Olgivanna Lazovich Lloyd Wright: Opinions & Perspective

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KevinW
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Olga

Post by KevinW »

I prefer not to think about what ifs....Wright loved Olga...often in a very unhealthy way.....i think they often brought out the worst in each other....and sometimes the best....It was what it was, and my long chats with those of my friends who were close to Olgavanna have been fascinating and emotional.
The many former appentices of Wright who are my friends all have been very gracious in their descriptions of her....and I have come to the conclusion that like anywhere else, you make your own experiences, those who were dedicated to Wright were allowed to be, and those dedicated to Mrs. Wright were allowed to be.
I have found many apprentices who were not part of the Gurdjieffian activities still found Mrs. Wright loving and generous. I just want to keep things in proper perspective.
Thats just my 2 cents.
KevinW

m.perrino
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Post by m.perrino »

" When I go to heaven and meet my husband, I can look him straight in the eye. I kept his memory alive." O.W. So, let me throw this out to everyone. If there had been no Olgivanna - would the fascination about FLW be as strong as it is today, some 60+ years after his death ?

What other architect are we so interested in ?

Comments ?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I'm afraid I don't quite understand that. . .

I am glad to say that I've never heard or read the opinion that Wright's work would be different if he hadn't known Olgivanna -- or Miriam or Mamah or Catherine, for that matter.

In what other ways Olga may have affected Wright is not much discussed, either, as far as I can see -- for all the news we have had of her effects on the family, the friends, and the apprentices.

SDR

m.perrino
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Post by m.perrino »

Perhaps the question I am trying to explore is :

* To what extent, if any, was Olgivanna involved in the continuation of the FLW "brand" ? Yes, we know that Wes Peters, Jack Howe, et al continued the process of organic architecture via Taliesin Associated Architects, but what was her role in the continuation of the
interest in FLW ?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Oh -- that is an interesting question.

There have been a number of anecdotal items about her choices and decisions, post Wright, on the work product (as it has been called) from
Taliesin. Other influences are seen on the fabric of the Taliesins themselves. Is it too late, or too soon, for these changes and additions to be fully
documented ?

Somewhere here recently I read the first hint that reversals of these "improvements" might be contemplated. It would be good to pursue that, too. . .

SDR

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

I wonder if the idea and nature of community enters into the discussion. Olgivanna understood a very formal and top down sense of community- benevolent monarchy; solitary Wright understood community out of necessity. Neither understood, appreciated or trusted the grassroots organic sense of community.

I imagine the two of them sitting on the terrace in the early morning sun discussing the disappointment that UW-Madison would not create their architectural school and then (like Michael and I) the ever-present question: how can we do what our mind's can think to do?

Wright wanted more hands- young, energetic and enthusiastic to learn though doing. Olgivanna wanted company and validation. She wanted to remember and play out with authority her interests before Wright. She had the burdens of being a woman in her time, being the 4th woman in his life and an immigrant with a childhood and culture vastly different to Americans. She was the partner of a man who was first an artist and object maker. She was neither artist model or artist and chief cook and earth mother were not roles she respected.

I recently shared the podium with the educator from Ten Chimneys, a new Historic House Museum founded at the Wisconsin summer home of Lynne Fontayne and Alfred Lunt. Like Taliesin, it was a sprawling estate and retreat for important cultural figures- the Broadway theater actors, designers and producers. The aesthetic was, of course, antithetical to Wright. (Though, perhaps, Olgivanna, in her heart of hearts, would have been less uncomfortable with the foufou plush surroundings?) But back to the point: Fontayne and Lunt shared their art form as active and equal participants and thus they shared their lifestyle the same way. Olgivanna and Wright could not share art or life (the same for Wright) on equal footing. The psychic pressure on her must have been formidable.

The contrast between these two parallel retreats little more than a hundred miles apart is very interesting but the second pivotal contrast is economic: Ten Chimneys had a source of sure and steady income. Another contrast: while both were learning environments Taliesin was the peculiar institution that relied on daily work over the transom. There was little time for Dewey self-discovery or Froebel systematic learning. Ten Chimneys was the relaxed retreat for the practice and celebration of an acquired professional skill.
I continue to be fascinated by the contrasts between the two environments (mirrored in the greater American society) and invite other observations...

Michael H. adds his perspective: One of the impressions I think that we can take seriously from the book 'The Fellowship' and other apprentice memoirs, is that the Olgivanna role was difficult. Initially, FLW wanted a cleaning lady sensitive to his needs: he described her that way to neighboring farmers. FLW was neglectful, bordering on abusive, in his relationships with women. Art was his soulmate. Her position as fellowship task master, manager and mother confessor was forced upon her because it was mandatory work and no one else could would do it. She played it as a powerful grande dame but never the carefree queen she aspired to.

SpringGreen
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Post by SpringGreen »

This is a really interesting discussion and I'm glad it's not simply Olgivanna bashing.

