An interview of Irena Brynner conducted 2001 April 26-27, by Arline M. Fisch, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Brynner's home and studio, New York, New York.
Brynner speaks of her childhood in Vladivostok in Primorski Krai, Russia; her artistic family including her cousin Yul Brynner; fleeing from Russia to Darian (on the southern tip of the Liaotung peninsula, in the Kwantung Leased Territory of Manchuria); her art studies in Lausanne, Switzerland; her father's illness during World War II; moving with her mother to San Francisco in 1946; her studies with Ralph Stackpole and Franz Bergman in San Francisco; her relationship with architect Frank Merwin; teaching art in Catholic schools in San Francisco; her decision to make jewelry after seeing Claire Falkenstein's sculpture; working as an apprentice to Caroline Rosene and Franz Bergman; forming the Metal Arts Guild with Bob Winston, Merry Renk, Florence Resnikoff, Margaret De Patta, and others; and introducing forging and three-dimensional jewelry in the Metal Arts Guild. She also talks about her move to New York City in 1957; acting as her own agent; "open-air art shows" in San Francisco; her first show at Walker & Eberling; starting her own shop; teaching at the Craft Students League and at MoMA's Institute of Modern Art, at Victor D'Amico's invitation, circa 1962; her friendships with students and clients; her book, "Jewelry as an Art Form" (New York : Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1979) and its influence; learning to work with a Henes water welder; the treatment of women artists in America; her move to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1972, and the difficulties of starting a shop there; and her return to New York and reestablishing her career in the United States. Brynner also discusses her interest in singing, her voice lessons, her public performances of Russian classical music, and her health.
She comments on the intuitive development of her jewelry; the influence of Margaret De Patta; learning wax techniques from Bob Winston at Mills College; her progression from geometric to organic forms; her large-scale sculpture; her invention of "wrap-around earrings"; her use of niobium in the 1980s; drawing inspiration from Antonio Gaudi, Alberto Jaccometti, and others; involvement with the community of artists in the San Francisco Bay Area; the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG); craft periodicals; her exhibitions at the Little Gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, the Musée de l'horlogerie et de l'émaillerie in Geneva, the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and others; her work in museum collections; serving as a juror; and writing her memoir. Brynner recalls Georg Jensen, Grete Daniels, Trudy Jeremias, Aaron Faber, David Campbell, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Irena Brynner (1917-2003) was a jeweler from New York, New York. Arline M. Fisch (1931- ) is a metalsmith from San Diego, California.
Originally recorded on 4 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 7 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 41 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
The Domenico Facci papers are dated 1914 to 1995, with the bulk falling between the years 1950 and 1984. They measure 1.2 linear feet and consist of biographical material, correspondence, artwork relating to sculpture projects, printed material, and photographs. Among the well-documented aspects of Facci's professional career are: his leadership roles in several arts organizations based in New York City, including Audubon Artists, National Sculpture Society, and Artists Equity Association; his work on the United States Treasury's 1988 Olympic Games commemorative coin competition, Brooklyn Bridge 100th Anniversary reliefs, Endangered Species Medal, and Neptune Fountain at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA.
Scope and Content Note:
The Domenico Facci papers are dated 1914 to 1995, with the bulk falling between the years 1950 and 1984. They measure 1.2 linear feet and consist of biographical material, correspondence, artwork relating to sculpture projects, printed material, and photographs. Among the well-documented aspects of Facci's professional career are: his leadership rolses in several arts organizations based in New York City, including Audubon Artists, National Sculpture Society, and Artists Equity Association; his work on the United States Treasury's 1988 Olympic Games commemorative coin competition, Brooklyn Bridge 100th Anniversary reliefs, Endangered Species Medal, and Neptune Fountain at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA.
Biographical material consists of artist's statements; marriage, academic, and military service records; awards; and membership cards and certificates. Correspondence consists mainly of incoming letters related to Facci's activities with arts organizations, among them Audubon Artists, American Society of Contemporary Artists, the Village Art Center, Artists Equity Association, the National Sculpture Society, and Nippon Museum.
