern gothic as I huddled under the bright Hudsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bay blankets, grimly annotating the books Jeff
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had assigned: Light in August, Absalom, Absalom, The Sound and the Fury. My homesick romanticism thrummed to the melodrama: the violence, the undertones of sexual threat, the sense of moldering decadence, the cursed inheritance, and, of course, the inevitable haunted home place. That haunted home place, a metaphor for the South itself, was a house divided by the institution of slavery. I am sure Jeff Campbell knew, as his long-nailed fingers, the forefinger yellowed from pipe-tamping, placed
Absalom, Absalom like a sacerdotal biscuit in my palm, that this would be my moment of awakening, the one described by Graham Greene as the door to the future, after which the world is never again seen in quite the same way. Faulkner threw wide the door of my ignorant childhood, and the future, the heartbroken future filled with the hitherto unasked questions, strolled easefully in. It wounded me, then and there, with the great sadness and tragedy of our American life, with the truth of all that I had not seen, had not known, and had not asked.
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DARK WITH MEMORIES Ever since those lonely, purplish Putney nights, reading and writing about the South, I have tried to nail down just what it is that makes it at once so alluring and so repellent, like fruit on the verge of decay. Ultimate beauty requires that edge of sweet decay, just as our casually possessed lives are made more precious by a whiff of the abyss. We southerners, like Proust, have come to believe that the only true perfection is a lost perfection, buying into our own myth of loss by creating a flimflam romance out of resounding historical defeat. In that nexus between myth and reality we live uncomfortably, our cultural sorrows, our kindheartedness, and our snoot-cocking, renegade defiance playing out against a backdrop of profligate physical beauty. Every time for me, it’s the beauty of the southern landscape that fires up that irresistible melancholy of golden nostalgia and inflames my genetically ordained hiraeth, spiraling down the DNA chains, southern-style. On these trips down South I succumbed to it without a fight. I am reminded of the character in The Prince of Tides who said to his sister’s shrink, “Southerners don’t look at sentimentality as a flaw of character, Lowenstein.” Southern artists, and especially writers, have long been known for their susceptibility to myth and their
It’s the beauty of the southern landscape that fires up that irresistible melancholy of golden nostalgia and inflames my genetically ordained hiraeth, spiraling down the DNA chains, southern-style.
SALLY MANN, Deep South, Untitled (Scarred Tree), 1998, Gelatin silver print, 40 x 50 inches, © Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian.
SALLY MANN, Deep South, Untitled (Fontainebleau), 1998, Gelatin silver print-tea toned, 40 x 50 inches, © Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian.
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obsession with place, family, death, and the past. Many of us appear inescapably preoccupied with our historical predicament and uniqueness, which, as the southern novelist Andrew Lytle once remarked, we can no more escape than a Renaissance painter could avoid painting the Virgin Mary. My friend Niall MacKenzie, with his Canadian perspective, notes that we southern artists also display a conspicuous willingness to use doses of romance that would be fatal to anyone else. He likens us to the religious traditionalists of the Appalachians who handle venomous snakes without fear. What snake venom is to them, romance is to the southern artist: a terrible risk, but also a ticket to transcendence. Occasionally on my travels, I drew that ticket, moving in the slow motion of ecstatic time, like Leigh dreamily descending the stairs. In my revisionist memories, I hardly recall those hundreds of miles offering no chance of a good photograph this side of the Second Coming. I have forgotten the many suppers of saltine crackers washed down with iceless gin, or the ballads I sang to keep myself awake on the highway, which even Emmylou could not have made remotely non-milk-curdling, or the nights sleeping in the backseat of the Suburban while the windows of the neighboring camper pulsed with blue TV light. No, instead all that I remember is the rare, heart-pounding, brake-squealing lurch to the verge after glimpsing a potential image. My memories are of those euphoric moments of visual revelation, still fluorescing for me like threads in a tapestry in which most other colors have faded, leaving a few brightly, and sometimes wrongly, predominant. Tightly woven in the tapestry are the images I made, themselves informed by the inextricable past and its companions: loss, time, and love. In these pictures, and in the writing of them, the dropped stitch between the sentimental Welshman and his descendant is repurled. And the story depicted in the irregular weave is of a place extravagant in its beauty, reckless in its fecundity, terrible in its indifference, and dark with memories.
