Papers, 1959-1987, of Elizabeth Gordon, editor of the periodical, House Beautiful from 1941-1964, mostly related to her research for the August and September 1960 issues of House Beautiful regarding the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui", and the subsequent travelling "shibui exhibition" from 1961-1964. Included are correspondence, some photocopies, 1959-1963; notes; drafts for articles and lectures; printed material including magazine and newspaper clippings, 1959-1987; 2 books, and exhibition announcements; drawings of paper and foil art; a photo album containing photos of exhibition installations; and photographs, slides, color transparencies, and lantern slides depicting people, sites, and objects reflecting the "shibui" aesthetic.
Scope and Contents:
The Elizabeth Gordon Papers measure 4.5 linear feet and span the years 1959-1987. The collection mainly documents Ms. Gordon's research for the August and September 1960 issues of House Beautiful regarding the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui", and the subsequent travelling "shibui exhibition" from 1961-1964. Included are correspondence, some photocopies, 1959-1963; research notes and materials; articles; lectures; printed material including magazine and newspaper clippings, 1959-1987; 2 books, and exhibition announcements; article materials; a photo album containing photos of exhibition installations; and photographs, slides, color transparencies, and lantern slides depicting people, sites, and objects reflecting the "shibui" aesthetic.
This collection is organized into eight series. 1. Biographical data, 2. Shibui research, 3. Shibui issues of, House Beautiful, 4. Correspondence, 5. Shibui promotion, 6. Exhibition files, 7. Printed materials, and 8. Photographs.
Born in Logansport, Indiana in 1906, Elizabeth Gordon served as editor of House Beautiful magazine 1941 to 1964. Ms. Gordon first became interested in Japanese aesthetics during the mid-1950s. As a result she began to read and study Japanese art, history and culture. In 1959, Gordon travelled to Japan with three staff people from, House Beautiful. In Kyoto she met Eiko Yuasa, a young woman then employed by the City of Kyoto to handle foreign V.I.P.s, who was assigned to assist Gordon during her stay there. It was Ms. Yuasa who, in the course of discussions of Japanese aesthetics, introduced the term "shibui." Around that term and its related concepts ("iki", "jimi", "hade") the theme for the issue began to crystallize. In August and September, 1960, House Beautiful, under the editorial control of Ms. Gordon, published two extremely popular issues devoted to the subject of "shibui". Due to the popularity of the issues, museum exhibits devoted to the concept of "shibui" travelled around the United States. Ms. Gordon died in Adamstown, Maryland in 2000.
1906 -- Born in Logansport, Indiana
1920s -- Attended the University of Chicago
1930s -- Moved to New York to work as a promotional copywriter for several newspapers
1930s -- Syndicated columnist on home maintenance for The New York Herald Tribune
1930s -- Editor at Good Housekeeping (here for 8 years)
1937 -- More House for your Money by Elizabeth Gordon and Dorothy Ducas published by W. Morrow and Company: New York.
1937 -- Married Carl Hafey Norcross
1939 -- Appointed editor of House Beautiful
1964 -- Left the magazine world
1972 -- Published a special issue on Scandinavian design and awarded the insignia of a knight, first class, in the Finnish Order of the Lion
1987 -- American Institute of Architects made her an honorary member
1988 -- Carl Hafey Norcross died
September 3, 2000 -- Died in Adamstown, MD
(The following biography of Elizabeth Gordon comes courtesy of curator Louise Cort. Written in consultation with Elizabeth Gordon, October 23, 1987)
The research papers, memoranda, magazines, books, photographs and color transparencies and other materials in this archives are related to the publication by Elizabeth Gordon (Mrs. Carl Norcross), editor of House Beautiful from 1941 to 1964 and creator of the August, 1960 issue of the magazine on the special theme of the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui". The "shibui issue" was followed by the September, 1960, issue of the same publication on the theme, "How to be shibui with American things." As a by-product of the issues, a "Shibui Exhibition" travelled to eleven museums in the United States during 1961-1964. Each exhibition was opened with a slide lecture by Elizabeth Gordon.
Miss Gordon first became curious about Japanese aesthetics in the mid-1950s when she began to see Japanese objects being displayed and used in the homes of Americans who had spent time in Japan during the Occupation and Japanese influence began to appear in wholesale showrooms of home furnishings manufacturers. It was clear that the time had come: she HAD to go to Japan!
