Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Art of Art - Lesson Two - American Da Vinci

I was going to write about Bernard Pfriem and Viktor Schreckengost this post, but I decided they deserve their own individual posts. I'm going to start with my good friend, the late Viktor Schreckengost

When I was little I loved to go to the Cleveland Zoo. Monkey Island and the Elephant house were my favorite places there. Mostly I loved the stylized Elephant sculptures that identified the elephant house. Here is a picture of the artist at work. Little did I know that many years later, I would have the opportunity to work with and learn from this amazing American Da Vinci.

You've probably never heard the name, but I am positive that you have seen or touched something designed by this man. Viktor was a product designer, an artist and a thinker. He created the Jazz Bowl on commission for Eleanor Roosevelt, he redesigned children's pedal cars for Murray, and even helped improve radar design for the Navy during the Battle of the Bulge. He was also an accomplished  jazz saxophonist.

I won't go into detail about the artist, his work and his life, you can read about him yourself. I will tell you about the person I had the pleasure of knowing. Viktor was my mentor.

Viktor was in his late 80's when He taught dinnerware and furniture design to my Industrial Design class at the Cleveland Institute of Art. The program was the first of it's kind in the US and Viktor was the man who started it.

Each day three other students and I would gather before class with the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and work together to complete it. We were all pretty bright, but there was always something that eluded us. Then Viktor would come by and fill in the blanks we missed.

He would tell us of his adventures, how he managed to get a tour of the Hindenburg but was so disappointed that he couldn't get a ticket for it's maiden flight. He talked about his good friend Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness. He could tell us about watching the architecture in Cleveland change in a way that made us feel as if we were watching it being built.

Viktor was kind and generous with his time, making sure he new every student and spending time with each and every one of us to make sure we had the best of his knowledge. He was also a passionate artist, continuing to create delightful paintings with his gnarled but experienced hands. Hands that he kindly let me use in a photo shoot for an ergonomic knife I designed.

In in 2006, at 100 years of age Viktor was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He passed away early 2008 at 101. His passion for art, design and encouraging others had given him the longest most rewarding life that any of us might aspire to.

Love what you do. Be passionate about your life and your work. Interact with others that share the same passion and share. And most importantly, live life to it's very fullest.

Please read more about Viktor Here - Washington Post Article 


alexkeller said...

I grew up in the Cleveland area & I remember the zoo. So amazing that you had the opportunity to work with someone like Viktor!

Pili said...

It must be fantastic to have such a mentor, and it feels right that he had a long and full of creativeness life!

Poppys Wicked Garden said...

An amazing post Mom. I felt honored just to see and talk to him on Saturdays during my teen years.

vintage eye said...

What an honor to learn from someone of that caliber. You have that same passion, Crusty...keep passing it along. :)

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