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SALLY MANN, Gee-Gee, c. 1979, Gelatin silver print, ÂŠ Sally Mann. Courtesy the artist.
GEE-GEE Down here, you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t throw a dead cat without hitting an older, well-off white person raised by a black woman, and every damn one of them will earnestly insist that a reciprocal and equal form of love was exchanged between them. This reflects one side of the fundamental paradox of the South: that a white elite, determined to segregate the two races in public, based their stunningly intimate domestic arrangements on an erasure of that segregation in private. Could the feelings exchanged between two individuals so hypocritically divided ever have been honest, untainted by guilt or resentment?
I think so. Cat-whacked and earnest, I am one of those who insist that such a relationship existed for me. I loved Gee-Gee the way other people love their parents, and no matter how many historical demons stalked that relationship, I know that Gee-Gee loved me back. My late friend the writer Reynolds Price repeatedly emphasized the importance to white children of this intimate care, especially to the writers and artists of the South, and he was right to do so. For many of us, being high-strung, odd, and complicated, it was crucial. As a child, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to ask myself if I was loved, a not entirely unreasonable question in the sometimes
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indifferent atmosphere of our household. Gee-Gee’s love was unconditional, a concept I might never have believed in had I not experienced it. … … Gee-Gee worked for my family until her early nineties. At age one hundred, with her hands curled into gentle claws, she died on Christmas Day, 1994. She was with us for almost fifty years, but to calculate by any form of numeric reckoning the moment-bymoment care and fidelity she tendered our family would be impossible. Yes, I know that she was paid to care for us, and that the notion of equality and reciprocity in an employer-servant relationship is inherently compromised. And I may get my ass kicked by those who think I am perpetuating the trope of the loyal housekeeper Uncle-Tomming her way to the unmarked grave. But Gee-Gee was not a caricature or a type; she was a very real and emotionally complicated person, who devoted a large amount of her time to raising an ungrateful and impertinent scalawag, the same one who now pauses to examine this relationship.
I am reasonably sure Gee-Gee was as enriched, and occasionally appalled, by the experience of participating in our family as the rest of us were. And while our home may have been in some ways a replacement for her own, which was rent by racism and death, we did not take her for granted and we knew, even then, that her love was the real stuff that held our family together. In some kind of cosmic irony, by the time Gee-Gee died her skin was paler than mine, and her long hair was as straight, fine, and white as any North Carolina mill child’s. Because of her broad cheekbones, her countenance remained generous and open, only sagging a bit when she took out her teeth to soak in a glass of water by the bed. Her wrinkled skin drooped below the now-visible arm bones that appeared to be no longer up to the task of lifting the heavy hands. She had been a powerful woman, not fat, just strong, built with the ageless sculptural proportions of the workingwoman. Diego Rivera would paint her, not Lucian Freud.
But Gee-Gee was not a caricature or a type; she was a very real and emotionally complicated person, who devoted a large amount of her time to raising an ungrateful and impertinent scalawag, the same one who now pauses to examine this relationship.”
Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, the traveling retrospective exhibition of Sally Mann’s career, has been shown at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Future locations include the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (March 3–May 27), Jeu de Paume, Paris (June 17– September 22), and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art (October 19–January 12, 2020). Go see it if you can.
SALLY MANN, The Two Virginias #3, 1991, Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches, © Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian.
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Orion Nebula Photo by Sophia Baker â&#x20AC;&#x2122;19
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Eyes on the Sky
C O L L EC T I N G L I G H T
All of the telescopes that we use for looking at the stars are operated manually. This is a philosophical thing for me. Students in astronomy class quickly learn the night sky using binoculars, telescopes, and star maps called planispheres. They’ve grown up surrounded by technology, especially electronics. But there is a powerful experience available to them through very simple devices. We’re building telescopes here all the time. Almost always they are Newtonians, a simple two-mirror telescope with one paraboloidal primary mirror gathering light and one secondary elliptical flat mirror diverting the light cone to the side of the telescope for viewing. They are mechanically simple, easy to adjust, and comparatively inexpensive to build. Students have built a 15-inch Newtonian, three six-inch Newtonians, and countless other scopes that they took home after the efforts of multiple Project Weeks.
