Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB:

Cristina Dolan ⎥ Promoting Creativity, Diversity, and Literacy in Computer Science

AUDIO UP!  To listen, click links below.

Cristina Dolan will add her personal narrative to our collection this fall.  Hers is the first in our technology series – and we’re off to a great start!!  In fact, a perfect tech-start for Story Preservation Initiative’s Learning Lab where:

Primary Source Material + Project-Based Lesson Plans = BIG (fun) Learning

The copy that follows is taken from the TedX Stuyvesant website.  To listen to Cristina’s TedX Talk, go to:Cristina Dolan TedX Talk


In the early days of the Internet, MIT Media Lab alumna Cristina Dolan co-founded, which grew to be the tenth largest ISP after a successful IPO. In only five months, she conceived and built the OneMain cornerstone, Geographic Communities, into a profitable business. At its launch, the company’s IPO became the largest Internet public offering at its time, surpassing Amazon’s and eBay’s respective IPOs. Cristina has also held executive roles at Wordstream, IBM, and Oracle, among other organizations. 

As an engineer and self-described “solutionist”, Cristina appreciates the value of an engineering and computer science education. In October 2013, she launched Dream it. Code it. Win it., a non-profit organization to promote such instruction and celebrate the power of applied problem-solving. Finalists have launched more than six companies and the competition has attracted a diverse group of students from over forty countries.

Stories Matter

Deepika Kurup


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With Deepika Kurup one of Forbes 2015 30 Under 30,  2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winner, and a Google Science Fair award winner (along with much else), Deepika is working on a prototype to quickly, easily, and safely purify drinking water for use in developing countries.



From an earlier post:

First up in the New Year!

Here’s 17-year old Deepika’s story (so far)  ~

On family trips to India as a child, Deepika Kurup often saw kids like herself forced to drink dirty water — as a result, at age 14, she became determined to find to a way to ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water. For an 8th grade project, the Nashua, New Hampshire teen invented a water purification system that uses a photocatalytic composite and sunlight to clean water — an invention which earned her recognition as America’s Top Young Scientist in 2012.  And that’s just the beginning.


Deepika at the 2013 White House Science Fair

Access to clean water is a global crisis. “One-ninth of the global population lacks access to clean water,” she explains “and 500,000 children die every year because of water related diseases.” On the trips to India, her immigrant parents’ native land, Deepika saw the struggle for clean water first hand: “[My parents] would have to boil the water before we drank it. I also saw children on the streets of India… take these little plastic bottles and they’re forced to fill it up with the dirty water they see on the street. And they’re forced to drink that water, because they don’t have another choice. And then I go back to America and I can instantly get tap water.”

Her early investigations into water purification methods found that many of them were expensive and potentially hazardous. “Traditionally, to purify waste water, they use chlorine, and chlorine can create harmful byproducts,” she points out. “Also, you have to keep replenishing the chlorine, you have to keep putting chlorine into the waste water to purify it.” She wanted to invent a new way to clean water that would be both cheap and sustainable.

Deepika came up with the idea of using a photocatalyst — a substance that reacts with water’s impurities when energized by the sun — that also filters the water. The combination of the reaction and the filtration can remove most contaminants for a fraction of the cost of chlorine purification. She determined that her system reduces the presence of coliform bacteria by 98% immediately after filtration and by 100% within 15 minutes. Another advantage is that her catalyst is reusable: “a catalyst doesn’t get used up in the reaction,” she says. “Theoretically you can keep using my composite forever.”

Deepika’s efforts have already by widely recognized — in addition to being named America’s Top Young Scientist in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, she was also the recipient of the 2013 President’s Environmental Youth Award and the 2014 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize.  In 2015, she was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 2015 “30 Under 30 in Energy” and received the National Geographic Explorer Award.

