Hillsdale NY - All Decked Out in Its Autumn Finest

Thursday, November 17, 2022

 Autumn in New York this year was something pretty special, and that wasn't just in places everyone thinks of when we think of autumn.  Between Hudson, NY and Great Barrington, MA, sit's the quaint town of Hillsdale and it was decked out in its autumn finest!

We first discovered Hillsdale back in the spring when we made a road trip in search of Rodgers Book Barn.  We were blown away by the beautiful hilly, rural landscape of Columbia County, the farms, the back roads, the view.  We couldn't wait to go back so we made another trip in August when we discovered Roy Kanwit's, Taconic Sculpture Park.  We knew then that we'd be back to see and discover even more about Hillsdale and this colorful autumn proved the perfect time to do just that. 

Poem written by Wallace Bruce Wallace Bruce was born in Hillsdale NY on Whippoorwill Road.  He was a graduate from Yale, wrote travel books and poetry, was appointed American consul to Edinburgh.  This marker marks the rock where his mother played as a child as mentioned in his poem.

From Hillsdale we traveled to Copake and Copake Lake, not far from Hillsdale. If you look closely at some of the photos, you will notice the the Shagbark Farm, a wholesale tree nursery in Hillsdale.  It went on for miles and miles and miles.  What a sight it was!  On our return home, we took the Taconic Parkway and with eagle eyes peeled, I spotted the famous Roy Kanwit, head, visible from the highway just as they say.

Regardless of the season, NYS is a beautiful place to live and explore.  If you've never wandered south to Hillsdale, put it on your agenda for next summer destinations.  It's worth the hour drive. Thanks for coming along on another adventure through Life As I See It.

My Father's Love - The Marquetry of Ed Lantzer

Thursday, November 3, 2022

 It's easy to get caught up in the daily humdrum of life and become unfazed, unimpressed and perhaps a little bored with our little portion of the planet.  Easy, that is, until something comes along that wakes us up, sparks our flame and causes us to proclaim an enthusiastic, WOW.  That's what My Father's Love exhibit did today.  

Ed Lantzer was born in 1931 in Kalkaska, MI, and was raised in a chicken coop. When he was five years old he contracted scarlet fever and became brain damaged, losing his ability to write or draw.  He survived, but his baby brother, his grandmother and grandfather all died.  His mother, so angry, blamed Ed for his brother's death and told Ed he'd never love or be loved, words that would haunt Ed and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Ed's father taught him woodworking and at the age of 7, Ed went to work in a lumber mill.  His father taught him marquetry, the art of creating designs by laying small pieces of wood side-by-side - mostly decorative boxes and game tables.  His father utilized 90 and 45 degree angles in his wood pieces and when Ed was 15, his dad told him it was time for him to come up with his own angle.  After much contemplation, Ed settled on 30 and 60 degree diamonds.

Ed spend three years apprenticing at Disney in Florida perfecting his woodworking skills.  While Ed was reading C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, he was inspired to create wooden panels depicting the story of Jesus.  Ed's life was not an easy one, scarred by the blame and words of his mother, Ed concealed his feelings for his wife and children, abandoning them for a life of homelessness while he searched for his purpose.  While living in an abandoned school building, Ed began building his vision - 4' x 8' panels made of a base of plywood with a support structure below.  Any money Ed earned he used for wood, some he found in dumpsters.  His design began with two 1/2" diamonds set together at the center of the board, with no design drawn, no pattern, no guide, just a vision in his own mind that would materialize with each piece he added.  

Each piece, glued down with simple Elmer's Wood Glue, told a story, sometimes clearly and sometimes hidden only for keen eyes to spot.  This process - Ed's panels - began when Ed was 53 years old and continued for 20 years.  Each panel took about a year to complete - with Ed working on the floor atop the panel which would be designed one dinner plate sized circle at a time from the center of the panel to each corner.  

The color differences in the images are not achieved with dye or paint or stain, but with the use of 150 different kinds of wood, laid in different directions in order to achieve the color variation. His first panel, titled "My Father's Love" depicted Jesus at the last supper. The very first piece he laid was at the throat of Jesus, almost where his voice box might be, possibly to indicate spreading the word of Jesus.