B Y G LE N N L IT T L E D AL E ’ 7 6 , S C IEN C E D E PA RT ME NT CHA IR
Beginning observational astronomy is an exercise in taxonomy. Students group their observations into categories: Is the object comprised of points of light? If so, are they closely spaced? Far apart? Does the object simply appear fuzzy? Is there a bright core? Does the view change through a larger telescope? Is the object symmetrical? Is it a blob? Might any of the shapes we see in the night sky be related? We don’t get to pick up astronomical objects and look at them from different perspectives, but we can ask if any of these objects might be of similar types, presented from different perspectives. A piece of pipe can look like a rectangle when viewed from one direction, or a ring when viewed from another.
Anna Lampman ’16 began construction of a second Putney observatory as her Senior Exhibition.
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Andromeda Photo by Sophia Baker ’19
Being out at night, looking at the sky through a telescope, and getting a sense of distances with look-back times beyond the human time scale gives students a chance to get outside of themselves. A common misconception is that the main job of an astronomical telescope is to magnify an object, but really the task is to gather more light. Our eyes have tiny little lenses that allow light to enter—once they get adapted to the dark, those lenses are about seven millimeters in diameter if we are lucky, and they shrink as we get older. The main trick of an astronomical telescope is to take the light hitting a big primary mirror (or lens) and funnel it into our tiny little pupils. The 15-inch Newtonian telescope funnels in about 3,000 times the light that would normally enter our eye. That lets us see tons of those faint fuzzy things up in the sky that are invisible to the naked eye.
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AS T R O I M AG I N G
Our eyes are constantly sampling light and forming new images. If we can attach a camera to the telescope that collects light for longer periods, we can start to see more detail in the object. But the problem with astrophotography is that as you extend the amount of time that you collect light, you quickly begin to see an effect that we’re usually not aware of: the rotation of Earth. Roughly speaking, an image of a star starts to become elongated after an exposure as short as 30 seconds because the camera is picking up the rotation of Earth. Point the camera at Polaris (the North
Star) and leave the shutter open for a while and the stars will form arcs, called star trails, all roughly centered around Polaris. If you want to eliminate this effect, you have to put the camera and telescope on a mount that rotates around the night sky at the same rate that Earth rotates. When we mount a telescope on an axis that is parallel to Earth’s rotational axis and drive the scope so it rotates once every 24 hours, those faint fuzzy things stay in the same place on the camera’s photoreceptors. We have two or three telescopes in our dome on one equatorial mount for astroimaging. It turns out that refractors are a really good choice for this job because they require so little fussing. Students can concentrate on imaging rather than periodically aligning the optics, a process called collimation. We are preparing a telescope with an eight-inch mirror lens combination right now. It’s really fussy but will gather four times the light over a four-inch telescope in the same amount of time. Students have such limited time to work. If you look at Putney’s mission statement, you won’t see anything that says we need to have lenses or mirrors at The Putney School, but using this stuff is very on mission: they help students observe the natural world. I don’t mean to leave microscopes out of this discussion. We visited an electron microscopy lab a few years ago where I realized that I might have missed my calling. Going small and close is just as compelling and outside of typical human experience as going large and far. And with a microscope, you don’t have to worry about the weather. One of the best things about astronomy at a boarding school is that students are here when it gets dark. Being out at night, looking at the sky through a telescope, and getting a sense of distances with look-back times beyond the human time scale gives students a chance to get outside of themselves. The value of ideas is so often judged by, “What it can do for me-me-me?” There is not much room for that perspective in astronomy. It’s wonderful to focus on simply trying to understand more about nature. That, and students really like being outside late at night!