She read for five years before going to Japan - history, social mores, art history. (Many of the books on Japan that she collected during this time have been presented to the library at the University of Maryland, College Park.)
An important bit of advice came from Alice Spaulding Bowen, owner of Pacifica, the highest quality shop of Asian antiquities in Honolulu, who told her, "Be sure to read, The Tale of Genji - then you'll understand everything."
She made her first trip to Japan in April, 1959, accompanied by three staff people from, House Beautiful. In Kyoto she met Eiko Yuasa, a young woman then employed by the City of Kyoto to handle foreign V.I.P.s, who was assigned to assist Miss Gordon during her stay there. It was Ms. Yuasa who, in the course of discussions of Japanese aesthetics, introduced the term "shibui." Around that term and its related concepts ("iki", "jimi", "hade") the theme for the issue began to crystallize.
Miss Gordon came home, planning to spend the summer researching "shibui" with the aid of the Japan Society. But she found virtually nothing written in English on the concept. So she returned to Japan in December, 1959 together with staff member Marion Gough, to dig deeper and to work out details and get better educated with Eiko Yuasa. One of their devices was to walk through department stores and discuss with sales personnel whether objects for sale were "shibui", or were "jimi" or "hade", and why. Between themselves, they did the same for the costumes of women they saw on the streets.
Lacking printed sources for information on "shibui", Miss Gordon sought out and interviewed experts, including Douglas Overton, head of the Japan Society in New York. In Japan in December, 1959, she met Yanagi Soetsu, founder of Japan's Folk Craft Movement and head of the Craft Museum in Tokyo (with an introduction from Tonomura Kichinosuke, head of the Craft Museum in Kurashiki). She met the chef Tsuji Kaichi, who was commissioned to write an article on "kaiseki" (that could not be used because of an inadequate English translation) and Frances Blakemore. She met several times with Bernard Leach and attended his lecture at Bonnier's while he was in New York in March, 1960. (He would later write a "fan letter" for the issue)
As the concept of "the shibui issue" began to take shape, a third trip in the spring of 1960 focused on photography - to produce the shooting script decided on the preceding December. This was executed by the noted photographer Ezra Stoller of Rye, New York, and John DeKoven Hill, House Beautiful's Editorial Director. (Mr. Hill worked with Frank Lloyd Wright except for the ten years that he was a member of the House Beautiful editorial staff)
Miss Gordon was back in Japan in Mid-August 1960 as the "shibui issue" was causing a sensation. Altogether she spent sixteen months in Japan.
As one of the experiences that influenced her strong interest in Japanese costumes and textiles, Miss Gordon remembers a spectacularly thorough exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno on, 1200 Years of Japanese Costume. She saw it on the last day of its exhibition (possibly 1964).
The August 1960 issue sold out quickly. Copies of the magazine, which sold for fifty cents, were sold on the "black market" for ten dollars.
The publication of the August 1960 issue was followed by an unprecedented avalanche of "fan mail". Many department heads in colleges and universities, including the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (where Miss Gordon had worked as an undergraduate) wrote to comment on the issue. Many people in other fields of endeavor wrote: heads of firms concerned with interior design, landscape architecture, and related areas expressed their interest in the concept of "shibui" Other writers include Bernard Leach, Gertrude Natzler, Laura Gilpin, Mainbocher, the architect Yoshimura Junzo, the textile artist Marianne Strengell, Walter Kerr, Craig Claiborne, and Oliver Statler.
The "shibui issue" was followed immediately by the September issue dealing with the use of non-Japanese objects to express the concept of "shibui." (Miss Gordon convinced her advertisers, who had been skeptical about the potential success of the August issue, by promising the September issue dealing with American products.) Four American firms were involved in the production of an integrated line of paints, wallpaper, furniture and carpets expressive of the concept. Products were designed by the firms' designers following the clues offered by objects and fabrics purchased by Miss Gordon in Japan in December 1959 and spring 1960. Miss Gordon has expressed her dissatisfaction with the September issue, although public opinion was positive. She feels that some of the firms failed in the "shibui" project, though some "caught" the message: namely the paint company and the fabric/wallpaper company.
