A Walk Into History

In the mid 1970s to the early ‘80s, I coör­di­nated a very inter­esting docu­men­tary art program for the National Park Service. The program had been going on between the New York Society of Illus­tra­tors and the National Park Service in Wash­ington D.C.
I had received word that they wanted to include a profes­sional art society on the west coast into their program ”Artists In The Parks”.
A ‘Parks’ offi­cial flew out from Wash­ington D.C. to meet me to discuss the program and their needs.
Fortu­nately our Society of Illus­tra­tors was having an annual exhibit in the lobby of the Crown Zeller­bach Building at the same time. After having wined and dined him, I took him to see the illus­tra­tion exhibit. He was very impressed with the caliber of talent in the San Fran­cisco Society of Illus­tra­tors. Two days after he flew back, I received a phone call. We were a part of the program!
The San Fran­cisco illus­tra­tors that chose to travel and create paint­ings for the National Parks Collec­tion were:

1‑Jim Sanford (not shown) 2‑Chris Kenyon 3‑Dave Grove 4‑Earl Thol­lander (not shown) 5‑Norm Nicholson 6‑Suzanne Siminger (not shown) 7‑John Ruther­ford (not shown) 8‑Ray Ward 9‑Bill Shields 10-Dick Cole (not shown) 11-Joe Cleary 12-Ed Diff­end­erfer 13-Robert Bausch (not shown).

I was asked to assign those artists willing to travel and partic­i­pate in the program to a national park or monu­ment in the U.S. Upon their return, an artist would produce one or two paint­ings with complete freedom to express their inter­pre­ta­tion of the park they had visited.
One assign­ment that I had, included trav­eling to Glacier Bay National Monu­ment, Alaska and Klondike National Historic Park in Skagway. Skagway, Alaska, in 1976 was a quiet village and tourism was minimal.
Upon my arrival, in a conver­sa­tion with one of the resi­dents, I told him my purpose for being there. He imme­di­ately suggested an after­noon excur­sion for my wife and me. Our guide offered to take us to a ghost town called Dyea, site of the starting point for the gold prospec­tors in the 1898 Yukon gold rush. We accepted his offer and found ourselves bouncing over and old dirt road for miles in his truck. We climbed up and over a moun­tain until we came to a spot where the road ended. “Now we have to hike in, the rest of the way”, our guide said.
My wife and I looked at each other with appre­hen­sion. The only thing visible was thick brush and heavy timber ahead. I told my wife that I would fall back behind her and our guide as we hiked in, as a safety measure. Was this guy for real or had we accepted a ride from a possible Klondike mass murderer? The thoughts went through my head.
After about a half-mile hike through mosquito-infested brush, we suddenly came into a clearing. There before us were a number of old deserted cabins from the 1898 gold rush. Many cabins still contained remains of furni­ture and some uten­sils on the tables. We saw an old gravesite with sixty head stones. This was at the base of the steep Chilkoot ice steps that the miners climbed on their way to the gold fields of the Yukon. As the story has been told, the miners waited for days to climb the ice steps, single file and burdened down with all their gear. On one occa­sion, one slipped and fell – – bringing the others down with him, resulting in the deaths of sixty miners. All now buried in that grave­yard.
After safely returning that after­noon to Skagway, we reflected on what we had expe­ri­enced that after­noon. The whole expe­ri­ence of that after­noon directed me to a different approach to the art I later produced. I created a large assem­blage, depicting the history and the events of that area.

For the Glacier Bay assign­ment, I painted one of the massive glac­iers. I was trying to capture the quiet­ness of this vast land­scape. The quiet, once in awhile, only broken by the roar of an ice cliff collapsing into the bay, called “caving”.
Norman Nicholson

An Other-Worldly Expe­ri­ence”
Artist Robert Bausch was born in 1938 in San Fran­cisco and grew up in Cali­fornia. After grad­u­ating from college he was an art director for several adver­tising agen­cies in San Fran­cisco before he launched a free­lance design and illus­tra­tion busi­ness in 1968. He has always had a strong interest in avia­tion, and has produced many paint­ings of aircraft, which led to his partic­i­pa­tion in the Air Force Art Program. He also made several paint­ings for the US Navy and NASA.

