The papers of woodworker, sculptor, and furniture designer Garry Knox Bennett measure 12.4 linear feet and date from 1917 to 2017 with the bulk of the material dating from 1960 to 2017. The collection documents the artist's life and career through biographical materials, correspondence with family and friends including other artists, exhibition files, professional files, financial and legal records, and printed material and scrapbooks recording his exhibition history and more, including photographs from his youth.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of woodworker, sculptor, and furniture designer Garry Knox Bennett measure 12.4 linear feet and date from 1917 to 2017 with the bulk of the material dating from 1960 to 2017.
The collection includes biographical materials containing Bennett's birthday and wedding celebration material, appointment calendars, childhood artwork, sketches and patterns for projects, photographs and notes regarding the Bennetts' marriage, resumes, student records, and material regarding the Bennetts' house fire in 2003. Correspondence is with artists Wendell Castle and Nancy Jurs, June Schwarcz, Kay Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale, Albert Paley who describes an accident that occurred in 2002, and good friend and writer Jack Marlowe, as well as with wife Sylvia and daughter Jessica. Exhibition files consist of artwork price lists, artist statements, shipping documents, correspondence, and printed materials for Bennett's solo and group exhibitions. They also include documentation of a few exhibitions showing pieces from his personal art collection.
Professional files relate to workshops, lectures, exhibitions, donations, and grant proposals. Also found are project and publication files, artist statements written by Jack Marlowe and Tom Farber for Bennett, studio visit records, a video recording of an interview with Bennett, and a few digital recordings. The Made in Oakland: The Furniture of Garry Knox Bennett (2001) retrospective files consist of correspondence, fundraising records, lender files, and material regarding the creation of a book that also served as the catalog for the exhibition. Financial and legal records contain check registers, invoices and receipts, card files containing sales information, and legal material relating to the estate of Peter T. Joseph. Printed materials include clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and exhibition history material. Additional printed material can be found in the scrapbooks recording exhibitions and Bennett's career. The scrapbooks also include some personal items such as letters, photographs, and documents from Bennett's youth.
Handwritten notes by Sylvia Bennett, offering additional history and context, can be found throughout the collection. The notes were typically written onto the original folders which have been preserved along with the related material.
The collection is arranged as 8 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1917-2009 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 1, 13, OV 14)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1955-2017 (2.0 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1979-2017 (1.4 linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
Series 4: Professional Files, 1959-2017 (5.0 linear feet; Boxes 4-9)
Series 5: -- Made in Oakland: The Furniture of Garry Knox Bennett -- Retrospective, circa 1977-2009 (1.5 linear feet; Boxes 9-11)
Series 6: Financial and Legal Records, 1950s-2010 (0.5 linear feet; Boxes 11-12)
Series 7: Printed Materials, 1960-2015 (0.8 linear feet; Box 12)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1948-1997 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 12-13)
Biographical / Historical:
Garry Knox Bennett (1934-2022) was a woodworker, sculptor, and furniture designer in Oakland, California.
Bennett was born in Alameda, California to Katherine von Tagen and Robert Bennett, but was raised by his grandparents. He attended the California College of the Arts, then the California College of Arts and Crafts, where he studied painting and began experimenting with metals. During this time he married his wife Sylvia.
He opened a studio in the late 1960s where he produced his famous roach clips, then later opened a larger studio named Squirkenworks in Oakland. In the 1970s, he began working with wood and on 1980 fabricated his infamous Nail Cabinet, a wood cabinet with a single nail driven through the face of the door, which garnered attention not only for Bennett's expert craftsmanship but also for what some saw as disrespect for the craft. Regardless of any controversy Bennett's work created, he became highly respected as a craftsman. In step with his unconventional nature, Bennett exhibited and sold his paintings and jewelry using the pseudonyms Ambrose Pillphister and Gerraldo Bennucci.
Bennett received the Award of Distinction from the Furniture Society and the Master of the Medium Award from the James Renwick Alliance, and was a Fellow of the American Craft Council. A major retrospective, Made in Oakland: The Furniture of Garry Knox Bennett, took place in 2001 at the American Craft Museum in New York and the Oakland Museum in California.
Bennett died unexpectedly in 2022 in Oakland, California.
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Garry Knox Bennett conducted February 1-2, 2002 by Glenn Adamson in Oakland, C.A. for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
The Garry Knox Bennett papers were donated in 2003 by Sylvia Bennett, Bennett's wife, and in 2017 by Garry Knox Bennett. The papers were collected as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project For Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.