In response to strong public interest, the House Beautiful staff prepared a travelling exhibition to introduce the concept of "shibui" through a series of vignettes, mixing fabrics and objects, colors and textures. The museum installation was designed by John Hill of House Beautiful. Japan Air Lines underwrote shipping costs.
The exhibition began in Philadelphia in late 1961. Ezra Stoller was sent to photograph the installation in considerable detail at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in January, 1962, so that his photographs cold serve as guidelines for installations at the other museums, which included the San Francisco Museum of Art (April 1962), the Newark Pubic Library, and the Honolulu Academy of Art. Miss Gordon presented a lecture on "shibui" at each of the museum installations.
In appreciation of her work to introduce Americans to the concept of "shibui", the city of Kyoto presented a bolt of especially "shibui" kimono fabric executed by a Living National Treasure textile artist. Miss Gordon eventually tailored the fabric into a dress and jacket. She received the 1961 Trail Blazer Award from the New York Chapter of the National Home Fashions League, Inc. In June, 1987, Miss Gordon was named an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, with her introduction of the concept of "shibui" and her promotion of an understanding of other culture cited as her major contributions to American architecture.
Elizabeth Gordon donated her papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1988.
Elizabeth Gordon donated her papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1988.
This collection consists of over nine cubic feet of material documenting Scott Crossfield's aviation career, with emphasis on his involvement with the North American X-15. The following types of material are included: correspondence; reel to reel tapes; papers, manuscripts; newspaper and magazine clippings; aviation manuals; photographs; film; and Crossfield's notes and reports.
Scope and Content note:
This collection encompasses the entirety of Albert Scott "Scotty" Crossfield, Jr.'s career as an engineer, test pilot, airline executive, and speaker and advocate for aerospace education. Records in the collection date from Crossfield's time at college in the 1940s through his death in 2006. Crossfield's papers were donated to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives by the Crossfield family in 2006 and a second batch of material was received in 2008. The collection was received without any apparent organizational scheme, but some items were received in labeled folders and these folder titles were retained when the collection was processed. One group of material was loaned by the family for copying and these items were photocopied and placed within the appropriate folder in the case of documents, or were scanned and entered into the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives image database in the case of photographs.
After his retirement from North American Aviation, Inc., Crossfield gave his papers to a former secretary, Marion Brown, so that she could organize them for his use in future writing projects. In February 1973, a U.S. Navy Vought A-7E Corsair II crashed into the apartment building where Brown lived and all of Crossfield's papers in her possession were destroyed. Due to this incident, the collection has more material from Crossfield's time with Eastern Air Lines and onwards, although the prior years are still well represented through records that were either retained in Crossfield's possession or copies that were gathered after the fact. There is correspondence from Crossfield relating to the crash in Box 11 of the collection.
The archival materials in this collection are organized into four series. The first series is composed of personal materials and includes school records, correspondence, personal photographs, records relating to various organizations in which Crossfield was active, information relating to the publication of Crossfield's autobiography, Always Another Dawn, other writings by Crossfield, financial records, subject files assembled by Crossfield, philatelic materials (Crossfield was an active collector and was a founding member and officer of The Aviation Historical Foundation, a philatelic organization), and news clippings. The material in this series is largely organized chronologically. Personal photographs and subject files are organized by topic first and chronologically within each folder and organizations are arranged alphabetically by name first and also chronologically within the individual folders.
The second series contains items relating to Crossfield's professional life, organized chronologically by place of employment. This series includes materials relating to Crossfield's work at Boeing, the U.S. Navy, the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), North American Aviation, Inc., Eastern Air Lines, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Crossfield's work as an Independent Technical Advisor, Crossfield's application for the position of Director of the National Air and Space Museum, Crossfield's time as a member of the United States Organizing Committee, and his work with organizations such as the Scott Crossfield Foundation and The Wright Experience. During the later part of his life, Crossfield toured the country extensively giving speeches, presenting awards, etc. and there is a large amount of material relating to these appearances in this part of the collection. These materials arrived already organized chronologically by individual trip and this organizational scheme was retained. Specifically, the professional life series includes flight reports, manuals, drawings, business correspondence, administrative records, presentations and papers, travel itineraries, notebooks, calendars, speeches delivered by Crossfield, and career related photographs (which are broken out as their own subseries). The professional life series also includes a section of miscellaneous professional items including job seeking correspondence, information on the patent for a power wheel braking or driving unit designed by Crossfield, and a folder of Crossfield's résumés.
