Narrator: Marjorie Kreilick (8 November 1925 — 5 July 2023)
Interviewers: Robert Lange, John Tortorice
Date: 7, 8, 9, 10 April 2008
Transcribed by: Teresa Bergen
Format: Audio (4 files)
Total Length: 8 hours, 33 minutes
Marjorie Kreilick Biography: Marjorie Kreilick, born 1925, studied at the Ohio State University and at the Cranbook Academy. Kreilick was hired as Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1953. She trained in mosaic in Rome. Kreilick completed mosaics across the country including at Augustana College, at the Detroit Beth Aaron Synagogue, at the Mayo Clinic, and at the State Office Building in Milwaukee at 819 N. 6th St. Kreilick was at the American Academy in Rome with George L. Mosse. There they developed a lasting friendship. Mosse commissioned Kreilick to complete a sculpture in 1979. A profound teacher, she taught generations of students color theory at UW. She retired from teaching in 1991.
Oral History Abstract: To jump forward to specific sessions: 7 April, 8 April, 9 April, 10 April. In her four April, 2008 interviews with Robert Lange, Marjorie Kreilick discusses growing up in Ohio during the Depression and World War II, schooling at the Ohio State University and Cranbrook Academy, and her art and teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She discusses her family, talks extensively about her own influences and progression as an artist, and critiques the art department at UW-Madison. Also discussed are the Toledo Museum of Art; life in Rome; friends in Madison; mosaics; color theory; health hazards; and women’s movements. This interview was conducted for inclusion into the UW-Madison Oral History Program.
Key Words: Oak Harbor, OH; Depression; World War II; the Ohio State University (OSU); Toledo Museum of Art (TMA); University of Toledo (UT); Cranbrook Academy of Art; flash lab; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Herbert and Katherine Jacobs; Marian Miller-Jacobs; Rome; Karel Yasko; Leo Steppat; Prix de Rome; mosaics; art department; Gilbert Hemsley; color and form; the 1960s; Dale Chihuly; Dominick Labino; James Watrous; campus politics; health hazards; Mosse Humanities Building; Distinguished Teacher’s Award; National Museum for Women Artists (NWMA); Donna Shalala; Women’s Studies program; Josef Albers.
Lange: This is Bob Lange with the Oral History Project of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Today is April 7, 2008. This oral history is with Marjorie Kreilick, emeritus professor of art at the UW-Madison. Also participating in this interview will be John Tortorice. Marjorie, to start the interview, as we always do, if you would state for the record your birthdate, tell us where you were born, and begin with a description of who your parents were.
Kreilick: I was born November 8, 1925, in Oak Harbor, Ohio, which is on the banks of the Portage River that flows into Lake Erie. It is, I would say, a village. Maybe 2,500 people or so. Mainly German descendants. As a matter of fact, I didn’t realize that all of the United States didn’t speak this way, with a German accent. My parents, my mother, was born in Defiance, Ohio, which was some hundred or so miles from Oak Harbor, Ohio. And my father was born on a farm in Oak Harbor, outside of Oak Harbor. I think that on my father’s side, the family goes back, and I would like to do a little more research in genealogy, goes back to the Prussians, who were Prussian soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Tortorice: Oh, the Hessians?
Kreilick: The Hessians, yeah. And my mother and father dated for nine and a half years before they were married.
Tortorice: Where did they meet?
Kreilick: They met in Oak Harbor. Because my mother and her cousins came down to visit another cousin who had married a man in Oak Harbor. So they were relatives. They all came down to visit, and got dates for the girls and so forth. So that’s how they met.
The war, of course, the First World War 00:03:00 interfered with all this. My father was a marine, and he was just by luck didn’t go over. But he was, the next band of men to go over the hill would have been my father.
Lange: So he never went to Europe.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. He was in the field.
Lange: Oh, he was in the field. Oh, I see.
Kreilick: Oh, yeah.
Lange: So when you say “up over the hill,” you meant literally on the battlefield.
Kreilick: Literally on the battlefield. On the battlefield. He never talked about it that much. And he was there, oh, I don’t remember quite. Close to two years, I think.
Lange: Were your parents not married before the war?
Kreilick: They were not married before the war. They got married after the war. Since my mother lived about a hundred miles or so from my father’s residence, it meant a good three hours’ drive in those days. No speedways. Single-lane roads, driving to see her. And stay for the weekend and then come back. So this went on for quite a few years. And then when they were married, they bought a house almost immediately because they’d saved all during those years.
Lange: I see. And when did they get married?
Kreilick: It must have been—I think it was two years before I was born.
Lange: So, 23.
Kreilick: Three, uh huh.
Lange: And they settled in Oak Harbor?
Kreilick: They settled in Oak Harbor, where my father was in business after the war with a buddy of his in the automobile business. And they sold Chevrolets. The General Motors cars. General A, Chevrolet, what else, Buick. Buick and Chevrolet, mainly.
Lange: In view of your subsequent career and prominence in the art world, was there any predisposition? Do you come from a family of artists? Were either your mother or father artistic in any sense?
Kreilick: My grandmother, at least let’s go back to my grandmother, who was educated, or she attended, let’s say, Saint Louis, the university, what do you call it, not the university. The school of music in Saint Louis.
Kreilick: Conservatory, that’s right. The Conservatory of Music in Saint Louis. And my grandmother painted. And her sister painted. 00:06:00
Lange: Grandmother on which side?
Kreilick: On my mother’s, my maternal—
Tortorice: There’s one of her paintings.
Kreilick: —grandmother. And one of her paintings is in the kitchen. Not only that, she is supposed to have, she was quite a woman. She had a millinery shop. She was supposed to have spoken a beautiful German, high German. And used to go and speak to some of the classes that were teaching German and high German. She had five children. Lost the oldest son by drowning, which my mother watched. Which was pretty grim. And that’s why I’ve never learned to swim.
Lange: Wow. That’s sad.
Kreilick: And, oh, I have heard that my paternal grandfather came from a family of textile workers in Hof, Germany. So these were textile weavers. Which is kind of interesting, because my sister went into textiles.
Tortorice: Interesting. Did you know your grandmother?
Kreilick: I knew her very well. I went to stay with her on weekends, occasionally. It was a special occasion, a special summer, for a week to stay with my grandmother.
Tortorice: So you would see her paint.
Kreilick: I didn’t see her paint, not when I was there.
Lange: But you knew she was a painter.
Kreilick: I knew. The paintings were in the parlor and in the large living room/dining room. It was throughout the house. It was a twelve-room, large Queen Anne Victorian house with a porch halfway around the house.
Lange: I can almost see it. (laughter) So what was your childhood like?
Kreilick: Oh, the childhood was idyllic.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I think a small town is a wonderful place to raise a child. We had children in the neighborhood. The children owned the alleys. (laughs) We climbed trees and it was wonderful. My mother put me in bloomers in the mornings. And then I took a nap after lunch. And then I was a girl in the afternoons. Then I had to wear dresses.
Tortorice: Oh, really?
Lange: And be a lady?
Kreilick: And be a lady in the afternoons, yes. And not only that, I used to watch the schoolchildren come home 00:09:00 from school on my tricycle out in front of the house. And I lived only one house before the block of the schoolyard, the school. And that school contained all the elementary school, middle school and high school all in one building. And my class, my first-grade class, we went all through twelve years together. So it was almost a family.
Lange: I wonder if, that’s so unusual when you think about adults today who grew up later. Do you think that fact contributed in any sense to what I assume is a high degree of self-confidence?
Kreilick: Hmm. Well in a way, yes, because it became a kind of sheltering family. We knew everybody in class. I knew almost everybody in town. We knew who their parents were, what kind of cars they drove, that kind of thing. (laughs) But the most important thing about my school years, I think, and it was very formative in my education throughout my life, was that sitting on a tricycle at five years old or so in front of my house, everybody would come from school. And one day, Patty Bloomer, who was probably a year older than I was, stopped to talk to me. And she said, “Would you like to play school?”
I said, “Yes. We’ll play school.” So we sat on the steps. And Patty was the teacher. And from the first grade, she taught me everything she learned in school that day. School was fun. And I was prepared for the first grade before I arrived. (laughter)
Tortorice: That’s great.
Kreilick: She was teaching me to read.
Lange: So this was really school. You weren’t just playing.
Kreilick: We were playing school.
Lange: You were playing, but you were still learning.
Kreilick: I was learning. It was learning. It was fun.
Tortorice: It’s amazing you remember that.
Kreilick: Oh, very clearly. Oh, it was, I mean, I could tell things were happening. It was fun. Patty Bloomer. I will be indebted to her forever.
Lange: So I make the assumption that you were happy to go to school when you started.
Kreilick: Oh, eager! Oh, I used to sit on the tricycle, I can remember this, too, wondering what did they do today? What did all those different people do today? 00:12:00 And I couldn’t imagine what they did in school.
Tortorice: But I imagine also your self-confidence, your wealth of education, had something to do with your parents, with your grandmother, with your home life.
Kreilick: Oh. Well, my mother always said, “Now when you go to college, you have to learn these things,” etcetera. I mean, how to take care of your clothes. Be sure to put things away.
Lange: So they were talking to you, or your mother was, about further education, even as a little girl. Was she well-educated?
Kreilick: My mother went to Defiance College. I wouldn’t say she was well-educated. And she studied music, probably in the footsteps of her mother. And probably in the footsteps I should have followed. They expected me to follow.
Lange: To be musical.
Kreilick: Ten years of piano lessons. Dancing lessons. Played clarinet and cello.
Lange: This is sort of out of sequence. Did you maintain an interest in music over the years, after you became an adult?
Lange: So you didn’t keep up with the piano or clarinet or anything.
Kreilick: No. No. Partly because, I would have. But there is a big mistake they made, which was I felt as if I was playing somebody else’s music. I wanted to play my own. I was playing these that didn’t mean anything to me. I would like to have made, to know how to compose music.
Lange: Were you a strong-willed child?
Kreilick: I was a very obedient child.
Lange: Were you?
Kreilick: Yes. Very obedient.
Tortorice: Except when you climbed up the steps this time you told me about when you were two years old or something.
Kreilick: Oh, that was my grandmother’s house when I went to visit. The youngest I can remember was two years old. And my mother took me with her to clean her mother’s house, this large, twelve-room Victorian house. And my grandmother was to watch me while my mother was upstairs cleaning rooms. But my grandmother had a little conservatory that was a bay window area. And she was watering her plants. And I can remember, I knew where my mother was and I wanted to go see her. And my grandmother was busy watering the plants and feeding them and doing all of this. So I went to the stairwell. And this big house had, the stairwell split. It came down into the living room area, but then it split over and went to the kitchen. 00:15:00 So you had a dual entry in the way. So I went up. And my legs weren’t long enough to get up the step. But if I pulled on the step above me, I could, you know, reach up to the next step. There must have been fourteen or more steps. It was a long stairwell. High ceilings. Fourteen-feet ceilings in this Victorian house. So it curved as it went up, etcetera, so it would get quite narrow at one end. But here I was, working away at pulling myself up the stairs all the way, and I made it. I remember I was so pleased with myself that I made the steps. And I went running to find my mother, which I did. And she screamed when she saw me. (laughter)
Tortorice: Oh, yes, I’m sure.
Kreilick: She wasn’t happy at all. She scooped me up, took me down the steps. And my grandmother got the worst scolding ever. And I didn’t know how to behave. My emotions were so confused. I was so pleased at what I had done. And all of this was very upsetting. That’s at the age of two. So was I strong-willed?
Lange: I would say probably you were.
Tortorice: You were. (laughter)
Lange: I’m glad you brought that up, now. It’s significant, I think. So you’re in elementary school.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Do you know at what point there was an emergence of a recognition that you were artistically talented?
Kreilick: No. We didn’t do anything. Oh, but I think things blossomed more when we got to high school. Because I was on the school newspaper and I did all of the illustrations and the lettering. But also, it’s funny, also in high school, I had my parents petition out of home ec. I didn’t want to take home ec. I said, “I can learn that at home. I want to learn something I don’t know.” So I wanted to take mechanical drawing, okay? So I signed up for mechanical drawing.
And I got called into the principal’s office. And he said, “I see you’re signed up for mechanical drawing.”
And I said, “Yes. I want to learn to do this. You know, with the war effort and everything, I might need this.” I didn’t know what job I was going to get or anything.
And he said, “Oh, you just want to be in that, with all those boys. In that class with all those boys.”
I said, “But my parents signed the petition.” 00:18:00 Well, he couldn’t do anything. That didn’t encourage me. I got the A in the class. Top A in mechanical drawing.
Lange: Oh, interesting. That’s really very interesting. Who was your teacher?
Kreilick: My teacher in mechanical drawing?
Lange: Mm hmm.
Kreilick: Barnhart. Ray Barnhart.
Lange: Was he supportive?
Kreilick: Not especially, but –
Lange: Didn’t harass you?
Kreilick: Well, I think he was in a difficult position because he had all these guys. And he had this girl. And she was doing so much better than they were, that he wasn’t making a point of it. But he was letting me know I was doing a good job. But he wasn’t making a class reference to this.
Tortorice: Probably the first female he ever had in class.
Kreilick: Yes, it was. First female he ever had.
Tortorice: How did the boys in the class treat you? Were they friendly, or did they just ignore you? Or they didn’t harass you or anything?
Kreilick: Well, no, I didn’t get any harassment. They just kind of ignored me.
Lange: Before we linger on high school, are there any teachers from your elementary or middle school career that ought to be noted for the record? Any teachers who took you out of yourself or really stimulated you, from your early years?
Kreilick: There was a Miss Beyer. They did a strange thing at my school. I never understood why they did this. They took the top students out of the seventh grade and put them with the top students in the eighth grade. And we had one class, one split class like this. It was almost like a country school. So that sometimes I could hear what the other class was doing. And sometimes they could hear what we were doing. And we weren’t doing quite the same things. But I got to know all the students a year ahead of me. And we became almost one class. And then the next year, when we went to high school, we went back to our own group. So I don’t know why that happened.
Tortorice: They used to do that with smaller schools when they didn’t have a lot of resources and they had smaller classes, they would combine these classes in this way.
Kreilick: That’s what they did.
Lange: Yeah. So by seventh grade, you were recognized as one of the smart kids.
Lange: And you knew yourself that you were smart?
Kreilick: No. I just thought, it’s my gang.
Lange: Okay. And the reason for this question is at some point I will be asking you 00:21:00 when do you recognize yourself as an intellectual or exceptional—you know, it may be in college, it may be in high school, or it may be later. But I’m always interested in finding out with the faculty here, when did they recognize themselves as having special abilities?
Kreilick: College. College. That was a real challenge.
Lange: Okay. So, high school now. You’re in high school.
Kreilick: This is important, because in high school, when I must have been about a junior, because my mother said, “When you go to college, you better learn to type.” So I took the typing, and I took the college preparatory. And typing for me—a lot of piano practice, I think, helped—but typing, I reached 90 words a minute.
Kreilick: I was tops in typing. And I had a teacher called Dorothy [Deppin?] Smith who taught typing. And because of this, she came to me one day and said, “Marjorie, would you be interested in serving on the sugar ration board?” She said, “They need help downtown. And I think you’d be capable of doing some of this with your typing skills.” And so forth. “Why don’t you go down and see Edgar Theirwechter (1887-1955) who is in charge of the sugar rationing board?”
So, I did that. And I must have been sixteen, seventeen. So I went down to see him. And I processed lots of people for sugar for the sugar rationing board.
So when that was finished, Edgar Theirwechter before I left came to me and he said, “Marjorie, I’m impressed with your work here. Would you be interested in working for me after school? I have a job for you,” he said, “in bookkeeping.”
And I said, “Well, I’m taking college preparatory and I don’t have any bookkeeping experience. But if you could show me, perhaps I could help you.” You know?
So he said, “Fine. Why don’t you come down on Friday after school and I’ll lay this out and show you how to keep books?”
So I did that. Friday after school I went down to Theirwechter’s office. He had a big insurance company. And he was a gentleman farmer. He had about four or five farms in the area. So, he showed me how to keep books. It was wonderful. 00:24:00 I mean, I learned how to do this, and how they could check both directions, and check themselves. So I worked all day Saturdays. And I did this probably my junior and senior year in high school. Saturdays, I kept books. I did his income taxes, all the books, the farm equipment, and everything, all the accounts for the farms. So that was very meaningful for me. And it is a skill that I’ve used all of my life. All of my life.
Lange: From a financial perspective, or from an organizational perspective?
Kreilick: Both. You need both. You need both. It helped me. I budgeted all my life. And that early bookkeeping was wonderful.
Lange: This makes me think now, you having been born in 1925, you grow to young maturity in the Depression and World War Two.
Kreilick: That’s correct.
Lange: How does, as you look back on it, how does becoming a teenager in the late ‘30s and World War Two, what kind of impact did it have on you?
Kreilick: I think the Depression had a bigger impact on me before the war. It had an impact as a child because of these hobos that would come at the back door for food. This, I mean, you’d get two a week or more. And these strange men coming to rap on the window or rap on the door was an intrusive for a child. I didn’t like this one bit. You’d see them go by. You’d see them mark things on the sidewalk.
Lange: Oh, indicating that it’s a friendly house. Or unfriendly?
Kreilick: Something. Something. I don’t know what the indication was, but it was there. I would later erase it. (laughter) But at any rate, that was—and then there was a time when my father would come home from the business. And he had to, well, he should have fired, he did, they had to let go the body shop. But he kept, they had a service parts man they kept, they had salesmen they had to keep, and a bookkeeper. My father said, “They have families to keep, too. We’ve got to keep them. They have nothing to do. But the other men, 00:27:00 the mechanics, can get jobs.” So he said, “I’ll go and work in the service shop. I’ll take the mechanics shop. And the other men we’ll keep—” Which my mother wasn’t too happy about.
Because, and then my father, things were tight. He would go and work on farms with tractors. And in turn, it was barter. They would bring home apples, a bushel of apples. Potatoes. Whatever the farmers had to trade. It was a trading situation. I remember that very clearly.
And I remember my father coming home from work and my mother would say, “Well, how was today?” And he would say, not talk about it. Just shake his head. He went hunting. He went fishing.
Lange: And you all used what he caught to eat, I assume.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Oh, yes. No sport.
Lange: I mean, that was important. It was venison or fish or what have you.
Kreilick: Oh, no. And my father knew all the farmers and so forth, too. If they had trouble, they would come and—then during the, what is it, what would have been when the Mob was in Chicago. The 30s.
Tortorice: In the 30s, yes. [John] Dillinger (1903-1934). Yeah.
Kreilick: It was a little later.
Tortorice: Yeah. Mm hmm.
Kreilick: But my father knew all of the boats on Lake Erie because they would ask him to come and fix the motors on some of these boats. And some of these would be, we’d call them rum runners from Canada, who’d be coming over. And they had Ford motors, I think, in them. I can’t remember. My father knew them. He knew which ones were the ones running from Canada, and who these guys were. And he also knew who the federals were. And he could tell which could outrun the other.
Lange: A real boundary spanner, as it were. (laughter)
Kreilick: Exactly. Exactly.
Lange: Oh, interesting.
Kreilick: I can remember the bodies ending up in the ditches and so forth. And wrecks sometimes. My father had to go out with the automobile wrecker to pick up things. And they would dump bodies from Chicago, 00:30:00 from the Mob.
Lange: Really? There in Ohio?
Tortorice: That was probably one of the main routes for the illegal trade through that area.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Yeah.
Lange: Yes. It’s so interesting. I guess I can speak for you, John. You know, we grow up watching The Untouchables on television. You’re kind of living it, in a way. I mean, it was real. You knew what was going on.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I knew what was going on.
Lange: Go ahead, John.
Tortorice: I was just going to say that your class would have graduated in 43?
Tortorice: So then the young men in the class would have all been drafted, I assume.
Kreilick: All of the fellows were, only one, and that was Peter James Goodman (1925-2004), who went into—and I think he was 4-F, too, he was a very frail young man—went in the priesthood. Everybody else. And most of my, most of my friends all were nurses. They all went into nursing.
Tortorice: Really? Out of high school. Would there have been, I suppose that a number of them were casualties of the war? Or did you ever keep—
Kreilick: We lost some. Mm hmm.
Tortorice: Because that would have been just about toward the ends—
Kreilick: Patty Boomer’s brother, we lost. A few.
Lange: Marjorie, when you’re in high school now, is art taught? Are there art classes?
Kreilick: I think when I was in high school, there was one. Oh, yes, there was a Miss Seeley. Her father was a dentist in town. And she used to go around to the grades for an hour a week maybe or something minor. It wasn’t art. She wasn’t teaching art. It was busywork.
Tortorice: This is not what stimulated your interest.
Kreilick: No. This didn’t stimulate my interest, no. It was fun. But it wasn’t art.
Tortorice: Was there a spark in those years? Because you did then go on to Cranbrook. I mean, what was it that really—
Kreilick: I went to Cranbrook after I went to—
Tortorice: Ohio State.