Deepika is looking forward to taking her research from the lab to real life: “It’s one thing to be working in a lab, doing this, and another thing to actually deploy it and see it working in the real world. So that’s one of my steps in the future.” ~ excerpted from A Mighty Girl

To listen to Deepika’s story, click on links below:

Stories Matter

Citizen Activist ⎥ American Landscape Painter Susan Swartz

Susan with Louis Psihoyos, Director of The Cove and Racing Extinction

Susan with Louis Psihoyos, Director of The Cove and Racing Extinction


As taken from Susan’s website:  Environmental activist and landscape painter Susan Swartz explores the landscape through potent colors and richly layered abstract paintings. With her evocation of coastal splendor and mountain drama, Swartz follows in the tradition of the great German painters, 19th century Romantic sage Caspar David Friedrich, and 20th century icon Gerhard Richter. She is inspired by the intersection of art, nature and spirituality.

Swartz’s distinctive style has been recognized with solo exhibitions at the Kollegienkirche in Salzburg, Austria; the Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C in 2011; the Springville Museum of Art in Springville, Utah in 2010; and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2008. Her works are in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; the Springville Museum of Art; Utah Museum of Fine Arts; and the International Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In 2005, Swartz was published in the Gibbs Smith collectors book Painters of the Wasatch Mountains alongside Wasatch Mountain School artists Maynard Dixon, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. The same year she was honored by the Harvard Divinity School for a career that continues to blend artistry and faith. Swartz was the Official Olympic Environmental Artist for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

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The underlying energy and tension to Swartz’s work hints of her complex relationship with the natural world. Her decade long struggle with mercury poisoning and Lyme disease transformed her as an artist and as a citizen. She now works from a place of impassioned reverence for the earth, and of fierce determination to inform and educate.

Partnering with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Louie Psihoyos and Dr. Jane Goodall on a number of their environmental campaigns, Swartz also supports the vision and production of documentary films  that seek to shed light on social and environmental injustice.

Films touched by her include Academy Award-winners and nominees, as well as Sundance Film Festival award winners.

Swartz serves on the National Advisory Board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Dean’s Council of the Harvard Divinity School and is the co-founder of charity-based The Christian Center of Park City  She is on the board of the Utah Film Center and a founding member of the documentary film organization Impact Partners.

The Science Behind SPI’s Learning Lab

willis-neuroscience-behind-stress-learning-ts-460x345We find ourselves at the intersection of common sense and science.  SPI engages students through story and involves them in projects that are relevant to their lives.

From Edutopia: The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain’s learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.

The Proven Effects of Positive Motivation

Thankfully, this information has led to the development of brain-compatible strategies to help students through the bleak terrain created by some of the current trends imposed by the Common Core State Standards and similar mandates. With brain-based teaching strategies that reduce classroom anxiety and increase student connection to their lessons, educators can help students learn more effectively.

In the past two decades, neuroimaging and brain-mapping research have provided objective support to the student-centered educational model. This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are relevant to students’ lives, interests, and experiences. Lessons can be stimulating and challenging without being intimidating, and the increasing curriculum requirements can be achieved without stress, anxiety, boredom, and alienation as the pervasive emotions of the school day.

Stories Matter

Mary Evelyn Tucker ⎥ Religion and Ecology

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Image from Religion and Ecology, Island Press, 2014

This is a talk that spans 13.8 billion years – from our cosmic origins to our place in the Earth’s ecosystem. Happy to say audio is up!

The relatively new alliance between religion and ecology is based on the belief that religions are a primary source of values in any culture and the environmental crisis that we face is fundamentally a crisis of values.

Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, where she teaches in a joint master’s degree program between the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies.  She directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with her husband, John Grim.

While environmental issues are most frequently viewed through the lens of science, policy, law, and economics, in recent years the moral and spiritual dimensions of this crisis are becoming more visible.

“Our current ecological challenges are such that they require the insights of the world’s religions to awaken moral passion and concern,” Tucker says. “And these voices are needed now.”

Her concern for the growing environmental crisis, especially in Asia, led her to organize with John Grim a series of ten conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard (1995-1998). Together they are series editors for the ten volumes from the conferences distributed by Harvard University Press. In this series she co-edited Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard, 1997), Confucianism and Ecology (Harvard, 1998), and Hinduism and Ecology (Harvard, 2000).

After the conference series she and Grim founded the Forum on Religion and Ecology at a culminating conference at the United Nations in 1998.

