Here are a handful of outstanding individuals I have had the privilege to meet during my travels in the 1980s and ’90s. Some images are directly related to my documentary art projects concerning Buckminster Fuller’s architectural legacy and others are the result of a formal request on my part or then again the product of a purely fortuitous meeting.
It is thanks to the generous nature of these unique individuals that the portraits were made possible.
Ed J. Applewhite (1920–2005)
Outstanding Buckminster Fuller collaborator spanning nearly 50 years of friendship and joint ventures.
One such collaborative effort in 1946 found him attempting to set up the mass-market production of the Dymaxion House after World War II. A few decades later he works with Fuller on Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking. Without a doubt this is Fuller’s most challenging book that took 9 years to write.
According to Applewhite, “Synergetics” was Fuller’s name for the geometry he advanced based on the patterns of energy that he saw in nature. For Fuller, geometry was a laboratory science with the touch and feel of physical models – not rules out of a textbook. It gains its validity not from classic abstractions but from the results of individual “hands on” physical experience.
Using an inspired combination of geometric logic and metaphors from familiar human experience, Bucky invites readers to join him on a trip through a four-dimensional universe, where concepts as various as entropy, Einstein’s relativity equations, and the meaning of existence become clear, understandable, and immediately involving.
Photographed in Washington, D.C., in 1993.
Jay Baldwin (1933–2018)
James Tennant Baldwin (1933–2018), often known as Jay Baldwin or J. Baldwin, was an American industrial designer and writer. He was a student of Buckminster Fuller and his work was greatly inspired by Fuller’s ideas and principles concerning nature’s coordinate system and its possible applications in the world of architecture. In most of his published writings, Baldwin popularized, promoted, and interpreted Fuller’s ideas and achievements.
In 1968 and 1969, he works as a visiting lecturer at Southern Illinois University and as the design editor of the very innovative and influential Whole Earth Catalog. The Catalog came out in many editions between 1968 and 1998, and Baldwin continued to edit and write for both the Catalog and an offshoot publication named CoEvolution Quaterly, later renamed the Whole Earth Review.
In his own right, Baldwin was an important figure in American design concerning efforts to incorporate solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources. In his career, being a “hands on” fabricator was as important as being a designer. Baldwin was noted as the inventor of the “Pillow Dome,” creating a new type of insulated transparent skin panel able to cover almost any type of geodesic dome.
The three portraits in this portfolio show Baldwin acting as team leader for the Ford Museum during the slow step by step deconstruction of Fuller’s Dymaxion Dwelling Machine in 1992. The DDM was built by Fuller in 1946 as an experimental dwelling. Originally located in Kansas, it was later moved to the Ford Museum premises in Dearborn, Michigan.
Alex Colville (1920–2013)
Painter, Alex Colville, was appointed, in 1942, as a war artist in the Canadian army and he documented in paintings the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944.
After the war, Colville teaches art at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.
Colville has always refused to adhere to the currents and formal trends that characterized the 20th century. Recognized for his production of hyper-realistic paintings illustrating especially the members of his family, he is often associated with magic realism. His compositions are rigorously constructed according to a very precise geometry and executed with a technique consisting of tiny touches of paint applied meticulously point by point and built up on the picture surface. The sea, animals, and people are recurring themes in his artwork.
Throughout his career, Colville enjoyed great notoriety and received numerous honours.
His works are in private and public collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou.
He is without a doubt an important contributor to the modern art of the 1950s and ’60s and one of the greatest 20th-century painters from Canada.
Photographed in Wolfville, Nova Scotia in 1989.
Scott Eastham (1949–2013)
Author, philosopher, and professor of theology. A student of Buckminster Fuller and Raimon Pannikar, he has written many books, one dedicated to Fuller’s theories and titled American Dreamer: The Sacred Geometry of Nature (2007).
Scott is seen here in 1988 on the top-level platform of the Montreal Biosphere holding a tensegrity model.➔
Charles Gagnon (1934–2003)
A multidisciplinary artist known for his painting, photography, and experimental films. He also made silkscreen prints and audio collages.
His paintings can be seen mostly as falling within several major periods: the White Paintings (1967–1969), the Markers / Marqueurs (1973–1974), the Splitscreenspace series (1976–1983) and the Word Paintings (1986–1990). Gagnon also worked in photography, especially in the late 1970s. In the 1990s, he alternated between photography and painting, until he combined both. Striving to create paintings that can be at once “abstract, representational, figurative, and conceptual.”
Still today, Charles Gagnon remains one of the most important and inspiring figures in 20th century Canadian Art with a complex and consistent body of work.
Photographed in Montreal in 1988.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943–2000)
A pioneer of the American civil rights movement, he also worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. from 1965 to 1968.
An AIDS activist of the first order, he also co-authored Fuller’s last major book titled Critical Path in 1981.
Photographed in Philadelphia in 1993.➔
Bill Reid Jr. (1920–1998)
An internationally recognized Haida artist whose works include jewelry, sculpture, screen printing, and painting. Producing over one thousand original works during his fifty-year career, Reid is regarded as one of the most significant Northwest Coast artists of the late twentieth century and is credited with the revival and innovative resurgence of Northwest Coast Indigenous Arts in the contemporary world.
Seen here in his Granville Island studio in 1988 working on a barely visible wire sculpture. Next to him is Dr. Phillip Gofton.
Shoji Sadao (1927–2019)
A Japanese American architect best known for his work and collaborations with Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi.
He is co-founder of the architectural firm Fuller & Sadao whose first project was to design and build the American pavilion for Expo 67.
Photographed in 1986 in front of the Expo 67 dome now called the Biosphere.➔
Dieter Appelt (1935- )
Dieter Appelt is a German photographer, painter, sculptor, performance and video artist. In the 1970s he began to get noticed for his photography which became notable for his use of monumental sequences and tableaux compositions.
Through the use of long exposure times, multiple exposures, shadow and mirror compositions, Appelt’s images explore such themes as memory, time, transience, life, death and recurrence.
Dieter Appelt is one of the most significant German artists of the post-war period.
Photographed at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, in 2005.