June 04, 2001

Designing with Light II (Symposium)

I was fortunate to attend a two-day symposium associated with the exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright "light screens" in New York City on Monday and Tuesday, June 4th and 5th, 2001. The exhibit was hosted by the American Craft Museum and the symposium was hosted by Christie's. The exhibit was sponsored bySteelcase Inc. and the symposium was sponsored by HunterDouglas. You can find out more about the exhibit schedule and where it will be touring at flwlightscreens.com. I highly recommend seeing the exhibit since it may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see so many of his light screens together.
The American Craft Museum is located on 53rd near 6th Avenue....
American Craft Museum in New York City.
Having never been to Christie's, it was an eye-opening experience for me. The catalogs of artworks previously auctioned and planned for future auctions was fascinating. It's an entirely different world from my everyday existence. The concept of spending $80,000+ on a Tiffany lamp is something to ponder..... this is what Christie's looks like from the outside.</P>
Christie's in New York City.
An auction room was converted to a presentation room during the symposium.
Christie's board in auction room.
Mr. Bruce Pfeiffer Mr. Bruce Pfeiffer.The symposium featured several speakers including two Frank Lloyd Wright apprentices: Edgar Tafel and Bruce Pfeiffer. Mr. Pfeiffer is also the Director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives and Vice-President of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation located at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. I had the good fortune to meet a third FLW apprentice, Mr. Mansinh Rana, who was present when Mr. Tafel spoke on Monday. It was a pleasure hearing both Mr. Tafel and Mr. Pfeiffer speak about their experiences with Mr. Wright, and Mr. Tafel and Mr. Rana confirmed Mr. Wright's story about telling apprentices not to "spit in his coffee" when Mr. Wright thought that an apprentice might be imitating him too closely. You can read about this particular story in Edgar Tafel's book: Years with Frank Lloyd Wright, Apprentice to Genius (pg. 169 in my reprint edition).
The curator of the exhibit, Ms. Julie Sloan, spoke on Tuesday. She has published two books in conjunction with the exhibit. The first, Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright is more modestly priced. The second, Light Screens: The Complete Leaded-Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright is a beautiful book for the serious enthusiast (it's on my Christmas list; :-) Ms. Sloan clearly knew her subject well. On Monday she was also present for the presentation by Mr. Tom Venturella, an expert in the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright art glass. His hands-on presentation was interesting and confirmed much of what I had experienced from my own efforts working with stained glass. The description of the electroplating techniques used with the windows was especially interesting.Ms. Julie Sloan Ms. Julie Sloan.
Ms. Julia Meech, curator of the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect's other Passion currently on display at the Japan Society in New York City, spoke on Tuesday. Hearing her speak about his dealings with Japanese prints and his importance as a player in that market has given me an interest in studying more about it. I knew that Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by his interest in Japanese and oriental art, but I had not realized that it played such an important role in his finances and that he influenced the Japanese print market so greatly when he was an active trader.
Although the symposium had much to offer the Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, it also had several presentations by talented glass artists of today and also by experts in the use of lighting in buildings and interiors.
Mr. Ed Carpenter, a well-known artist specializing in large-scale public glass sculptures spoke on the first day. You can find references to his works by searching at Google for "Ed Carpenter glass" and his website is at www.edcarpenter.net.
Ms. Nancy Gong, an active practicing glass artist also spoke. I'm looking forward to hearing more about her work and you can visit her website.
Ms. Victoria Meyers, a practicing architect in New York and instructor at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, spoke on the use of light in architecture. I found her thoughts about how Frank Lloyd Wright's later buildings grew the concepts present in his earlier light screens to encompass the entire building interesting.
Ms. Kim Kiner, a Product Designer with Hunter Douglas had a challenging task to present thoughts on window treatments to the group. Frank Lloyd Wright did not believe in curtains and in fact his light screens were an attempt to control the light and frame the view. As one of the speakers put it "he was a bit of a control freak", which is a fair statement considering what I've read about his desire to design everything, even in some cases the clothes worn by a client. Ms. Kiner presented some interesting material concerning the qualities and characteristics of light depending on the direction and time of day. This part of the discussion reminded me of some of my recent Feng Shui reading.
Mr. Steven Weintraub, an independent consultant specializing in Museum Environment and Objects Conservation spoke about the lighting design in museums and how they are often not as well designed as you would think they should be for the presentation and preservation of art. He presented some interesting examples of well-designed and poorly-designed lighting in museums around the world.
Mr. Frank Quadflieg, the Creative Director for Andersen Windows, spoke concerning upcoming trends in window designs and products. By the way, Andersen offers a line of windows based on Frank Lloyd Wright window designs.
Mr. Craig Miller, curator of Architecture, Design and Graphics at the Denver Art Museum, and formerly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where he was the curator for the installation of the Frank Lloyd Wright Room there, spoke about two of Wright's largest buildings. Alas, neither exists today, but I found his discussions of Midway Gardens and the Imperial Hotel fascinating.
Overall a very enjoyable two days although I'm grateful that I don't have to commute into New York City often!

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