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VISIONARY: JUNO LEE ’15 INNOVATIVE ENTREPRENEURNSHIP B Y B R IA N D . C O H E N The hallmarks of entrepreneurship—initiative, design, invention, organization, risk, and real-world applicability—are essential principles of progressive education. Although many Putney graduates become entreprenueurs, few students use that word for their work while here. Juno Lee ’15 is drawn to anything that makes him uncomfortable. Born in Korea and raised in Tokyo, Juno had never seen or eaten anything like his first lunch at the KDU: the Putney Special. He thought it was hilarious, questioned why we eat it, and then started thinking seriously about where our food comes from. Juno asked Pete Stickney, farm manager, how milk from our cows was used and learned that most of our milk was sent off in bulk to a major industrial cheese manufacturer. In his junior year, Juno dreamed of creating a product and a brand using Putney’s own milk. Sharing the plan with a small cadre of friends in his dorm (a group who soon became known as the YPC—Young Putney Capitalists), Juno, after first debating purchasing ice cream machines and opening a manufacturing plant, contacted Wilcox Ice Cream, one of the oldest creameries in Vermont. Refashioning Wilcox’s recipes, Elm Lea Ice Cream entered the crowded Vermont premium ice cream market with its own take on traditional vanilla and coffee flavors and their own new concoction, Choco-Nilla. Juno worked with Randy Smith, Putney’s business manager, and Mike Keim, math and finance teacher, on the concepts of wholesale margins and the logistics of distribution (and received academic course credit for this enterprise). He developed a business plan, crafted a unique brand concept and designs with Supawat Vitoorapakorn ’16, contracted six wholesale accounts, including the Putney Co-op and Putney General Store, and made Elm Lea Ice Cream a going concern. With some pushback and more than a few questions about his profit motive after selling his product in front of the KDU, Juno negotiated with Randy Smith and Marty Brennan-Sawyer, executive chef, to dedicate all profits to Putney’s scholarship fund for students from Windham County. In his senior year, Juno faced a choice— commit to his product and take on a distribution partner, or continue with his formal education and look back on Elm Lea Ice Cream as a learning experience. Choosing the latter, Juno went from Putney to St. Andrews University in Scotland, at Emily Jones’s suggestion, majoring in management and music. While at St. Andrews, after working with Mocha Joe’s of Brattleboro as a business partner of the company’s founder, Juno conceived of and started a company called Combini (based on konbini, the generic name for the omnipresent convenience stores in Japan). Growing up closely watching his mother, an entrepreneur restaurateur, Juno determined he never wanted to start a sit-down restaurant, but he recognized a broad desire for convenient, ready-to-go, fresh, gourmet meals and beverages. Combini launched a retail outlet in the town of St. Andrews in February 2018, its sleek minimalist décor reminiscent of an Apple store, purposefully blurring the line between the physical and digital. Food is prepared in-house every day starting at 5 a.m. and is usually sold out by closing time.
Combini’s commitment to an environmentally conscious supply chain, local and seasonal sourcing of products, minimal food waste, and traceable, biodegradable packaging all go straight back to Putney. Combini’s single venue quickly became the busiest lunch option in town, gaining even more popularity after winning the Asian Food Award in Scotland. Juno discovered that it was difficult to keep at his studies and also run a business that had 25 employees and an increasing number of investors. Now that he has graduated, Juno is building two additional stores, one more in St. Andrews and one in Edinburgh, and is developing and distributing a line of products, including unsweetened organic bottled tea products and Maple Matcha Latte (made with real Vermont maple syrup). Juno says that Combini’s mission is to design retail stores and products that elevate the experience of everyday convenience food, and he hopes to establish a majority of the company’s operations in the United States. Combini’s commitment to an environmentally conscious supply chain, local and seasonal sourcing of products, minimal food waste, and traceable, biodegradable packaging all go straight back to Putney, Juno says. And, while a revival of Elm Lea Ice Cream is not likely, we may yet see Juno’s products on shelves in Putney, Vermont.
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We See the World with Our Eyes We Shape the World with Our Hands
BY BRIAN D. COHEN
<< Clara de Álvaro ’09 was delighted to learn that the high-tech auto industry uses hands-on clay modeling.