In 1979 the National Park Service commis­sioned him to travel to Carlsbad Caverns as part of the Artist-In-Residence Program, where he produced sketches on the spot, down in the caverns. Bausch had never been to Carlsbad before, and found being under­ground for hours at a time to be an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence. This was also the first time he had been to the South­west, and the sweeping land­scapes made a lasting impres­sion. Bausch reflects on his time in the cave:

The expe­ri­ence of visiting Carlsbad Caverns was surely one of the most unusual ones I’ve ever had. What an aston­ishing thing the caverns are! It would have been different enough just being there. But the fact that I was actu­ally working “down below,” drawing and thinking about what I was drawing, in this very strange and awesome place, was quite a treat for the senses. Every morning after break­fast for four days I went down and sat on a camp­stool and started sketching. This was early in the day, and very few other people were about, if any. Down here was a truly magical world, the prehis­toric depths of our planet. The lighting was very subdued, and it was extremely quiet, except for the sound of drip­ping water, echoing from unseen cham­bers around me, as the process of the forma­tion of the caverns continued. I will never forget this other-worldly expe­ri­ence.”
Bausch created a series of impres­sion­istic pen-and-ink render­ings on illus­tra­tion board and paper of various areas in the cave, and donated a total of nine large draw­ings. Some of the draw­ings were executed using only detailed hatched ink lines, while others were enhanced with ink washes. Each drawing also has a line of hand-written text at the bottom describing the loca­tion. Docu­menting the process of a drawing with text as part of the finished image was very popular in the 1970s.
Lois Manno

In 2009, Lois Manno, who at the time had been volun­teering at Carlsbad Caverns for 15 years, and has been involved with the National Park Service for many years, published a beau­tiful book, Visions Under­ground, which chron­i­cles various artist’s involve­ment with Carlsbad Caverns, and the art they have produced as a result. 4 of Bausch’s draw­ings are featured in the book.
Robert Bausch

Assign­ment: Harpers Ferry Histor­ical National Park, WV
SFSI member, Ed Diff­end­erfer

Dick and I phoned Ed who described the trip in the Fall of 1970. He said that before leaving home, Mary Ann planned an extended stay. They would rent a car and touch on selected loca­tions in that region of our country.

When they arrived at Harpers Ferry, viewing and taking many photos, Ed said that the history of both; that loca­tion and aboli­tionist John Brown, combined in deter­mining his illus­tra­tion.
[Mary Ann, was a commer­cial artist before she turned her talents to writing. She has had a number of books published. This from her recent email to us: “I have a novel coming out soon (September) about a woman artist — “All Kinds of Beauty”.”]
She suggested that I search the life story of John Brown.

Here, first, is Ed Diffenderfer’s painting.

Following Ed’s painting (and a photo of Ed from the 2001 SFSI Reunion) I show images that I have found about John Brown—
‑the man: Born May 9, 1800, ancestry back to 17th-century English Puri­tans, and from a staunchly Calvinist and anti­slavery family. Father of 20 chil­dren (some sons, were also aboli­tion­ists). Many years involved with the Under­ground Rail­road and other anti-slavery efforts.
‑the Harpers Ferry Raid that he insti­gated: On the evening of October 16, 1859, Brown led 21 men on a raid of the federal armory of Harpers Ferry in Virginia (now West Virginia). Holding dozens of men hostage his followers gath­ered the stored guns with the plan of inspiring slaves to march north, to freedom.
Brown’s forces held out for two days but they were even­tu­ally defeated by mili­tary forces led by Robert E. Lee. Many of Brown’s men were killed, including two of his sons, and he was captured.
‑and the price he paid: — hanged — for his attempt to abolish slavery in the years before the Civil War.

Visiting West Virginia at that time of the year, Ed said that they found the trees were showing their ulti­mate of colors. He said that they drove a lot, stop­ping at the chosen loca­tions, such as Norman Rockwell’s orig­inal: home-studio / museum in Stock­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts.
Ed said that the collec­tion, there, offered the chance to see the detail of the brush­strokes on paint­ings never seen when repro­duced in halftone printing.
The Diff­end­er­fers trav­eled as far as Rock­port, MA and then it was soon time to return to Cali­fornia and start painting.

Yosemite and Mount McKinley National Park
G. Dean Smith studied at Pratt Insti­tute in New York and the Art Center School in Los Angeles before opening a graphic design firm in San Fran­cisco in 1959. It was in 1962 — for San Francisco’s ABC outlet, KGO-TV, that he designed (known as the Circle 7 logo) – the first of the trade­mark symbols that were to make him known nation­ally.

Confer­ence of National Park Conces­sioners
For this leaflet shown: “Welcome to your park” — Dick Moore was asked by G. Dean Smith to show the various services avail­able for visi­tors during their stay in the US National Parks.

Welcome to the Tetons
Line art of a section of a full moun­tain range — Dick created this line drawing for a folder about the Grand Tetons for G. Dean Smith. The year and details are forgotten. Just this sample remains.

Norm Nicholson and Robert Bausch supplied the stories of their expe­ri­ences.
Then, with a phone call to Ed Diff­end­erfer, I was able to present the third National Park Service, “Artists In The Parks” report.
The other samples, here, were not part of the SFSI project.
G. Dean Smith’s trade­marks for the NPS were designed in 1968 –for the Yosemite Park & Curry Co. and in 1970 –for the Mount McKinley National Park.
The assign­ments that Dean gave to Dick Moore in the 1970s show other graphic designs required by the Confer­ence of National Park Conces­sioners.
To show the loca­tions of the parks described, I added the maps from Google.

Ann Thompson