Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Frako Loden (frako) Wed 23 Nov 11 17:16
> 4. Dorothea Lange's granddaughter, Dyanne Taylor, made a TV documentary of her search for Everett in the Escalante River Basin. I don't have the book with me so I can't find its title, but I was going to ask you about the film treatment of the Everett Ruess story. You mentioned a few different titles of documentaries like VANISHED! How are they? I'm also wondering if you have contemplated a dramatic treatment, and how you'd visualize its being different from, say, 127 HOURS or INTO THE WILD. I think the latter preserved a sense of wonder about its protagonist, while the former turned the Utah episode into a lesson for the hero's domestication.
Andrew Alden (alden) Wed 23 Nov 11 17:23
Well, I do know that there are several, not just two species of the noxious plant. In the right places you can come upon smooth-margin and lobe-margin Rhus species in the east and the west. They're all nasty, and if I had a say in genetic engineering of humans, I'd recommend that we all rejigger our genes to get rid of the allergy. A shame that Ruess and Rhus conflicted so violently. I have to say, since we're nearing the end of our scheduled session, that I miss the prospect of the next Philip Fradkin book. You bring an exemplary approach to nonfiction, or what I might call personal journalism. Even something as thinly sourced as the terrifying Lituya Bay -- another place where people disappear -- you dig out every scrap of data in a literature search that would do a scientist proud. Then you share your thoughts about it, unafraid to lay out your uncertainties and private connections. I find it very effective in presenting a persuasive case, even in situations like the Ruess story where our preconceptions and necessary myths rear their heads. Are you going to miss that immersive, exhaustive process in your life? Because I'm going to miss the results.
Andrew Alden (alden) Wed 23 Nov 11 17:25
Frako slipped in while I was writing that. By the way I was referring to your book "Wildest Alaska," a really hair-raising true story.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 23 Nov 11 23:10
I will have to watch for that one, too. Are there any others that Philip wrote I should be aware of?
Sandy Sonnenfelt (sandala) Thu 24 Nov 11 12:54
Hello Philip. My name is Stuart Steinhardt, I'm here courtesy of my wife's account. I am about halfway through the book and I appreciate it all very much. I have an intimate connection with Everett. Back in about 1985 I was contacted by my friend Riley Mitchell, who was then a ranger at Glen Cyn. Damn. She was volunteering with SUWA when Waldo contacted them after discovering Everett's old lino blocks in his garden shed. They needed someone to restore and print them. That turned out to be me. I had read Vagabond For Beauty soon after it came out; and after I had hung out a couple times around Lee's Ferry and Page and surrounding country with Riley. Being there before I read the book gave me the background to appreciate Everett's words more deeply. I introduced her to the book and Everett. I went down to Santa Barbara and met Tom Carlisle, a printer there who had the room and equipment for the work and printer's knowledge to guide me. I also met Waldo and his wife at their home in Montecito. I spent months repairing, recarving, and printing Everett's blocks. It was an amazing privilege to do the work and bring the blocks back to life. I got my copy of the book from my friend Bob Lippman after you did an interview with him on his radio show. I really enjoyed listening to the interview. I just want to thank you for the work you did on this book because I have learned so much more about Everett. I still have a few proofs from the SUWA printing I did from Everett's blocks. I hope we can meet sometime (I live in Oakland) so I can give you one to show my appreciation. Ya ta hey. firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Thu 24 Nov 11 13:28
I think there are three remaining unanswered questions. David asked if my papers will be available to the public. They certainly will after they are processed, etc., at Special Collections in the University of Utah Library. I am holding on to the Ruess and "The Left Coast" papers in case there are questions, as occurred during this discussion. The library will have those papers before July 2012. Probably give them another year and you should have access to what I generated over the last fifty-one years. Frako asked me to comment on the Taylor and "Vanished" documentaries. I think both had deficiencies, although they helped me. Taylor gave me an idea what a massive amount of rainfall meant to the canyonlands and Dianne Orr, who made "Vanished," was invaluable in giving me the clue to Frances's identity, information on Everett's possible homosexual orientation, and the whole complex question of Everett's disappearance through twenty-five hour of outtakes consisting of interviews with residents of Escalante who are no longer alive. The actor who played Everett did a poor job; but then who can portray him? I tried to write a treatment for this book and "Wildest Alaska," determined I was not capable of such writing, and would certainly like to see someone who was capable to take this story on and handle it, not in any formulaic manner, but in a manner that it deserves. Thank you, Andrew, for those kind words. No, I am not going to miss that "exhaustive process" because