esigner and engineer Clara de Álvaro ’09 has created racecars, haptic readers for the blind, modular shelters for refugees, and a portable surfboard. Every concept she initiates—all of her thinking and each design—has begun with her hands. Born in Madrid into a big, artistic family, Clara grew up taking things apart and fixing them, curious to solve all the potential mechanical puzzles residing in objects around her. At Putney, she learned how to realize her creative ideas with her hands, selecting the right tools and working with both openness to new possibilities and with precision and care. She learned what she was capable of, what she believed in, not to fear mistakes and instead to learn from them. She felt accepted, liked, and valued. She developed confidence in her own visual language, which she acknowledges was the origin of her ideas and her later development as a designer. Clara left Putney looking to complement her education with the technical and engineering training she needed to create everything she could imagine. Returning to Madrid, she received a very different kind of education from Putney, one in which there are right answers and predetermined outcomes. She missed figuring things out for herself and, after further studies in Germany, she received a CDIO-based (Conceiving-Designing-Implementing-Operating) engineering degree in transport product design at Aston University in England. At Aston she discovered the extent to which technical training is highly digitized—it is essentially about software design,
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At Juno, Clara found inspiration for her
designs in mythology, history, and the
aesthetics of living forms, and she
discovered, to her
delight, that the hightech auto industry
develops prototypes and final designs
through hands-on clay research, and technical accuracy. For her dissertation project at Aston, Clara took on a leadership role in the development of a new racecar, the Passerine Golondrina, the shape of which she based on the morphology of the swallow, inspired by her childhood love of the birds around her grandmother’s house. Clara began work for Juno Racing Cars designing F4 and Le Mans Prototype racecars. At Juno, Clara found inspiration for her designs in mythology, history, and the aesthetics of living forms, and she discovered, to her delight, that the high-tech auto industry develops prototypes and final designs through hands-on clay modeling, which drew upon her Putney skills. As a designer in a heavily male-dominated field, Clara found herself having to repeatedly prove her competence. “I have found it frustrating and a struggle at times, but I always found the strength to carry on and do all I could to demonstrate that I am as capable—if not more capable—than any other individual, man or woman. I struggled the most when I was on a team where I was the only woman and I was clearly more prepared for the job than others. I was carrying out jobs that weren’t in my field of expertise better than those who were supposed to be the experts, but I was still being constantly questioned. I found it difficult to make my voice heard.” Clara became active in an association called Dare To Be Different, founded by the former Formula 1 driver Susie Wolff, aimed at increasing the visibility and presence of women within the automotive industry. Clara says that while there are more women working in engineering than is generally assumed, the message girls still get from an early age is that engineering is a man’s job and that they would not be competent enough to enter the field. The way to combat
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modeling, which drew
upon her Putney skills. this prejudice, Clara says, is to teach children that we are all equally capable. Clara’s curiosity and interests have led her beyond the transportation industry to independent design projects, many with a social and environmental focus. As in her automotive design work, she tackles a specific problem with an analysis of the need, the context, and the market. Moved by the stories of displaced persons, for her final project at Central Saint Martins in London, Clara designed Freedom in Motion, a boat roof kit that recovers drinking water via evaporation and offers protection against exposure for migrants traveling by sea. Clara later designed two modular shelters, a long-term outdoor shelter in aluminum and an indoor shelter for disaster relief made of washi (Japanese rice paper) and cardboard. Both shelters are easily transported, assembled, and taken apart. They also protect from cold and elements, provide personal safety and privacy, and feel homey. Clara’s most recent innovation is the iHand, a device that incorporates LIDAR (laser scanning) and Ultrahaptics technology to give the visually impaired access to social media. Using ultrasound impulses to project air onto the hand, the iHand allows blind people to perceive shapes and depth of field between objects with their hands. Produced independently for
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Spanish ONCE (Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles, Spanish National Organization of the Blind), the system is potentially a transformative pedagogical technology for teaching the visually impaired. Clara is testing a prototype of the device and looking for potential manufacturers. Clara is emphatically disappointed with the current separation of design from engineering. While digitization speeds up work, Clara says it also removes designers from direct interaction with materials and techniques in the physical production process. As she puts it, designers imagine things that are sometimes unmakeable and engineers make things that are often unaesthetic and user-hostile. Clara dreams of practitioners from both disciplines being flexible and adaptable and possessing the tools to communicate, understand, and work with each other: “This is one of my biggest dilemmas. I think nowadays the digital world is taking over the handwork … many of my creations have emerged from being in direct contact with the materials and making techniques. My creative and imaginative process is very much interlinked with the materials and working with my hands. We can’t forget about the importance of being in constant contact with the physical production of a product.” Despite obstacles of sexism and deep creative divides commonplace in the culture of product development, Clara’s professional achievement has demonstrated a union of imagination and precision, of the material and the digital, of art and science.
The morphology of a swallow inspired Clara’s work on the Passerine Golondrina, shown here in different design stages.
