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Spring 2004

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Who, What, When

Centennial spotlight

On campus

Faculty focus

Arts on view



Class notes


people & projects

Horsing around

Picture this

True yarns

Ultimate child care

Big art

Hello? Hello?

Animated in China

Vs. Vuitton

Aiming for Athens

Horsing Around

In January, just back from an exotic horseback-riding vacation in Costa Rica, Mary “Chick” Glassey Ehbrecht ’57 was happy to switch gears and talk about another equine-related interest of hers: restoring and painting carousel horses.
Ehbrecht, who lives in Connecticut and works full-time selling real estate for Coldwell Banker, has ridden several carousels in many states. Animals in need of restoration tug at her heart strings, she confesses, and she looks forward to any opportunity to “bring them alive.” She has been to a carousel-figure carving school in Ohio and has taken classes with Pam Hessey, “one of the top painters in America.”

Her first project involved repainting “a half-size copy of a 1910 Herschell zebra,” Ehbrecht says. Another involved restoring and painting an Indonesian mahogany horse (above), which had been “whitewashed and pale for twenty years,” she says. “It had a great crack along its entire body, loose legs and neck, and a hunk out of its front hoof. It took a few days to clean out the cracks, add wood, glue, and filler, carve over rough areas, and sand and paint the prime coat.” Then Ehbrecht gave the horse a white dappled coat, a red bridle and harness edged in gold, and a leather-looking saddle, blue pad, and decorative silver-winged angels—a detail that had been virtually unnoticeable until the restoration was completed. “He looks so proud in his best ‘parade’ tack,” Ehbrecht says affectionately. “His owner couldn’t believe the beautiful changes.”

Ehbrecht’s interest in horses goes back as far as she can remember—as does her artistic drive. She drew her first “recognizable” horse at the age of six, she says. “My family had a carousel horse on a rocker in the garden, which I rode in the summer, and I sculpted an ice horse to ride in the winter—until I bought a real horse.”

At Skidmore, Ehbrecht majored in art and rode. She’s had her Morgan horse, Maestro, for twenty-four years, and says, “We still win ribbons in hunter-pace events.” Maestro also comes in handy when the artist is restoring painted horse—to get the details right, she refers to her real-life model. —MTS

Picture This

Carolyn Bates ’66 remembers her first camera, a Kodak Brownie: “You had to hold your breath while you clicked the shutter, if you wanted the photo to be in focus.” Her family’s darkroom lacked a timer, she adds, so her father taught her “very accurate counting methods for developing and enlarging: ‘one, one thousand; two one thousand’… Also, the flashbulbs had to be scratched on rough surfaces before use to guarantee success in one out of four shots. Once, my family, with butter-drenched corn on the cob in hand, posed until the twelfth bulb finally worked.”

These days, Bates—a professional photographer for thirty years—uses sophisticated digital equipment for making portraits and capturing scenes of Burlington, Vt., where she lives. Her main focus, though, is architectural photography. Covers of Old House Interiors, Old House Journal, Journal of Light Construction, and Fine Woodworking feature her work, as do numerous books.

On assignment, Bates typically spends two to four days at a house. She loves the challenge of lighting and styling each room “so it feels relaxed and free of tension, and looks like someone lives there.” (Some of her favorite props include fresh flowers, raspberries, and Lady Dickens—her English springer spaniel, pictured above.)

Bates encourages participation in her shoots—by “clients, homeowners, publishers, contractors, architects—anyone. Even if they’ve never held a camera, they have something to contribute,” she believes. Take the time a builder wanted Bates to include some family pictures—a father comforting his daughter who skinned her knee, a pair of dressed-up girls having a tea party. Bates’s favorite shot involved two young boys blowing bubbles in a bathtub. After one of them spilled his container and the other couldn’t get his bubble wand to work, the photographer enlisted her adult clients to assist. One hid in the shower, one stood on the toilet, and the other crouched under her tripod—and together they blew bubbles into the scene.

