This week, we have the story of a brilliant piece of public art which may be lost to progress: A mural at our local community college. First however, a couple of friends join us, one for a poem and one for music link.
Norman Ball, a very good poet and musician, sent me this video of American soldiers in Iraq set to his lyrics and music by Paul Millington, titled Spill My Wine (Fallujah):
A Youtuber said it is a tribute to all who must negotiate the fog of war --without political intent.
There are additional protest videos at http://www.neilyoung.com/lwwtoday/lwwvideospage.html
Norm also has tracks at http://www.jtmp.org/Songs/Norman_Ball_Track_3.mp3
and http://www.jtmp.org/Songs/Good%20Books.mp3 both on the
Music for Justice site at http://www.jtmp.org/index.htm
The first is with Tom Saputo and the second with Lonnie Glass.
Suzanne Griffith, one of my partners in The Garbage Collection, send me this poem for MindFire, now on hiatus. It needs publication even if it is just in a Dawg House:
just north of Artic (sic)
rest gone that
ashen wood co
lor gray brown
driftwood bug mo
And the story of the week is from our Bremerton Sun. http://www.kitsapsun.com
It inspired this poem as part of my One Hundred Days of Rain series:
He Giveth, We Taketh
When the Buddha’s dynamited
by barbarians from the mountains,
Venice’s light allowed to sink,
His arm, recycle bottles, snapped
by bursts of cemented progress,
God’s tears fall into rising seas.
By Andrew Binion
February 24, 2007
Bremerton: It shows the hand of God giving the power of the atom to man, among other things, and was an opus of Olympic College’s first art instructor.
It was made out of bits of brown beer bottle glass fished out of the Puget Sound by schoolchildren.
But the giant mosaic gracing the south side of the math and science building for the past 50 years, painstakingly designed and assembled by the late Hank Blass and his art students, has a date later this year with the wrecking ball.
An effort started by a college librarian and cheered by former students and a former Washington secretary of state has college administrators looking for a way to preserve the mosaic on the side of a building scheduled to be demolished.
"It’s possible to do anything. The question is at what cost," said Barbara Martin, vice president for administrative services. "We need to understand what this is going to take."
When architects visited the site of what is slated to become a brand-new, $19.4-million humanities and student services building, they "all kind of scratched their heads and looked at it," Martin said.
There was no plan to save the mosaic, which is essentially cemented to a concrete wall. And there’s no money set aside to do it.
But earlier this month, college librarian Dianne Moore took the issue of preserving the mosaic to the College Council.
"It’s not only a beautiful piece of art, it is an integral part of the history of the campus and of Bremerton," Moore said. "Hopefully the conversation has been started and information is getting out there."
Martin said the college has heard back from an art conservator who said saving the mosaic is possible. The next step is to take the results of the conservator’s work to contractors to determine how much it will cost and how much time it will take.
The building is scheduled for demolition in late summer early fall, she said.
Mel Wallis, Blass’ predecessor at the college, was doubtful the piece could be preserved.
"It’s probably just going to come apart," he said. "They tried to restore it once and almost destroyed it."
Artist Brad Kauzlaric of Seabeck, a former student of Blass’ who helped with the grunt work on the mosaic and remained friends with Blass until his death, said the artist made the mosaic to last.
"That’s what it was designed for," said the 71-year-old Kauzlaric.
No one contacted for the story could recall the name of the piece, but Kauzlaric noted that the wall the work of art is attached to is 12 inches thick. The mosaic is more than 10 feet tall and 37 feet wide.
"Build around it. That’s real easy," Kauzlaric said.
The mosaic took about five years to complete, said Harlan Mattheson, 75, of Bremerton, who served as Blass’ assistant during production of the artwork. It was finished in 1957, Kauzlaric said, but Mattheson said Blass continued to work on it after that.
The materials used to make the images, glass and tile, came from a variety of places, including the beaches of the Puget Sound. Children helped collect the material.
Former state Secretary of State Ralph Munro was one of them. The Bainbridge Island native combed the beaches around age 12.
"It was quite a community effort getting the materials," Kauzlaric said.
Most of the glass available was brown, from beer bottles, Munro said, and Blass wanted a variety of colors, so kids were especially on the hunt for red and blue.
"In those days there was no garbage service," Munro said. "Everybody threw their bottles into the bay."
It isn’t the only notable work Blass completed. One mural, done in oils, is located in Guadalajara, Mexico, his obituary said. Another is in the entrance hall of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
He stayed in Bremerton with his wife, Maria, until he died of lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 82, according to his obituary. Maria Blass died on New Year’s Eve 2006.
Blass graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and attended the University of Washington, receiving a degree in fine arts. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from the Instituto Allende, an extension of the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, in San Miguel de Allende. He started teaching at the college in 1947 and retired in 1974. Wallis replaced him as art instructor and retired himself in 2001.
"He was there for quality," Wallis said. "You have people who were evasive and wishy-washy. He was the opposite of that."
Kauzlaric and Mattheson agreed that Blass was not one to mince words or coddle students more interested in being an artist than producing art.
Mattheson noted that Blass was the only person allowed to set the tesserae, or bits of tile and glass.
When Mattheson and Kauzlaric heard the college planned to demolish the mosaic along with the building, Mattheson worried how Blass’ ghost would take the news.
"If he hears they are going to take it down," Kauzlaric said wryly, "he’s going to come back with a vengeance."
Until next week, respect…