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BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH ART BY VADA MOSSAVAT
Putney alumni tend toward the adventurous. A remarkable number—perhaps moved by Carmelita Hinton’s various and lofty exhortations—find themselves rolling up their sleeves and doing work that needs to be done. Memphis native Intisar Abioto ’04 says she left Putney with a whole lot of hopefulness and a can-do spirit. “I felt empowered, like I could change the world.” She passed up Vassar to attend Spelman, a historically Black women’s college so she could “be in a place where I could experience Blackness around me,” later transferring to Wesleyan to study dance. After graduation, she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she helped her family start a vegan restaurant. But she missed the sense of community she’d had in Memphis and struggled to find a Black place. “I did see individual Black people around, but I wasn’t connected to them. Because of decades of displacement, planned forced displacement through eminent domain, and gentrification, it can be hard to find the community.” Intisar comes from a family of artists and took her camera to the street and began looking to connect. While currently regarded as a bastion of progressive notions, Portland—as The Atlantic described in a 2016 article, “The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America”—had been distinctly unwelcoming to people of color. Soon she began publishing The Black Portlanders, a blog of portraits of some of the 37,000 “ ALL OF THE Black people living in Portland. THINGS THAT “I think the lived experience of people is the most important AFFECT BLACK thing. We’re important no matLIVES AFFECT ter where we are, on the street BLACK ARTISTS.” or in our houses. There have been Black people here striving, making art, working, and building, but their stories weren’t at the forefront. Black artists don’t live outside of a Black life. They don’t live outside the present day or historical challenges to Black life, whether it’s the income gap, housing discrimination, or transfer of income from one generation to the next.” Intisar, who has stuttered since she was about six Intisar Abioto ’04 is a dancer, years old, says, “When my body rejected my voice, photographer, speaker, adventurer, I had to find a way to speak. In Portland, I found a writer who has spent the past community that needed what I had to say. We have to and six years exploring what it means to use our art, our voices. It doesn’t matter what you do— be Black in Oregon, a state whose you take pictures, you dance, you have a start-up— we constitution once banned Blacks. have work to do.” Through simple, joyful photographs she has done that work and has connected with the community she was looking for, making Black Portland uninvisible by telling the story of the people who have been there all along. Intisar is currently working on exhibits and research, shifting her focus to the past and present experiences of Black artists in Oregon. She has presented her work at TEDx Portland, was a contributing photographer to “MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora” and was selected for the 2018 Oregon Humanities fellowship program for emerging journalists. Her work is currently on display at the Oregon governor’s office. She believes she’s the first Black artist to show there in more than 23 years.
ON THE HILL
Life-long Passions 20 PUTN EY OS T by Yatong TianPâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;19
ON TH E H ILL
LETTER FROM THE HEAD OF SCHOOL
Our stock-in-trade is teenagers. We have lofty ideals, educational convictions, buildings, books, and cows, but really, it is all about teenagers. And figuring out what one is looking at when one encounters a teenager is not easy. A 13-year-old touring Putney in the fall of eighth grade is an entirely different animal than will show up here the next September. Fifteen-year-olds are not 15, they are sometimes 21 and sometimes 12, and can toggle between those with confounding speed. An 18-year-old is ready to leave high school, but is scarcely a finished product. And most teenagers throw up smoke screens as they try out a variety of possible selves. All of this is why those of us who work with them love them so much, but also why I always ask alumni who they were when they were here. I think the hidden talent that makes a truly great teacher is the capacity to change lenses when looking at different kids. There are teachers with big personalities and brilliant minds, but the students must do the work of those relationships. Those teachers wish to be pleased, and they rarely see beneath the teenage facade presented to them. Great teachers can look at a student in a variety of ways, penetrating to layers the teenager may be quite unaware of. They don’t let a student think that their worth depends on the teacher’s approval, but when they gently let it be known that they see something good, that seeing will be encouragement enough. It is a delight when we see direct connections between a Putney education and a graduate’s life and work, although which of the many threads of their Putney life will be pursued is impossible to guess. Two of the subjects of profiles in this issue I remember as students, Clara de Álvaro ’09 and Juno Lee ’15. Besides making me feel that I’ve been here a very long time, their stories confirm my conviction that one of our strengths is letting students do things that occur to them, whether they have anything to do with our stated curriculum or not. And the conviction that we must always have enough teachers whose reactions to odd ideas is to say, “You want to do what??” and then shift their own lens and say OK. As always, we appreciate it when you see young teenagers that you know would benefit from a Putney education and send them our way. You are our best recruiters, year after year, and that is probably why Putney remains the place it is.
Great teachers … let it be known that they see something good, that seeing will be encouragement enough.
All the best to all of you, EMILY JONES
Head of School
ON THE HIL L
EMAIL EAVESDROP Excerpts from Community Comments, the email listserv for Putney students and faculty to share (arguably) non-essential information.