there are too many other things to discover in the few years remaining for me. I will miss such understanding readers as yourself. Unfortunately, there were so few of them that it made all those years an economic drain on my meager resources. But in all other ways, they were great years. Look at all the wonderful places I got to go to and the interesting stories to relate. At the last moment Sandy Sonnenfelt posted the above comment on working on Everett's prints for the Southern Utah Wilderness Association show in the mid 1980s, plugging another hole. There was a reference to Tom Carlisle, who was a printer in the local junior college, and someone in Oakland who worked on the prints. I tried to track Carlisle down through various means, but failed. I didn't have Sandy's name. The blocks sit unused in the archives of the Utah Historical Library in Salt Lake City. I looked at them. There is a prohibition against using them because of their fragility. I wonder if that could be dealt with and the prints could be made available to the public. I gave a recent talk at the Autry National Museum in Los Angeles and suggested they take on that job, as Ruess lived in that city. I got bogged down in their bureaucratic process, but the head curator did promise to read my book. How about someone with museum connections taking up this idea, and giving him a real "resurrection?" You can reach me by email via my website at www.philipfradkin.com and at the same time get an idea of my past life and what I have published. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. Time to go out and walk on the beach.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 24 Nov 11 13:36
Steve Jerman operates a web site that markets some of Everett's work: <http://everettruess.net/>
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 24 Nov 11 13:38
I was quite impressed with the block prints reproduced in the book, and in matters of art I'm not easily impressed. Very typical of the period (which happens to be one of my favorites) and yet not only typical. They have that spark.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 24 Nov 11 14:00
Yes, they're gorgeous. What a cool connection with Stuart! I do hope that he and Philip can connect.
jelly fish challenged (reet) Thu 24 Nov 11 14:43
Philip, it was Stuart, <email@example.com> , who worked with the blocks. Sandy is Stuart's wife, <sandala> here on the well.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 24 Nov 11 15:06
I will send you Stuart's contact info via email.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 24 Nov 11 20:03
Philip, just read elsewhere on the Well that you had some involvement with an exhibit I saw a few months ago showing some old pictures of San Francisco and pictures taken from the same location in present day. Awesome exhibit! What was your involvement wiht it?
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Sat 26 Nov 11 11:31
I thought I would gracefully retire from this discussion in post #81 at the end of its scheduled run, but I have been asked and agreed to continue it until Monday. There is an assessment of Everett's art work in the book. I talked to artists and curators who were familiar with it and the general assessment was that his block prints carved out of linoleum were his most powerful and evocative art work. Those prints seem to fit within the modernistic movement of the 1930s. His watercolors and oils were rated amateur, although they are so scattered I doubt if enough have been seen to assess as a whole,. As a photographer myself I don't think Everett ever got out of the snapshot class, but again there is not enough available in one place. That is why, along with his unique story, I believe that some museum should mount a major show/retrospective about Everett Ruess. Someone asked about the book "After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire." I wrote a book titled "The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906: How San Francisco Destroyed Itself." At the same time I was a consultant to the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, in charge of finding documents and images for a website on the earthquake. The images were so powerful that I thought they should go in a book and have a major show at a San Francisco museum. I knew of the rephotography work of Mark Klett, a regents professor and photographer at Arizona State University. I got in touch with him. He came to San Francisco and we met with the editors at the University of California Press and the curators at the Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It was an instantaneous done deal, my first one. Mark took the photos and Rebecca Solnit and I supplied two essays. It was a pleasure working with both of them. It turns out that Mark took the photographs for the 1999 article on Everett Ruess that ran with David Roberts's story in National Geographic Adventure. His 2009 article contained the claim he had bound Ruess's bones, and Mark had no part in that misadventure.
Frako Loden (frako) Sat 26 Nov 11 12:38
I would love to buy a copy of Ruess's block print "Wild Coastline" (fig. 11 in your book), or "Granite & Cypress," but I guess I'll have to be satisfied with what's available at the EverettRuess.net site? (<http://everettruess.net/posters.html>) I'd love to get one of his renderings of Point Lobos, which in 1930 he said "is really the one place I have seen which I prefer to all others"--I have to agree with that!