Books include: Ecology and Religion, John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Island Press, 2014 /  The Emerging Alliance of Religion and Ecology, University of Utah Press, 2014 / Worldly Wonder, Open Court, 2013

For Mary Evelyn’s full bio and additional information on projects and publications, go to:

Information for this post was taken from numerous sources, including the Emerging Earth Community website.

To listen to Mary Evelyn talk about the alliance between religion and ecology, click on links below (run time 34:00):

Vermont Poet Laureate ⎥Chard deNiord



WORDPRESS GLITCH!  If you aren’t seeing the audio bars and want to listen to Chard’s recording, click on the post title “Vermont Poet Laureate / Chard deNiord.”


We couldn’t be happier!  On November 2, 2015 Chard was named Poet Laureate of Vermont.

This is the fourth post in our series: Meet the Folks! A look at the people behind the scenes at Story.

Chard is a member of Story Preservation’s Board of Directors and a professor of creative writing at Providence College.  We had the good fortune to record Chard in 2013.  Audio from the session is embedded, below.

His books: Interstate (University of Pittsburg Press, 2015); The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), selected as one of the top ten books of poetry by the Boston Globe in 2011; Night Mowing (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); Sharp Golden Thorn (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003); and Asleep in the Fire (University of Alabama Press,1990). His book of essays and interviews with seven senior American poets (Galway Kinnell, Ruth Stone, Lucille Clifton, Donald Hall, Robert Bly, Jack Gilbert, and Maxine Kumin) titled Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Conversations and Reflections on Twentieth Century American Poets was published in December of 2011 by Marick Press. He is also the co-founder of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry.

cftgntmuuaatxbnAbout Interstate, former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey writes: “Interstate seamlessly connects the state of knowing, in a worldly sense, to that knowing that is deeply felt yet unbodied. The precise attention to the ordinary things of the world, and in particular to the natural world, gives way to the wisdom of the spirit undergirding these searching poems. Reading them, I felt the delights of language in each new revelation: ‘Words were all; / they came to me like birds to a tree.’”

DeNiord earned a BA in religious studies from Lynchburg College, a Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  He lives in Putney, Vermont with his wife Liz.

Audio is a production of Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  

Stories Matter

Remember Dita

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WORDPRESS GLITCH!  If you aren’t seeing the audio bars and want to listen to this recording, click on the post title “Remember Dita.”


Kathy Preston tells the unforgettable story of her life as a young girl in Nazi occupied Transylvania, a stunningly beautiful region previously part of Hungary and now Romania.  This is a story to sit with and listen.  It will never leave you.

Kathy’s young friend, Dita (pictured) died in Auschwitz.  It is Kathy’s wish for us all to “Remember Dita.”

Kathy’s father was Jewish and her mother was Catholic. At five years old, Kathy escaped the Nazi roundup of Jews in Hungary when a neighbor hid her under the hay in the attic of her barn. Her father was forced into a ghetto and was arrested by the Hungarian police when he snuck out to try to see his daughter. He would perish in Auschwitz along with 27 other members of his family. Kathy and her mother survived.

Audio copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

Stories Matter

SPI’s Learning Lab

Susan Swartz

A page from the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab, a project for K-12 New Hampshire public school teachers.

We work to make this teaching resource as rich visually as it is in content.

Primary source audio / transcriptions / images / project-based lesson plans / links of interest / suggested reading material …

Go to:     It’s a resource developed specifically for teachers and a model for a nationwide initiative coming in 2016.

Holocaust Survivor Stephan Lewy ⎥ One of the World’s Most Unlikely Soldiers


WORDPRESS GLITCH!  If you aren’t seeing the audio bars and want to listen to this recording, click on the post title “Holocaust Survivor Stephan Lewy / One of the World’s Most Unlikely Soldiers.”


Stephan Lewy was born in Berlin in 1925. His father was Jewish, his mother protestant. When Stephan’s mother died in 1931, Arthur Lewy, Stephan’s father, was left to raise the boy alone. He was unable. So Stephan was placed in the Baruch Auerbach orphanage.

Stephan’s father remarried in 1938. That same year, shortly after Kristallnacht, the family made plans to leave Germany for the States; however, due to a health issue with Arthur, their request was denied. Fearing for his son’s life, Arthur agreed that Stephan should instead leave Germany on a kindertransport. It was then that Stephan and his parents lost contact.

Stephan was transported to unoccupied France, where he stayed for a period of four years.

Stephan’s parents made it to the United States in 1940. Stephan, finding them through the American Red Cross, followed two years later. He was seventeen years old. He arrived with America already at war with Germany and so, Stephan, upon landing in the US, was considered an enemy alien. At eighteen, he was called upon to serve.


Stephan joined the army and was placed with a group primarily made up of German immigrants.

As teenagers they had escaped the Nazis. They trained in intelligence work and psychological warfare, and returned to Europe as US soldiers – with the greatest motivation to fight this war: They were Jewish. They called themselves “The Ritchie Boys”.

Stephan was assigned to General Patton’s Army with the 6th Armored Division. He landed in France ten days after D-Day and was present when Buchenwald was liberated.

This is a fascinating story, beautifully told.



Stephan has shared family and historical photos to accompany his personal narrative.

View images here: Stephan Lewy images to accompany audio

Click for audio (full run time – 42 minutes):

A Conversation with Artist Wolf Kahn

Art © Wolf Kahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Art © Wolf Kahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Getting by with a little help from our friends …

Wolf has generously made nine images from his personal collection Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.24.04 AMavailable to Story Preservation for our K-12 in-school Learning Lab project. (Lucky ducks. Sneak peek to the right)!

Our mantra: Primary source audio recordings + project-based lesson plans = BIG (fun) learning.

Here’s the primary source part:

Click on the links below to hear him talk about his childhood in Germany and England, his immigration to America, his years studying under Hans Hofmann, and the evolution of his art.  *I’ve included Wolf’s transcript.  See below.


And here’s ONE example of the project-base based learning part (so many different jumping off points for learning):


Wolf Kahn, Self Portrait with Sombrero, 1954, 22 x 17 inches, Oil on Canvas, Collection of the Artist. Used with permission.

Wolf Kahn, Self Portrait with Sombrero, 1954, 22 x 17 inches, Oil on Canvas, Collection of the Artist © Wolf Kahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Used with permission.

This makes for a long post but here’s the transcript:


My father was the conductor of the Stuttgart Philharmonic. He married – my mother was a strange lady, from what I hear. I think my father – because I am the youngest of my siblings by six years, people have told me that my father made my mother pregnant, because he thought she was moving out of his purviews, you know, and becoming stranger. He thought that if she had a baby that would get her back to reality, and I was the reality. Well, I think a year after I was born, she just moved out. She moved out with a guy – he was an anthroposophist, which is a sect that developed out of Rudolf [correct name, Steiner], whose schools are still around. The Waldorf Schools, they’re all Rudolf [Steiner] based. When she left our house, she told my father to marry a young singer that he was either having an affair with or was interested in, and she left. I was a baby; I think I was three years old at the biggest, when she left the house. My father very quickly married this new wife. She didn’t like me.

I remember one of the earliest stories from my life. We lived in Stuttgart, and Stuttgart is set as a city that is set in a basin. In order to get to the city, you have to walk down interminable steps. I mean, they’ve got roads, naturally, going like this, you know, but for pedestrians, you go down interminable steps. I remember it was before Christmas and my stepmother said to me, “We’re going to go down now to buy you a Christmas present.” And I had no idea what that was all about, but then we got down to the town and she took me to a store where they sold canes. And she bought a cane and said, “If you don’t behave, that’s what you’ll get, and that’s your Christmas present.”

So I could see that she certainly didn’t love me and didn’t even like me; wanted to get rid of me. Fortunately, my father’s mother lived in Frankfurt, which is, you know, a town that’s a couple of hours away, and she wanted to have me live with her. Or else – I don’t know how that worked. But anyway, she got me, much to the envy of my siblings, you know, because they were having a tough time with her, too. Later on, she turned out to be a Nazi.

I certainly wasn’t, at that point, a very happy child. But then, as soon as I was with my grandma, she was a wonderful woman, very strong, experienced in bringing up children, because she had three of her own. We also had in the household — we had Mim, who was a family retainer from England. Her name really was Miss Wilkins, you know, but we all called her Mim. She was very lovely with me too, and taught me English, because she didn’t like to speak German. As soon as I was with my grandmother, I had drawing materials and encouragement, you know. I didn’t have any lessons. I didn’t have them until a good deal later. But I certainly felt like a happy child at that point, you know. We were living right at the entrance of the Botanical Gardens in Frankfurt, and after a heavy rain, my grandmother would take me out and went looking around carefully. She’d tell me to get into the beds where the dahlias were growing and where some huge dahlia had broken off, she told me to take it out, put my raincoat over it, and walk it out of the Botanical Gardens. Then she’d meet her friends, and her friends made a fuss over me, and she didn’t like that, because if they started to say, what a pretty boy – because I was a pretty boy – she’d say, “Shhhh, Ich spreche English.” So she tried to keep me from becoming conceited and arrogant. Of course, she was a total failure at that.

The next very serious thing that happened is that World War II was about to begin. I was 11 years old. People were already being taken to concentration camps, so my grandmother took me to the American Consulate to have me rejoin my family, and they gave me a number, a quota number, because they had in those days the McCarran Act, which gave each nation a quota. The Germans, at that point, had 10,000 a year, and I think they had 300,000 Jews that were still living in Germany at that point. So the English or, in this case, my aunt in London, who had already emigrated much earlier, got me into this program where volunteer families would take these children. So I arrived in England with a tag around my neck. If that hadn’t happened, I’d be a pile of ashes. So that’s my part of history, so to speak.

At a certain point, it looked – you know, they had the Blitzkrieg, and it looked like England was going to be bombed. I lived in Cambridge, which was a target town, because they had factories around there, and laboratories, and the university. So everybody tried to get out who could. And then they also sent people from London to Cambridge, because London was of course the prime target. So my aunt in London arranged that I would be part of a kindertransport. She was successful in getting this family in the suburbs of Cambridge to sign an affidavit that I would never become a charge of the state. That’s what the English were most worried about, with these refugee kids. So I went to stay with them, and they turned out to be terrible people. In advance of my arrival a bicycle, a stamp collection, and a huge trunk arrived, and they didn’t understand that at all for a refugee. You know, you’re supposed to have scurvy and dark around the eyes, and here was this little arrogant kid, who spoke English well and didn’t look like a refugee at all. I was fat, fat-ish anyway. So this professor Wade, as soon as we got home, he said, “Now you speak English and I want you to listen carefully to what I have to say. I want you to come into my study and I’ll tell you what I think.” He says, “I think that your family perpetrated a fraud upon us, and you’re not a refugee at all. And the only way I can protect myself is to make you into a servant in the family. So this is what you’re going to do, you’re going to get up at 5:00 in the morning and shine everybody’s shoes, and collect their laundry, and just generally help the maids.”

They were quite well off, these people. I right away understood that I was not very welcome in that household. Then he put me in the garden to help weed. Of course once you know, as a child, that you’re not being loved, and not being welcomed, you do everything wrong. I was constantly in trouble. So then the war began and Wade became an officer in the Territorial Forces, and he just let the authorities that were in charge of me, the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish Organization, know that he wanted to get rid of me. They found a lower-middle class family, the Purvises, who treated me very differently. They put me in school right away, where incidentally I became number one boy in English, in the class, because when I was still in Frankfurt, I was attending a gymnasium, which had all – all the teachers were professors from the university, Jewish professors who lost their jobs. The Jewish community put them in charge of kids in the gymnasium. I learned English grammar to the point of being able to parse any kind of sentence and so forth. Of course the English kids who grew up speaking English didn’t have to do any of these things. So as soon as I got into a class, I started talking about grammar. I was way ahead of everybody. So, in Cambridge, living with the Purvises, I had really quite a good time. I made friends with the English kids. They were interested in me.