WAYS IN WHICH PUTNEY STUDENTS LOOK FOR JOB SUBS…
My eternal gratitude is up for grabs.
Do you want to skip your dinner job tonight?
I’ll make you waffles...
Giving Back The Putney School library now contains over 1,500 books in its Claude L. Winfield AfroAmerican Collection. The collection began in the 1990s and has been growing for more than twenty years. Claude ’61 says, “When I originally decided to create the collection, I had several objectives in mind. I wanted to create an introductory catalog of African and African-American history and literature, a collection that could be explored and read as an introduction to the richness of this experience. The collection was to have 1,500 books [because] this was the number of books contained in the presidential library of Thomas Jefferson when he died. Similarly, I wanted to create an endowment to maintain and upkeep the collection with current literature.” Putney’s librarian, Sarah Wiles, says “Claude is an educator, and he’s chosen to give back to Putney by creating the collection and providing our students and faculty with the resources necessary to enrich their education.” Claude worked as an educator and administrator in New York City. He remains an active community organizer and artist in his retirement. Thank you, Claude!
PU TNEY P OS T
Make my day? Want cookies? Hugs? A poem?
If Wednesday AM barn is your favorite... Are you cold? Do you want snacks?
Psub for BARN You could get to be outside after in-dorms...
STUDENT ART AWARDS The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recognize student artwork nationwide. In Vermont, an annual exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center celebrates local students. An incredible 22 Putney students received a total of 46 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, with 12 of those garnering Gold Key status. We congratulate and celebrate these students, their creativity, commitment, and the beauty their work brings to our campus. Long may the arts thrive. << Byzantine Link Chain, by Ethan Hubbard ’19, winner of a Gold Key in Jewelry.
ON TH E H ILL
ST U D E N T VO I C E
I find that the winter months are often the hardest at The Putney School. The cold often brings a “seasonal depression” because we feel holed up in our dorms and homes. I believe that by putting on Dorm Olympics— short assembly events in which representatives from each dorm (and day students) compete in games like limbo, hula-hooping, and frozen t-shirt—we can lift a little of the grey of winter, maybe just enough to tide us over until we see spring blossoms in a few weeks.
— CAM ANDE RSON ’19
O F N OT E
We don’t work for badges and honors at The Putney School, but we are pleased as punch that the deep energy retrofit of our Gray House dorm has earned Maclay Architects a “Best of the Best” award for commercial major renovation from Efficiency Vermont!
Franki, by Sophie Banks ’21. Winner of a Gold Key in Drawing & Illustration from the 2019 Vermont Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
Sandy Stone P’22’s deep connections to the New York dance world provided Putney dance students with the rare opportunity to learn and perform Three Epitaphs, a masterwork by Paul Taylor, a pioneer in American modern dance. Masterworks from leading choreographers usually come with a hefty price tag, but Sandy, a former Paul Taylor Company dancer (and the mom of Sam Benjamin ’22) was able to secure the choreographic rights to Taylor’s iconic piece, which was first performed in 1956. It is Taylor’s oldest surviving work. The Putney dancers were not only taught the choreography of this important work, but also the specific style Three Epitaphs demands. Sandy says, “It can take years to master Taylor’s style, and the Putney dancers absorbed it like a second skin.” The students relished the uncommon opportunity. Willa ’22 says, “I love dancing this piece! It brings me so much joy to have the chance to learn and perform this classic work!” The dancers performed Three Epitaphs as part of the Spring Dance Gala in Calder Hall on April 26, during Family Weekend.
Putney Outdoor Program bumped over rocks and roots while exploring new trails in Keene. F RO M T H E PU T N E Y SC H O O L I N STAG RA M @ T H E PU T N E YSC H O O L
PU TNEY P OS T
Putney Reunion 2019 JUNE 7â&#x20AC;&#x201C;9, 2019
(50th reunion for class of 1969 begins on June 6)
CLASSES OF 1949, 1955, 1959, 1969, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001
putneyschool.org/reunion REGISTER TODAY
NONPROFIT ORG U.S. POSTAGE PAID VILLANTI MAILED FROM 05401
Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont 05346
SALLY MANN, Battlefields, Fredericksburg, (Cedar Trees), 2000, Gelatin silver print, 38 x 48 inches, Â© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian.