Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Read the Book - Don't Wait for the Movie

Here's a confession: the following constitutes a shameless plug.

Upon returning from vacation last week, I found the first advance copy of Frank Lloyd Wright Art Glass of the Martin House Complex waiting on my desk, straight from the publisher in California. Our new book on the art glass of the Martin House Complex, this is the first Martin House-specific publication since Jack Quinan's Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House: Architecture as Portraiture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2004). It celebrates the ten-year anniversary of the exhibition "Frank Lloyd Wright: Windows of the Darwin D. Martin House" at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, drawing on some of the excellent text from the show's catalog, expanding the array of art glass illustrated and interpreted, and adding new, scholarly text in a stand-alone, hardcover book. The publisher, Pomegranate, beautifully designed, printed and bound this content into a handsome package.

Soon after I started as Associate Curator for the MHRC in 2003, I began to feel the need for more comprehensive documentation of the fascinating art glass created for the Martin House Complex. Then Executive Director John Courtin posed a seemingly innocent question to me: where did the term "Tree of Life" window come from - and when? This lead to a rapidly growing file of minutiae pertaining to the famed motif, and a growing obsession with getting to the bottom of John's question. Although I have not yet found the "smoking gun" in the case of the "Tree of Life" moniker, new insights on the function and meaning of the motif emerged, forming the basis of an essay that I contributed to the book.

From the outset, it seemed that this book was meant to be. First, Pomegranate, which has a growing catalog of Frank Lloyd Wright titles, signed-on as publisher. Next, we received a generous grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to support research and production of the book. This helped fund additional photography by Biff Henrich, needed to expand the catalog of art glass illustrated. Adding to the many photographs that he made for the 1999 catalog, Biff produced a number of skillful "portraits" of art glass not previously documented. All the contributors to the Burchfield-Penney catalog - Jack Quinan, Ted Lownie and Robert McCarter - were happy to allow their essays to be reprinted, some taking the opportunity to make revisions. Noted art glass expert Julie Sloan came on board to write an introduction, and Oakbrook Esser Studios, A-list artisans who produce exacting reproductions of Wright's art glass designs, collaborated on an interview to conclude the book.

I'm delighted that the final product seems to strike a balance between scholarly depth and coffee-table appeal. I can't thank all of the collaborators enough - from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives to Lesley Neufeld and Bernie Wagner. I hope you'll agree that the resulting book will make a fine addition to your Frank Lloyd Wright library.

Frank Lloyd Wright Art Glass of the Martin House Complex is not yet available to the general public, but we expect to have a supply in the Wisteria Shop by mid-September, and you may order the book through a special pre-publication offer; visit the MHRC website for an order form, or call the office at (716) 856-3858.

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