Artwork includes two sketchbooks - one for the 1988 Olympic Games commemorative coin competition, and another concerning the Endangered Species Medal. Also found are anatomical study drawings, blueprint plans for the Neptune Fountain project, and miscellaneous sketches.
Printed materials are newspaper clippings, newsletters, exhibition catalogs, programs, press releases, announcements, and brochures. The bulk of this series is comprised of exhibition catalogs from the Audubon Artists, Painters and Sculptors Society of New Jersey, National Arts Club, and National Sculpture Society.
Photographs are of Facci and his work, including completed pieces, the artist at work in his studio and presenting sculpture demonstrations.
The collection is arranged as 6 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1914-1998 (Box 1; 0.1 linear ft.)
Series 2. Correspondence, 1954-1988 (Box 1; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 3. Artwork, circa 1930-1985 (Box 1; OV 2-3; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 4. Printed Material, 1933-1988 (Box 1; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 5. Scrapbook, circa 1940-1985 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 6. Photographs, circa 1940-1985 (Box 1; 0.2 linear ft.)
Domenico Facci (1914-1994) worked in New York City and was known primarily for commissioned portraits and public sculpture, and for holding leadership positions in several arts organizations based in New York City.
Domenico (Aurelio) Facci was born to Antonio and Grace Facci in Hooversville, Pennsylvana. on February 2, 1916, where his father, Antonio, was a coal miner. His mother was Grace Facci. When he was 10, the family relocated to Brooklyn, New York.
Facci won a scholarship to Roerich Academy (Master Institute of United Arts) where he studied under Pietro Montana and Louis Slobodkin and graduated in 1936. In 1937 he opened his first studio on Fifth Avenue at 15th Street and was immediately commissioned to do several large pieces for the 1939 World's Fair.
Many public and private commissions were executed by Facci in the New York City area, among them: carvings on the tower façade of St. Thomas's church, St. Rita sculpture in Long Island City, lobby for American Express building, 100 feet of plaques on the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, and bronze sculptures for PS 147 in the Bronx. Facci was also awarded portrait commissions of eminent public figures including: Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Bob Hope, Lowell Thomas, James Kilpatrick, and Lynn Redgrave, some of which were executed on live television and at other events. Some important commissions in other locations were: a cartouche for bronze doors for St Peter's Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA; exterior bronze for the Court of Appeals Building, Annapolis, MD; St. Paul sculpture, Fredericksburg, MD; Eagle War Monument, Rome, NY; and St. John Divine in Sewanee, TN.
Facci was the recipient of numerous important awards, including the Proctor Award from the National Academy of Design, the Richards Award from the Allied Artists, and the Liskin Award from the Knickerbocker Artists. He was also elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society. Solo exhibitions of Facci's work were presented at the Silvermine Guild of Artists and the Village Art Center. He participated in group shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the National Academy of Design, Jersey City. Facci exhibited annually at numerous New York artists organization, including the Village Art Center, Knickerbocker Artists, and at the Silvermine Guild.
Facci's work is included in the permanent collections of the Florida Southern College, in Lakeland, FL, the Norfolk Museum, VA, and the Polk Museum, FL.
As an active member of numerous professional artists organizations, Facci served as the president of the Village Art Center for a decade, president of the Audubon Artists for 11 years, and president of the American Society of Contemporary Artists. In addition, he was an officer in other organizations, including: Knickerbocker Artists, Allied Artists, New Jersey Painters and Sculptors, National Sculpture Society, Silvermine Guild of Artists, New York Artists' Equity Association, Sculptors League, Salmagundi Club, National Academy of Design, and the American Society of Contemporary Artists.
In addition to his work as a sculptor, Facci was also a teacher. Between 1939 and 1972, he served on the faculty of City College of New York, the Academy of Art at Florida Southern College, Ridgewood Village Art School in New Jersey, and the Craft Student League in New York.
Domenico Facci was married to Penelope (Felicia/Penny) Facci and they had a son, Robert. Domenico Facci died on November 6, 1994.
Gift of Debby Friedman, 2010.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.