Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Frank Lloyd Wright home exhibition absorbing


PHOTO: Furniture, color schemes, photographs, home movies and architectural plans are part of the exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Samara: A Mid-Century Dream Home” on display in three galleries of the Bush Art Center at St. Norbert College. Warren Gerds photo

DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – Among many points of interest in an exhibition at St. Norbert College detailing a Frank Lloyd Wright home is a booklet, “What We Need for How We Live.” A couple details its wish list for its home in Indiana to be built by one of America’s greatest architects. Minutia included items of clothing in individual closets and the types and sizes of trees on the couple’s one-acre property. In a way, “What We Need for How We Live” defines the type of people who would pursue the talents of Frank Lloyd Wright and his associates to build their home of a lifetime – many lifetimes: Meticulous.

Completed a few years before Frank Lloyd Wright’s death in 1959, the home continues to be a residence today. The home also is open to tours as living example of what Wright wrought as a maddening genius architect.

Maddening? An audio recording in the exhibition gives an example. The couple, John and Kay Christian, asked for some normal stuff with the home. Real regular – a basement and a garage. HA! Frank Lloyd Wright operated on much loftier levels than that. No basement. He did figure in a carport, though.

The exhibition is “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Samara: A Mid-Century Dream Home.” Displays take up three galleries in the Bush Art Center. That’s more space than usual for a St. Norbert exhibition. The guy was bigger than life.

The main portion of the exhibition tracks the design and building of the home in West Lafayette, Indiana, near the campus of Purdue University, where John Christian was professor of pharmaceutical chemistry. A secondary gallery re-visits the home and family in the 1970s as upgrades are made in fabrics and color schemes under the auspices of Wright’s studio; it was a form of WWFLWD – What Would Frank Lloyd Wright Do? Another gallery includes added exterior dressings such as pointed roof ornamentation that found John Christian getting into the act with his expertise; he devised a chemical solution to age the facia from shining copper to a distinctive aged look overnight.

The exhibit gives the impression of participation of the family. Displays include correspondence of a five-plus year process, home movies of the home under construction, home movies of family functions in the house, hands-on photos and objects, reproductions of the architect’s concept of the home in its setting, ample architectural drawings of the home at various stages and color samples for fabrics.

The trademark Frank Lloyd Wright thrust toward completeness is present. Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t just do shells of homes, just layouts of rooms, just the basics. He had his fingers into everything with his Usonian style. The exhibition includes pieces of furniture of his concept, including a bed stand, chairs and tables of Wright geometric designs down to wood grain in some cases.

The exhibit, which continues until Oct. 10 (see www.snc.edu/artgalleries), demonstrates the impact Frank Lloyd Wright had on the thinking and ongoing lives of members of one family. To think of all the other ventures and misadventures Frank Lloyd Wright was into is daunting.

VENUE: The Carol and Robert Bush Art Center is located on Third Street on the south side of the central walkway of St. Norbert College in De Pere. Opened in January 2002, the building houses offices, classrooms, studios and, as its prime attractions, three galleries. The Baer Gallery, the largest, hosts larger exhibitions. The Godschalx Gallery hosts rotating shows. The Permanent Collection Gallery, still partially functioning as such for the Wright exhibition, displays some the college’s prize holdings.

THE PEOPLE: Carol and Robert Bush continue to be active in the Green Bay area in community/artistic/cultural activities. Robert Bush is an industrial engineer.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air segments on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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