The third series consists of audiotapes and is organized first by tape format and then chronologically within each category. Subjects of the audiotapes include speeches, a large number of North American X-15 cockpit recordings and radio communications, tape produced for a television program, and autobiographical notes. A number of the audiotapes include no description. With a total of 65 examples in this series, the most common audiotape format in the collection is, by far, 7 inch reel to reel tapes. Other formats in this series include 5 inch reel to reel tapes, 3.125 by 3.5 inch metal audiotape cartridges, and Dictaphone recording belts. Please note that these audio recordings are unavailable to the researcher at the time of processing due to the format and fragility of the tapes.
The fourth series of this collection is comprised of oversized materials and additional materials including galley proofs, news clippings, drawings, charts, professional records, and photographs. The organization of this series mirrors the folder titles found in the rest of the collection.
The researcher should note that the collection also contains several motion picture films relating to the life and career of Albert Scott "Scotty" Crossfield, Jr. These films are not included in the container list but a NASM Archives staff person can assist you regarding access.
The A. Scott Crossfield Papers are organized into the following series and subseries:
Series I: Personal Materials
1.1 School Records
1.3 Personal Photographs
1.5 Information Related to the Publication of Always Another Dawn
1.6 Other Writings by Crossfield
1.7 Financial Records
1.8 Subject Files
1.9 Philatelic Materials
1.10 News Clippings
1.11 Miscellaneous Personal Records
Series II: Professional Life
2.2 U.S. Navy
2.3 Kirsten Wind Tunnel, University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory
2.4 National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)
2.5 North American Aviation, Inc.
2.6 Eastern Air Lines
2.7 Hawker Siddeley Aviation
2.8 Independent Technical Advisor
2.9 Application for NASM Director Position
2.10 United States Organizing Committee
2.11 Scott Crossfield Foundation
2.12 The Wright Experience
2.13 Speaking Engagements and Professional Appearances
2.14 Career Related Photographs
2.14 Miscellaneous Professional Records
Series III: Audiotapes
Series IV: Oversized Materials
Albert Scott "Scotty" Crossfield, Jr. was born on October 2, 1921, in California. As a young boy, Crossfield was often confined indoors due to health problems related to pneumonia and rheumatic fever. During this time, he dreamed of becoming a pilot and designed and constructed model airplanes. Crossfield took his first airplane ride in 1927, at six years old, in an Alexander Eaglerock A-1 piloted by family friend Charles "Carl" Lienesch. Lienesch also encouraged Crossfield to become an engineer as well as a pilot. Unbeknownst to Crossfield's parents, he began taking flying lessons at the age of 12 at Wilmington Airport under the tutelage of pilot Vaughn McNulty. The family later moved to Washington State and it was there, at the Chehalis Airport, that Crossfield made his first solo flight in a Curtiss Robin. It was not until the summer of 1941, however, that Crossfield officially soloed and earned his pilot's license under the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA), Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP).
Crossfield enrolled in the University of Washington in 1940 and worked at the Boeing plant in Seattle, beginning in the fall of 1941, while still pursuing his studies. Crossfield's first assignment at Boeing was as an assembly page clerk. He was later promoted to the position of production expediter and shop salvage engineer. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Crossfield enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and continued to work at Boeing while he waited for an opening in a cadet class. In February 1942, tired of waiting on the Air Corps and eager to get into combat, Crossfield enlisted in the U.S. Navy instead where he joined the cadet class of May 7, 1942. Crossfield first trained in Seattle, Washington, and later was sent to the Naval Air Training Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he earned his Naval Aviator's wings in 1942. During his time in the Navy, Crossfield never fulfilled his ambition to see combat because he was selected instead to remain at Corpus Christi as a flight and gunnery instructor. Crossfield eventually was sent to Hawaii to prepare and train for an invasion of Japan but the war ended before this became necessary. During his time in the U.S. Navy, Crossfield flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat, Vought F4U Corsair, and the North American SNJ Texan, among other aircraft. After he separated from active duty with the Service, Crossfield remained active in the Naval Reserves and was part of an aerobatic team at Sand Point Naval Air Station that flew Goodyear FG-1D Corsairs.
