by Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
everybody struggles. we have a tendency in our culture to place fame and wealth into the same category. that is, if you’re famous, then you are rich. the truth is that the two have almost nothing in common – especially in the creative fields. people like the rolling stones and david bowie and even the beatles were broke at their early peak periods. actors and celebrities also are famously broke folks. visual artists have an even rougher time of it. very few ‘famous’ artists enjoy the pleasure of financial freedom during the lifetimes. us graphic designers even more so. it still cracks me up when people assume that because they’ve heard of me, that i’m rich. it’s almost a curse because people assume they can’t afford to hire you. it’s so silly. i’ve actually had people ask me if i drive a lamborghini!
frank lloyd wright struggled financially most of his career. he was clever and crazy – and almost pathologically egoistic megalomanic. he would so completely CONTROL his projects that he would not only design the structure, but everything IN the house – down to the silverware and napkins. then he’d insist on placing everything ‘just so’, never allowing folks to move anything or add anything. of course, clients rebelled, and he’d abandon them in anger. very few of his structures were actually completed 100% as he intended them. so, frank went through extreme ‘dry’ peoriods when work was scarce. he used cheap (aka, local) building materials that would crumble over time. he would try to do the engineering himself – often resulting in leaky roofs and collapsing structures. his total control exceeded his actual knowledge.
as a result he was notoriously avoided by average wealthy clients. he was ‘difficult’ to work with. he started his taliesin compounds as places to bring in apprentices and ‘school’ them for money (to make ends meet.) so, he ended up with lots of small clients hiring him to do churches or private homes or whatnot. many of these folks were NOT taste-makers or even connoisseurs, but more accurately described as bargain hungry folks looking for a deal from a designer struggling on the margins. often, they had no idea that they were working with THE 20th century master architect. in all honesty, his clients were oddballs.
one of my favorite examples of this is his most famous and beloved structure, ‘fallingwater’. we all deeply love this house and think of it as maybe the only really BRILLIANT building of the last century. it’s held in such high esteem that it’s spoken about in hushed tones. but, did you know that the folks who commissioned the building were big ‘naturalists’? in the parlance of the times, that meant they were “nudists.” fallingwater was designed to be a nudist colony. that’s one of the big reasons for it’s ‘naturalistic’ placement and privacy (not that frank didn’t include those ideas in much of his work). also, the building is falling apart – it’s built over a waterfall! waterfalls are all about natural terraforming. the building sight is in flux and always will be.
this photo i lovingly show you today is taken from “the atlas of frank lloyd wright”, edited by alex hook (TAJ books, 2005). yes, it’s a GAS STATION designed by FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT! furthermore, it was designed to BE a gas station, too (not turned into one later in life). it’s in cloquet, minnesota, and it was built in 1956 (the same year he built his guggenheim museum!). the thing was designed for a client for whom frank had also designed a house. the bigger idea justifying this gas station was that there was talk of constructing an entire community over time – all designed by frank. but (of course) it never happned and all that was built was this gas ssation.
like all frank lloyd wright buildings, he took it upon himself to completely re-imagined how a gas station would work. for instance, he imagined the gas lines coming down from the ceiling so the cars would be able to park randomly and fuel up (and thus get rid of all those “ugly” pumps, no?) but, it didn’t work. in fact, most of his design was a disaster. nice roof, though, huh? so very ‘FLW”!
frank lloyd wright was a nutjob, a crackpot and a genius. he was usually broke and struggling to pay his bills. his life was literally consumed with conflict and scandal and ‘mad’ ideas that never quite reached fruition. but, he still managed to produce a body of work that will survive as long as
le walk this earth.
‘fame’ and ‘wealth’ are two very different things.
… ol’ frankie was a lot of great things, but he sure weren’t no ‘graphic designer” . but, take a look at that “phillips 66″ sign he made on the peak of the roof. it sucks royale! and remember this was done in 1956! talk about out of sync with the times! yish.