Friday, July 22, 2016

Repugnant Wallpaper | Dallas Guffey

Wallpaper | Dallas Guffey ©2015
Above In graphic design studio courses, as an exercise in rapid fire problem solving, I sometimes ask my students to work in class, within a time limit, in producing fresh solutions to seemingly off-beat assignments. In one case, for example, I asked them to come up with a design for "repugnant wallpaper." The solution reproduced above is by Dallas Guffey.


Robert Kipness, Robert Kipness: A Working Artist's Life. Hanover NH: University Press of New England, 2011 [recalling an experience in a painting class taught by artist Stuart Edie (1908-1974), probably in the early 1950s, when Kipness was a student at the University of Iowa], pp. 59-60—

After two or three sessions of witnessing this outpouring of energy [as Kipness worked on his paintings in class] from the wild-eyed kid from the literature department, Edie came over to my space and said, "Very interesting, Kipness. Let me show you something," and he picked up one of my brushes, mixed some paint on my palette, and moved the brush toward my painting. Instinctively I grasped his wrist with a grip that seemed to frighten him. His pale blue-gray eyes widened. "Tell me anything you want, but don't touch my work," I whispered, outraged that he would interfere with the surface of my painting. Realizing my grip was strong, and that I might be hurting hm, I released his wrist, and he put down my brush and walked away. Understandably, he didn't talk to me again for over a month.

From a respectful distance we grew to like each other…He was a kind and perceptive man…

We came to an agreement. He would leave me alone in class, and as long as he felt I was making progress he would continue to let me be. If he judged otherwise I would either take instruction or he would give me a failing grade. Eventually he issued me a key to the building, allowing me to come and work anytime I wished. "Just make sure you put out the lights and see that the door is locked when you leave." In my eyes he was a prince, and I appreciate that my fierce enthusiasm and individuality were no threat to him. He was delighted to see me so consumed with painting, and he wanted to see what I could do. There was no battle of egos, just respect and a kindly concern for my young life. Later I more fully understood that his response was what he thought would be best for me.

There is an interesting online interview with Kipness by Ira Goldberg at LINEA: The Artist's Voice. There is additional information about three of the artists who taught at the University of Iowa while Kipness was a student there: Stuart Edie, Byron Burford and James Lechay. My own memories of Lechay are online here.