Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Architects, Artists, and the Internet

A while back I wrote about paintings by architect Bruce Goff ("Bruce Goff: Architect and Painter"). The images of Goff's paintings were given to me by John Bowles years ago. A fellow architecture student, I've long been out of touch with John Bowles. He was an amazingly talented person and, for  a time, apprenticed to Bruce Goff in Kansas City. (Thus the Goff connection.) Like so many friends from the past, we did not keep in touch.

Now, a story about the power of the Internet.

John Bowles contacted me recently by email.
This is John Bowles, one of your architecture classmates... Well, this evening my family was gathered around the dining table talking about architecture... and my son did a quick search of my name and Bruce Goff's. Your blog came right up and we all were amazed to see Bruce's drawings. They are real beauties. You said on the page that I gave you slides of them - hmmm, maybe I did. Sounds familiar. But we all had to laugh to see the third one... that was one of mine.  In fact, it hangs in my house right now. Can't you see how rough it looks besides Bruce's? Might want to pull it from that listing on BG.  Anyway, it was a real accent to our after-dinner discussion. Thank you for adding surprise and delight to our evening. 
It is a pleasure to show this painting again and give credit to its rightful artist, John Bowles:

Painting by John Bowles.
I'm sure John will forgive my mistake. In fact, there are probably many paintings floating around by former Oklahoma University students that could be mistaken for an original Goff.  Bruce Goff, chairman of the school in the 1950s, used painting as a teaching tool.  A typicial assignment for freshmen architectural students would be to throw powdered tempera paint on huge sheets of wet construction paper. The resulting images were usually swirly abstracts that were totally unpredictable.  The paper would be allowed to dry overnight; the second phase of the assignment would be to "control" the swirly abstract painting by adding intentional paint, colored pencil, or other media. The point of this was analogous to an architect presented with a difficult site. The site is a "given" out of your control. Architecture is a way to control, augment, and even enhance the site.

This teaching tool was, as far as I know, invented by Bruce Goff. Later, it was famously continued by the legendary professor Dean Bryant Vollendorf. When I was teaching at Oklahoma University I adopted and adapted the same method for my students.  They produced many beautiful paintings.

John Bowles did not continue with architecture, but he carries on the teaching tradition with his family...
...as the creative works of my children... will attest. (Soon I will conduct painting exercises for our kids - just like the ones that produced the pictures in your blog. And my youngest daughter and her husband are headed out to Arizona this coming weekend for their second annual trek to Arcosanti. They are so inspired by Soleri's ideas. They were absolutely shocked to hear I had already been there 48 years before!)
Best wishes to John and his family and thank you for continuing an artistic/architectural/educational tradition.


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