When she’s not on assignment, Bates has fun taking photos of her dog (and her dog’s friends). She also enjoys photographing events her friends take part in. This past winter, for example, she stood on Lake Champlain and took photos of 600 swimmers plunging into a huge hole in the ice. —MTS

True Yarns

Knitwear designer Jil Lord Eaton ’71 picked up a pair of needles and began knitting and purling at the tender age of four, when most children are still being steered away from pointy objects. Her mother was “a fabulous knitter,” she says, “and I couldn’t wait to learn.” They recently turned up an old trunk containing some of Eaton’s early creations, and it was apparent that she was designing even then.

Twenty years ago, most patterns available required “very fine wools and tiny needles,” Eaton recalls. She preferred to do more “quickly-knit garments with more design flair,” and her eye-catching creations turned a lot of heads. People were constantly stopping her on the street, she says, wanting to know where she got the pattern for whatever hat or scarf or sweater she was wearing. So she decided to publish them.

Eaton’s colorful, texture-rich designs are inspired by everything from French sailor suits to Andean tapestries. She produces two collections annually (under her own MinnowKnits label), designs for Vogue Knitting International and other magazines, and is finishing her sixth book, After Dark (featuring designs for parties and holidays—including, says Eaton, “a felted evening handbag with a nod to Chanel”). Her Learn-to-Knit kits are distributed internationally and sold in museum stores and fine yarn shops nationwide.

Before she started her own company, Eaton used to knit “complicated, fancy-stitch sweaters” for her husband. “But those days are over,” she shrugs. Now her main objective is simplicity—of both design and technique.

For knitting novices, she offers a couple of pointers: “Use the best yarn you can afford. And the single most important thing is getting your correct gauge (the number of stitches and rows per inch called for in a pattern).” This will ensure that “your work will always fit and look professionally done.”
To sign up for Eaton’s quarterly e-mail newsletter, check out her Web site: www.minnowknits.com. —MTS

Ultimate Child Care

When Michele Forté ’90 signed on as director of development for George Mark Children’s House—a new, northern California hospice for children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses and their families—she delved into other areas as well. Things like program development, public relations and community outreach, human resources, and facilities management.

Promoted to executive director in August 2002, she spent the last year and a half preparing for GMCH’s official opening in March. “It’s been an incredible journey,” she reports, adding that the process has involved expanding the staff from three to twenty-three, promoting GMCH to the local and national medical community, and raising funds to complete a capital campaign (while financing a $3.5 million annual operating budget). “We certainly have our work cut out for us,” Forté says.

Apparently the first freestanding facility of its kind in the US and modeled after similar ones in Canada and Great Britain, GMCH focuses on providing palliative care for children, “with an ultimate goal of helping families remain intact, functional, and capable of achieving the highest quality of life together,” says Forté. Services include round-the-clock respite support, transitional care (between hospital and home), and end-of-life care.

Forté anticipates the house will serve up to 200 families per year from northern California. “In a time when program efficacy is often judged by how many thousands of constituents will be served, these numbers may seem low,” she says, but the effects of serving even 200 families should not be underestimated. “The death of a child can often mean the death of a family,” she explains. “This traumatic experience can start a downward spiral—financial, marital, physical, and psychological—that has long-term consequences for all surviving family members.”

While she knows that people who learn about GMCH are often “saddened by our mission and the understanding that these children are likely to not reach adulthood,” she finds herself perpetually inspired—by the youngsters themselves. “The innocence of their laughter and questions and ideas really motivates me to encourage them to keep that spirit. That is our focus: helping the children and families make the most of every moment they have together.” —MTS

Big art

How wide the canvas? An average-size painting by Don Gensler ’94 measures 30 by 50. Feet.

An installations artist and lecturer in the University of Pennsylvania’s fine arts department, Gensler paints murals as part of Philadelphia’s ongoing Mural Arts Program, which so far includes about 2,300 murals on walls, bridges, and buildings throughout the city. Gensler himself has completed seven such projects; one of them, titled Moving Towards Your Dreams, is 30 feet high and over 900 feet long. It took him (and five assistants) nine months to complete. (You can view it in person at Darien Street and Pattison Avenue or online at 91M Arts and Culture Reporting.) The mural involved the input of 250 Philadelphia children who described, in drawings, their hopes and dreams.
Gensler started painting murals “as a way to connect communities within the urban environment,” he says. (Before hooking up with Philadelphia’s MAP in 2000, he was involved in a similar project in Little Rock, Ark., painting large-scale works with at-risk youth.) In the initial stages of a project he solicits thoughts and ideas from community members; the final design, however, is entirely his own.