I've come to feel over time that nothing is black & white when applied to Wright and Olgivanna. She had her good points and her bad points. The bad points are well-known (or perhaps each person has their idea of what the bad points are). One of the good points, I think, is that she kept Wright's Taliesin estate intact (with the exception of selling off outlying acreage to pay for taxes). Considering that she wasn't crazy about Wisconsin, she could have authorized selling off land close by (not that I think she would have sold off his home, but she could have authorized selling off chunks of land so that one would see tract housing across from Taliesin). But she didn't. She also pushed Bruce Pfeiffer to get Wright's work together and start the archives, which are priceless.

And, no matter the good/bad points of the Fellowship, I think Meryle Secrest wrote that had Olgivanna not been there, Wright wouldn't have been able to sustain interest/motivation in it. And with the Fellowship you get Wes Peters, Jack Howe, Gene Masselink, and many other apprentices who supervised buildings under Wright's direction, got the projects out to clients, made changes that he wanted at his Wisconsin home, and did all/most of the construction work on Taliesin West.

That's the way I see it, anyway.
"The building as architecture is born out of the heart of man, permanent consort to the ground, comrade to the trees, true reflection of man in the realm of his own spirit." FLLW, "Two Lectures in Architecture: in the Realm of Ideas".

peterm
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Post by peterm »

This is fascinating...

Does anyone know of specific instances (while Wright was still alive), where Olgivanna might have influenced a design, colors, etc.? Were the works routinely discussed? Did Wright ever consider her opinions on esthetic issues?

Wrightgeek
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Post by Wrightgeek »

Rumor has it that Olgivanna preferred a very rich, bright and saturated color palette. I believe that when I visited Samara, the Christian Residence in West Lafayette, IN, that I was told that Mrs. Wright III was involved in selecting the interior color scheme for this home, which consists of oranges, blues, lime greens, etc.

Can anyone confirm, add to, or refute this claim?

BTW, I found this color scheme to be quite acceptable, as I thought it enlivened the interior of the house and added a lot of energy to the environment within the house.

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

The Christians were friends with Olgivanna and FLW. I suspect the two women had similar taste. Mrs. Christian was the social Director for the Purdue University Union and that role was in sympathy with Olgivanna's life in the social milieu of Taliesin. However the colors and accruements Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Christian worked with were different in the original scheme. John de Koven Hill selected, in the early 70s, the colors we see now. As I remember the rug, the wall to wall rug in the living room that folds over the seat/steps and is the dominate color, was first a shade of blue.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

One of the reasons I patiently wait for Geiger to open his site is that he has first-hand knowledge of many of these things, and filtered through his antipathy toward Olga, there is probably more to be gleaned from his views than from second- and third-hand reports. For instance -- and I won't go into detail here -- he claims that the death of Svetlana most likely had a transformative effect on Olga's personality and focus with respect to the Fellowship, as well as some unsettling views on her relationship with Iovanna. He also has credible views on Olga's aesthetic (in)adequacies. I would also like to hear from Jim De Long, but he is so analog, he would never post anything that wouldn't fit on a Smith-Corona. Over the years he has told me many hair-raising stories about her, but his seething hatred for her may cloud his perspective. A third first-hand source was the late Edmund Teske, who, when I first knew him in the early 80s, would lay into Olga with a pitchfork. Then she invited him to Taliesin, and was exceedingly kind to him (possibly monetarily kind) after which visit his attitude softened substantially.

In the end, it will undoubtedly add up to a lot of opinions without enough substantiation to formulate a hard assessment of her nature, her relationship to FLW or the Fellowhsip (that wretched book notwithstanding) or the path that either of them would have taken had they not crossed.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

By the way, Palli, it was never "Lynne Fontayne and Alfred Lunt," but always, Always! by fiat of Alfred, "Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontayne." Alfred insisted on top billing.

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

Roderick, I'm sure you are right but I am a contrarian and often switch the male and female order. This thread started on a note that rankled my feminist sensibilities and stunned me into finding new sympathies with Mrs. Wright.

But what do you think (top billing notwithstanding) of the idea of co-equal partners in art as contrasted with FLW and Olgivanna?

archfan
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Post by archfan »

It was Lynn Fontanne.

Palli, your mention of Fontanne and Lunt sent me off to read about this remarkable couple. They really did seem to build a collaborative atmosphere at Ten Chimneys, but collaboration was more likely since they both were rising stars before their marriage. Olga had little to contribute at the beginning of hers, and had to build her place in the relationship.

Roderick, it would be interesting to look at Olga in different phases - before and after Svetlana's death, and post-Frank.

BTW, I looked on the interwebs for video of Fontanne/Lunt, but they were only in one movie - they disliked the movie making process. When offered $1 million for a 2 movie deal in the depths of the depression, Lynne replied, "We can be bought, but we cannot be bored."

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

Thanks for the correct spelling. Your points are mine exactly

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