  Each panel illustrates the men at the Last Supper with symbols of each of their stories.  Words, names, symbols are subtly incorporated, many only visible from certain angles and light.  The entire Last Supper consists of 7 panels, 8' x 20' long weighing over 3000 lbs.  Here's the three center panels .....

LaShelle VanHouten, an art teacher for at-risk students would see Ed riding past her school on his bicycle.  People in town were all familiar with Ed.  One day in 2005, LaShelle went to the abandoned school house where she knew Ed lived and what she saw when she went inside amazed her and before long she convinced Ed to teach her students the art of woodworking.  While at the school working with the students, Ed completed his last two panels - AdamEve (no space because Ed believed they were not the same but like each other and are 'one').  

Ed’s artistic signature is 6-22-34 and he has signed many of the panels this way.
6: is for the 6th book of the Bible—Joshua
22: is for Joshua chapter 22
34: is for the verse: “The children of Reuben and Gad called the altar, “Ed” for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God.” Ed’s artwork is a witness of his love for the Lord

 The whole collection of My Father's Love debuted at a C.S. Lewis festival in Petosky. Ed died in 2009 at the age of 77.  His father never got to see his work and neither have his children from whom he was still estranged.  In an interview, Ed said 'he was sad that his father would never know what he had taught him and realize what he did for me'.  He was immensely grateful to his father.

The collection has been 'homeless' at times, like Ed spent much of his life.  My Father’s Love Foundation was established for the purpose of housing and protecting Ed Lantzer’s wood mosaic panels as well as for coordinating and displaying the panels for the world to see. Ed made the Foundation promise to never charge people to see the collection.   Today, the Foundation welcomes opportunities to display the collection which consists of 30 4' x 8' panels weighing 400 lbs each with over two million tiny wooden pieces.... not exactly an easy thing to transport or display.  Not only does a collection of this size require a large space, but a team of experts able to carefully move these works of art without destroying them.

We visited My Father's Love at its current home at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Clifton Park, NY.  We had two amazing docents this morning, Mary and Diane, both of whom were well read and brought Ed's panels to life telling the stories crafted in wood and pointing out many hidden symbols and hints that Ed so painstakingly incorporated in his elaborate designs.  Later in the day, we returned for a second tour, this time with our granddaughters.  Kirsten O'Brien (Diane's daughter) was our docent for this tour.  Kirsten was instrumental in getting the exhibit to St. Edward's.  It seems Kirsten's cousin happened to be on a plane when she was 'divinely' seated next to LaShelle VanHouten.  Well, LaShelle shared Ed's story, and as you can imagine she could not get the story off her mind.  Later in a family zoom call she shared LaShelle's story with Kirsten and the rest, as they say, is history.  

The exhibit is scheduled to remain at St. Edward's until at least January and if it's still homeless by then, it may be extended.  The Foundation would love Ed's panels be seen and appreciated by people everywhere.  Ed's life was not a charmed one, but he overcame the toughest of obstacles and used his faith to create something amazing, all to share his love of God whom he called Daddy.  In the end, all Ed wants, in his own words, "Is to sit down with God one day and hear the words, WELL DONE".  I'm pretty sure he did and hopefully he hears it each and every time someone witnesses the story of My Father's Love.

For more information about Ed Lantzer's story, http://myfatherslove.info/   On that link you can view two very riveting videos of interviews with Ed and LaShelle and members of the Foundation.  If you're local and want to see the collection in person, which I highly recommend, you can catch a tour on Thursdays at St. Edward the Confessor Church on 569 Clifton Park Center Road in Clifton Park.  Tour times are at 11:30, 1:00, 2:30, 4:00 and 6:30.  Visits are also welcome during church hours but I highly recommend a tour to get a deeper understanding of each panel.  You can also contact the church to arrange for a private tour or check church hours at:  https://www.stedwardsny.org/   518-371-7372   You can find LaShelle VanHouten's book, The Mural Writer, on Amazon or from the Church Office.  

Some text and narrative for this blog was gratefully borrowed from the Foundation website linked above.

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