The teachers didn’t know how to pronounce my name, because England at that point was a very isolated country. Nobody knew what to do with a name that started with a “K” and had an “h” in it. I mean, these things just don’t occur in England. So they all didn’t quite know what to do with me, but they could see that I was smart and knew my way around the world already. Then, the Americans changed the law, whereby families, Jewish families, could be reunited. When the Blitzkrieg began, and bombs started to drop, it was thought wise to get me out of the country. My father started proceedings with the consulate and so on, in New York, to get me. And my aunt put me on board the Volendam, which is a Dutch boat, where I was put into the charge of the First Mate, who actually liked me a lot and treated me as one should a little 12-year-old kid. He put me up on the bridge part of the day, with binoculars, to look for U-boats. We were traveling in a convoy. It was very slow. I think it took 20 days to get across the ocean. I, of course, felt very important up there with my binoculars. Then we got to Hoboken, which is where the Holland America Line had its dock, and there was nobody there to greet me. I guess the mail that announced that I was coming must have been sunk or something, so the Immigration Service – I guess they got together with the First Mate and he put me in the First Class dining room, where I proceeded to eat ham sandwiches like crazy. Finally, at a certain point, they did contact my father and he came and fetched me.


What happened is that my brother, Peter, also was a good draftsman and very interested in being an artist. He and I sort of became competitors almost. He went into the Army, you know, it was World War II, and I was going to the High School of Music & Art, here in New York. By that time, my father had moved to New York. In the High School of Music & Art, I found out, yeah, I was a bit of a hotshot, even there. What I’d do was I’d make caricatures of the teachers in chalk on the blackboard, before the teacher came in, while the class was waiting for him or her. I was good at caricatures. I would get a lot of resemblance very easily. So that made me quite popular.

I wanted to enlist. It was toward the end of the war, but there was still a whole other year, before the peace with Japan was signed. Germany was still in the war. So I joined the Navy, and I passed the Eddy test. The Eddy test is something where they try and find out whether you’re smart enough to study radar, which was a brand new thing at that moment. I passed the Eddy test, and I found myself in the company of MIT students. I’d never even had physics in high school, so I had a hard time there, in addition to which I was not used to standing watch at night and go to school in the daytime. But I learned how to stand and sleep at the same time, which is a useful thing to know how to do. Then I finally flunked out, especially since the war was – they were becoming more and more selective. I had been doing, while in the RT program, drawings of my friends and also some of the recreation officers and people like that, in the style of Artzybasheff, who was the guy who did the covers for Time Magazine. I was pretty good at faking Artzybasheff and making people look like they should be on the cover of Time Magazine. I had a good time in the Navy, when it comes right down to it. I got out, and then it came time to be on the GI Bill.

I wanted to go to Columbia, but it was too late in the year to enroll there, so I went to New School in New York. I studied with Stuart Davis, who is a very well known painter and the world’s worst teacher, a terrible teacher. We met once a week, in the evening, and once at the end of the class he said, “All right children, let’s close the magic portals. We’ve conjured up enough art atmosphere for one evening.” You know, for an idealistic kid – by that time I think I was about eighteen or nineteen — that’s not what you want to hear. So, I heard from my brother Peter about The Hofmann School. That’s where everybody went in those days, anybody who was anybody. He was known to give you a foothold in modern art, and a valid one. My brother was there already, and I joined him in The Hofmann School. Since I spoke German, and Hofmann hardly spoke English – he’d say things like, “This picture is too bunt.” People would look at him and they’d look at me, and they’d say, “What does he mean?” I would say that “bunt” is a word that doesn’t exist in American, because it just means disorganized color, like circus colors, or something like that. If he says your picture is too “bunt,” it means that it’s disorganized chromatically.

Through that, people started to understand what he meant, and I became his assistant in the school, and then I became the monitor. When the GI Bill almost ran out and I could see that I’d better hold on to what I had left of it – I think eight months I still had going – I quit the school and I became Hofmann’s studio assistant. While working for Hans Hofmann, I got to known him much better and having more and more respect. It was exaggerated respect of him, because he was a very, very fascinating personality. He was born knowing more about life than most people learned their whole lifetime long. Exaggeration, but nevertheless, I had really an extraordinary respect for the man. Then I started going out into nature and making drawings, because I was trying – I was influenced at that time by Rembrandt drawings that he made in Holland from nature. I showed these to Hofmann, and he said, “Maybe you’d better stop doing art for a while, because you’re suffering from mental indigestion.”

In fact, I was quite unhappy in those days, because I could see I wasn’t getting anywhere. So, I applied to the University of Chicago, and I got accepted, which in those days was much easier, especially for GIs, than it would be now. I went to Chicago and attended for one academic year and graduated after eight months. So, right at the end of my GI Bill, I also got a degree. The funny thing is just recently I got a letter from Chicago saying that I was going elected as the outstanding graduate for my year, at the next commencement in Chicago, and they invited me to come out there. Of course, I felt this was quite something, so I may go to Chicago next May. But, after eight months, what do they know? Then I got this scholarship to go to School of Humanities, because this art history professor got an interest in me. In addition to a scholarship, I even got a stipend, $2,000 a year, which in those days you could live on. Also, I researched where you could make the most money as an unskilled worker. I found out, if you went to Alaska to do road work, or if you went in the woods in the Northwest – so I heard that the mosquitoes in Alaska were dive-bombing people, and it was uncomfortable, so I decided to go to work in the woods, which I did. While there, I regained all my confidence, and I decided I’m not going to go to any school, I’m going to go back to being an artist. I was making drawings in the woods and so on. Then I came back to New York and, at that point, the Hofmann people found a space to rent to start a cooperative gallery, of which I was one of the founders – the Hansa Gallery. That’s how I had my first show. I guess my first show elicited some attention from critics, including Fairfield Porter, who was at that point already quite a well known painter, and Bill de Kooning. He was a friend of mine in those days too, when I first got started back in the art game.

Then I became part of the scene, the second generation New York School. After that, nothing more very exciting happened, except I got married and I went Italy. Everything sort of happened naturally. I never believed in trying to forge a style or anything like that. In fact, my early paintings and drawings were very influenced by Van Gogh and by Bernard. I never cared about that, because I figured if I have any kind of thing to say or a personality of my own, it would come out anyway, whether I tried for it or not.


In my own work, I was still holding onto sort of Van Gogh-y kind of involvements. But then, living in Venice and looking out at the Maritima, the big body of water with the tour boats coming up, I just – it affected me and changed my whole style, my whole way of getting involved in art. And I ended up painting mostly all white paintings because I thought the light of Venice was sort of milky. I mean, it ended up being milky and white for me. The way I was painting then, which was all in grays and whites, was so difficult that it took some of the joy out of doing it. Then one summer we went to Maine, and we lived on the southwest harbor of Deer Isle, Maine. In the evening I looked right into the sunset, down this cove into a sunset. And the idea of painting that in all gray would have been unnatural, so I started becoming involved in color again.

What I really believe in is the eye. I think you’ve got to get the mind sort of out of the way and trust that the eye will do things far more comprehensively and more interestingly, certainly, than what you can think about. So I always try to get my painting to the point where the painting speaks to me, rather than me speaking to the painting. I have a feeling at that point, you get in touch with things that are truly interesting and truly mean something, because you’re beyond convention, what have you, you know, and normalcy. I’m against normalcy. I try to get beyond intention. There, of course, the person who most influences me in that search would be Pollock, because he really wanted to get beyond intention, as soon as he started, practically. That’s really his revolutionary influence. The thing is that people don’t realize how important that was, but that connected him and me, and whole lot of other people, including the abstract expressionists. He connected them with surrealism and automatism, and all these tendencies, which I think most people don’t even understand, but which guide me in my work all the time; because I want to be able to see what the picture needs, rather than to start thinking about it. I think it’s pretty close to what happens, that you try and get beyond where you’ve been, because to do over again what you’ve done before – I mean, if you’re a scientist that would be a sin. You don’t do experiments over again that other people have already done. As a painter, I think you shouldn’t expose the public to things they already know, almost as an obligation. You have to take them beyond where things are easily explained.

Of course, being as I am, I think of myself as a very conventional person, very ordinary person, but I do believe that one of the obligations of an artist is to go toward transcendence, and not necessarily to have that as an obligation that weighs upon you, but to have a prospect in your work, or a natural development in your work, that leads you there. In that sense, I’m quite different from most of the landscape painters I know. I think I’m quite different, certainly, from the conceptual artists and people like that. So, even though painting appears not to have reached some kind of a high point right now, still I have a feeling it’s worth doing, because you’re in touch with some kind of natural process. And that seems valuable to me, you know. That’s good enough for me to keep going.

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