Kreilick: Ohio State did it. One professor did it.
Tortorice: I see.
Lange: Well before we get there, anything else from your high school experience that has an impact directly or indirectly on your subsequent career?
Kreilick: Track team didn’t. Although I won some state medals, track. Track team.
Lange: Oh, you were, you were, they had girl athletics.
Kreilick: Especially coming in on the relay team. I was the last person on the relay team, always. 00:33:00 Oh, but a nice thing about this high school. There are a couple of things I want to mention. First of all, they taught Latin. And they taught French. So I took both Latin and French. Not that they were such terrific teachers, later I learned. But I had a background and my foot, and I liked the Latin. All right?
Lange: How much Latin did you take?
Kreilick: I think just a year. I think I took a year of Latin and a year of French. It doesn’t give you that much. One thing I didn’t do, and I have a big gap in my education, which is in the biological sciences. Because I wouldn’t touch a frog. (laughter) I absolutely refused. I took physics. I liked physics. I liked geometry. These were my favorites. But I wouldn’t touch anything in the biological.
Tortorice: So you didn’t have to take biology. You could take physics instead.
Kreilick: I had a choice. I had a choice. I took physics instead.
Lange: And I take it from the way you’re talking that your parents had expectations of you to be educated. You were expected to do well in school.
Kreilick: Yes. I was expected. I mean, there was no choice.
Lange: Before we get to Ohio State, what about World War Two? Anything else? Do you remember when it started?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Because my friend Dorothy Deppin Smith, who taught me typing and got me Edgar Theirwechter’s job, also said, “Marjorie, you’re graduating this year.” She said, “What are you doing this summer?”
And I said, “Well, I guess I better find a job if I’m going to go to college.”
And she said, “Well,” she said, “I think I have a job for you.” She said, “I’m going to Camp Perry.” Now, Camp [Perry?] was, how far was it? It must have been maybe twelve miles from Oak Harbor. Not far. It was on the lake, Lake Erie. It is an ordnance proving ground for big guns. And it was a prisoner of war camp during the war. And it housed Italians and Germans. So Dorothy said, “I want you go to go over in personnel and see if there’s a job over there for you. And I’m going to be secretary to Lieutenant King this summer and maybe this year,” she said. So she wasn’t teaching during the summers.
So, that’s what I did. I got the job. 00:36:00 All that summer I processed people, civilians, coming into the camp for jobs. Now the camp was all run by military. Colonel Kerr was the head of the camp. And each division, like finance would have a military, a head of finance. But under finance, they were all Germans. You could tell. Just the way they walked. It was wonderful. And the motor pool, they would have a head that was military. And most of these militaries at Camp Perry came out of the African campaign. And they were pretty badly burned. All of them were scarred somewhat. And the motor pool, you had all the Italians in the motor pool. These, I remember particularly. The opposites.
Lange: Do you, what were you thinking about the war? Were you angry at the soldiers?
Kreilick: I was following the African campaign. I had a map in my room and I was sure we were going to lose. I was sure the Germans were going to win. And I used to talk to my mother about why didn’t you teach me German? I maybe could use this. What happens if the Germans take over and everybody’s speaking German? Yeah, this is the way I felt. And it looked like Rommel, Rommel was, I thought, the man who’s going to beat them all. So that’s what I thought.
Tortorice: Well, he almost did. (laughs)
Lange: Yes, that’s right.
Kreilick: Yeah. He’s the biggest faker of them all. He was wonderful. (laughs)
Lange: Quite extraordinary, that’s the sense. So now you’re in high school and you’re headed for college.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Talk about that, the decision-making process, how you picked Ohio. What the expectations were, what you had to do to get in.
Kreilick: Well, I talked to, I didn’t know anything about it. My parents didn’t know anything about it. We had a girl who had been at Ohio State who was a veterinarian’s daughter in town. So I went to talk to Marjorie Heller. And she belonged to the Delta Sorority. And she had lived before the sorority house at, what is it? Westminster Hall. Which was a building, a dormitory for, a Presbyterian dormitory for women, which housed about a hundred women. 00:39:00 And the best thing about it was that it was about a half a block from the gates of the university. So she recommended me to stay there. And so I wrote for them for a place to stay when I went to college. And they accepted me.
Lange: And how did you pick Ohio State? Was it the logical choice for you?
Kreilick: Well, I thought I ought to go to the biggest I could find, to be tested.
Lange: Self-tested, you mean. To see if you could do it?
Kreilick: Exactly. Yeah.
Lange: And that, do you remember that as a conscious choice of yourself? Wanting to go, wanting to see if you could master a challenging environment like that?
Kreilick: Well, I ask about the University of Michigan. I ask other people about different schools. University of Michigan had a good reputation. I didn’t know what I wanted to study. So, and with the war and gasoline and everything, it was better to stay closer to home. And so that’s what I did.
Lange: So, was it difficult to get into Ohio?
Lange: You just really sent your high school—
Kreilick: And was accepted.
Lange: Everybody was accepted.
Kreilick: Yeah. So it was not difficult. And you’ve got to remember, there were no men on campus.
Lange: Right. I’d forgotten.
Kreilick: Only a few 4-Fs. So, I was very dedicated. I had no disruptions whatsoever.
Tortorice: And lots of attention, I’d imagine, because there weren’t a lot of students.
Kreilick: Yes. Well, we got some bad attention, too. But at any rate.
Lange: Okay. Well talk then, now. You’re at Ohio. You go the fall of 43.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: What is college like? And what happens that first year?
Kreilick: Well, I nearly failed completely. Because I had to take an exam. It must have been like the SATs. Because I didn’t have any in high school. So I didn’t know. And that first week, you have a week of indoctrination of some sort. And I had to meet someplace and take an exam here and take a health check there and who knows. Going around. And sorority house, someplace else. To take that exam I went and there was a big hall. And you got these papers and they shuffled 00:42:00 them out, etcetera. I had to take this exam. So I looked at it and I thought well, I have to do well on this exam. So I think what I’ll do is to run through it to see what kinds of questions they’re going to ask me. So I’ll answer them quickly, the ones I quickly can answer. And those I want to think about, I’ll come back to.
So I very carefully went through this. And then I started the exam. And I only got to about the second page, and it was all over. It was timed. They didn’t tell me it was timed.
Tortorice: Oh, dear.
Kreilick: They didn’t tell me it was timed exam. I suppose I should have known that. But I didn’t. I thought I could be there all day if I wanted to. So I didn’t know this at the time. But it was over and there wasn’t anything I could do. So I handed in the papers, and that was it. So they got this very sketchy kind of paper from me.
Later I found out, when I made the dean’s list, that they thought I would fail. They didn’t expect me to, they put me in the pile of failures.
Lange: I see. This was just a test to help them gauge where you were.
Kreilick: Probably. I don’t know what the test was. I still don’t know what the test was. But that was part of my first week. I chose to go into letters and science, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Lange: And you had not gone to Ohio State thinking history or art or physics or—
Kreilick: No. No. No. No. Liberal education. I wanted a little bit of everything to know what I wanted to do. And my parents were supportive. My parents paid for my Westminster Hall, and I paid for my education at the university.
Lange: That was the understanding with your parents, I take it.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: And you had been able to earn enough money at your various jobs?
Kreilick: Yes. I saved.
Lange: What was tuition in those days?
Kreilick: God, I don’t remember. I really can’t answer that. It wasn’t very much. I can’t remember. And I worked. You see, when I left Camp Perry that summer, they invited me to come back the next summer. If you’re available next summer, we welcome you back.
Lange: Did you go back?
Kreilick: I did go back. For two summers, I worked at Camp Perry. And I worked one semester in Columbus, because Camp Perry had another ordnance in Columbus. 0045:00 And I worked after school, nights, for one semester.
Lange: Columbus is the state capital.
Lange: Was that attractive at all?
Kreilick: I liked the art museum. I used to go Sundays to the art museum.
Lange: Just because you were interested?
Kreilick: Well, they had some music. A free concert. And I was interested in what they were doing. It was free.
Lange: What kind of museum was it? Did it have a general, was it contemporary art? Was it European?
Kreilick: Oh, it’s like the Wisconsin, the campus museum. The Elvehjem or Chazen. Smaller scale.
Lange: So, any significant faculty your first year?
Kreilick: Second year.
Lange: Okay. Talk about that.
Kreilick: Second year. I thought maybe I’d go and take a drawing class. Because I had a counselor worked out and I knew what I had to take and I knew what was required. And I liked their system tremendously. Because you knew you had beginning courses you had to take to develop those the next semester, etcetera. So the first semester was fine. I think I took French. And literature. And oh, I had to take an English course and we had to write essays. Because I know every weekend I was up getting that essay written for next week. So it was busy. It was a very active freshman year for me. I bought football tickets, because everybody did. I never did after that. Ever. (laughter)
And it was the second semester that I thought maybe I’d take a drawing class. So I went over to see if I had some extra time, I might work in a drawing class. So I went over to take a drawing class, and I couldn’t. Because I had to take sculpture first. I thought, well, that’s crazy.
So I signed up for the sculpture class. Wisest thing I ever did.
Kreilick: Wisest thing I ever did. And if any art school ever pays attention, they should do the same thing. Not only was the teacher terrific, I mean, he changed my whole life, this man. Teaching sculpture. 00:48:00 But you also, when you draw, are beginning to draw, you know where these subtleties are. When you look at my forehead, for instance, do you know where it turns? Do you know what shape is the front of the forehead and the side of the forehead?
Kreilick: You would if you had to sculpt it. And once you start to draw, you know where all of those planes, I mean sculpt, you know where those planes are.
Lange: Oh, interesting.
Kreilick: You feel them. You know them. You see them later. You see with different eyes completely.
Lange: So this was a sculpture appreciation course?
Kreilick: No, it was a sculpture class.
Lange: It was a studio sculpture.
Kreilick: Studio sculpture. Everybody had their own stands, model stands. You had a model. And you were modeling that head. And, the teacher was Erwin Frey (1892-1967), who always wore tweed coats and paisley ties. All different, but all the same. And he used to talk to the students. He talked to me a lot. Or maybe I listened more. But he talked to me a lot. And I learned more from that man than my whole college career, I think. He used to come and ask me questions I couldn’t answer.
Lange: Like what? About art, or—
Kreilick: Well, he’d say, “Is a chair a piece of art? Could you say it is? Or what is it?” Or he’d say, “Chinese painting comes in black and white.” He said, “Is that a drawing or is that a painting? And why?” Or, in sculpture he gave us, have you ever read The Golden Bough by Frazer?
Lange: No. I haven’t.
Kreilick: That was our textbook in sculpture.
Tortorice: Wow. A creative idea.
Kreilick: Terrific. So it got you thinking. He got me thinking. I went, after I talked to him, I left, I went to the library immediately. I went to the library and I looked for books on certain things and subjects. I’d ask help of the librarian. I’d get books. I’d come home. I’d read them practically all night. I never read more books in my life 00:51:00 than I did then. And then he’d drop names. He’d say, “Well, I don’t know. What are you thinking [I. Frazir?] would say about that?” Or he’d say, “Why do you think, why do you think a certain picture takes a different shape? Why is it shaped that way?” And so I’d be off. Or he’d drop different names of books and things.
And I got frustrated one day. I had to come back the next day in class, I came back and I said, “That book’s not in the library. I can’t find that book.” (laughs) I was so naïve. And I’d be all full of questions asking him when he came back. We’d have this big conversation. This is the way it continued all year. All year. I didn’t take one semester. But the second semester. And I learned more from that man. It was just fantastic.
Lange: Did you feel, let’s see, did you feel at home with the subject of sculpture fairly soon? Or was it Professor Frey who really captured you?
Kreilick: He taught me to see. Then I could see, then I was at home with it, all right? But it’s how you see and how you think. And he was instrumental, I think, in getting me to go to the museum and look. And he would go to cite a certain piece of sculpture or something, and you had to differentiate between these two. Why? Why was one better than the other? Why was it scaled to its environment? You had to answer questions all the time. He’d ask questions all the time. He stimulated me tremendously.
Tortorice: I can see how this then became the basis of your teaching.
Kreilick: Yeah. It did. Mm hmm. He taught me a lot.
Lange: So you start with him in your freshman year?
Kreilick: No. Sophomore.
Lange: Sophomore. How much did you study with him during the course of your years at Ohio?
Kreilick: Maybe, well, I decided that I wanted to get out as soon as possible because I had to earn some money. So I carried a heavy schedule.
Lange: I saw that you graduated in three years.
Kreilick: It wasn’t I was smart. It was 00:54:00 that I was curious and I was anxious to—
Tortorice: Didn’t your mother pass away—
Kreilick: Well, wait a minute. So Frey discovered this. Because I had to go to him to see how many credits or something. I was talking to him about could I take more of this or that. He looked it over and he discovered then that I was going to graduate in three years. And he said, “I don’t think that you should do this.”
But I said, you know, “I’ve got to get out and earn some money. All these boys are going to come back from the war and there won’t be any jobs.”
He said, “I would advise you to get another degree. Get an MA degree and continue exactly what you’re doing. Fill in all the areas that would be helpful.” So that’s what he taught me to do. I did a graduate sculpture show in sculpture with him for a master’s. I continued to take courses in history of science and other courses outside. He was the man who developed me.
Lange: Okay. This is critical. We ought to linger here a bit. So the first work you’re doing is in sculpture. And it’s under, would you say he was a mentor to you?
Kreilick: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. In more than just as an artist. More than an artist. He taught me to think. He taught me to read. He taught me to question.
Lange: And of the three, is that the most important? Teaching you to question?
Kreilick: Yeah. Good teacher. Good teacher. And I never, you know, I feel so ashamed. I’ve never thanked him.
Tortorice: You did see him then after you graduated? I’m sure he appreciated having you as a student.
Lange: It sounds like, though, his advice to you to go straight for the MFA—
Kreilick: MA. MA.
Lange: —MA was critical in your establishment—
Lange: In your development as an artist.
Kreilick: I’ll tell you why, too. Because the boys were coming back from the war. That last year was terrific. I had to take art history every semester. Two semesters. My two semesters. And then when I was doing graduate, my MA, I had to take art history 00:57:00 both semesters. So I had quite a bit of art history. But the boys were coming back from the war. And they knew what they wanted. They had been over there thinking about this a long time, on the GI Bill, and look out. My history, I’ll never forget, that one art history class I had with Professor [Ralph] Fanning (1889-1971), and he taught almost all the art history. And we had this big room for, projection room, with shutters you had to close to make it dark at an eight o’clock session, I think. And these guys were still in some of their khakis. And we had about, there must have been about eight or ten of them in this class. And the class was big, maybe ninety in the class. It was a big class. These guys kind of hung out together, and they always sat kind of together, too, out there. And that class, I had [Frank A.] Seiberling (1908-1990), of Seiberling Rubber.
Lange: Oh, yes.
Kreilick: He was a son and was an art historian.
Kreilick: And just had come back from Europe, where he had been on the kind of Monuments Commission or something like that. And so he was giving this art history lecture and had something to do with Europe. And he was demeaning the Americans and saying that these soldiers never looked at anything while they were there, they never took any time to see any of these monuments, etcetera. Do you know these boys got up in rank and walked out? Soldiers. Walked out of class. En masse! And they later told him you know, they were on their bellies in the middle of—
Tortorice: While he was—
Kreilick: Yes. While you were taking care of the monuments. So that didn’t happen again. They really were great. It was wonderful.
I had in my sculpture class with me a fellow by the name of Larry [Lawrence Gill] Copeland (1922-2012), who later became one of the chief designers for Oneida Silver, and went to Cranbrook, who was a prisoner of war during the war. And I remember him showing me, he made a book out of the blanket and all of the other pieces that he had being a prisoner. So these were the fellows who came back. Made a big difference.
Lange: Yes. And I would bet in a way you incorporated some of their life experience into—you remember.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I remember. I remember the energy. 01:00:00 That’s what I remember. The campus had energy. They were out and they knew what they wanted. And it was great to have them in class. There was more conversation and more, they brought to the learning experience more perspective. And they were older. Yes.
Tortorice: Because they had lived themselves, they had gone through—
Kreilick: And were much older.
Lange: So what kind of sculpture are you doing at this point?
Kreilick: I did, for him I did mainly portraits, I think. I did some abstracts, too. A combination.
Lange: So you get your master’s.
Kreilick: I got my master’s.
Lange: And then what happens?
Kreilick: Well, Frey said, “You have a job?” And I said, “Of course not.” He said, “Well, you know, there’s Columbus Art School in town.” And he was on the board. And he was on the board of the museum. So he said, “Why don’t you go over there and see if they have a job?”
So I did. I went over and filled out an application for a job at Columbus Art School. And I think I had the job. And I went home and my mother was ill. Seriously ill. With cancer.
Lange: Oh. Sorry.
Kreilick: So I decided, I’d already thought I had a place to live near the museum and the art school. They were close together. Both side by side. So considering the circumstances, I decided I shouldn’t go back. I should stay close to home. Take care of the home. Because my sister was still in high school.
Lange: Oh, you have a younger sister.
Kreilick: I have a younger, seven years younger than I am. And my father isn’t able, he’s got this business to run. He’s not able to take my mother to go to doctors and things. So I thought it’s my turn. It’s my turn. I’ll come home. So I went home. And got things in order. And things got a little bit better and so forth. So my sister continued in school, in high school. My mother improved somewhat. So I thought well maybe I’ll apply for Toledo Museum. 01:03:00 Because I got a job in Columbus, maybe they might have a job for me in Toledo. And that’s close to home. And maybe I could shuttle back and forth.
So I went to Toledo and put in my application. And Blake-More Godwin (1894-1975) was the director of the museum in Toledo. And his assistant was Otto Wittmann (1911-2001), from Harvard. And I took my thesis and I took a portfolio and I applied. And they did have a job in the school for me. And as a docent for the museum. So my father got me a car. One of the soldiers had to sell his car, so I got a 49 Ford car. Drove to Toledo and got a room.
Lange: How far is Toledo?
Kreilick: Oh, it’s not far. Half an hour. A little more. Got a room in a house just down the street from the museum and stayed there. And started work at the museum. And would go home weekends.
Lange: Was the Toledo Museum then as significant as it is today?
Kreilick: More so.
Kreilick: I think, well, bigness is not better. Alright? But there’s quality, good quality there. Excellent quality. And a wonderful children’s program. Now I told them when I took the job, I would lecture to schools. That’s what I was doing, mainly. They had schools coming in, grade schools and other schools. Had a marvelous high school program in which a person in the art department would lecture for a half hour. And then a person in the music department would lecture for a half hour on the music of the same period as the literature they were reading. Let’s say it was in, well, Italian Renaissance or if they were doing early American or whatever. So, that’s what the high school program was. They would bring them in for this. And they liked it. It was good.
Lange: Are you continuing to work as an artist on your own time?
Kreilick: I didn’t have any time. Going home, taking care of the house and my mother and my sister, looking after her. Giving her more attention than I would have 01:06:00 and then driving back and preparing lectures. I had all lectures to do for these groups coming in. No, I didn’t have any time. None at all. But I met Harvey Littleton (1922-2013), who was teaching in the, he used to come down from Cranbrook once a week for a pottery class. So I met him there at Toledo. I met my good friend Marian Miller, who was from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And she is probably responsible for my ending up in Wisconsin.
Kreilick: Yes. So, we were teaching. I was teaching. She was teaching children’s classes on Saturdays. She was not a docent. She was doing other things. She was doing some installation downstairs at the museum. And then one day, Don [Donald] Goodall (1912-1997), who was heading the school, and Catherine Bloom was heading the educational section of the school. Don Goodall came down to me and he said, “Marjorie, you’ve got to do something! You’ve just got to do something today because Mrs. Mademeau is ill. She’s not coming back. She’s never coming back. I’ve got fifty kids down there tearing the building apart.” He said, “You’ve got to go down there. You’ve got to do something! Go down there and take care of them. Just get them busy. Do anything! Save our building!” (laughter)
So that’s how I got down to doing children. I went down. These are ten-year-olds. They were throwing things, and they were, oh, you know, beating one another up and etcetera, everything. I got down there. I’d never taught children before. I walked in the middle of this room and they’re just looking at me as being part of the janitor or something. So I said, I’ve got to do something, got to take control of this class. So I went over, and I turned off the lights. Everything went black. And I talked very quietly. And I said, “You’ve got to pay attention when I stand on this square, because I’m going to be telling you things and you won’t hear it until I stand on this square.”
So, things calmed down completely. So I went over, turned on the lights again. And I said, “Let’s prepare for class next week. I’ll give you these materials we have to have. And you must get them at the bookstore.” So, that’s the way 01:09:00 I began teaching children.
Lange: Did you, with your work as a docent, were you discovering that you had a knack for teaching generally?