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Sat 26 Nov 11 12:42
For those who are interested, I found additional information on Everetts block prints In my files. Most of it comes from material generated for the 1987 show in the Atrium Gallery at the Salt Lake City Library that benefited the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). The alliance asked Everetts brother Waldo, who lived in Santa Barbara, if it could use the print of Everett and his two burros as a logo. In 1986 members of the alliance then visited Waldo and made an extraordinary discovery. Waldo recalled that he had once stored some of this brothers old linoleum blocks in his backyard in a lattice garden shed. Many had not been touched or seen for up to twenty years. Under red clay pots and rusty tools lay a moldy cardboard box. Inside the box, warped and cracked, we found the original Ruess blocks. . . . This was all Everetts printmaking that was still in the Ruess familys possession. (If I am not mistaken, Bud Rusho and Gibbs Smith "discovered" the prints a few years before the alliance members and used them in their "Vagabond" book.) Through luck and happenstance two fine California craftsmen, Thomas Carlyle, a graphic artist, and Stuart Steinhardt, a banjo maker, became interested in the project. Over several months the blocks were painstakingly and slowly restored and finally printed by hand. Technically, the prints are called linocuts. Either Everett or his mother would carve them from Everetts sketches. Linoleum was less expensive and easier to work and used for illustrations in poor mans books, according to a handout from the Utah Historical Society, which has physical possession of the blocks at present. Twenty-five blocks were printed and sold to benefit the alliance. The alliance made over $100,000 from the sale. The price list stated that for the set of 25, the cost was $2,200, unframed. The most costly single print was Lone Juniper, $140 unframed. I am going to let you folks check eBay and Craigs list for what these prints are selling for now. Maybe you can let us know the results. With Everett, its appropriate to end this tidbit with a touch of mystery. Steve Jermain of Salt Lake handles the sale of Everetts prints, T-shirts, coffee cups, etc. for the Ruess estate. Jermain emailed an employee of the Utah State Historical Society in 2008 commenting on the original deal. Its not clear if he was referring to Waldo and SUWA or SUWA and the State. In any case it is tantalizing: To make matters seem worse the gentleman who put the deal together is a wealthy white collar criminal. He was convicted of multi-million dollars fraud and is now in federal prison. Amazing what my files contain that didnt get into the book. Does anyone out there know anything about this?
Andrew Alden (alden) Sat 26 Nov 11 14:44
Every author I've ever heard of complains about how much had to be left out. Of course, nowadays they have an outlet: blogs. Perhaps UC Press is behind the times, or maybe you've looked at and discarded the idea already. But one author's experience began with resisting and belittling the idea of a blog after his book "Sand: The Never-Ending Story" came out. Once he started, he really took to it, and three years later he's still going at <http://throughthesandglass.typepad.com/> You often hear blogging called "recreational typing," but for someone who has stopped writing for money, there's something to be said in favor of blogging for pleasure. And a Philip Fradkin blog would never lack for material, I'm sure.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 26 Nov 11 17:03
Correction: Jerman, not Jermain. And Stuart Steinhardt is not a banjo maker, although he plays the banjo. He posted above under his wife's userid, Sandy Sonnenfelt. He did the restoration work on the lino blocks. I'll ask Stu to take another look at this discussion.
Frako Loden (frako) Sun 27 Nov 11 14:54
Steve Jerman, who handles the Ruess products, referred me to Sam Weller Bookstore in Salt Lake City. From them I ordered a $30 print of "Granite and Cypress," which I'll have framed and give to my husband for Christmas. He loves Point Lobos like crazy. <http://www.samwellers.com/index.php?user_id=714255456437009&affiliate=none >
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Mon 28 Nov 11 08:44
Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City is another source for Ruess block prints. http://www.kensandersbooks.com/shop/rarebooks/contact.html
Frako Loden (frako) Mon 28 Nov 11 13:02
Wow, Ken Sanders sells prints for $600.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Mon 28 Nov 11 20:43
I want to thank Philip Fradkin for a really interesting conversation over the past two weeks and for sticking around for a few extra days. As always, this topic will remain open indefinitely for further comments and discussiom.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 29 Nov 11 09:34
Philip, I hope youll stick around a bit and enjoy the WELL. We have a northbay.> conference that includes a lot of West Marin residents (and lovers of the area), a <rockies.> conference where Utah, four corners, and other such topics are discussed, a <sriters.> conference,a nd lots more.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 29 Nov 11 09:34
oops. <writers.> that is!
Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Tue 29 Nov 11 10:10
Sure, I'll be around for awhile as long as my guest status remains in effect, which I think is one month from about three weeks ago. On the cost of Ken Sander's prints versus those sold by Sam Weller (or Zion) Book Store, it may be that Ken's are originals taken from Everett's linocuts while the latter are reproductions. I bought a print of "Tomales Bay, Fishing Shack" for around $30 in Escalante. It is a satisfactory reproduction.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 29 Nov 11 12:29
Thanks for the visit, Phillip. This has been a lot of fun.
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