Crossfield returned to his studies at the University of Washington in 1946 and was employed doing tests at the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University's Aeronautical Laboratory. Crossfield earned his Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1949 and his master's degree in aeronautical science in 1950. After obtaining his degrees, Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as a research pilot. During his time with NACA, Crossfield flew many aircraft including the Convair XF-92A, Bell X-1, Northrop X-4 Bantam, Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak, Bell X-5, Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, North American F-86 Sabre, and the North American F-100A Super Sabre. Crossfield made history in the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket on November 20, 1953, as the first pilot to exceed Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).
In 1955, Crossfield left NACA and joined North American Aviation, Inc. to work on the X-15 program where he would not only serve as the X-15 Project Pilot but also as a Design Specialist, a role in which he was an integral part of the design of both the aircraft and the pressure suit developed by the David Clark Company for the X-15 program. The suit served as a prototype for the spacesuits later worn by astronauts. Crossfield helped to develop the X-15's cockpit, control, and engine systems; structural design; propulsion system; engineered its escape system; and contributed to its handling quality requirements. He also developed the ground control test methodology that would later become standard on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. Crossfield piloted the North American X-15 on its first captive flight in March 1959, first glide flight in June 1959, and the first powered flight in September 1959, as well as numerous other test flights, before the X-15 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in February 1960. Crossfield also served as Chief Engineering Test Pilot at North American from 1955-1961 before moving to the Space and Information Systems Division first as the Director of Systems Test (1961) then as the Division Director of Test and Quality Assurance (1961-1966) where he was responsible for quality control in all North American projects including the Hounddog Missile (AGM-28, GAM-77), Paragliders for the Gemini program, Apollo Command and Service Module, and the Saturn V launch vehicles, second stage. Crossfield's final position with North American was as the Technical Director, Research, Engineering and Test from 1966-1967.
Crossfield joined Eastern Air Lines in Miami, Florida, as Division Vice President, Flight, Research, and Development, Flight Operations in 1967, a position he held until 1971 when he moved to Washington, DC, to serve as Staff Vice President, Transportation Systems Development (1971-1973). From 1974 to 1975, Crossfield served as Senior Vice President at Hawker Siddeley Aviation's U.S. subsidiary branch, an office he helped to establish. After leaving Hawker Siddeley, Crossfield served for many years as an independent technical advisor to the U.S. Congress. Crossfield also served on the United States Organizing Committee to plan the Air and Space Bicentennial. In the later part of his life, Crossfield traveled extensively to give talks, attend events, and make various professional appearances and it was on a return flight home from one such trip in 2006 that Crossfield was killed when the plane he was piloting was caught in a thunderstorm.
Crossfield was active in various organizations including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), a group in which he was a founding member. Crossfield also created the Scott Crossfield Foundation to support aerospace education. Crossfield was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Sperry (Lawrence B.) Memorial Award (1954) and Chanute (Octave) Award (AIAA, 1958), Kincheloe Award (SETP, 1960), Harmon Trophy (1960), Collier (Robert J.) Trophy (1961), NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1993), and the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Trophy for Lifetime Achievement (2000).
Crossfield published his autobiography, Always Another Dawn, in 1960 with Clay Blair, Jr. and is the author of numerous other publications, articles, and technical papers.
Alice Crossfield, Gift, 2006
No restrictions on access.
This collection contains an interview with Chnagmiut Yup'ik artist Larry Beck (Lawrence James Beck; 1938-1994) conducted by Arlene Hirschfelder on September 29, 1993.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains one audiocassette that features an interview with Chnagmiut Yup'ik sculptor Larry Beck (Lawrence James Beck; 1938-1994). Arlene Hirschfelder interviewed Beck on September 29, 1993 for a chapter in her book, American Indian Lives: Artists and Craftspeople, published by Facts On File in 1994.
Biographical / Historical:
Arlene Hirschfelder (1943-2021) was a American Indian studies scholar, author, and Indian rights advocate. An excerpt from her 2021 obituary in the Vinyard Gazette reads, "A lifelong educator, respected scholar, award-winning author and champion of Native American and children's rights, Arlene wrote and edited almost 100 nonfiction books and curricula, curated museum exhibitions and consulted with a vast array of institutions, agencies and corporations to improve their portrayal, awareness and presentation of Indigenous peoples.
