Black Mountain

Black Mountain

(My sincere apologies: the website has been down for a few days, due to technical  circumstances I was unable to control. Thank you for you patience.)

A couple of days ago we took the class to the site of where Black Mountain College had been, not far from Asheville, NC. It is now a boy’s summer camp but a few of the original buildings remain. My co-teacher in the class, Chris Benfey, has written about the school, which was started in the 1930’s. Chris brought us into what we were about to see before we left Penland, then gave us a little more background when we arrived. Names like Walter Gropius, Joseph and Anni Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Aaron Siskind, Willem de Kooning, Merce Cunningham, a young John Cage, Franz Kline, on and on surfaced in the conversation while we were sitting there in front of a lovely lake eating our box lunches. Evidently Gropius had designed a master plan for the campus in the 30’s and the primary building that remains is still there.

Wikepedia describes the school’s genesis, history and demise in the mid 50’s:

How do you convey such depth and history in pictures and writing? How can the work you make resonate with the past richness of a place as redolent as Black Mountain? Who does this kind of work with photography? Linda Connor comes to mind, maybe earlier work by Emmet Gowin. I’m sure you can think of others.

The primary building that still stands is the studio building, built so that each student would have their own work space. It was erected by the students and faculty in the mid forties as part of a master plan designed by Walter Gropius. Cheaply made, it is the strongest reminder of what was there so long ago.

At the end of the building, there is a place to sit with a balcony around it with two fans mounted in the ceiling:

that looks like the stern of a ship. I also was struck by how the building, gray with a corrugated skin, looks industrial and German. Walter Gropius was German so this makes sense.

A couple of months earlier Chris and I had met up in Brattelboro, VT to photograph the Rudyard Kipling house.

Kipling had designed his American home in the theme of a ship or an ark in a previous century. Gropius had drawn his building for Black Mountain in the 1930's. 

I liked the coincidence.

Topics: Penland

Permalink | Posted June 2, 2014