Kreilick: I just had a certain amount of material that I had to get across. That’s all, I felt. I don’t know that I was particularly good at it. Although I must have been. Because I’ve got a letter someplace from Molly Ohl Godwin (1898-1988), the director’s wife, whom I talked to about a group of women, some tea party group. And I was talking to them about the paintings and then began asking them questions about the paintings. And my lecture broke up into them all going around talking about the paintings. I had them all talking about the paintings. And Molly wrote me a note later, said, I’ve never seen a lecture at the museum carried off so informally and stimulating so that everybody was involved. So, perhaps that carried over.
Lange: So what’s it like teaching the kids? Did you enjoy that?
Kreilick: Oh, wonderful. They were wonderful! I enjoyed it tremendously. I taught also at Toledo Museum, the University of Toledo. And I had classes in the evening at the University of Toledo. I had a design class in the evening. What I would do is give my children the same problem I gave my design class at night. And I would see how the adults would solve the problem, and I would see how the children would solve the problem.
Lange: Oh, how, I’ll bet that was—
Kreilick: And these were all visual problems.
Lange: I bet that gave you pleasure.
Kreilick: Not only pleasure. I learned a lot. I learned a lot. Mm hmm.
Lange: Oh, what an interesting idea. Now these ten-year-old kids, where are they from? Are these—
Kreilick: Toledo schools recommend their best in their art classes to come as a privilege.
Tortorice: I see. I see. So these were capable students. They may have been a little rambunctious, but—
Kreilick: Oh, yeah. Well, their energy, yeah, sure, they’re capable. All kids are capable.
Tortorice: But these are kids with a predisposition to art, I take it.
Kreilick: Well, they were doing a good job. So you know, they recommended certain kids and this was the group 01:12:00 that the museum got. Yeah. And I had fifty in a class. And I had three classes of fifty on Saturdays. Let me tell you, when we were finished, we were beat.
Tortorice: I bet.
Lange: How could you do fifty? I can’t conceive of that.
Krebilick: I have a room. You can do fifty in a room.
Tortorice: (laughs) How did you control them? That would have been my—
Kreilick: No problem. I got to the point I had no problem. I had a wonderful story about one smart aleck, a boy, of course, in my class. Very near the beginning of the class when I was teaching. And he came up to me one day and he said, “Why don’t you quit? Why don’t you get married like Mrs Mademeauand you don’t have to teach?” he said to me.
I said, “Well, why don’t you ask me to get married?” The whole class roared with laughter. (laughter) No problem. I had no problem.
Tortorice: My sense of you is that you are, you probably have enjoyed people from when you were maybe a girl on. You enjoy social interactions.
Kreilick: Yeah. Yes, yes.
Tortorice: So you probably don’t have a high fear quotient when it comes to social interactions.
Kreilick: Well, fear, I never had fear. But I find a lot of people not very interesting. (laughter)
Tortorice: But I think that’s something else.
Lange: So now you’re at Toledo.
Lange: From 48 through 51.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: And for that entire period, are you back and forth taking care of your mother?
Kreilick: Yes, my mother died. During this time. About the third, well, I took, at Thanksgiving, one year at Thanksgiving I took off to go home, prepare Thanksgiving dinner and care for the mother and the family. And I stayed, took a leave of absence from Toledo from November to February.
Tortorice: And then did you have to care for your sister from that point on?
Kreilick: Well, my father and I talked about this. Yes. Because she would be a senior in high school. 01:15:00 And my sister isn’t like me. I think she didn’t get as much attention as I did as a child. She seems to, she doesn’t have the energy I have. There’s a difference right there. I mean, she wouldn’t get to doing her homework until it was about eleven o’clock at night. And then it would be late. And then she couldn’t get up in the morning. You know, it’s that kind of girl. She’s capable. But someone ought to be nipping at her heels a little bit more, I thought. And I thought, my father’s busy with the business. He’s not going to be here. He’s not going to be home taking care of her after school, etcetera. I can see her getting into trouble. I don’t like this one bit. I looked at what her grades were and how many credits she needed to graduate and so forth. And I said that summer, I said, “Marilyn, I think you’d better finish up your high school this summer. And go to college next year.”
So she went to Toledo with another kid in town. A neighbor boy who was taking a summer class. And she took the credits she needed to graduate with her class. So she got the credits to graduate. And then my father and I organized for her to go to college. I got her into Westminster Hall. Now this was a bad thing in retrospect I see. Going to Ohio State and staying in the same dormitory. Because everyone called her Marjorie. Disaster. I never thought about it. At the time, I thought I was helping her.
Lange: I see. Because you had been a pretty strong presence.
Kreilick: I must have been. I didn’t know that. But I must have been.
Tortorice: So she resented this and felt she couldn’t form her own identity.
Kreilick: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Even though she majored in textiles, it was quite different.
Tortorice: But you never had this pull like so many women of your generation to get married, have a man take—
Tortorice: To have children and to settle in a home. This was not in your future from a very early age.
Kreilick: No. 01:18:00 My mother had worked for a lawyer as a typist, for a lawyer. That that was very early. Her father didn’t approve at all. But she did. And another thing that was very good, her uncle, Uncle Abe, which would have been her, my grandmother’s husband. It was her second marriage. So he looked after the girls so that my mother, for instance, and her sister, when they got to be eighteen, each of them received a fur muff. Or when they reached twenty, they received a ring or something. There was always when you reach a certain goal, the girls get this. And not only that, there were store buildings the family owned. And so my mother was a assigned to be in charge of the business at the store building. She had to collect the rent. She had to see that the insurance was paid. The women were encouraged to be independent and to take a part in the business. Yeah.
Tortorice: This has transferred on to you.
Tortorice: You always had the expectation that you would be responsible for yourself.
Kreilick: As a child, my mother gave me the bills to pay. This is one, I would go and pay the gas and light bill. These bills. The family, monthly bills. And then she said, “Now you have to count the money to learn how much money you get back.” I must have been around ten to do this, eight or ten. So this is how I learned to take care of money, too. I would go and pay them. And I knew I had to get so much money back. And I’d count it and take care of it.
Tortorice: Your mother is a significant figure in your evolution, isn’t she?
Kreilick: Absolutely. In a very, what should I say, not in a very strong manner, but a very firm kind of manner. It’s assumed.
Tortorice: Mm hmm. An example.
Kreilick: As an example. Yeah.
Lange: So you have your sister in college. Your father is working. You’re in Toledo. Talk now about the next stage of your life, and why you make the choices you do.
Kreilick: Well, I did these shows in Toledo, 01:21:00 which were very helpful. Before I leave.
Lange: So you’re having time to do some of your own work.
Kreilick: A little. Yeah.
Lang: A little.
Kreilick: Because I established for the University of Toledo a sculpture program. And equipped a studio for sculpture in Toledo. In the evenings. So that helped. That helped the program grow. They now have a [Frank] Gehry building for the University of Toledo, right side of the museum. So that’s how much it’s grown.
Otto Wittmann and Migi [Margaret] Wittmann were very good friends of mine. Migi was his wife, who was a Greek anthropologist and had been at the school in Athens, American School in Athens, for years. So that was very helpful for both of them. And Otto was the person who had me also he came up to check with me about what colors some of the galleries ought to be painted. And you know we did, after we taught all day, we’d go back nights and do exhibitions. Marian Miller, my friend, who did a show at Christmastime, which was terrific. We had no money! We did this on nothing. She went around to all the commercial companies. I mean factories, factories, around Toledo. And to the store buildings and so forth. And she would pick out, she’d do a show on well-designed products this year. This year’s well-designed products. And she’d get on loan all of tea kettles, pots, cups, everything that was really, had a good design. And bring it back. And get them on loan. And at night, we’d go down and install a show. We worked till one o’clock.
Lange: And come back and teach in the morning?
Kreilick: And come back and teach the next day. Sure.
Tortorice: And your show really highlighted the ceramics of Ohio and this area.
Tortorice: Which now have become so valuable and noted. And your show probably was one of the first, I would imagine.
Kreilick: No, that was a smaller room downstairs for the school. And Marian did the schoolrooms. This one was unfinished galleries upstairs in the center of the Toledo Museum. And 01:24:00 Otto opened all that up and he said, “Come on, let’s bring the parents in and show them what the kids have been doing all year.” So this was a big annual show.
Tortorice: But you did a show on ceramics.
Kreilick: And that was, yes. It was in that same room. Different time of year.
Tortorice: Same room. And this was really focused on the Ohio school—
Kreilick: Ohio. All of Ohio pottery. Mm hmm.
Tortorice: Boy, and that must have been one of the first of that to really focus on this school, or these different studios or makers.
Kreilick: Of pottery. I’m sure it did.
Tortorice: It must have.
Kreilick: And also become aware that all of the subways in New York City is Ohio pottery. That tile comes from Ohio.
Tortorice: I didn’t know that. Really?
Kreilick: A lot of things I can tell you. (laughter) [pause]
Lange: Continuing the interview now, Marjorie, you’re at Toledo. What happens next? You’re clearly having success in Toledo.
Kreilick: And after about three years at Toledo, I begin looking at this as a career. Museum as a career. I liked museum very much. Living with these paintings every day makes a huge difference. They become part of your family, actually. And you change. You change what you see in the paintings. You evaluate some that you thought were better than they were. And others become more involved. At any rate, living in the museum, which one did, because you spent so much time there. But I began to look at who was working in the museums. And so then I went and got books in the library, curious, to look up who were the directors of the museums in the United States. And there was only one woman, at the Portrait Gallery in Washington. And then I started looking who were the curators in the museums? There weren’t very many women there, either. I thought, I don’t think I have a future here. I don’t think there’s a future for me in museums. The pay isn’t very good, and there’s no place for me to go.
Lange: And just to pick up on something John said, you by this time, in 1950, 01:27:00 you’re twenty-five. You’re headed for a career. You are considering yourself a professional career woman.
Kreilick: Yes. I have to support myself. Yes. Mm hmm. So it doesn’t look very, museums don’t look very encouraging. Now my friend who I saw in sculpture at Ohio State, Larry Copeland, who was at Cranbrook. He went to Cranbrook, to work in metal as a metalsmith. And I talked to my friend Marian. And I said, “Marian, what about going to Cranbrook? Why don’t we see if we can get in Cranbrook?” Now you know this school is an international school and it’s by application. You just can’t pay the money and go to Cranbrook. So we had to prepare portfolios and apply for applications to go to Cranbrook. Which we both did. Marian was interested in teaching and she thought it would help her getting a teaching job. I wasn’t particularly interested in teaching, but I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I thought it could help me, another degree. And I wanted to go and work with oh, God, what’s his name now, who did all the sculpture? I’m having a senior moment.
Lange: He was a teacher—
Kreilick: Yeah. Yes, he taught sculpture at Cranbrook. Did all the sculpture fountains. [Berthold] “Tex” Schiwetz (1909-1971) was his main, who became a good friend of mine, was his main handyman. He did most of the work, actually. Tex.
Tortorice: This is a theme in the art world. (laughs)
Kreilick: Yeah. Exactly. Milles. Carl Milles (1875-1955). I wanted to go work with Carl Milles. And I thought, you know, that would certainly help. I admire him and I’d like to go work with him. So we saved our money. On the budget. So both of us went to Cranbrook in sculpture.
Lange: And you were, was the acceptance difficult?
Kreilick: I wouldn’t have, they didn’t tell me.
Lange: Oh, okay. You didn’t have to interview? They really worked from your portfolio?
Kreilick: I think they worked from my portfolio. 01:30:00 And there might have been an interview. That I don’t remember clearly. I didn’t have to take a written test. (laughter) I didn’t do that. So we went to Cranbrook. I took very, I traveled very light. A couple pair of jeans and working clothes. It was going to be a working year. Well, the worst thing that happened was that Carl Milles, who I wanted to work with, left.
Lange: Before you got there?
Kreilick: No, I got there. I just got there and spent a couple of months. And then he left. But Maija Grotell (1899-1973) the potter, was still there. [Zoltan] Sepeshy (1898-1974), the painter, was still there. All of these are Europeans. [Marianne] Strengell (1909-1998) the weaver, was still there. What happened in founding of Cranbrook is that they had all of these artists in to build the buildings of Cranbrook, [Eero] Saarinen (1910-1961). And as handmaidens to the architecture, they brought in textiles to do the rugs and the draperies. All of these people were brought in to help Saarinen. And they kept them on, many of them, and formed an art school. And that’s how Cranbrook began.
Lange: Oh, interesting.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. So, there were, sculpture studio was one long building. We all had outside windows, big outside window. And then drapes across the other side. And the chief maestro’s studio was at the end. And we had no instructions. We could do whatever, it was a graduate program, do what you want to do. All meals were served.
Lange: And you lived there?
Kreilick: We lived there. Apartments were there. You had a room. You had your meals served. You have a studio. What more could you want? It was wonderful. Really wonderful. It’s the first time I really had services so that I could dedicate myself completely to what I was doing. Completely.
Lange: Was that exhilarating?
Kreilick: Absolutely. Good library, too. The setting is magnificent. It’s a huge garden. Acres of garden with a stream running through all of this marvelous woods area. It wasn’t until later that I found out that the stream had pebbles in the bottom, that it was artificial. 01:33:00 (laughter) And along this garden path, etcetera, were pieces of antique architecture, parts of columns, Latin, some Latin signature, etcetera. But you would walk into the garden and you’d just find these things. They were wonderful. And wild garden. Wild. Acres. And you could take a canoe. We once one night at Cranbrook, we stole a canoe and took it, chasing swans on this was wonderful, on this river, this little, well, it’s more than, it’s not as big as a river, a very tiny river, kind of, that would flow through. But big enough for a canoe.
Lange: Were there many women? Or were you and Marian a minority?
Kreilick: No, there were women, a lot of women in textiles. More textiles. Jack [Lenor] Larsen (1927-2020) had just graduated. He was the big man in textiles. Ruben Eshkanian was wonderful. I don’t know what nationality it was. Rug maker. Beautiful.
Tortorice: Sounds Armenian, maybe, Eshkanian.
Kreilick: Yeah. Eshkanian. When he finished a rug, we’d take the rug to the woods with candles and have a picnic.
Tortorice: Oh, how nice. Sounds like a wonderful place.
Lange: You’re making me wish I had talent.
Kreilick: Well, my studio was next to the last studio in this long row of studios. And there must have been one, two, three, four, maybe six or seven at the most, six or seven studios. And you know, it takes quite a while to get a studio set up. I learned that when I went to Rome. The biggest thing was to find rags. Hard thing to find a rag, you know.
Kreilick: Yeah. Where would you go to find a rag in the middle of a country?
Tortorice: In a foreign country?
Kreilick: Yeah, in a foreign country.
Lange: I think I’ll report tomorrow. Nothing springs to mind right at the moment. (laughter)
Kreilick: Questions. So that’s how I began at Cranbrook.
Tortorice: Is this where you really branched out into other areas than—
Kreilick: I was doing sculpture. You could do, that was wonderful about Cranbrook. You could go anywhere, any of the studios. If you decided you wanted to learn how to weave, you could go in the weaving studio. And they’d set up a, 01:36:00 or you could learn to set up a loom. Which I did one day. I never got it finished because a ceramic kiln blew up. So we had to start all over. But at any rate. Or you could go down to the pot shop. I did pots. I went down to the pot shop and worked in the pot shop. Talked to them. I went down in the jewelry shop, worked with them for a while. Find out how to do these things while I was doing sculpture at the same time.
Lange: And people would come to work with you in your studio?
Kreilick: Most of them wouldn’t get into sculpture. It’s too time-consuming. Mm hmm. Too time-consuming.
Lange: When you go to Cranbrook, one, do you know how long you’re going for? And two, do you know what you want to do?
Kreilick: No. Because you don’t know how long, you don’t know what you can accomplish. And if you accomplish enough for a good-sized exhibition, which is your goal, and you have to write a thesis, also. So, unless you have a body of work and you have a purpose in what you want to show, you don’t know if you’re going to get that finished in a year or not. But there’s no reason you can’t, because you’ve got all of this marvelous time that is all yours. You don’t even have to wash your clothes. It’s just wonderful.
Lange: Now do you have a supervisor, like a—
Kreilick: You have a maestro, who would have been Milles. And this was taken over by another professor, I’ll think of him in a minute, who had been a Milles student at one time, I think. And he had the studio at the end. And he’ll come by and check with you and talk to you and put you in a direction and etcetera. He’s the maestro. So other than that, you’re on your own.
Lange: Do you have to check your thesis with him? With your maestro?
Kreilick: I think so. Yeah, I think we checked theses with him. One day in the studio, a man came by and looked in all the, in the, we had curtains across the studio, you know. He came by and looked in all of these, etcetera. And he stopped in my studio and looked. He stopped. He said, “Oh, hello,” he said, “I’m a former Cranbrook student.” He said, “My name’s Louis Redstone (1903-2002).”
So he came in. I said, “Well, come in, won’t you? Look around if you’d like.” And he came in. Rather short and stocky fellow. 01:39:00 And began talking to me. And he was an architect. And came over to, named his son after Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950). And he stopped in Marian’s studio and talked to her a while, etcetera.
And he said, “How would you like to come and have dinner at my house?” He said, “I’ll come and get you. Have dinner next week.” Etcetera, something. We said, oh, we’d just been here, we always eat here. He said, “Oh, get a pass. You can come.”
So that’s what happened. That’s how I met Louis Redstone, architect. Detroit architect. Big Detroit architect. Israeli. Had been Polish, I think, originally. And escaped. Polish Jew. Escaped. Went to Israel. Worked as a mason, building Israel. Before, went to the University of Michigan, got to the University of Michigan somehow. Got his degree there, then went to Cranbrook.
Tortorice: Oh, I wonder if he knew Eric Mendelsohn (1887-1953) at all. In Israel. Eric Mendelsohn was …
Kreilick: He could have. He could have. Anyway. Went to dinner with Louis and his wife Ruth (d. 2008). Wonderful, warm woman. Wonderful. Used to play the piano for the early movies. She could innovate. Do anything, you know? Just great. Nice family. And two young boys in the family. And Louis had built a house, and built a house for his brother, whom he brought over from Israel, who was, I think, made into a contractor. And these two brothers lived side by side. Had one large backyard, all in one piece. All landscaped with sculpture in this. And Louis was a collector. And he commissioned me to do a grill, a wooden grill for his stereo, for the speaker on his stereo. Would I be interested in doing something like that? So I took measurements and did things, and wanted to know what kind of wood it needed to be, and etcetera, etcetera. And so suddenly a commission fell in my hands.
Lange: This was your first commission.
Kreilick: Yeah. 01:42:00 This is my first commission, really. So I worked at it at Cranbrook. We had wonderful wood studio we could go. We could learn to turn on the lathe if we wanted to. He didn’t speak English. He was Scandinavian. But he was a wonderful craftsman. And of course I wanted to try all these things. I learned to turn on the lathe and worked in the woodshop for bases, mainly, sculpture bases. And went to him to talk to him about what’s the best way, what’s the best finish to put on here? What are the tools I ought to be using? Etcetera. All this information. They were wonderful, older people to work with. Craftsmen. And so all they think about, all their lives. They were just beautiful to work with.
So I made this for Louis. And he was pleased. And it was a kind of trumpeter as a grill. And it had a lot of piercing in it all the way around. So hailing almost the trumpet of the last testament. I used later this kind of theme when I did this, a synagogue.
Tortorice: Marjorie, when you say he was pleased, were you pleased yourself before he was?
Kreilick: I wouldn’t have chosen this subject matter if it were for me. I would have preferred something more architectural and not part of the architecture, part of the wall. Maintain the wall much more than this did. This was a low relief. But I think Louis was pleased in having the subject matter, all right? Although work that I did for him later, which was quite abstract, was accepted.
So, this is how I met another person in my life who became very influential in my life. Not only while I was at Cranbrook, he was so good to both of us, but also after I left Cranbrook, he brought me back for commissions on many shopping malls. I did a whole series of shopping malls for Louis Redstone.
Tortorice: So is Redstone your first patron?
Kreilick: Hmm, yes. Mm hmm. I would say that. Redstone. Louis Redstone would be my first patron.
Tortorice: Did Saarinen ever visit in the time you were there? Was he a presence?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I saw 01:45:00 I had a wonderful, when I got to know Peter Yang, Peter Yang was in the design studio. And he came around one day and he said, talked to me, and he said, “You know, I want to apply for this competition.” Everybody’s encouraged to apply for competitions at Cranbrook. “I want to apply for this competition in architecture.” And that’s the one which is a, what is it, a music library, wasn’t it, that I did the sculpture for, the white sculpture?
Lange: Oh, yeah.
Kreilick: “I want to apply for this architecture. But I’m a design student.” He said, “Would you be interested in doing some sculpture for me, for this competition?”
I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” I’d try something. So we started working together and he was showing me his designs, where this was going to be put, what scale it ought to be done, and etcetera. So we worked together then. What was I going to say about Peter Yang? Oh, he was an excellent photographer, also. Chinese, from China.
Lange: From the mainland.
Kreilick: From the mainland. And gone through the war with the Japanese. Dreadful. He came to my studio first at around sundown. And he was almost trembling. And I found out later he used to come at that time, and then asked me later could he come at sundown, because that’s when all the bombs came. And he saw his friends’ faces on the ceiling and all over the place. It was a terrible thing. And he didn’t like to be alone.
Tortorice: And you did a sculpture of him, I see.
Kreilick: He didn’t like to be alone at sundown. So, he would bring oolong tea. And we would have oolong tea and pistachios at sundown. (laughter) And that was Peter Yang. Who did some of my photography for me. And that we entered a couple of competitions together.
Tortorice: And Saarinen would have—
Kreilick: Saarinen, every night after, we worked in the studios till ten o’clock. Worked all day. Got up at seven. Worked, went to breakfast. Took lunch. Or took lunch as a picnic, so we’d eat in the studio if we didn’t want to interrupt work. And then at night, Peter would come by my studio and he said, “You want to play chess?” So, what we’d do is go to the Fox and Hound’s, which was a kind of sophisticated bar in the area, because it’s a sophisticated area. And he had, he played a different kind of Chinese chess, 01:48:00 which was three dimensional.
Lange: Oh, my.
Kreilick: I said, “I don’t know how to do that.”
He said, “All right. Okay. We’ll play the other.” And so he got a portable chess board. And we used to play chess and drink beer after hours. Saarinen would come up and kibbitz. Everybody would be around. Saarinen’s office had about maybe six architects, international. They were from all over. The kids at Cranbrook were from all over. Niels Jensen, Scandinavia, became a pretty good designer afterwards. All kinds of people. Wonderful.
Tortorice: So he was very accessible?
Kreilick: Saarinen? Well, he would kibbitz. Sit there behind us smoking his pipe, kibbitz a bit. Yeah. They would mix. The architects didn’t spend much time. He kept the studio pretty busy. And they were older. A little older than most of us.
Tortorice: But it was a school with a strong philosophy of—
Kreilick: Of architecture. It was built as an architectural school. The crafts were handmaidens to architecture.
Lange: And did you learn that there? Or were you already predisposed that way?
Kreilick: My art history was taught in terms of architecture first.
Kreilick: You learned what people paid the most money for, made the most sacrifice for, and gave their lives to build. That came first. And then, you decorated the architecture.
Lange: And the underlying logic of that appealed to you.
Kreilick: It made sense to me. I mean, you’ve got to get the shelter first. And then the other things came along with it. And Saarinen, in designing Cranbrook, you know, they worked together to do the rugs, to do the draperies, to do the furniture. All of that came together. It was just before I came that the Eames [Charles (1907-1978) and Ray (1912-1988)] left. And there were still remnants of Eames around. And [Harry] Bertoia (1915-1978), also.
Tortorice: Is this where your strong belief in the necessity of firm grounding in design and color theory—
Tortorice: —really took hold? This was a very—
Kreilick: You’ve got to 01:51:00 have the foundations. Absolutely. Design foundations, it’s the foundation of everything. Even painting. How do you break up the painting? How do you break up this rectangle or square? How difficult is it to do a circle against a square or a rectangle?
Lange: So does your time at Cranbrook formally form you as the kind of artist you will become?
Kreilick: Well, I hope it doesn’t gel me (laughs) to that degree. Or cement me into a repetitive kind of thing. But again, you begin to see, and see in relationship. And I think Carl Milles’s fountains, for instance, is a very good example of this. You know, he even did the flagstones around the fountains.
Lange: No, I didn’t know that.
Kreilick: And suddenly things would emerge from those flagstones. There are surprises, just like the ancient pieces, Roman pieces emerged from the forest. There’s always an element of discovery that contributes to the architecture or to the art. It isn’t just illustration, all right? That’s very important.
Tortorice: Mm hmm. But also profound influence on your theories of teaching and your methods of teaching, I would imagine.
Kreilick: I think it probably unconsciously, yes. Although books are important. The books, I believe in. Professor Frye taught me that. Books are important. He taught me to read.
Tortorice: You can’t just pull everything out of thin air.
Kreilick: No. Oh, no. That’s not blue sky. No way.
Lange: So how long are you at Cranbrook?
Kreilick: I was there a year and a summer.
Lange: Mm hmm. And your thesis?
Kreilick: Was on sculpture.
Lange: Can you describe, can you talk a little bit about your thesis subject? How you selected it?
Kreilick: Hmm. How to tell this? I was interested in movement in sculpture, all right? And you find I did some frogs and some rabbits. I was interested in how they did horses, equestrian statues, to make them move. For instance, this is one thing Frye 01:54:00 taught me, too. He said, “Did you ever see a powder box with a ballerina on top?”
And I said, “Yeah, I think I have. Yeah.” Because if you take the lid off, she dances?
He said, “But she never dances, does she? That’s not dancing. How do you make a figure dance?”
Tortorice: How interesting. Oh, he was something, wasn’t he?
Kreilick: How do you make a figure dance? So that stuck in my mind. Even when I got to Cranbrook. How do you make animals move? They move differently. You don’t do one animal, you do the essence of an animal. And in that essence of an animal, how do you get that movement to leap in movement? And how do you do it, because I’d been at Toledo and I didn’t like, I think they had a Roman ram sculpture. But they had, the legs were so thin it wouldn’t hold up the marble. So all the time you have things built in to substitute this. And I thought that was a bad solution. You’ve got to be able to do a ram, a fluffy ram, and still get the delicacy of the legs without having it stand. So I did the gazelle sculpture in trying to show that without any props. Okay?
Tortorice: It’s also amazing how you were able to make the surface of this plaster figure, which is really suspended on these very narrow legs, so smooth and so shimmery. I mean, it doesn’t look like plaster at all to me, at least.
Kreilick: Well, the plaster has been varnished.
Tortorice: Varnished and polished.
Kreilick: It was to imitate marble. It would be polished marble.
Tortorice: Mm hmm. It’s amazing how effective that is.
Kreilick: And it could be polished marble. It’s a shape that could be adapted to marble and polished and reflected. Mm hmm. I think we did a, I think we were doing a black circle, black granite or something. Polished, very highly polished. So the reflection of these dancers would be reflected into—
Tortorice: Into the surface? Oh.
Kreilick: Yeah, into the surface.
Lange: So, you’re going to do your thesis on movement in sculpture.
Lange: And you had to confirm that selection 01:57:00 with the maestro.
Kreilick: Yeah. Mm hmm.
Lange: And then you wrote that while you’re also doing your studio in that year.
Kreilick: I summarized it in the end. I didn’t do it during my—I thought about it, but I didn’t write it. I thought about it while I’m working, all right?
Lange: Oh, I see.
Kreilick: You think about it while you’re working or the next thing you’re going to do. You’re thinking all the time. But you don’t sit down and write. Then maybe that’s just me. But then when I go to write, that’s what I’m doing. Okay?
Lange: So, at the end of your studio year, you have a show, I assume.
Lange: Exhibition. And what were you exhibiting at that point?
Kreilick: Well, I was exhibiting some of these animal things that I did. What else? I did a Pan. I was fascinated by Pan for a while. So that I could make him move only on one foot. But I got some of that in this little figure. But that’s not Pan, that’s Iris from an opera. But anyway, the movement, this jerky kind of movement that I thought Pan would have enticed people—
Kreilick: —with. But do it only by the movement of the figure. And then the mounting of the figure also has to be. So I had ten or twelve pieces that I’d done during the year.
Lange: And was it well-received?
Kreilick: I don’t know.
Lange: What did people say to you? Do you remember?
Kreilick: Not much. Students. All students, probably, mainly. Some came, I think in the library. And other people. But I wasn’t there at the time. So I don’t know.
Lange: So you have the exhibit, and then you write your paper.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: And then what happens?
Kreilick: Then I’m accepted or not. If I have to stay longer, then I’ll stay longer.
Lange: But if they accept the thesis, then you get your degree.
Kreilick: Then I get my degree. And I got a master of fine arts from Cranbrook.
Lange: And what decisions are you making at this point of your career?
Kreilick: I had no decision. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do.
Lange: Were you giving any thought at all to just beginning to work as an independent sculptor/artist?
Kreilick: No. No. I wasn’t.
Lange: You were looking for something to affiliate with?
Kreilick: I thought probably a university or something in which I could work my way to improve. 02:00:00 I could work up the ladder in some way. Because I couldn’t do that in the museum.
Kreilick: And as teaching, I probably could. But I didn’t want to teach below the college level. Because it would be too draining and I wouldn’t have any time to work at all. But if I taught in college, I might have summers.
Lange: Uh huh.
Kreilick: All right?
Kreilick: That was my thinking.
Lange: So having made that judgment, where do you start looking?
Kreilick: Where do I start looking? Well, I didn’t start looking. I applied, yes, at some of the, what do they call, the university, once a year they have the big university hiring sessions.
Tortorice: Association for Art—
Kreilick: Art Association.
Lange: Oh, like the Modern Language Association.
Kreilick: Yes. In art. One of those. I began there doing my resume and sending it out. And I think there was a job in, maybe in Dayton, Ohio. But I found out later, after I met the woman, that she rejected me on my photograph of myself.
Lange: Huh. Really.
Kreilick: Yeah. That’s a sound judgment. I’m glad I didn’t work for her. (laughter)
Lange: So how do you get to Wisconsin? What’s the process?
Kreilick: Well, my friend Marian Miller called me, from Cranbrook and from Toledo, remember? She was—
Kreilick: —also teaching in Toledo. She called me one summer when I was sending our resumes and said, “Marjorie, what are you doing?”
I said, “I’m looking for a job. I don’t have a job.”
And she said, “Oh, could you spare some time and come and help me? I’ve got the family home here and we’re breaking it up. My mother died. And I’ve got to clear out all of this stuff.” And she said, “The longer I work, the slower I get. Would you come and help me?”
I said, “Sure. I’ll come. I’ll drive up and help you.”
Okay. So that’s what I did. I drove up to Sheboygan—
Lange: Oh, she’s in Sheboygan.
Kreilick: She’s in Sheboygan.
Lange: Oh, that’s right.
Kreilick: I drove up to Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Helped her. We worked like dogs. Packing, lifting, 02:03:00 pushing furniture. Calling people. I mean, night and day. We worked a week that was two really hefty weeks.
After that, I said, on a Sunday, I said, “Marian, nothing on Sunday. We’re doing never on Sunday. We’re not going to do a thing on Sunday. Let’s drive down and see Harvey Littleton.”
And she said, “Oh, I never thought of that.”
I said, “Sure, come on. Let’s go see Harvey and Bess. And they live in Verona. We’ll get the map and see just where it is. And we’ll call them. We’ll call them and tell them we’re coming.”
So that’s what we did. We drove from Sheboygan over to Verona, Wisconsin, to see Harvey and Bess and the children. And had a wonderful day. Had dinner with them. And it was good seeing one another. So as I was leaving, we were leaving, Harvey said, “Marjorie, what are you doing, by the way?”
And I said, “I’m looking for a job.”
He said, “You got a portfolio with you?”
I said, “Yeah, I always travel with one.”
He said, “Good. Leave it with me.”
So, they were looking for somebody in the Art Department to teach crafts.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Tortorice: Which you did not know when you came down to see Littleton.
Kreilick: No, no. I didn’t know anything about it. I was helping her clean house. That’s how I got to Wisconsin. It wasn’t any choice. I just fell into it.
Lange: And once Littleton took your portfolio, what was the process of your getting a position? You had to come down to interview, I assume?
Kreilick: Oh, let me tell you. (laughs) I got a telephone call after I’d been up to see Louis Redstone about a job in Detroit. And I drove back from Detroit. So I got home about 1:30 or two o’clock at night.
Lange: And where are you living now?
Kreilick: I was at home in Oak Harbor.
Kreilick: All right. I was at home in Oak Harbor. And early one morning, I got a telephone call. And I think it was my sister who said, “There’s someone on the phone who wants to talk to you. They’re calling long distance from Wisconsin.” So, I thought it was Harvey. I got up to go to the telephone call and it was Fred Logan, who was chair of the Art Department. And he told me if I wanted the job, I had the job. And that he gave me a quotation of the amount that I would be paid. And that it was not a whole year job. That I’d have summers off. And then the dates 02:06:00 when the school would begin. And maybe I ought to come up a week or so ahead of time and he could show me the room and the equipment that I had. And I’d have to order supplies and things. So I thanked him very much for giving me this, not the job, but giving me the opportunity to come early so that I could do some preparation. So that was it. I had the job.
Lange: No interview.
Kreilick: No interview.
Tortorice: And you didn’t know anyone else other than Harvey on the faculty?
Kreilick: No. No one. I knew no one. I knew no reputation about the department. I knew nothing. I got into my 49 Ford. I packed folding furniture and I drove to Wisconsin. I got a one-room apartment on 2020 University Avenue. And I arrived.
Tortorice: And you arrived then in the August of 53?
Lange: Today’s what, April, seventh.
Lange: This concludes the April 7, 2008 portion of the oral history interview with Professor Marjorie Kreilick.
End April 7, 2008 Session.
Lange: This is Bob Lange with the Oral History Project of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Today is April 8, 2008. This is the second in a series of interviews with emeritus professor of art Marjorie Kreilick. Marjorie, before we get into today’s topic, any observations from yesterday that you would like to add?
Kreilick: While at Ohio State, there are two things that I forgot. One was that I became quite interested in geology. So this always adds up to my interests as they grew, as I continued in my profession. So that I took two semesters in geology. And then I started to think, you know, I’m going to end up in Texas in the oilfields. I don’t know where else I would go. Because I didn’t know we were going to the moon. If I had I known that there were other opportunities, I might have stayed with geology.
Lange: Really? It was that close?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. It was that close. I took two semesters and I was almost hooked. (laughs) I saw everything. I saw landscapes, I saw rivers, streams, I saw everything in different eyes after I took geology. But then I thought, you know, that’s not going to work for me, I don’t think. So anyway, that’s when I went over and took a drawing class.
Lange: Ah. Okay. Oh, that’s important.
Kreilick: As a freshman and then my two science courses, which we had to take in liberal arts.
Lange: So you took geology just to meet a requirement?
Kreilick: Exactly. I didn’t know anything about geology. So, but the most important thing that I’ve left out was that my professor of painting and drawing, Hoyt Sherman (1903-1981), in the art school, was experimenting with visuals. And he established what is called as a flash lab. And he chose certain art students of his to participate in this, if we would spend an hour, I don’t remember how much, an hour or two a week in this flash lab. The purpose of this flash lab was that these images or sometimes people would be onstage. 00:03:00 And he would flash quickly this light. And the purpose was to widen the peripheral vision. So, they chose maybe, maybe there were ten of us in the art school. And football players. Woody Hayes (1913-1987), I have always said this is Woody Hayes’ secret in winning all these football teams. Because the receivers, football receivers, were the ones who had their visual perception way out here.
Lange: Interesting. So they were in the course with you.
Kreilick: Absolutely. And as art students, we were given shape recognition. We were trained as airplane spotters during the war. And also widening the peripheral vision. And we would have to draw what was flashed, we would have to draw on this piece of paper.
Kreilick: Quickly. And it would go (makes popping noise), you know, very fast. But you did what you could do, what you saw. It was very interesting.
Lange: What did that do to you as a developing artist?
Kreilick: I’m not sure. The biggest thing it did was to realize the shape I was working on. Where I would place these that I saw flashed on that shape. And he began by saying, it’s in a dark room, so he said, you know, put your hand or your chalk around the framework of this so you know where you’re working, etcetera. And then prepare to do the flash. Etcetera. So I think that process really made a difference. I used it later with my children. With the ten-year-olds. So they knew they didn’t start in one little corner and work down here. They knew exactly psychologically and physically where this area was to work.
Lange: Is it too ingenuous for me to say that there’s a direct line connection between that and geology? Looking at the whole landscape?
Kreilick: I’m not sure. Geology is kind of endless, but you work only within a field, specific field, in drawing.
Lange: And you took this course though after geology.
Kreilick: I took this course 00:06:00 at the same time.
Lange: Oh, at the same time.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. I didn’t get credit for the course. This was just use and experimentation. This was not a course. This was volunteers.
Lange: And that would have appealed to you because you were interested.
Kreilick: Yes. I want to learn as much as I’m there, I want to learn as much as possible.
Lange: Yes, I think that’s obvious about you. But I want to get that on record. You do seem to be curious.
Kreilick: Yeah. I volunteer. I want to know what’s going on. I want to learn about this. It was great. We probably had more football fellows in that course. There must have been maybe fifteen to ten. So they had maybe twenty-five people, volunteers.
Lange: I think that’s very interesting about Woody Hayes.
Kreilick: Oh, yes.
Lange: And the team.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And I thought it was good training, good shape training, airplane training, for the art students as well. As I’m sure it had an effect on my peripheral vision. Yes. At least I had the awareness of, and maybe we didn’t do it long enough. I think it was for the semester. But I’d like to add that. Because I have never seen it written. I have never seen anything about it anywhere.
Lange: Did you ever use that technique teaching at the university level?
Kreilick: No. I would have to get up a lab to do this. I would have to get money, etcetera. No, I wouldn’t even apply for it, because it wouldn’t get out of my department. No.
Lange: Okay. Well we will be getting to your department. Anything else from yesterday, before we—
Kreilick: No, I think only those two things. Geology was so much a part of all the other courses, I didn’t think of it. But in retrospect, it made a difference for my attachment to stone.
Lange: I was going to ask you if, when later you get to the point you’re actually picking up stones to use, if your mind was running on another track as well when you picked up—
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Lange: When we stopped yesterday, you had received a phone call from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Logan, I believe, Professor Logan.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Yes.
Lange: To offer you a position in 1953. I’d like to pick it up there then with the circumstances of that offer concerning the contract and the letter, and then move into your early years at the university.
Kreilick: Well, there was no letter and there was no contract. So I came. 00:09:00 In spite of it.
Lange: In the summer of 53.
Kreilick: In the summer of 53. Got a one-room apartment on 2020 University Avenue. And went in to take a look at my quarters at the university. The storeroom where it was and what equipment I had and what I was expected to teach. I think these were—I’m not sure. I went in and found—I was so taken aback—I went in and found a lot of boxes of colored feathers and hooks and spinners and threads. And these undoubtedly were for fly tying. I didn’t know what else it could be. So if I was expected to teach fly tying, I was out of there.
Lange: And this was in the old School of Education.
Kreilick: In the old School of Education. In the basement. Well, no, it was on the first floor. And Harvey Littleton’s (1922-2013) ceramic shop was in the basement of that building beneath us. So I organized and ordered things for teaching crafts to occupational therapy students.
Lange: Is that what you had been primarily hired for, to teach OT students?
Kreilick: They didn’t say OT students. They said crafts.
Lange: I know you said crafts yesterday.
Kreilick: That’s what he said. Teach crafts. All right. I didn’t know quite what this was, either, so. But anyway, I needed a job. So I came.
Lange: Was there any kind of opening reception for you to meet your colleagues?
Kreilick: No. No, no. No one came to see me that whole week. Or introduce themselves. No. It was wonderful, I want to put in, it was wonderful walking down Park Street. Because it was a fall day. And on Park Street there were these two huge houses on the righthand side. And they were the old Queen Anne houses, almost like my grandmother’s, where they had a large porch wrapping around the house. All of the windows were open. Large windows. And as I walked down the 00:12:00 street, this cacophony of sounds reached me as the breeze came up from Lake Mendota. It was wonderful. You heard a piano playing and somewhere a clarinet was over that. You heard voices. The combination of all of this came out onto Park Street. It was just great. I thought, look at this. This is going to be a terrific place. And that was the School of Music.
And then I walked up the hill to the School of Education.
Lange: And that, those houses would probably be where the Mosse Humanities Building is now?
Kreilick: No. Let’s see. Yes. Yes. They were great.
Lange: That’s very evocative.
Kreilick: It was wonderful.
Kreilick: So I began, we began classes in the beginning. And I think it was during that first week of classes that I was called down to the dean’s office. And I thought oh, what have I done already? The dean was John Guy Fowlkes and I was called down to question my loyalty.
Lange: Your loyalty?
Kreilick: To the United States. This was the time of the Senator—
Lange: Oh, [Joseph] McCarthy (1908-1957).
Kreilick: McCarthy. And he was questioning me about my association with, was I a card-carrying communist?
Lange: The dean is asking you?
Kreilick: Yes. Oh, yes. Yes. And I am so, I didn’t know whether to laugh. I thought, this is the theater of the absurd. This is absolutely the theater. And he was a very big, imposing man, John Guy Fowlkes. But here is this man whose relatives were the insurgents in England. They burn his effigy every—
Lange: Oh, he’s a Guy Fowlkes?
Kreilick: He is Guy Fowlkes. He is John Guy Fowlkes.
Lange: Oh my gosh.
Kreilick: They burn his effigy annually. And here I am, the relative of Prussian mercenaries fighting for the British, defending myself. 00:15:00 All of this was going around in my head at the same time as he’s asking me questions. And I had to control myself not to laugh. So that was the first week.
Lange: Now, were you singled out? Or did they do this to all faculty?
Kreilick: I’ve heard that they examined all the art department. But I don’t know. I don’t know who they did. All of this was before I came.
Lange: What did you end up saying to him? Did you decline to take the oath?
Kreilick: No, I didn’t. I said, I know little, very little about this. I’m not a communist. My family’s been here a very long time. So, that’s all.
Lange: That’s all you could say.
Kreilick: Yeah, well, my head was going in other places, really. (laughs)
Lange: Absolutely. So this is September of 1953.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. The first week I came to the school. Yeah. My bookkeeping experience came to the forefront again after I found a place to live, because I was able to live on a dollar a day. And that is after I paid my rent. That was for my food and for my car expenses.
Lange: A dollar a day?
Kreilick: A dollar a day. Mm hmm.
Lange: How’d you do it?!
Kreilick: I did it. I was assigned a classroom on the west corner of the woodworking shop. That was my classroom. And my office I shared with Ed Sagorski (1921-2021), who was a graphic designer. So—
Lange: And what are you teaching that fall, specifically? What courses?
Kreilick: I think I taught a beginning design class. And the couple of classes of occupational therapy. And I taught them, we did wooden bowls, carved wooden bowls. We did chip carving of boxes. I did fabric and scarf design. And I can’t remember what else. This kind of thing. It had aesthetic basis. No fly tying. All right? 00:18:00 So, that kept me pretty busy.
Lange: Who are you meeting, faculty-wise, at this point? Anybody?
Kreilick: One person who came to me was [Arthur] Vierthaler (d. 1993). He also was the metal man. And he came up, he happened to come past where I was working. And he came in, introduced himself. Said who he was and where his shop was. So he welcomed me aboard. And that was it. But no, I didn’t meet anyone. Not until the first faculty meeting.
Lange: And you’re conscious, I assume, that you’re the only woman on the faculty?
Kreilick: There was Helen Annen (taught at UW 1926-1963). Helen Annen, who had been, I don’t know how long she’d been there, was there. Much older woman.
Lange: Okay. And she did not move to take you under her wing?
Kreilick: No. No. I didn’t see her until the faculty meeting. The first faculty get-together, really, where I got to meet the faculty, was a Christmas party Fred Logan (taught at UW 1946-1974), the chairman, gave.
Lange: So for three months, you’re working in isolation.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Lange: That must have been very difficult.
Kreilick: No. I had a lot to do. It kept me busy. No. At this Christmas party at his house in McFarland, and I walked in. And all the chairs were all around the walls of the living room. And it was bare in the front, in the middle. And I thought oh, this will liven things up. It’s going to be a dancing party. Well, it didn’t turn into a dancing party. Instead, all of the faculty men gathered together around the bar. And all their wives and so forth sat together. And this was the welcome to the Christmas party. It is probably the most awkward kind of situation I’ve ever been in. No one greeted you. No one introduced you to anyone. So I had to make up my mind whether I go and join the men, which I thought isn’t a good idea. So I went and joined the ladies. 00:21:00 And one of these women came up to me and announced to me, she said, “You know, you see more of my husband than I do.” I hadn’t the slightest notion who this woman was. I introduced myself to her and asked her who her husband was. So I was not welcome.
Lange: No. That’s clear. Was Littleton helpful at all?
Kreilick: Littleton didn’t go to the party.
Lange: Were you sorry you had come to Wisconsin at that point?
Kreilick: I was beginning to question. I’ll tell you, the other thing, the other thing that hit me when I first came. And that was when I started to use the faculty directory as a phone book. And I was looking up the phone number of somebody that I wanted to call. I didn’t know many people, so I don’t know who it was. And there must have been a mark or something after some of the names and not others. And I couldn’t find out why. And I had to go and ask, I think I asked the secretary upstairs what does this indicate? Because I can’t see anything telling me why some of these people are marked and others are not.
And she said, “Oh, those are those who are married.” So even the gender or the married couples were marked in the telephone book. And I thought, what does this have to do with scholarship? I had no idea.
I tell you, when New Year’s came, it was one of my happiest New Year’s. I was so relieved. (laughs)
Kreilick: Because my first semester was almost, my first time, my welcoming time at Wisconsin was over.
Lange: Ah, I see. You’d survived.
Kreilick: I survived. Springtime came after that. And Katherine Jacobs who, Mrs. Herbert Jacobs (1910-1995) [Herbert Jacobs (1903-1987)] in Madison, telephoned me. And she said she had been talking to Harvey Littleton and they wanted, she had the idea since there wasn’t enough art 00:24:00 in the schools, that she wanted the Unitarian church to have an art program for children during the summer. And she had asked Harvey did he know of anyone who could teach children. And he said, “I know somebody who has probably taught more children than in the School of Education. So he gave Katherine my name. And she was calling to say would I be interested in a summer job. I think it was six weeks. I’m not sure about the time, but I think it was a six weeks’ job during the summer. A month. A little over a month. And she also asked Warrington Colescott (1921-2018) if he would be willing to teach during the summer.
So, Warrington and I both taught forty-eight children who attended the art fellowship of the Unitarian church in 1954.
Lange: The summer of 54.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. After the meeting with Katherine Jacobs and Herbert Jacobs, Katherine had invited me home to dinner at the house. It was most welcome. Most warm. Wonderful people. I was so glad that I’d met them and knew them. And it filled that void of collegiality which I didn’t find at the university.
Lange: At all.
Kreilick: At all. Katherine would call at the last minute and say, “Marjorie, I’m used to cooking for a family. You’d better come out and eat with us. I made too much.” She knew. But anyway.
Lange: Who were the Jacobs?
Kreilick: Herbert Jacobs, Herbert Jacobs was editor of the Capital Times, the agricultural section of the Capital Times. And he also wrote a daily column of “Can You Stump Me?” Where people would write in questions. They were both movers and shakers of the Unitarian church. And during the time it was built, Katherine was there making coffee for all the workmen. They were very strong supporters. All right? And Herbert was responsible for Frank Lloyd Wright’s first house after the Depression that he built for five thousand dollars. [Herbert and Catherine Jacobs House One].
Kreilick: Yes. 00:27:00 And this is the house, what do you call this area here?
Lange: University Heights?
Kreilick: No, no. It’s Speedway. [Westmorland]
Lange: Oh, oh, over here.
Kreilick: Just off Speedway. The first Frank Lloyd Wright House after the Depression. It’s the one Jim Dennis owns now.
Lange: Oh, yes. I know the one you mean.
Kreilick: That’s the house. That was their first house. [Jacobs One] Then they built a second house because Herbert decided it was getting too crowded in town. And they built a house on, past Crestwood. [Jacobs Two].
Lange: Oh, okay.
Kreilick: And that is the Sun House [Jacobs Two] I think they call it, because it’s built semicircular with a garden below. Well, that’s the house I knew [Jacobs One].
Lange: Oh, okay.
Kreilick: And that’s the house if the Jacobs would leave, I would live. I would come in and stay. Because people from, internationally were coming everywhere from all over the world. You’d probably get two or three people a week coming to look at the houses.
Lange: So it did, did you become involved in the Unitarian church yourself—
Lange: through the Jacobs?
Kreilick: No, I did not. No. On my budget, I couldn’t afford it.
Lange: Did you and Warrington become collegial or friends through that?
Kreilick: Yes. Yes. I got to know Warrington. Yes. Better than anyone else.
Lange: I see. So when that spring semester finishes and you have a whole year, and you’re working in the summer, what are you thinking at that point about yourself, your career? Are you assuming that you will stay here?
Kreilick: Well, I once read someplace that I always tell my students later when they go off on their first job that you are not a credit to your institution until you serve three years. You’re a debit. Because you don’t know the ropes. And I felt that way here. I stayed, if you remember, at the Toledo Museum, for about three and a half years. And then I went for more education on the next step. And I felt perhaps I had to do the same here.
Kreilick: That was my thinking. Well, the next thing that hit me 00:30:00 about the Art Department was that they didn’t have a slide collection. There were no slides.
Lange: At all?
Kreilick: No. A few something. But nothing. No. No. They said, I was told I had to prepare my own slides. Everybody had to take care of their own slides. They didn’t have anyone to take care of slides. I had to take, you had to take your own photographs or go to the photo lab and have photos taken. But you had to make your own slide collection. So, it took a lot of time hunting photographs and illustrations for illustrating in basic design various visual balances. But to teach without slides is almost impossible. I mean, I was hectic. Going through books and trying to find examples of what I wanted to teach students. And this took a lot of time.
Lange: And was there no assistance from art history?
Kreilick: Oh. None at all. We couldn’t borrow any slides from art history.
Lange: That was policy?
Kreilick: Yes. Nothing. So in the spring of, I think it was 55—
Lange: Of your second year.
Kreilick: Of my second year, I received a letter from my Detroit architect friend Louis Redstone (1903-2002). And his letter informed me of a synagogue he was building (Congregation Shaarey Zedek). And he said, “Marjorie, I’ve got a place in the entry I’d like to warm up with some mosaics. Would you be interested?” I said sure I’d be interested.
So I went to visit him to see the drawings, original drawings. The sizes. Went to do some research on the Old Testament. Visited two rabbis in Madison to talk to them about it. And one asked me if I were Jewish. And I said no, that I was not. And he said then why was I doing this? And I said, at the request of the architect, 00:33:00 who was Jewish.
Lange: Oh, he was Jewish.
Kreilick: Uh huh. At the request of the architect who was Jewish. So that summer, I worked on those twelve panels.
Lange: And you were free to do whatever you wanted in the summer, because you had a nine-month contract.
Kreilick: Yes. I had a nine-month contract. And I went, we had a cottage on Lake Erie. So I spent the summer at the cottage. I picked up stones. I had prepared all the sketches for the mosaics. I had welded frames made, steel frames made. And I could mix my own cement. So I spent the summer doing mosaics at the beach. It was lovely.
Lange: Oh. It sounds lovely.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. And those were to be installed the next year. So I had some time, doing the twelve.
Lange: Did you finish those mosaics in the summer?
Kreilick: I finished most of them. I think I had two or three to do, still to do, that I could finish. And they were 24 by 24. Two-feet square.
Lange: Wow. Good size.
Kreilick: Yeah, it was nice. It was wonderful. I did, I came upon the Old Testament portraying the miracles that one finds in the Old Testament. And I also did some research on the original Temple of Jerusalem. And they say that the—that’s very interesting. You know the proportions of that old temple are the same as the Sistine Chapel?
Lange: I did not know that.
Kreilick: Yes. It’s the same. And that the interior colors were a cypress wood and violet. A kind of purple. So I used red and blue glass mosaic in fine pieces. So when you see them at a distance, it will look purple. And incorporated those with the natural stones. And gold. Okay?
Kreilick: And I did “Dividing the Red Sea,” two silver trumpets appeared. 00:36:00 The golden tablets of the law. Bringing forth the water from Mount Horeb. The blossoming of Aaron’s staff. Pillar of smoke by day, pillar of fire by night. Destruction of the golden calf. The rainbow. Swords into plowshares. Jacob’s ladder. And the chariots of fire.
Lange: Wow. Are they still there?
Kreilick: I don’t know. I haven’t been back. And my friend Louis Redstone is no longer living.
Lange: When were they installed, actually?
Kreilick: I wasn’t there. I was teaching.
Lange: Oh, you couldn’t be at the installation.
Lange: Oh, that’s a sadness, I would think.
Kreilick: I couldn’t do it.
Lange: Was Redstone pleased with them?
Kreilick: Yes, I think he was. Yes. I think he was. And it did bring a lot of color to the entryway. What has happened since is that that whole area and where he lived has become Black.
Lange: Oh, so this was in the city of Detroit. It wasn’t out in the suburbs.
Kreilick: No. Well, it was, well, it’s still in city limits, I think. Yeah. It’s out a little way from downtown.
Lange: What was the name of the temple?
Kreilick: Beth Aaron.
Lange: Beth Aaron.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Did you talk when you were back on campus about your creation of the mosaics?
Lange: Did you have, I guess I don’t really understand the artistic temperament or dynamics. There was no display of photos of your work.
Lange: Or nobody to talk to about what you did.
Kreilick: Well, once a year, for raises and promotions, you filled out a form that told you what you did during the year. But you see, what was so unfair about this, is that the printmakers could maybe do two prints. But they could print sixty pieces. And they could apply to any print show throughout the United States. So when you saw what they did during the year, it looks as if they did all of these pieces. It looks as if they did, let’s say, twenty pieces. 00:39:00 It could have been the same piece. They’re prints of the same piece.
Lange: Oh, I see.
Kreilick: I could do one mosaic that would take me the same time or more time than all those prints did. And I could only have one line.
Lange: That is grossly unfair.
Kreilick: Absolutely. Absolutely unfair. Yeah.
Lange: Are you at this point during your three-year commitment that you’ve made to yourself, are you worried about tenure? Are you thinking about tenure?
Kreilick: I didn’t know anything about tenure. I was just glad to raise my salary. I didn’t think about tenure at all. I didn’t even know what it was.
Kreilick: Yes. Knew it had something to do with professorship, but I knew I’d never get to be a professor.
Lange: What are you, a lecturer or an assistant professor?
Kreilick: Well, I’m not sure what that label was. Because when I look back upon these figures, and we’ll stop this later, we’ll find out, I think, exactly what he did. After two, it was two or three years of teaching at the same salary. I didn’t get raises in the beginning.
Lange: At all?
Lange: No raises?
Kreilick: Not the first two years. No. No. I didn’t get raises. I made an appointment with the chairman. Logan (Fred Logan, 1909-2012, UW Art Dept. 1946-1974). And went in to ask him if there were any complaints about my teaching, and what I could do to improve my work. And what suggestions did he have, etcetera. And he said, “You don’t need a raise. You don’t have any children to feed. Or a family to support.”
Lange: He said this straight out?
Kreilick: Absolutely! And I sat and listened to this. And I said, “I didn’t realize this university was a charity.” And I got up and left. Okay? So, professionally, I was thinking 00:42:00 about the problem of color changing form. All the time in the back of my head, I had this idea I wanted to incorporate color into form without painting. Because [Alexander] Calder (1898-1976), in his stabiles and mobiles had painted and used, I think, automobile enamel and so forth. But with time, this had chipped off and so forth. And so they had to be repainted. And that same automobile color wasn’t being used. So everything was being changed. I wanted to do something much more permanent, so that it would stay with the piece with time. And mosaics have lasted quite a long time. So I would like to incorporate some way mosaics with sculpture. To do this. It’s what I was thinking. Some type of intarsia, it’s called, an inlay, that we could do.
Lange: Say that again.
Lange: I don’t know that word.
Kreilick: Yeah. An inlay. Mm hmm. And it would maintain the surface of the form. But it would also change the color. I thought that would be great. Then I went back to look at the Greeks and the Etruscans, and look at the color that they, and how they handled the color on the forms. I was doing a little bit of reading again, and looking, a lot of looking. Looking at Roman mosaics. And I found the way they would, the way the stones walk in Italian, is what they would say. How do the stones walk? So that, the way they curve and get smaller or larger. All of that helps with having the form, almost a three-dimensional form in the Roman, especially the Roman mosaics. I wondered if this technique could also enhance abstract form. Because none of this was abstract much. A few designs on floors. But in general, no.
So it was in 1958, I decided to take an unpaid leave from the university, from my dollar a day savings.
Lange: Wow. Was it difficult to get a leave, if you took it unpaid?
Kreilick: Well, somebody in art history said to me, “You can’t take a leave. You’re just an instructor. You won’t have a job when you get back.” 00:45:00
And I said, “Well, if I don’t, then maybe I’ll come over and take art history.”
He said, “You’ll never get a degree in the art history department as long as I’m here.”
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Lange: Are you ready to go back on?
Kreilick: Mm hmm. I wrote to my friend Marian Miller, who had married a Cranbrook architect and was living in Rome. So I thought I would either go to Rome or Paris to study mosaics. I didn’t know which place. But Marian said, “Well, you’ve got to come by and see us and stay with us in Rome. And then you can decide. Take a look at these places.” And I thought, that’s a good idea. And I had discovered that Rome has examples of mosaics from the fourth century all the way up to the twentieth century. So you had a big expanse to study. And also, there must be studios there.
By this time, Marian Jacobs, her name now was, had two children. And they had an apartment. Her husband David had received a Prix de Rome. And so they were living off, well, off the villa. The academy is situated in a villa. And so there was the maid’s room, the maid was there, Luciana, who is probably an eighteen-year-old girl from Padova, northern Italy. And Marian said, “It’s ridiculous, you going to France.” I said, “yeah, but I know a little bit of the language. I could develop the language if I went and so forth. I don’t know anything about Italian.” She said, “I don’t, either.” So she said, “You’ll pick it up as long as you’re here. You’ve got some Latin background and you’ve got some French background. So it shouldn’t be too difficult.” She said, “Why don’t you stay here and study here? You’ve got free, we’ll put you up. This is free boarding. And let’s see if Luciana would mind if you moved in with her?” 00:48:00
And so David inquired at the academy about the mosaic studios in Rome, which ones might take apprentices. So he came home and he said, “Why don’t you look up this fellow, Giulio Giovanetti? I understand he takes a couple of students sometimes. He’s over in Monteverde Nuovo.” And I was living on Monteverde. So Monteverde Nuovo was just a little beyond Monteverde. The new Monteverde.
So I went over one day to see him. He had a studio, which was a garage, masonry garage, really. He had two apprentices, the Miloni brothers, who were, they’d been working in mosaics since they were teenagers. Young. Young. And I managed to get along speaking to him with my French, because he knew French. So, we managed to get along so far. And I was paying him to come in and work in his studio.
So I began the next week. In the morning, I would leave on a bus to go to Monteverde Nuovo and work in his studio.
Lange: And this is 1958.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. The studio was heated, I’d say, by a toaster. (laughter) Tiny little electric toaster. It was cold. Everything was very cold. I wore slacks and wool socks and wool long underwear. And he put me to work learning the marbles. The names of all the marbles and how the marbles cut. And you cut the marbles with a hammer on a kind of chisel. So they cut different densities of the marble cut very differently. So this is what I did for almost half a year.
Lange: Cut marble.
Kreilick: Cut marble. Just chopped marble. He admitted later, after I had been with him for a year, he said, “I thought you would quit. 00:51:00 I didn’t think you’d continue.”
Lange: Because you’re a woman?
Kreilick: And it was so boring. Cutting marble. That’s all I did. I just cut marble. I thought, I’m going to do this. I’m going to learn how to do this. So I stayed. I cut marble all that time.
Lange: What was hardest about cutting marble?
Kreilick: The angle. The angle that you put it on the chisel to cut it. Because you had to cut it so that the tesserae, these little blocks, would be tooth-shaped. They’re not square, like a cube. But they’re angled in like a tooth would fit into cement.
Lange: Oh, I see.
Kreilick: So they would fit very close together.
Lange: Oh. Oh, that would be tough, wouldn’t it?
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So this is what I did. I worked from eight until one o’clock in the afternoon. Because the Italians go home for lunch at one. And take a nap, usually. And come back to work at four. And work until the evening. Because of the hot summers and no air conditioning. What I did is I came and worked every morning until one [p.m.]. I came back and had lunch at the home with Marian and Luciana. And then in the afternoon, I’d go off to the museums in town and the churches. So I had a whole list of things I wanted to see in Rome. And Rome has over 365 churches. I could see a different church every day.
Lange: Every day of the year. (laughs)
Kreilick: It was wonderful.
Lange: I did not know that. I guess as I think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised. Now is Rome thrilling at this point? Because this is only, it’s barely more than a decade after the end of the war.
Kreilick: Oh, you can still see pockmarks in things. Yes. It was a, oh, it was very different than it is now.
Lange: I’ve never been. I was just wondering what it was.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. But I had been living with the Jacobs’ in this apartment building for about well, maybe a month and a half, or close to two months. And one day, David and Marian sat down, we were talking over a glass of wine and 00:54:00 David said, “I’ve got a proposition for you, Marjorie.” He said, “What would you think about taking care of the house and children if Marian and I went to take an architectural tour of southern France and Switzerland?”
I said, “Well, what are my responsibilities here?”
And he said, “Well, you’ve got to make out the, take care of the budget. Take care of the groceries. See that the babies eat correctly. See Luciana does the grocery shopping. See that she takes the babies out for air in the afternoon, walk in the park,” etcetera. So I had a list of things I had to do. And he said, “We’ll be gone three weeks.” Okay.
And I said, “I think I can handle that.” When I come home from the studio. In the morning, she can go out and get the milk and bring it back from the latteria. And she can prepare their breakfast and my breakfast. And then I can give her a routine to take care of.
So that’s what they did. They took off for three weeks. And I’m thinking boy, I hope nobody gets sick. (laughter)
Lange: Yeah. No cell phones in those days.
Kreilick: No, nothing. And I wouldn’t know where they are. I was in full charge. All right. That worked out pretty well. And not only that, Luciana liked it. She liked having to know what she had to do and where she had to go. It worked out well because she taught me cooking, some Italian recipes. And I taught her how to jitterbug. (Lange laughs) Which she didn’t know how to do.
Lange: Is that true? That’s almost too good a line.
Kreilick: No, it’s true. It’s true. At night, we put on music and jitterbugged. After the babies went to bed.
Lange: Oh, that’s great.
Kreilick: Yeah. I completed that round coffee tabletop in the mosaic studio after my half year of chopping marble. And I completed these two tabletops.
Lange: Oh! Oh, this goes back.
Kreilick: Uh huh.
Lange: So they’re actually fifty years old 00:57:00 here, or next year.
Kreilick: Yes. Mm hmm. And in the mosaic studio. And then they bring in a grinder to grind it like it’s terrazzo. Absolutely flat. And then it’s waxed very well. And then I had to have these shipped to the States.
Lange: Marjorie, are you did you have leave for just one year?
Lange: Okay. So you knew you had to be back to teach in the fall of 59.
Kreilick: Yes, I did. I knew I had to be back. So coming back, I had a letter waiting for me from Louis Redstone, the architect from Detroit. And he said he was designing a shopping center in Livonia, Michigan. And he had a wall twelve feet high by 114 feet long. What could I do with that on a limited budget? And I thought the Lake Erie beach stones worked so well before. But I didn’t know how I could incorporate them into this long wall. So I had this idea about putting chunks of marble into a cement mixer with gravel and sand to round off the areas, making interesting shapes. And then putting these into the wall with various inlaid elements all along the wall, to break up this long wall.
Lange: Were you at all intimidated by the prospect of a project that large?
Kreilick: No. I thought that’s a great challenge. No. That’s a great challenge. I don’t know if he’ll buy it, but there are different things I can try. So this was a very interesting story. He got me in contact with this Italian, he was an Italian, marmista, we call him. Italian that works only in marble, right? In Detroit. He stocks all kinds of marble. He’s the man I went to talk to about is this possible? Could we use a cement mixer? Can we put chunks of marble that you don’t use for anything else in that to get interesting shapes, etcetera? And then use those to embed panels, and then put the panels 01:00:00 on the wall all the way down, so you don’t have to work in place. You could work flat and then carry those, embed them on the wall. And that was all possible. Yeah. He would do that. And you know, you have a contract and you have a time limit on a contract when you’re working with an architect. Because if you, if you don’t keep to the time contract, everybody else is off schedule. So in cleaning up and everything, you have to keep, or you’re fined. All right? You’re fined if you don’t keep to schedule.
Okay. So I called about the development of this. Had they started on the panels yet? Are the chunks or marble, have they been water washed and are they completed, etcetera? Oh, no. His wife was sick, the marmista said, and he didn’t have time right now. But he would get it done. He would get it done. All right.
I wait two more weeks and call him again. How is it coming, etcetera. Oh, no. He’s got another job. He has to finish that job first. And etcetera, etcetera. Okay. All right. So, I wait another week or two and I call again. And he said, the truck had broken down or there was another excuse.
So I get on the phone. I call Louis, my architect friend, and said, “Louis, we’ve got a problem here. He’s stalling. I can’t make my contract unless this goes through. What can you do? What’s going on? Find out. What’s the matter?”
So Louis went over and found out that this man wasn’t going to take any orders from a woman. So Louis Redstone went to the priest. Got the priest to come in and talk to this man about he was holding up the whole architectural job unless this went through.
Lange: Did that turn the trick?
Kreilick: It did. It got done and it got installed. That was when, and we were on schedule, by the nick of our teeth. Then Louis mentioned, when I was there and saw the installation and so forth, said, “Look, I’ve got a place in the lobby of my architectural office.” He said, “I’ve always wanted to do something there. See if you can do me a mosaic, please. 01:03:00 And we’ll put it in the entryway.” So, that’s what I did. I did another mosaic for Louis.
Lange: I have to assume in terms of your own economic wellbeing that you’re being paid well enough from this to supplement your salary here—
Lange: —at the UW.
Kreilick: Some. Yeah. Yeah. Some. Louis Weinberg (1918-1957), who was the sculptor at the university, died in 1957. So it was his death that left an opening for me to teach sculpture with Leo Steppat (Leo Ludwig Steppat, 1910-1965). Which I felt I was on home ground at last.
Lange: So you gave up the craft?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Yes.
Lange: And moved fully into sculpture.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Now while the Jacobs’, I was still very close friends with the Herbert Jacobs. And Jacobs’ gave a cocktail party one night—that was when they still gave cocktail parties—and invited Karel Yasko (1911-1985). Karel Yasko was the state architect. And I got chatting with him about all sorts of things. I liked talking to architects. (laughs) I think I was really a frustrated architect, in a way. But at any rate, I talked to him about all this. And he said, “Well,” he said, “you know, there’s going to be a state office building built in Milwaukee.” And he said, “There’s going to be a meeting about that office building. I’ll send you a letter on it.” He said, “Could you attend?” And I said, well, sure, I’d like to attend. He said, “Grollinger and Rose are the contractors.” They’re going to be there. And then we have representatives of the State Department will be there. Etcetera. Okay.
So, a meeting was scheduled. And I went to the meeting. Sat down with these officials. And they started talking about this job for ten floors they had for this state office building. And they had a place across from the elevators on each floor. They had a place across from the elevators on each floor except the lobby, downstairs. There was a mural space across from that lobby. 01:06:00 But in the big lobby itself, there was a large space for a mural. So all in all, there were ten murals to be done. And the contractor and these other men had probably talked together before, the state office representatives. Or state officials. And they said what they wanted were the industries of Wisconsin represented in these murals. And the state, so it would be cows and beer and cheese and things like this.
And I listened to what they wanted. And then I got up and I said, “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I’m not interested.” And I was ready to leave.
And Yasko was there. And Yasko said, “Wait a minute, Marjorie. Just wait a minute.” He said, “Listen. I think what we ought to do is let the artist decide what she might do in this area. Give us a presentation. And then we’ll work from there.”
So, that’s what I did. And I decided that industries come and go. They may be here or they may not. They may represent the state or they may not. But I’d like to do the state the way it was before man got here. I would like to do the ecological areas of the state. And also represent some of the contributions Indians have made to our state. Because when they burned the prairies, they changed the soil. So that was my idea.
Lange: Marjorie, it’s so interesting. Where did that idea come from?
Kreilick: That I knew that industries come and go? That’s business.
Lange: But I think to move from that to an acknowledgement of the ecology of early Wisconsin in 1960, this must be. I’m just curious what prompted you—and maybe it’s not a fair question—to come up with that idea.
Kreilick: Well you think what happened before business? What was here before business? 01:09:00 And how is it different from other states? That was my thinking. I don’t want to do business. Business doesn’t contribute to our lives. Plus the fact that the building is cold in general. I want to bring some of the outside inside the building. It will warm up the place considerably. If I bring in cheese and beer and Blatz, you know, that’s not going to do it. That’s not going to do it. I wanted to do something that would be the essence of Wisconsin, all right?
Lange: Yes. I like that very much. You’re prescient in that I think Miller Brewing is the only beer industry, for instance, that’s left in the state of Wisconsin.
Kreilick: That’s right. I didn’t know I was so prophetic. (laughs)
Lange: But it is interesting when you say businesses come and go. Who would have guessed in 1960 that the beer industry would leave the state? Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, Old Milwaukee, they’re all—anyway.
Kreilick: So that’s what I did. I did the coniferous forest. I did the deciduous forest. I did the lake plains. I did the river birch groves, the rivers. I did the swamps. I did the bogs, the cranberry bogs. The cornfields, because that was the indigenous Indian brought the corn. Forest. I did the burning plains, the, what do you call them? The burning plains, yeah. That they burned.
Kreilick: The prairie, that’s what I mean. The burning prairies that changed the soil so much. And the meadows. Instead of doing the cows and so forth, I did the meadows in sunshine that contributed to our production of butter and cheese. So those were my—but I had one left over. That big mural on the lobby. And I decided I’d do the state motto, which was “Forward.”
Kreilick: That’s an abstraction that had to go really forward. So those were my solutions.
Lange: Because I know it came to pass, 01:12:00 was your presentation well-received by the commission?
Kreilick: Uh, I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
Lange: Oh, okay.
Kreilick: Karel Yasko and the committee met and looked at it. That was it. And this was to be done all in marble mosaic. All marble. With gold, gold tesserae. The gold tesserae is done in glass, but it has gold between two, it’s sandwiched, gold is sandwiched between two layers of glass and protected.
Lange: Is that hard to do?
Kreilick: It’s hard to cut, a little. You have to tack it and cut it. Marble’s much easier.
Lange: And when was this supposed to be done by? What was your time period?
Kreilick: Um, [pause] 62 or 63, all right? Sixty-two or 63, dependent, etcetera. I was very active. Because I was doing some, I was out at Jacobs’ weekends, usually and I was working on sketches there. And then I wanted to enlarge these sketches. I wanted to do the enlarging. Because anybody else can wreck it. And you’ve got to get back and see.
So I went over to Lathrop Hall. And Muriel Sloan (1926-1995) was chair, I think, over at Lathrop. And ask her if I could use Lathrop Hall [Women’s Physical Education, Dance] on certain weekends when they weren’t there, or on holiday, so that I could project my drawings from the top runway, there’s a quarter-mile or something runway at the top of Lathrop Hall, or there had been.
Lange: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Kreilick: And at the very top, you can project down. So I could have enough distance and see what I was doing. It worked out beautifully.
Lange: Oh, yeah, it would.
Kreilick: I talked to my friend in the photography lab, George Gamsky I said, “George, I’ve got to have a lens for this kind of distance that will do this.” And he had the lens. It worked.
Lange: I take it when you’re saying Muriel Sloane and George Gamsky, by this time you had developed a community of colleagues at the university.
Kreilick: No, I knew who 01:15:00 was where. So I knew the director over it was Muriel Sloane, so I went over and introduced myself.
Lange: Oh. Tough here, wasn’t it?
Kreilick: Oh, yeah.
Lange: To meet people.
Kreilick: Oh, very tough. All the women were in home ec or in physical education. Very few. When I came, less than 10% women on campus. And Gamsky was a big help, too. He was very willing to photograph, he photographed most of my work. And would go to the site and photograph. He went to Detroit and photographed. Mm hmm. And enjoyed doing it. I mean, it was part of his job.
Lange: I want to go back to the issue of tenure for the moment. Do you have tenure by this time?
Kreilick: Oh, no. Oh, no way.
Lange: You’ve been here—
Kreilick: I came in 53.
Lange: So you’ve been here a decade.
Lange: And you don’t have tenure yet?
Kreilick: No. No one ever told me how to get tenure. No. Nineteen sixty, this is 1960 when all this activity is going on, I taught summer school. And, because I bought a house. I bought this house.
Lange: Oh, where you are now, 201713 Chamberlain.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I bought this house. I came back, I taught summer school. And I came back and painted walls at night. Painted the whole house. Got one of my students, one of my fellows, hired him. We both painted. And also, I had met some Italian ladies in Madison. Isabella Galpin, who taught in the Italian department. And Galpin taught, her husband taught [Alfred Galpin, 1901-1983], in French department. Elena, what was Elena’s name? Can’t think of Elena. Rosanna Patch (1919-2004), Mrs. [Annamaria] Sella. So there were about four 01:18:00 of us or so. Four or five of us.
And Isabella came up to me and said one day, “Marjorie, you need to practice your Italian. Why don’t you join us, because there are a group of ladies, we get together for tea or coffee on Friday afternoons about after class. About four o’clock or so.” And she said, “Mrs. Sella doesn’t have a ride and I don’t have transportation and we go out to Rosanna Patch’s house. So you could pick us up and you could practice your Italian.”
Well, so I did. I went to these ladies. And I was doing this for quite a few months. And one day Isabella said to me, “Marjorie, why don’t you apply to the academy in Rome?”
And I said, “Why, I guess I’ve been too busy. I haven’t thought of it.”
She said, “Well, I have an application here.” And she used to work in Rome in the Diplomatic Corps. So she knew and was very friendly with the people at the academy. So she gave me these papers. She said, “You’ve got to sign them out, and you’ve got to sign them now because they have to be in within the week.” I didn’t even have time to think about it. I signed them up. Signed, sent them in. For a Prix de Rome. This is an international contest. So, that was it.
Lange: You applied, what year is this now?
Kreilick: It’s got to be before 60. It should have been around 59 because I got the Prix de Rome in 60. And it came at the same, just after I bought the house, it came.
Lange: You were thrilled.
Kreilick: I was, I didn’t know what to do. (laughs) I suddenly had this responsibility. I’ve got to pay the rent! (laughs) I had this house on my hands. I had a Prix de Rome, $3500.00 prize. A whole year in Rome with food and everything. Living quarters in a villa. I thought well, there’s no way I’m giving this up. 01:21:00
So I went to a lawyer and said, “I’ve got this problem. Could you handle my rental while I’m gone?” So I fixed it all up.
Lange: And there was no difficulty getting the year from the School of Education?
Kreilick: I didn’t have any. I asked for a year’s leave. They were happy to use my money.
Lange: Oh, again, unpaid leave.
Kreilick: Of course. No problem. So I left. I left with my sketch, I was doing sketches at the same time.
Lange: For the state office building?
Kreilick: To get those done, up to scale. For the state office building. Uh huh. And I left. To Rome.
Lange: Happy to go back, I suspect.
Kreilick: Yeah. A little dazed by it all, you know. I packed in one suitcase, one little suitcase. Left. Took sketches. That’s all I took. Did I take my martellina? Yeah, I did. I took my own martellina. When I left Giovanetti’s studio after I’d worked with him for a whole year. And he almost wept when I left. He had tears in his eyes. He gave me his hammer, his martellina.
Lange: Oh, did he?
Kreilick: Yes. He gave me his martellina.
Lange: That, my sense would be that that was quite wonderful that he would do that.
Kreilick: He told me, “If I had a daughter like you, she could continue the studio.” And he gave me his martellina. It was very touching.
Lange: Has to be a high point in your life, I would think.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Yes. I think in his, too. He realized something he had never realized before. Women didn’t do that. Women didn’t drive cars in Rome. When I was at the academy, I bought a car, also. I couldn’t get to the studio. The mosaic studio was over on Villa Giulia, near the Etruscan Museum. I couldn’t get there by bus; it would take all day, kind of. And I couldn’t get to the foundries. I wanted to work in the foundries. 01:24:00 I couldn’t get there, or couldn’t take wax pieces there. I didn’t have any transportation. Can’t do it on the bus. So I bought a car, a Cinquecento.
Lange: (laughs) Marjorie, I want to ask you, if I could. You’re leaving for Rome in 1960. What generally has been your experience with students at the university up to this point? Have you found them talented? Have you enjoyed teaching them? What’s the teaching been like for your first six or seven years?
Kreilick: Well, I’d have to divide that down to the first three years, if you’re doing six. The first three years were basic design classes. They come in freshmen. They know nothing in the beginning. So you can’t tell. I don’t believe someone comes in with talent. I think someone comes in with more experience, perhaps, than other students do. But they all can learn at various levels. And it’s individual teaching. It’s individual teaching. I talk to each student. Each student develops in a different way. Some faster, some slower. So, I can’t tell. But these were, the occupational therapy students, which I taught in the beginning, had their heads someplace else. They really didn’t know anything about aesthetics or basic design. So it was a design problem for them too. Okay.
Later, when I got into, and I enjoyed working with Leo Steppat tremendously. Viennese. Well-skilled. Dry sense of humor necessary. And I taught the beginning sculpture students and he taught the graduate sculpture students. Which was fine with me. We worked together very well.
Lange: Were most of your students from Wisconsin? Or did you get a lot of out-of-state students? Or did you even know?
Kreilick: I never asked. I never asked that question. One question I asked, though, was how many students have taken world history? Maybe out of a whole class, I’d get one or two.
Kreilick: They all took American history, and they come to the—and I think there’s a requirement for them to take American 01:27:00 history in college. But they took American history. All they knew was two hundred years. They didn’t know anything before. So it was, if you showed them pictures of things that happened in art in the past, this was revealing because they didn’t have any foreign history. They didn’t know what it looked like, or. They didn’t even question. Yeah.
Kreilick: Detrimental to the educational system in Wisconsin.
Lange: Oh. No. No question. So when you’re going to the academy in Rome, you may be relishing leaving the classroom for a while?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I have another opportunity fulltime to work. That’s all I wanted to do. After I left the studio, the Giovannetti studio, he was right. I could have. What they needed in mosaics, what they really needed, was someone to contact architects and talk to architects. Architects didn’t know the potential of mosaic. They really didn’t. They had it all around them, but it’s part of the past. Very few of them knew some mausoleums, for instance, family mausoleums that were twentieth century were using mosaics. And my friend Carlo, the Sardinian apprentice with me, he would know what’s going on around town, who was doing mosaics. He would take me to show me. But these recent things that he knew about were being done. This was fun to do. We liked going to see. And we’d criticize the way it could have been done instead of the way it was done. And so forth.
Lange: Interesting. So, you get to Rome in the fall of 60?
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Fall of 60.
Lange: And you’re there for how long?
Kreilick: I’m there for a year. And then it’s renewed. Let’s stop. Mm hmm.
Lange: So, Marjorie, your prize was renewed for a second year. You wanted to stay. Was it difficult to get permission from the UW for a second year in Rome?
Kreilick: I wrote a letter asking if this would any way interfere with my tenure.
Lange: You knew about tenure 01:30:00 by this time.
Kreilick: Well, I knew that there was a possibility of tenure. And a professorship. And of course they were pleased to use my salary. I’d be gone for the second year. And it was good because I wanted to be there to see and pack all the mosaics before I left. So it was very helpful remaining another year.
Lange: So that would be, your second year was 61 through 62.
Kreilick: That’s right. Sixty-one through 62.
Lange: This maybe is a good time to ask you from your vantage point in Rome, you’ve been affiliated with the university for seven or eight years at that point. Any observations about the department, the faculty that you’re working with, how you are evaluating your own experience and the art department itself from this first period?
Kreilick: Well, when I came to Wisconsin, Fred Logan was the chairman. The professors on the faculty I discovered were all educated in Milwaukee. Fred Logan, Alfred Sessler (1909-1963), Santo Zingale (1908-1999), Art Vierthaler and James Schneller. And not only that, from Milwaukee Teachers College. Not only that, they taught and hired their students. Robert Grilley (1920-2009), John Wilde (1919-2006), Helen Annen, James Watrous (1909-1990), and Jane Hutchinson (1937-2020).
Lange: Were all their students?
Kreilick: All their students. Yes.
Lange: That suggests a pretty inbred department.
Kreilick: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that also suggests a kind of solid front.
Lange: That begins to make clear some of the coldness you have described about breaking in.
Kreilick: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. It was not healthy. It was not a healthy situation.
Lange: Logan came from 01:33:00 what is now University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee?
Kreilick: I’m not sure if it’s that or what they called Teachers College. Wasn’t there a teachers’ college in Milwaukee? I’m not sure.
Lange: I think that was what became UW.
Kreilick: Yeah. I think so. Mm hmm. Yeah. This never should have happened.
Lange: How did it happen?
Kreilick: Well, they hired their friends. They even built houses side of one another.
Kreilick: Sure. Zingale and Sessler had houses right side of one another. They were in and out of one another’s house like the same family.
Lange: Now Harvey Littleton, I take it, was not part of that.
Kreilick: No, not at all. Harvey didn’t come from this area. He came from Toledo. From the museum in Toledo.
Lange: Did you respect any of them as artists? Or teachers?
Kreilick: Well, I didn’t know very much about them as teachers. Because I had beginning students. So I didn’t know what they didn’t know (laughs). Although I’ve learned that a little later if I was sitting in on a graduate committee, I knew what those students didn’t know. But I was put in a very embarrassing situation. Because if I questioned some of these students and they couldn’t answer me, that would put their professor on a very bad light. I couldn’t do that. But I knew what they didn’t know. Mm hmm.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: What kind of artist was Logan?
Kreilick: Uh. [pause] Unimaginative. No magic. I think. WPA. Okay. 01:36:00
Lange: You and Warrington Colescott, though, developed a collegial relationship.
Kreilick: Warrington was very supportive. And I must say, Mrs. Annen had retired, I think, by 60. So I was the only woman on the department for the following ten years.
Kreilick: Yes. Warrington was the token African American. And I was the token woman. Warrington was very supportive. And I probably wouldn’t have gotten tenure if he hadn’t written up the papers.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Hmm. I’m astounded. John Wilde not supportive?
Kreilick: No. He doesn’t fly. He’s never been to Europe. He didn’t know about mosaics.
Lange: You know, it’s so interesting, really, aside from the pain, one makes certain assumptions about artists. And what you’re saying is at variance, I think, with the popular perception of artists as tolerant, supportive, interested.
Kreilick: Well, they’re people, you know. (laughs)
Lange: They are. Yes. Yes.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Lange: I’ll turn it back on now.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: So it was difficult in the department. An inbred department, not an adventurous department.
Kreilick: Not for me.
Lange: Not for you.
Kreilick: Not for me.
Lange: When you are in Rome in 1960 and 61, are at this point are you thinking at all about moving on beyond Wisconsin?
Kreilick: I’d just bought a house. (laughs)
Lange: You could sell a house.
Kreilick: I could. But I hadn’t lived in it yet. So I hadn’t thought any further than that.
Lange: I see. Okay.
Kreilick: 01:39:00 I think that made a difference. I put down a taproot, so to speak. So I thought I would probably return. Yeah. Mm hmm. I hadn’t thought any further. My mind was on getting these mosaics installed. That was the biggest thing. Well, not only that. I had to get them shipped down the Saint Lawrence River.
Lange: That must have been—well, what I want to say is that must have demanded everything you learned as a bookkeeper to organize that.
Kreilick: Yes. It helped. Really helped. Surprising how much these little things helped. Shipping those down the Saint Lawrence, we had nineteen crates and 4,100 kilos of weight.
Lange: Oh, God. Wow. What did you ship them on? Was it a freighter or passenger ship?
Kreilick: Oh, I can’t remember. No, not a passenger. No, it was a freighter. Shipped it down directly to Milwaukee. And Grellinger & Rose, the contractors, or I think it was Yasko, it was Yasko who told me about this German, Ernst Schroeder from Milwaukee, who just started up a shop, a stained glass and mosaics shop in Milwaukee. And that I would need somebody, a mud man, putting the cement on the wall. And that I might contact him. And I did. It was terrific. And I had correspondence with him. I’ve got all this correspondence from doing all those murals. In which he would meet the ship coming down and truck the mosaics to the site. And he is another person who worked as a teenager in mosaics in Germany. A jewel of a craftsman.
Lange: I was going to say, that was an unexpected gift to you, I suspect.
Kreilick: Absolutely. Not only that, the Europeans are capable of putting cement on the wall near the ceiling so that they begin inlaying the mosaics on the ceiling so that when you finish work you can wash it off and all the dirty water comes down 01:42:00 where there are no mosaics. It’s clean, you know?
American cement men do not know how to put the cement up there to stay. They start at the bottom and they work up from the base.
Lange: Oh, so you—
Kreilick: So every time you wash down, you get all this dirty water coming down again.
Kreilick: So, that brings up a very interesting story about washing down the mosaics. Because one day I was up on the scaffolding on the site with Ernst. And I had just brought up, I was down below putting in any of the tesserae that had loosened and gotten loose from the paper, because you put it on in reverse.
Lange: Oh, right. Yes.
Kreilick: And you put it into the bed of cement. So I was making sure that each piece and in sequence. We had to know how much mud we could put up on that wall so it wouldn’t dry before we could get that much mosaic into place. So it’s a matter of timing, too. And I had to see that so much of this was really in order and bring him each one of these in sequence so that you can’t see at all where the pieces are joined together.
So I was up with Ernst and we had just put in another piece. And these three burly guys walk in. They didn’t look like they were carpenters or anyone else. And I was the only woman on the site, actually. (laughs) All these other guys. And they were so funny. The carpenters are so funny on the job. They sit there with their hammers ready to go to work. But until the bell rings, they don’t hammer a thing. I just broke out laughing. I couldn’t believe it. (laughs) Couldn’t believe it. But at any rate. And they came up to the site. And we also had a man mixing mud down below in a big wheelbarrow, etcetera. So that we keep fresh to a certain area. And they know. They can tell. It’s like biscuit dough. They know just when it’s right.
And he said, one of these big burly guys said, “Who’s in charge here?”
And Ernst said, “She is.”
And I said, “Is there a problem?” So I came down from the scaffold to look at them.
They said, “Yeah. We want to know where your union contract is.” 01:45:00
And I said, “Oh, gentlemen, I don’t have a union contract. I have a commission.”
And they looked at one another. They were really confused. And they said, “Well, we’ll see about that.” And walked away.
And Ernst said, “How did you do that?” (laughs)
Lange: Did they do the work?
Kreilick: Oh, they, no, they don’t know how to put up the cement on the wall to stay there. The US, there’s none of them, the masons, know how to do that. They can’t do it. I couldn’t have used union men. So, we escaped that.
Lange: And you’re having these installed during your second year off. Is that right?
Kreilick: No, no. I come home for this.
Lange: Oh, you come home.
Kreilick: I come home when they’re shipped, when I get them shipped, I come home.
Lange: And are you, so you’re back at the university.
Kreilick: Not yet.
Lange: Not yet.
Kreilick: I was still getting work finished up at the academy when we had a show, they had an exhibition of what some of the academy were doing. And I had a, I had a painting in the show. It wasn’t a large painting, a small painting. Maybe 24 inches by something. And there was an agent from the Joslyn Museum in Omaha who happened to come and visit the show. And he bought the painting for the museum. Which I was very pleased and surprised. Very surprised to see. Because I only had my mosaics to show. And these are hard to hang and so that’s why I put in a painting. So that was interesting.
When I came home, at the same time the mosaics were being shipped down, Ernst was supposed to take care of those. I’d never met him, incidentally. And we scheduled a time for installation. So I went to Milwaukee and checked in at the YWCA. And stayed for two weeks for installation. 01:48:00 And met Ernst. And he was as surprised to meet me as I was surprised to meet him. He expected a big fat Italian lady. (laughter) And I hadn’t expected him to have as much experience as he did. So it was a joy, he was a joy to work with.
Lange: Uh huh. I see that.
Kreilick: I mean, you don’t have to really speak to one another. I know just when he needs that next piece. And when that next batch of cement ought to be ready. And how much area we can cover.
Lange: It sounds like a surgical operation, actually.
Kreilick: It is. It is. It is. It’s timing. It’s kind of cooking and surgery all together. So it worked very well. Then we got all the mosaics, took us two weeks to get those installed. It was long days.
Lange: I’ll bet.
Kreilick: Hard work. Long days and hard work. When they’re finished, I got a letter from Grellinger & Rose telling me I had to remove my signature—I didn’t sign any of these except the lobby, that big mural in the lobby forward I signed with Kreilick below it. But it was obvious that the same person did the mosaics on all floors, and I didn’t sign them. I got a letter from Grellinger & Rose telling me I had to remove my name. Chop out my name from the tesserae, because there was no advertising in government buildings.
Lange: But this isn’t advertising.
Kreilick: It’s my name. It’s advertising. So I went, again, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. (laughs) I went down to the state Capitol building. And you know, the interesting thing about that is that Kenyon Cox (1956-1919), who was the mosaic muralist for our state office building, his son was on the board of the American Academy, who got me my scholarship. And he as a boy had worked on those mosaics.
Lange: In the Capitol.
Kreilick: In the Capitol. So I knew Kenyon Cox had mosaics in the Capitol. I went down to see whether he signed them. 01:51:00 And in the pendentive of the Capitol, four of them, he signed each one of them.
Lange: Good for you.
Kreilick: So I wrote a letter to Grellinger & Rose and said that there was a precedence in the state Capitol of Madison, Wisconsin, these mosaics are signed four times in the pendentives. And that was it.
Lange: You heard no more from them?
Lange: You’ve had to fight at every step of the way.
Kreilick: Well, bit by bit. But I think business is that way, isn’t it?
Lange: This may be too early to ask you—
Lange: Are those murals in the state office building some of your best work that you’re most proud of? Or is that not something to ask you?
Kreilick: Well, there’s something I’d like to add, according to this, in my best work. The contractor, Grellinger & Rose had, what do you call them? Hand plates that you’d push on the door to open the swinging door. These hand plates, they wanted to be done in mosaic. I refused to do them. First of all, I don’t think a warm hand on the cold tile is very friendly. I don’t think they should be done in tile. Marble is very rough. I don’t think you want to touch it in that manner. It gives you a velvety surface and it’s beautiful to look at. But it’s not great to touch. Tactile quality is not there. I thought these push plates should have been wood or part of the door itself. But not, it was like hanging a piece of jewelry on the door. It wasn’t architecturally part of the building, as far as I was concerned. And I refused to do it. So they put in bathroom tile.
Lange: Oh, gosh! Really?
Kreilick: Yes. Okay. So, yes, I’m proud of what I did. I think I solved the problem. I think it was indigenous to the area and was fine. I thought it was easy to keep clean. It wouldn’t be destructive. 01:54:00 Although buildings, they say now, last only forty years in the United States. Although in Italy I’ve lived in buildings much older.
Lange: Do you, whenever you’re in Milwaukee or periodically, do you stop to look at them?
Kreilick: I’ve stopped and I’ve taken people to go look. And on the lobby, underneath, there was a planter underneath, which was a dumb place to put it, because you cover up the mosaic if you do this. So it hasn’t been used there. But I think there must be a welfare office or something on that ground floor. And somebody’s dug out some of the stones.
Lange: I’m sorry.
Kreilick: And it should be repaired because it’s like a tooth. If you lose a tooth, the others begin to go. It should be repaired immediately.
Lange: Did you get much recognition here at the university for your work over there?
Kreilick: No. I mean, recognition, what do you mean?
Lange: Either by your colleagues in the department or one of the various university publications about what UW faculty are doing for the benefit of the state?
Kreilick: Not that I’ve seen anything, no. The Academy for Arts and Sciences did a cover of one of the murals. But that’s all that I’ve seen. There was no newspaper article, as I remember. There was in Milwaukee, but not in Madison. And I don’t think my faculty has seen them.
Lange: I think that’s interesting.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Not nice. But also interesting.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. I don’t think so.
Lange: So you reappear at the university back on the faculty in the fall of 62.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Sixty—yeah, 62. I think it was installed in 63, maybe. Yeah, I’m back in, I don’t know, it’s in the fall when we did the, because it was still late summer, I think. Because I was living at the YW, Milwaukee. And working for two weeks there. So I think it was the end of summer.
Lange: What are your plans now when you return to the university?
Kreilick: Well, I plan to teach sculpture, which had 01:57:00 opened up for me. I’m looking forward to that. And working with Steppat. I’m looking forward to that. And then in, it was 66, I think. Well, before. In 65, it was about 65 that I had been thinking all this time about getting color into form. I still haven’t given up here. And I had done foundry work when I left. I shipped, I shipped this eight-foot piece, but in separate pieces. I shipped sculpture, I shipped these two pieces of sculpture. And I wanted to do, if I had the money, I would have done a whole series. I wanted to do six of those so that you could see just how the color itself changed the pillar. The stone blossoms, I called them. And they would have changed tremendously by this inlayer, the intarsia. I got two of them done. Worked at the foundries in Italy. And I’m glad I did when I did, because most of them are gone now.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Sad. And so I was just thinking about coming back and doing sculpture. And getting color into sculpture, and how was I going to do this? And I didn’t have any place to work in the foundry, and there wasn’t a foundry around. This would be a real handicap from a larger town.
Lange: But again, you return here and you still don’t have tenure.
Kreilick: No. I don’t have tenure. I thought, well, if we’re going to use color, I ought to know more about color. So I went to dig up, I went to the library. Professor [William “Jack”] Fry (1921-2011). I went to the library and I looked up color. Started reading lots about color. I had some background, but I didn’t think I had enough. I wanted to know more. And the Germans are great on this.
Lange: I wouldn’t have guessed.
Kreilick: Josef Albers (1888-1976) at Yale, they put out a big publication on color. And he had been at the Bauhaus in Germany. The German philosophers also, 02:00:00 in perception, they’ve done a great deal of writing. Very good. So I talked to our department about adding color. And they thought well, this is just a fly in the, nothing will happen with this. Okay, introducing a color course.
Lange: So they thought it was irrelevant but they approved it.
Kreilick: Yes. It was irrelevant but they approved it. So I sent to Yale particularly, I wanted somebody out of Albers’ class. I wanted the best. And I thought he was the best teaching. And we got an applicant by the name of Victor Kord (b. 1935) who applied for the job. And we hired him to teach the color course. And I was delighted. And Victor Kord taught the color course maybe three semesters. A year and a half, maybe two years at the most. And then he wanted to teach painting. It was easier. So he taught painting.
Lange: And just dropped teaching color?
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Was that his decision, or did the department have to approve it?
Kreilick: It was his decision. And these boys go out and they drink beer together and they have lunch together. And it happens. So—
Lange: Unbeknownst to you, or you weren’t consulted on this.
Kreilick: No. Oh, no. No. I was not consulted. So I decided all right, I’ll teach color. I’ll teach the color class. I’ve done enough. I think I can do it. So that’s what I did. I took over the color class. But, before I took over the color class, what I had done is I went to the Home Ec department, it had been called Home Ec at that time. They changed their name four times. They don’t know who they are. And I said, “Look, we’ve got a course over in our department. We’re just initiating a course that I think is going to be useful to you. And I want you to know about it.” And I gave them a whole outline of the course, what would be covered and what they should know when they get out of the course. And would that be helpful to interior design? Would it be helpful to fashion? 02:03:00 Would it be helpful to, what else? They had three over there. Textile design. Those three. And I gave this presentation to their faculty and I left it for them. And I said, “I think you know, I think this would be helpful to your students. And I think it would be helpful to theater students. And I think the students would be helpful to one another who did this.”
So then I went to the theater department. But I had known theater a little bit because when I came to teach in the new building, my teaching office and room was upstairs on the seventh floor. The opposite corner from Vilas. And there were windows on the floor of that room. And a few high skylights running around. Those windows on the floor were about twelve inches or fourteen inches high, and there was a bench over the top of them. So the light you got was practically nothing. On the wall, I couldn’t see. First of all, they didn’t put anything on the wall that you could tack into. It was plaster wall.
Kreilick: I thought, this is never going to do. So I complained until I got plaster board or something on the wall that we could stick pins into all over the back of that room. Then what I did, because I still couldn’t see, I complained about getting balanced lights in the room. If we’re going to look at color, we have to have balanced lights. It has to be the same as it is out of doors, as it is indoors. Because these other artificial lights are putting more yellow into the color, so you can’t see what you’re getting and you can’t see relationships very well. So, that had to be changed. That was hard to do. Money. They wouldn’t get the money. I said all right, what you do is put a key in the lock so students don’t leave the lights on. Only the teacher turns the key on. So we get those lights for at least criticisms. Okay.
I contacted [Gilbert] Hemsley (1936-1983). I said, “Who is going to take care of lighting? I’m not going to go through channels. Because if I go through channels, it will be six months before any lights get changed here.” 02:06:00 So, theater had a lighting person. So I called him up on the telephone. I said, you know, “Mr. Hemsley, I’m here in the art department and I can’t see. Would you come over and take a look at this for me and see what you can do? Because I can’t possibly teach in this room.”
He said, “Oh, sure, sure.” So we made an appointment. And so Gilbert comes down across the bridge from Vilas with two of his honcho grad students right behind him. And the three of them come all down the whole seventh floor hall to my room. And this is the first time I meet Gilbert Hemsley. Gilbert takes a look at it. And these guys take a look. And they talk and etcetera. And I tell Gilbert about my class, what they’re going to do in color. And he might be interested in it. And we talk about it quite a while. And he said, “Well, let me think about this.” He said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” So he left with the two fellows. Came back tomorrow, two guys. They strung up theater lights, a whole bank of theater lights across the top and put in lights and wired it up. I had light.
Lange: (laughs) In forty-eight hours.
Kreilick: And I had a working relationship with Gilbert Hemsley. He sent me all of his lighting students.
Lange: How smart of him.
Kreilick: Gilbert sent me all of his lighting students. I was on most of their grad committees. The theory is the same in both, but it works differently. If you’ve got the basics, you can do it. If you read Harris, wasn’t there a Chris[topher L.] Harris in here who’s teaching in Chicago?
Kreilick: Gilbert’s boys. English.
Lange: Oh. Yes. Mm hmm.
Kreilick: English boy.
Lange: Yes, I remember the letter. Written like an Englishman.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So that put me in business.
Lange: With the color course.
Kreilick: It wasn’t done before. Victor didn’t do that. And I was sure it was going to fail.
Kreilick: If I hadn’t gone over to 02:09:00 these two departments, it would have failed. Painting said they didn’t need to know this. It’s all done intuitively. You use color emotionally.
Lange: But even with that, don’t you have to know certain things to select which color you’re going to use?
Kreilick: You don’t even have to, if you know, if you have used these things, if you’ve done exercises with these relationships in color, you begin to the point that you don’t think about it anymore. You just do it because you’ve been programmed. You’ve been programmed because you’ve done all of these things. You know what’s going to happen before you put that color next to it. You’ve got the theory. It works.
Lange: Would you say that this was, the color course, your best and/or most popular course?
Kreilick: Yes. By far.
Lange: I asked you off record yesterday, or maybe this morning, because I had read so much in the letters of endorsement about your color course, if you would take students who were interested in color who were not artists.
Kreilick: Yes. Mm hmm. Yes. Absolutely. Start from nowhere.
Lange: My sense is, is that it would have been, with a small “f,” fun to teach that course.
Kreilick: I found it fun. But I also think students had a good time learning.
Kreilick: They had a good time learning.
Lange: In those letters, when they talk about the color course, it says that Professor Kreilick was quite demanding but very responsive and worked with you. What does that mean in terms of teaching a course on color? When they say boy, she was tough, she was demanding, it was exciting, learned a lot. What does, can you quantify that for me?
Kreilick: Well, there was a lot of work. I scheduled a calendar, all right? The beginning of the year, I said this is what we’re going to do all year. We have every Friday we have criticism. We have jury. Everybody has to put something up. We criticize one another. We do this, and it’s to your advantage because you can rework it to put it in your portfolio. And at the end of the semester, 02:12:00 I grade the portfolios. So this is a learning process for both of us.
Lange: So every week, all the students, talented or not—
Kreilick: Everything goes up.
Lange: —had to put, to produce something.
Kreilick: Everybody had to produce something. And everybody had to criticize. How could it be improved? Could it be improved?
Lange: So that would be—[phone rings]
Kreilick: Oh, telephone. Let it go.
Lange: That would be tough. Wasn’t it?
Kreilick: Well, if you know what you’re doing, it helps. It helps you to think, you know? If that were my piece, what would I do? Would that make it better or not? [phone message machine comes on, interruption]. Just an appointment. Wednesday.
Lange: Let’s see if we’re back on. Yes, we are.
Kreilick: But they had a schedule. Every week.
Lange: Would you participate in the criticism?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I’d call on them. They had to respond. They had to respond to me. I’d say, “Cathy, what do you think? Can you improve that?” Or, “John? Would you have done that? What about the balance on that piece?” Each one of them. I tried to hit everybody in the class. Most of them. So they weren’t, at the beginning, they were terrified to say anything bad about somebody’s piece. It’s only paper, you know? I had to tell them, it’s only paper. And what I had them do was to, it’s acrylic paint. And I got shelf paper. It’s acrylic. So that you can paint directly on it and cut it out. So they could cut out shapes and put down. And it’s easy to change. You don’t have to repaint the whole thing. It was quick to figure out what to do, how to do it. But they had to produce something every week. That was a must.
Lange: That’s like rhetoric. You have to write something every day, or every week.
Kreilick: 02:15:00 They had to every day. And there were all these exercises to do. Oh, we did wonderful things. We analyzed paintings. And they’d have to square off the painting. And then they’d have to calculate how much warm was used against how much cool? How much dark color was used against how much white color? Light color, for instance. There were all these things. And then, don’t use the painting at all. Forget about that. Just use this amount of color and make a composition. Because you’re getting the same balances, the same notes of music, that have been played before. And could one see that this color key was the key of [Paul] Gaugin (1848-1903)? Or would it have been van Gogh? Or would it have been any of the colorists we could have found?
Lange: Now I want to return to the issue of art history. Would art history majors be in this class?
Kreilick: No. Except a few, I did get a few older women. Because in interior design, I had, it’s an interesting story. Interior design, I had an older woman wanting to go into interior design. So she was taking the classes. And she came over from Janesville and took the color class. And I also had an older, I think she was Czechoslovakian woman. And these two older women studied the book. They took notes. They criticized. They were wonderful in class. And the woman in interior design from Janesville knew other people in art history. And she told them about this marvelous class that she was learning so much in. So a couple of art history people came over. But they were not art history, well, they were trying to be art history majors, but they were really older people. Mm hmm. I had no trouble filling the classes. I had twenty-two to twenty-four in a class. Twenty-two. I couldn’t get any more desks in my room.
Lange: Okay. So that would be maximum.
Kreilick: Yes, that’s a maximum.
Lange: Was it a year-long course or a semester?
Lange: Would you teach it both semesters?
Kreilick: Yes. 02:18:00 I taught it not only both semesters, I also had quite a few of continuing students in color. So they would take it under another number, for more advanced.
Lange: Did teaching that course in color change you at all as an artist?
