Friday, August 29, 2014

The Horseman: A 1976 exploration of global crises and solutions

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1887
Presented to the Club by Robert M. Henderson in 1976

On this final evening of a very enjoyable year of camaraderie and discussions you might wonder what "The Horseman" has to offer to such an illustrious group. Particularly so in this bicentennial year of our nation's history. I'll start by thanking our host, Bill Selke, for a delightful dinner and the opportunity to share with him his lovely home.

Then, let me ramble just a bit and state some seemingly unrelated bits of information, mostly of my early life, as they all do have some bearing on the main point of this evening's presentation.

As a young boy and for many years thereafter, horses were my first love. My only goal as a youngster was to have my own horse to train and to ride. In due course, this came about, and I thoroughly enjoyed riding, pack trailing, and training horses. Even today it is a pleasurable experience for me to ride a good horse. During high school and college days, I broke several horses to ride — and in my senior year in college, I rode in the first intercollegiate rodeo. This sport has now developed into a rather large affair, and some 57 schools have organized rodeo teams today. (Editor's note: As of 2014, there are more than 135 colleges who are members of NIRA, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association). My participation was in the less strenuous roping events and my success was absolutely zero. Nonetheless, I did consider myself quite a horseman and a judge of good horses.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lunacy: Norman Rockwell's views and questions about the space program

"Grissom and Young" by Norman Rockwell, 1965. Oil on canvas.
Norman Rockwell was a member of the Monday Evening Club from 1961 until his death in 1978. This paper is transcribed from a typescript with handwritten marginal notes in the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. The title "Lunacy" is written on the envelope in which the paper was originally stored, along with the notation, "Monday Evening Discussion Group paper delivered Monday, March 24, 1969." This dates the paper about four months before the first landing on the moon, which was on July 20, 1969.

The original typescript may be viewed here at the Norman Rockwell Museum's digitized archives. Also in the collection of the museum is a manuscript, in outline form, of Rockwell's notes that evolved into this paper.

The Club is grateful for the assistance of Corry Kanzenburg and Jessika Drmacich of the collections staff at the museum for providing access to the manuscript of this and other papers Rockwell presented to the Club, to the museum's director, Laurie Norton Moffatt, for alerting us to their existence (via a Facebook comment!) and to the Norman Rockwell Licensing Company for permission to publish the papers. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL.

According to an account of Rockwell's involvement with the space program by Anne Collins Goodyear ("On the Threshold of Space: Norman Rockwell's Longest Step"), "Rockwell's desire to represent accurately the new Gemini G3C suit led to an unprecedented con­cession from the space agency: in response to his repeated requests, NASA permitted the top-secret suit to be brought to Rockwell's Stockbridge, Massachusetts, studio under the protection of [Joe W.] Schmitt, the elder of the two suit technicians portrayed in the painting."*

The Club's late secretary, Rabbi Harold Salzmann, recalled that in late 1964 or early 1965, at another meeting a few years before the delivery of "Lunacy," Rockwell also spoke about the space program. This meeting took place at Salzmann's house, and Rockwell had arranged for Salzmann's son Josh to enter the gathering at some point during the reading, fully attired in an actual NASA space suit — presumably the one lent to him for the Grissom and Young painting. Rockwell sometimes brought his own paintings to Club meetings, as well, and may also have brought the Grissom-Young painting along with the space suit to that meeting.

The NASA technician, Schmidt, was no doubt diligent in his duty, but would not have been able to watch the suit 24 hours a day. So perhaps, after they locked up the studio at the end of a work day and Schmidt went to his lodgings, Rockwell snuck back into the studio and hauled the space suit up to the Club meeting at the Salzmann home.

The Salzmann family recalls that while Josh was supposed to wear the suit, it turnout out be be too big for him, so his sister Ariel, about 11 years old at the time, modeled it for the Club. It's quite likely this made her the first child ever wear a NASA space suit. 

*Published in 2001: Architecture and Design for Space, Vision and Reality, exhibition catalog, 102-7, Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2001: New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

Topic is space program. [sic]

My wife Molly, after hearing my fumbling start on this paper, suggested the title, "Lunacy."  I thought that was fine but went to the dictionary to look up the definition of the word.  Webster says it is “The condition of being a lunatic, or intermittent insanity as formerly attributed to the changes of the moon”. This was perfect but should I add a question mark to it [?]

I am sure you all know the debatable question I am bringing up — is the space program a lunatic idea now, when we in America are confronted with the problems of poverty, racial unrest, national security and the Vietnam War?