She was key in debunking stereotypes and inaccurate information locally and nationally, and was considered a fearless and compassionate advocate in Indian country.
For more than two decades, she served as the scholarship director and education consultant for the Association on American Indian Affairs; her research there helped inform the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. Later, she was a consultant at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian and a faculty member at the New School for Social Research."
The biography note below is from NMAI's Lawrence 'Larry' James Beck Papers, NMAI.AC.017.
Lawrence 'Larry' James Beck was born in Seattle, Washington on May 20, 1938. Beck's father was American and his mother was Norwegian and Yup'ik from Alaska. Larry was raised in Seattle and in 1956 graduated from Ballard High School. He then attended college at the University of Washington from1957 to 1959, where he first studied engineering. However, he decided that art was more in his future so between 1960-1961 he attended the Burnley School of Professional Art in Seattle, now known as The Art Institute of Seattle. In 1962 Larry was given the opportunity to attend the University of Arizona's Guadalajara Summer School and study art abroad. Upon his return in 1962, he resumed his studies at The University of Washington and in 1964 he earned a B.A. in painting and a M.F.A. in 1965. While at UW, Larry was taught by George Tsutakawa and Everett Du Pen and visiting New York artist Gabriel Kohn. His art reflects the influences of sculptor David Smith, Mark di Suvero and Inuit artist Gariel Kohn.
During the 1966-1967 academic year, Larry was a visiting instructor of sculpture at the University of Oregon, in Eugene. During this time Larry participated in an exhibit called the Great Northwest Sausage Company Art show. This show included artists such as Morris Yarowsky, Dan Solomon, Gertrude (Trudie) Pacific-Beck, David Cotter, John Haugse and Marcella Rawlinson. The years between 1967-1968 were spent at the University of Southampton, England as a Fine Arts Fellow. His wife at the time, Trudie also accompanied him and also studied art while in England. When Larry and Trudie returned to the States, they settled in Skagit Valley Washington.
During the late 1960s and 1970s, Larry focused on his large scale, abstract sculptures and established his reputation as a sculpture. Larry's early works were comprised of found metals and objects assembled in a lyrical but humorous manner. Larry also was apart of the Shazam Society with Tom Robbins among others, which produced performances and happenings. During 1975-1980, he installed projects for Golden Gardens Park in Seattle, Highline Community College and Boeing (King County Airport). He also worked on a piece for the Occidental Park site in Seattle, but due to circumstances of the city it was never installed.
Although Larry was not raised around his ancestral homelands, like his Mother, in the mid 1970s Larry visited the Alaskan coast. It was then that he realized he understood the Yup'ik culture. In 1973 Larry started to produce a new series of pieces called "Inukshuk", which is Inuit for sculpture presence. This term was also used for three major commissions that later followed. Larry continued to use Inuit terminology in his work. This was the first sign that Larry started to embrace his multicultural heritage in his artwork. Larry experimented with making bronze and aluminum small castings of traditional Inuit masks, but he felt uneasy that these masks represented a complete contradiction to his western art training.
After the 1980 install of the Boeing sculpture, Beck experienced what he would call his sculpture career crisis. He became disappointed with public art. This is when Larry received his calling to start working on his abstract Inuit Inua (spirit) masks. Larry embraced the idea of using the ancestral ways of his Mother's people of finding natural objects and turning them into masks or art pieces. Larry utilized this method and found contemporary objects within junkyards and hardware stores to create his contemporary Inua masks. From this time on, Larry focused the remaining years of his life working on Inua masks. He participated in shows at art galleries and loaned artwork out for traveling exhibits that where exhibited from the United Nations in Switzerland to all over the United States, including his ancestral homelands of Alaska. Also from the mid 1980s till the end of his life in 1994, he spent more time with his children.
On March 27th 1994, Larry died of a heart attack in his home in Washington. His artwork still lives on today in many museums and private collections. He turned Native American Art into something that kept historical cultural ties while also embracing a contemporary look.
NMAI also holds the Lawrence 'Larry' James Beck Papers (NMAI.AC.017), as well as, sculptures by the artist (25/5423 and 25/5410).
Gift of Dennis Hirschfelder, 2022.
This collection is closed to researchers until the media has been digitized.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Arlene Hirschfelder interview with Larry Beck, NMAI.AC.421; National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution.