edited by Diana Jocelyn Greenwold and M. Rachel Arauz. University of California Press, May 2019. 192 p. ill. ISBN 9780520299696 (h/c), $55.00.
Reviewed September 2019
Cathryn Copper, Head, Art & Architecture Library, Virginia Tech, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Vanguard documents the founding and early history of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, one of the most impactful schools on American art during the twentieth century. The accompanied landmark exhibition is held at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, but the publication is so much more than an exhibition catalog.
The well-researched essays provide historical context for Haystack’s relationship to other schools of arts and crafts during the 1950s and are lathered with honest accounts of early successes and struggles. Of note, the essay, “The Best Ideals of Socially Useful Living: Haystack, 1950-60,” provides a comprehensive picture of contributions by faculty members like Jack Lenor Larsen and Anni Albers, among several others. The faculty, as well as female founder Mary Bishop, were leaders in the non-hierarchical, community-oriented pedagogy that situated Haystack as an internationally recognized, major force in the studio craft movement. The final essays summarize the move to Deer Isle and the Bauhaus-inspired campus, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. Finally, the unique contributions to art, ceramics, glass, jewelry, fiber, printing, and graphics made at Haystack in the 1960s are highlighted.
In addition to the essays, the book is rounded out with rarely or never seen archival photographs and sixty-nine plates that document the corresponding exhibition. One of the most notable elements of the book is the “Chronology,” which outlines historic milestones of Haystack’s founding and early years and is certainly the most comprehensive overview of the school’s history ever published. The timeline is complimented by a complete list of Haystack instructors and media taught from 1951-1969.
The authors, who are both curators of American art, deliver the only complete retrospective of Haystack. No other scholarly literature exists on Haystack’s foundational years or on the connection of the artists that were essential to the early leadership of the school. This publication is recommended for all academic art libraries and essential for any school with a decorative arts or a master of arts program.