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March 18, 2014

This is another shot of a mannequin found in a Pendleton Art Center studio, I seem to always be searching for a good black & white conversion for the I-phone.  This one is a Hipstamatic color shot that was converted to a classic b&w with the app Lo-Mob.  It has a setting called Vintage Instant that is my favorite. 

Mike Adkins has posted a fine image of the Jefferson Memorial on his blog (check it out here) and that sort of gives me an excuse to talk a bit about a recent book I read called "Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson"  written by Hugh Howard.   The book title suggests the subject is Thomas Jefferson but that's not entirely correct, the main focus of the book is the life of Fiske Kimball (1888-1955), who was sort of a pioneering architectural historian during the early to mid part of the last century.  Through an examination of Kimball's life, we learn about the architectural interest of Thomas Jefferson and explore the lives of other main players in the early days of American architecture including Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Pierre L'Enfant, Charles Bulfinch, Samuel McIntire, James Hoban, William Thornton, and Robert Mills, as well as others.   The book really is a page turner for those interested in history, jumping back and forth through history to tie together interesting stories and lives in a way that mystery books are often written.

Getting back to Mike's photo of the Jefferson Memorial and the tie-in with the book, I was fascinated to learn the memorial was highly controversial.  In yesterday's Lexington (KY) Herald Leader I read an article that spoke about how every current generation will reject the architectural style of the generation immediately preceding them.  Currently in the city of Lexington, the University of Kentucky wants to tear down some fine post-Modern structures and replace them with new facilities rather than renovate the old ones and preserve the unique structures.  When the Jefferson Memorial was being planned, quite a lot of controversy was generated because the proposed design pitted the Classical vs the Modernist folks, sort of the same type of controversy. 

Besides that, the Jefferson Memorial project involved removing a good number of the cherry trees that had been gifted by the citizens of Japan.  The project even garnered the opposition of Frank Lloyd Wright who wrote directly to President Roosevelt to declare "This proposed design is one more world-famous miscarriage of grace." At one point, the project money was deleted from the budget and the building firm instructed to stop their work. Having the advantage of looking back from the future, all of this seems somewhat humorous considering how beautiful and popular the memorial turned out to be, but the facts suggest that it had taken a toll on the career of Fiske Kimball, who had been intimately involved in the project.  He still finished with a fine career but the book suggests he might have been used by FDR for other bigger projects if it hadn't been for all the negative press.

 Here is a link to Amazon, they currently have the book for about $10 but several good used copies list for about $5.00 with shipping.

"True, at any given time in the history of art," wrote Kimball, "one
trend is always waning, another waxing.  It is human for youth to
identify value only with the newer, to regard the older as worthless
obstruction; just as it is human for age to identify value only with
the older trend, to view the newer as subversive nonsense."

Fiske Kimball
(from the book Dr Kimball and Mr. Jefferson)