UPenn students in Gensler’s mural-painting class work with him to create one or two murals each semester. In planning a mural scene, Gensler uses photos and video to capture images of real people and real architectural features in the community, ensuring that the mural truly “relates to the space in which it is contained.” To translate his design to a wall, he typically uses a grid system and acrylic paint. Sometimes, though, he transfers the design by projector at night, or paints on a special cloth in his studio, later adhering the pieces directly to the work surface with an acrylic gel. For all his projects, he scales 40- to 50-foot-high scaffolding, or uses a lift, to paint the mural.

His next project? A mural about truancy, he says. “I’m working with kids, parents, community members, judges, social workers, teachers, and the school board to discuss this issue and what it means to them.” The mural, on a five-story downtown building, should be done by early summer. —MTS

Hello? Hello?

Laura Forlano ’95 spent two months in Tokyo last summer—snapping hundreds of photos of Japanese teenagers using cell phones. The Columbia University PhD candidate was there on a National Science Foundation grant, conducting research for her dissertation, which focuses on the social impact of wireless technology.

Why Japan? “Japanese youth are commonly regarded as trend-setters around the world when it comes to technology,” Forlano remarks. She wanted to “explore claims about the degree to which they are adopting and using cell phones and about the sociocultural changes that result from their enthusiasm for the technology.” (It didn’t hurt that she was already familiar with the region, having studied at Tokyo’s Sophia University during her Skidmore years as an Asian studies major.)

Forlano’s photos document young people—sometimes clad in kimonos—talking on cell phones in parks, cafés, and shopping malls. Many of the images, she says, “map the transition from using phones to talk, to using them to exchange text messages and browse maps on a portable version of the Internet, to taking pictures with the latest camera-phones.”

And certain trends became apparent. First, she reports, “cell phones are highly personalized (e.g., with stickers and colorful straps) and often displayed as fashion accessories by both men and women.” Second, she observes, “they’ve changed the way social networks relate to one another in time. Friends use their cell phones to continuously adjust their schedules and, as a result, spend less time waiting for each other; they also use them to find each other at popular meeting places.” Finally, she notes, cell phones change the way people navigate their cities. People can quickly download high-quality maps from the Internet and find nearby restaurants, subway stations, and stores. “And with technology known as triangulation, Forlano adds, “the phones can approximate your location based on the three nearest cell-phone towers.”

Next up, Forlano will conduct in-depth interviews with technology-wise youth in Berlin and New York City. She hopes to return to Tokyo for a follow-up study, with an eye on finishing her dissertation in 2005. —MTS

Animated in China

His dream—a vision he’s had since his senior year at Skidmore—is to produce a feature film. And Young Wang ’99 is enjoying the journey in getting there. This past year he was a key player in the first-ever Beijing International Comics and Animation Week (in photo), drafting the event proposal and later obtaining dozens of animation shorts from the US, Australia, Holland, and Russia. The festival featured 8,000 comics and 110 animation works from 17 countries and attracted more than 75,000 people (it would have drawn even bigger crowds, says Wang, had it not been postponed to winter after the SARS outbreak).

“I’ve always loved film and TV,” says Wang, who majored in business while stocking up on studio-art courses. A sophomore-year summer internship led to a job producing TV commercials. A couple of years later he signed on with MTV-Asia in Beijing—producing, among other things, The Profile of Megastars (similar to VH1’s Behind the Music). “I was happy to expose Chinese audiences to some nonmainstream pop artists such as Bob Marley and Barry White,” Wang says, adding, “I was pushing the envelope a bit with bands like Megadeth and Notorious BIG.”

Government censorship, he explains, is alive and well. “As far as culture-related products go, China is still highly regulated. The limitations go far beyond basic control over [depictions of] politics, sex, and violence. The worst part is, you never know where the line is. For example, my show at MTV was co-produced with Beijing TV. I was told that I could not use the term ‘rock ’n’ roll,’ so I substituted the word ‘pop.’ Then I got angry letters from fans asking me why I called Run-DMC [a hip-hop group] a ‘pop’ band.”

Wang, who’s now started his own company to “utilize talents from both sides of the Pacific to develop animation projects for international markets,” says, “It is very difficult not to be an entrepreneur here. China, which did not start moving to a market economy until the early 1980s, is lacking professionals and professional standards on so many levels.” But, he adds, there are signs of improvement. “Things are happening at the speed of light, and the possibilities are limitless. China is on its way to becoming an economic giant. If you have the drive and willingness to work, it offers great opportunities.” – MTS

Vs. Vuitton

When Betsy Motter ’02 took Margo Mensing’s intro class in fiber arts during her freshman year, she probably never guessed that one curious assignment would lead to her current livelihood. Mensing instructed her students to “find an object and change its function,” recalls Motter. She picked an everyday item—the common bra—and converted it to a handbag. “Fabric is to related to the body. I was trying to choose a garment that is part of every woman’s life that we don’t really show, but can be really funny,” she recently told the Lancaster (Pa.) New Era.

“Betsy’s bOObie bags,” as she calls them, are somewhat labor intensive. Motter spends about five hours transforming each undergarment into a functional carrying case. The bags are hand-dyed and sometimes hand-painted, then decorated with laces and vintage costume jewelry. All are lined and zippered, with handles made from shoulder straps.

There are six different styles, including the bazOnga bag, the bazOOka bag, and—her best seller—the Rack Sack. Motter doesn’t exactly take special orders, since the bras she uses have to be of a certain type, but she’ll create custom colors for an existing style and use whatever embellishments a customer chooses.

Currently she sells her bags in Pennsylvania and at Saratoga Trunk on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, and plans to participate in wholesale buyers markets. She’s also putting together a Web site with the intent of attracting orders from boutiques, gift shops, and—she hopes—at least one department store.

This spring, when Motter opens her own artists co-op and classroom space in downtown Lancaster (where, among other things, she’ll teach batik classes), it will serve as home for her business. “Sales have been good,” she notes; “women are very excited about the bags.” Motter herself carries a a teal-colored (prepare yourself) “mini titty” adorned with a silver daisy and silver fringe. By all accounts, it’s…holding up pretty well. —MTS

Aiming for Athens

Before she was an archer, Joy Fahrenkrog ’02 was a rower. She won a gold medal at the Women’s Henley in England in 2001 and hoped to make the US Olympic team. But when she learned that the International Olympic Committee might cut lightweight rowing from the games, Fahrenkrog didn’t wait around for the decision; she began scoping out other sports. “I went down the list and checked off ones I thought I could pick up at the ‘late’ age of 23,” she recalls. “It came down to cycling, archery, or fencing.” Archery won. “Maybe it was because I was runner-up camp champion when I was eight,” she says. “Or maybe it was just because it seemed so unique.” She started training immediately, once again eyeing the Olympics.

Up until the end of December, Fahrenkrog had a full-time job as a trading assistant at Schwab in Boston. She’d work out at the gym at 5:30 a.m., report to the trading desk at 7:15, work until 4:45, and then drive 60 miles to Exeter, N.H., where she’d set up her equipment and shoot 100–150 arrows at distances of 30–70 meters. By 8:45 she was driving home, in bed by 10:30. After three months of training, Fahrenkrog placed 44th at the US indoor nationals and later 25th at the outdoor nationals. In Massachusetts last year, she was the champion at both the indoor and outdoor Bay State Games.

On January 1 she packed her car and moved to southern Florida to train with Vic Wunderle, a silver and bronze medalist at the 2000 Olympics (also her boyfriend). She’s jobless now, but it’s warm down south and she can train the entire day, every day. She recently won the Florida State Indoor Championship.

The Olympic trials are in June. “If I had to rate my chances of making the team, I’d say they’re pretty good,” she says. Her toughest competition in the trials will be herself. At the games in Athens this summer, it’ll be the Koreans, who have dominated the sport for twenty years. To track Fahrenkrog’s progress, visit her Web site: www.aim4athens.com. —MTS


© 2004 Skidmore College