Kreilick: Probably did. Yes. Yes. I think it did. It did my painting. That whole series of circles I did, circular paintings, all came out of I think trying to maintain either a very, very close value so it looks almost as if the sun is blasting in those areas, or working out limited color keys that will work like a color chord. So that these would be chords that might be played along the wall. Yes, it made me realize, well, the more experience you have, the more you train your eye, yes, it’s going to change you. Yes. Yes.
Lange: What else are you doing, you’re teaching this color course. You develop it in the mid 60s. What are you doing yourself, studio-wise in this period?
Kreilick: Studio-wise, I am painting. I’m painting more. I’m also doing some other work because during this time, Susan [Jackson Keig, 1918-2018] who’s a Chicago graphic artist, whom I met at Louis Redstone’s, she did a lot of graphics for the malls that he did. So that you have the same kind of font being used along the mall. So it unifies the piece. And she’s done a great deal with Shaker towns.
Lange: Oh, really?
Kreilick: She’s worked with Shaker towns and done an international exhibition that’s shipped all over Europe on Shakers. And she has done all the graphics for a Shaker town. This kind of thing. She comes out of Chicago, the Bauhaus in Chicago. And she has an apartment on the shoreline, Lakeshore Drive. I think it’s 630 Lakeshore Drive.
Lange: Oh, there’s a picture in the portfolio of what you did.
Kreilick: That’s it.
Lange: Above her sink.
Kreilick: Yes. And she came to me and said, you know, I spent a weekend at her cottage on the dunes in Indiana. 02:21:00 And it was then that she said, “You know, I’ve just had all this marvelous cabinetwork done in my apartment. And I would like above the sink, there isn’t any light, but I would like to have a mosaic in that area that reminds me of the shore.” So we gathered stones on the shore. And I took them back and I did this mosaic for her that she commissioned me to do for her kitchen.
Lange: Do you like the process of working with individual clients like that?
Kreilick: Yes. I do.
Lange: Is it, I just wonder if it’s—
Kreilick: Oh, I’ve run into trouble with that, though. But yes.
Lange: I was going to ask how difficult it was. You know, when you’re the artist and the other person wants something.
Kreilick: Well, the only commission I really wanted badly, I didn’t get. And it was last year, I think. Or maybe the year before. Two years ago. For Farmington, Michigan. It was a church in Farmington, Michigan. And the director of the project, who was a man in the congregation, had seen my mosaic at Mayo Clinic. And he was absolutely taken with the mosaic at Mayo Clinic. So he looked me up, called me, wrote me a letter. Said would I be interested in doing a mosaic for the church. And I said, “Well, I’d have to look at the church first and see whether I’d be interested.”
So that’s what I did. I drove up to Farmington, Minnesota. North of Rochester. And looked. It’s a lovely little contemporary church. I thought the architects did a good job. I was really pleased to see this. It’s to combine several country churches into this one Lutheran church. So it would be a drive-in kind of church. And you opened up into a kind of, I would say maybe hexagonal, I don’t know how many sides this had in the beginning. You walked in. it had a place for boots and heavy coats and everything. I thought that was 02:24:00 very considerate. I hadn’t seen that done before. They took me throughout the church. Had a place where the mosaic would be. Was a big area, sided. And one side would be this wall for a mosaic. Beneath it, they could open this up and there was a kitchen. So they could have tables, so they could have dinners or barbecues or, area so that all these churches could get together and people get to know one another. I thought that was a wonderful idea. And the church itself, it had a curtain so you could project, you could pull down that curtain in the front over the altar so that you could put projections on it. And they could see films or I don’t know, travelogues or other social events. And then there were classrooms on the edges of these around, and choir room. And, I don’t know. But this was the heart of the church, which I liked very much.
And then he said, he was thinking what he’d like to see in subject matter was the good shepherd. So I said, well, I’ll think about it, etcetera. So I went home and did scale drawing. Not full scale, but enough so I got the shape to work in.
And the more I thought—then I went to the agricultural school, to the library. And said to the librarian, “I need some help here. I’d like to know, what did the sheep look like at the time of Christ?”
And he said, “I’ve never had any question like that.” (laughter) He really became interested. He dug up, you know, all of this material. He said, “Give me some time on this.”
I said, “That’s fine. I’ll be back in a week.” So I went. And then I looked up Giotto, I looked up early painters that had sheep in them to see what the sheep looked like. So I did my own research from paintings in the past.
Went back the next week and he was happy to show me what he had found. It was a different kind of sheep in the desert. And this sheep is kind of like a camel. And it stores 02:27:00 its nutrients in its tail, like a camel stores its nutrients in its hump. And it looks more like a goat than a sheep. If you think it looks like this funny, fluffy little sheep, it doesn’t look—
Lange: Little Bo Peep.
Kreilick: No. Doesn’t look like that at all. It looks like a scrawny desert kind of animal that would survive on very little.
So I took this home and looked at it and duplicated it. And I tried to go back to see what the good shepherds looked like. Did he look like the Roman shepherd? I couldn’t take him back any further as a shepherd, very much further. There were all kinds of different good shepherds, but none of them looked like they were of the period.
But then I started thinking, you know, if we do this of the period, where I think children ought to be taught the truth. I want them to be, to see this is the way it was. They’re going to look like Bin Laden, these characters. The original shepherds. So, I tossed this around for a while and thought, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this to children. And I think the power is in the word. It’s the word of Jesus that makes the difference. It’s not what he looks like.
So what I want to do is a blessing. I want to do an abstract blessing that might rain down on all of the people. And I could do this, I wanted to take a dove at the very top. And then I wanted rays of gold coming down from this—
Lange: Oh, gorgeous.
Kreilick: —into clouds going across. That’s all I wanted. Just this. So I did a scale model of this with the figure to get the idea of what it would look like. And took it. And left it to be judged with other things. And as he looked at it, his face fell. “I wanted a good shepherd.”
And I said, “Well, what does your good shepherd 02:30:00 look like? Does he have leggings? Is he a Roman shepherd? Is he a Jewish shepherd? And how would he be dressed? And what he looks like, is that really important?”
And then he showed me in a hymn book, nineteenth-century hymn book. That’s what he wanted. Well, I didn’t have a chance.
Kreilick: If I talked to the architects, it would have been a done deal. I was excited to do it. I wanted to do it. It could have been the most beautiful thing I’ve done.
Kreilick: And I didn’t have the opportunity. The people in the church judged what they wanted. And they had no background. There were no artists at all. And they had no idea what it was going to look like.
Lange: I suppose in some senses, that’s the greatest hardship that artists face.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I mean, it’s not democratic.
Kreilick: It really isn’t. I don’t believe in any of the civic centers coming out with civic councils, for instance, making these decisions. They have no background to make these decisions, any more than they have background to compose music. Okay.
Lange: Today’s April eighth. This concludes the second interview with Professor Kreilick, April 8, 2008.
End April 8, 2008 Session.
Lange: This is Bob Lange with the oral history project of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today is April 9, 2008. This is the third interview session with emeritus professor of art Marjorie Kreilick. Marjorie, when we stopped yesterday, we had gotten into the 1960s. And we have your career up to about the mid-1960s. We’d like to pick it up there with what you’re working on both in your studio and teaching.
Kreilick: All right. In 67, I took a portfolio to the architect Harold Spitznagel (1896-1975) of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And he was just finishing a science building in Augustana University in which at the bottom of a stairwell would be a nine-foot Foucault pendulum, which would show the time. And he wondered whether this circular base at the bottom showing north, east, south and west could be done in a mosaic. And I said that was possible. And I took the dimensions and so forth. And I went and called up Ernst Schroeder, who was my mud man in Milwaukee.
Lange: Oh, yes.
Kreilick: And said, “Ernst, I think we’ve got a job. Are you interested?” Etcetera. And went ahead and did this pendulum. Did the base for the pendulum, which hung down. And used some old symbols of north, east, south and west, which I had found. And this was done all in black and white mosaic.
Lange: Oh, really?
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Was that interesting for you, to do black and white?
Kreilick: It made no difference. I was used to the Roman mosaics. All the Roman mosaics are black and white marble. If you get north to Venice, they’re in glass, and it’s color. There’s a big difference between these two. So the black and white can be very interesting. And I thought down a stairwell, this is going to show much more precisely as this pendulum swings back and forth exactly where, just about where this would be, this division would be. But I’ve never run into 00:03:00 a problem in installation before. And we ran into a huge problem. Can you imagine, because when I got there, the architect had changed the dimension of this disc at the bottom.
Lange: Oh, dear.
Kreilick: And it’s a round shape. So where are you going to take in a round shape and not destroy the symbols at the side? It had to be done from the outside in. And you know, the cement has lime in it. That’s very difficult on the fingers to make changes like this. You have to be pretty sure and accurate about what you’re doing to save yourself a lot of time and trouble. And this was the most difficult thing we did. I had to work with Ernst quickly, because we didn’t realize that he’d changed this at all.
Lange: And you have no, there’s nothing you can do about that? The architect doesn’t have to change the dimensions to meet your artistic needs?
Kreilick: No, no, it wasn’t mine. He gave me his dimensions. But in the meantime, he had changed them. But he hadn’t told me.
Lange: Yes. Okay, so you’re stuck.
Kreilick: I’m stuck. I’m stuck. We just have to carry through and finish this. So that was my experience in South Dakota.
Lange: Were you happy with how it turned out?
Kreilick: You couldn’t tell where we made the changes. No.
Lange: Really? Wow.
Kreilick: Ernst is good. He’s really good. He has a lot of experience. But it was terrible. It took us an extra day just installing this because of all the change we had to make. So.
Lange: This is Augustana College in South Dakota.
Kreilick: Augustana. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And then that same year in 67, in that summer, there was an international design conference in Aspen, Colorado. And I got scholarships for two of my students and drove them out to Colorado for the design conference.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. John Woolsey was one of those students. Mm hmm. And also, that was a busy 67. Sixty-eight, a friend of mine, Ellen Moore, asked me to design a four-foot diameter birdbath for a public library garden in Mason City as a memorial for her mother. 00:06:00 Which I did. Designed it and had a saying, a little poem, around the edge of the birdbath. Which was kind of interesting.
Lange: Do you remember what the poem was?
Kreilick: No, I don’t. I’d have to check. No.
Lange: Are you teaching still?
Kreilick: Oh, of course.
Lange: During this—
Kreilick: Yes, I’m still teaching. Sixty-eight was also the year that Flad Associates, the architects in Madison, were building Saint Mary’s Hospital in Wausau, Wisconsin. And they had a mural space of 35 feet long and eight feet high. And it was a space which wrapped around a corner, so that you had a 90-degree angle to work with. And visually, that was a lot of fun.
Lange: I’ll bet that was. Were you given free rein to design something?
Kreilick: Yes. I had free rein. And it was an abstraction. So that was 68. And also in 68, that’s when the Mayo Clinic was adding ten floors to their original building. They had prepared the base of that original building for future additions. I thought it was so well-planned. And they could put on ten more floors just with what the foundation was.
Kreilick: And the person who was in charge was William Saltzman (1916-2006). He was the art director at Mayo’s. And I sent in, this was a national competition to fill these ten floors.
Lange: Oh, like the state office building.
Kreilick: Well, they didn’t give it to one person. They were passing it around to different artists so it would make it more interesting from floor to floor. You’d have different things happening. Some of them were painted murals. Mine was a mosaic mural. I think one was woven. As I remember. But anyway, Saltzman looked at my things and he said he was interested. He said, “I’m interested in using a mosaic on one of these floors. But this is three or four years in the future.” So he said, and I was off to Rome. He said, “I will be at Princeton this summer.” 00:09:00 And I was going to visit my sister, who was in New York. And he said, “Why don’t you stop by at Princeton this summer and leave your portfolio until you get back?” Etcetera. So that was the beginning of the Mayo Clinic.
Lange: Marjorie, how did they know about you?
Kreilick: How did they know about me? Saltzman. I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I’m not sure. I had gone to the Mayo Clinic for eye surgery.
Lange: Oh, you had.
Kreilick: Yes. I had. And I knew my surgeon well. And I don’t know if there was a request or a brochure that was sent out. I don’t know how I got the information. I don’t remember. I don’t remember. So I stopped to see him. Left my information. And I think went off to Europe.
Lange: Now you’re going to Europe to work again for a year?
Kreilick: No. It was probably a summer. Probably a summer. Working.
Lange: So this is the summer of 68.
Kreilick: Sixty-eight. Mm hmm. And maybe I was doing, I don’t remember quite what I was doing. Maybe it was, it wasn’t Spitznagel. Maybe it was the Flad, it was the Flad mosaic.
Lange: That you were working on in Rome?
Kreilick: Worked on it in Rome.
Lange: And again, was this your design?
Kreilick: Yes. All my design.
Lange: Abstract again?
Kreilick: Yes. Okay. That’s where I was. I was doing that in Rome for three months. On campus, that color course of mine grew into three classes.
Lange: Oh, three sections?
Kreilick: Three sections.
Kreilick: Into three sections.
Lange: Very popular then.
Kreilick: And then what I wanted to do, 00:12:00 at one semester I had to give a lecture, I gave lectures in my laboratory, all right? I said, this is insane. I’m a broken record. We should schedule this so that I have a lecture on Wednesdays for all three classes. And then we’ll have classes Monday, Wednesday, Friday—
Lange: For the individual sections.
Kreilick: For the individual lab sessions.
Lange: Lab sessions.
Kreilick: Uh huh. So this is what I did. We had to find a place to project. I had to have enough for twenty, sixty-some students. Sixty-five students, perhaps, to lecture to. And there was no one, there was no place in the Humanities for this. There’s no lecture hall.
So I went over to, I think that summer, I went over to art history. And they have their projectors and everything is all set up so I wouldn’t have to run around with all my slides and the projector and etcetera. And I don’t remember who was chair that summer, but somebody who was absolutely temporary, I guess. And they said, “Well, fine. That room isn’t scheduled for that time. Could you work it in at that time?”
And so I scheduled my class to be over in art history next door. And I would just have to carry my slides over. And put them in.
Well, I began in the fall showing slides in this class and so forth. Frank Horlbeck (1924-2019) came by and looked. And had this horrible look on his face. And left. And it was the next day the chairman of the art history department came to my office and was pleading with me that I had to find another place, that I could not lecture in the Elvehjem Museum.
Kreilick: It was forbidden for the art department to use those facilities.
Lange: Forbidden by whom?
Kreilick: That would be very interesting.
Lange: My breath is a little taken away. “Forbidden” is a pretty strong word. And to say to a professor of art?
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. There was no lecturing. By any of the art department in the Elvehjem Museum. 00:15:00 Jim Dennis came over and he was on his knees pleading with me that I can’t continue over there to give lectures.
Lange: Did he say why, other than that it’s forbidden?
Kreilick: No. He said, “We just can’t do it.” He said, “Things are terrible. It’s going to be a terrible mess.” He’s got pressure from somebody.
Lange: And Dennis was, Jim Dennis was chair at this time?
Kreilick: Yeah. And I said, “If I can’t lecture there, where can I lecture? Find me a place.” So, at the bottom of the humanities building, in a corner, was a lecture room. So I had to carry down all my equipment and my slides and arrange them to give lectures down there. And I had to give the lecture, change the slides, do everything. And no assistance.
Lange: Marjorie, there was no appealing that decision?
Kreilick: I don’t know, who would I appeal to?
Lange: Would the dean of the School of Education not advocate for you?
Kreilick: I doubt it. I doubt it. Seems to me I did talk to somebody there. No, maybe not. No. Well, that—
Lange: Are you willing to speculate on, was this related to the content, personal dislike and intellectual separation between art and art history?
Kreilick: There is a separation between art and art history. And they didn’t want the dirty art students to sit on those, on the upholstery and so forth in those rooms. Supposedly. And I said, “Look, you wouldn’t be in business in art history if we pulled out our art students. Because it’s a requirement for all art students.”
Lange: Oh, is it?
Lange: That they took a survey course?
Kreilick: Two semesters. They wouldn’t have a department if we pulled those students out. Any rate, that’s exactly what happened.
Lange: How did you feel at the time? Abused?
Kreilick: Angry. There’s no reason for this. No. There’s no reason for that. 00:18:00 So, that same year, it’s 1970, Robert Tabachnick in the School of Education was writing a children’s book as a second grade reader. And what he wanted to do is to illustrate this book with different art techniques and materials. So he wanted a mosaic represented. And he wanted, he went to, a painting was represented. Pottery was represented. Various things in the art department were represented to illustrate this children’s book. This was published by Lyons & Carnahan in Chicago in 1970. And I think the cover of the book was a mosaic. The mosaic which I did.
Lange: A mosaic you did for the project?
Kreilick: For the project, for the book. And it said something about the birds that fly over the buildings and the people who walk into the buildings, etcetera. So all of that was illustrated in mosaic.
Lange: So what happened to that mosaic?
Kreilick: I gave it to him.
Lange: Oh, did you?
Kreilick: Yeah. In 1970, I received a semester’s research grant from the graduate school to attend a course in the culture of Ravenna and Byzantine at the University of Bologna, Italy.
Lange: Oh. You had had to submit a proposal, I assume, for that, to the graduate school?
Kreilick: Yes. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So I spent part of my time in Italy again. And in about 71, I sold a mosaic panel six feet high by three feet wide to Pritzker & Pritzker of the National Bank Building in Chicago. Then it was about, well, about 71 when, is this the Mayo Clinic? Yes. 00:21:00 I think it was about 70 that I did the Mayo Clinic. Yes. We went back and we had to install that Mayo Clinic mosaic. And what had happened is that William Saltzman, the art director from Mayo Clinic, had died of a heart attack. And I got this news while I was in Rome. And I thought well, there’s another commission down the drain.
And just as I was packing to leave Rome, I got a letter from a person named Allan McNab (1901-1982, married to Marjorie Kreilick 1973-1982). And he had been appointed, he had been the director of the Art Institute in Chicago. And had been appointed in retirement to the Mayo Clinic art director. So he was then, he inherited everything Salzman had done. But he wanted to look it over and to see what I had proposed or I would propose. And so when I arrived in the States, he wanted me to give him a call. All right?
So I did that and drove to Rochester, because the building was now in process.
Lange: They were moving ahead on it. Okay.
Kreilick: Yeah. In process. And I had lunch with McNab and talked to him. And it was, the theme was Flowers will Change the World. Which it did, because that’s when the seeds were the first. And this changed the fertile fields. It changed everything. So I had to do a little research on what was the first flower.
Lange: So, flowers were the theme for all the—
Kreilick: No. Just mine.
Lange: Just yours. Okay.
Kreilick: And this was to be seen on the sixteenth floor of the new addition. And that’s the heart floor. (laughs) In case you go.
Lange: I will store that away. (laughter)
Kreilick: (laughing) So, I was doing business with McNab, Allan McNab. And he did a lot of business between Rochester and Chicago. So en route between the two, he would stop by to check sketches, etcetera. Okay? 00:24:00 That was in 1970 I received, 71 I sold the Pritzger panel. And then in 72, the dean in the School of Education assigned each faculty member some twenty-two students. And we were to guide these students, counsel these students, to make sure these students were going to be able to graduate in four years. So that they took all their requirements and we had to kind of guide them. Be their counselors.
Lange: For you, would it be students in art? Or—
Kreilick: No. Students in art. This was School of Education, students in art. Everybody on faculty was given so many students, all right?
Lange: I see.
Kreilick: And one of my students was Robert Rowley. And he was probably a beginning junior. And when I looked at his papers, I said, “Well, Bob, you have,” and I had him in design, so I knew him. I said, “You’ve got all your credits here.” But I said, “You know, photography isn’t very demanding. And as I look at what you have in the past, I don’t think you’re going to be very well-educated. If I were you, what I would do is to take another language. You don’t have any language experience. And I think maybe even if you were to order a menu, you would have a little more experience even in your pronunciation if you took another language. Be it French or Spanish or German or whatever it is. And it always helps you later in adapting to another language. And another culture. It’s good to know about another culture.” And I said, “You don’t have to. It’s not required. But think about it.”
Well, he went away. Didn’t say. Didn’t come back. Came back the next semester. Check over what he’d done. He took German. I was so surprised. I couldn’t believe it. He seemed to like German, and he was going to take another semester of German.
Kreilick: All right? And seemed to handle, he got all his credits in. So there’s nothing to worry about. I said, “Fill in what you want to know. If there’s anything in the area, now’s your opportunity in education. If you’re interested in psychology or any of these other courses that you should take, find out about them.” You know? “Take your art classes, and you get those first, so that you will graduate.” Okay.
So he went away. He took another semester of German. And I think he took 00:27:00 a third semester of German. When he graduated, he went to Germany. He taught English as a second language in schools. I sent him over to work with Gilbert, also. He used that experience. Because what he was doing in the German schools was giving plays in English.
Kreilick: And these kids were learning English by theater. He did the lighting. He did everything for these kids. And it was a big success. Their parents were coming.
Kreilick: So I don’t know how long he did this at the time. But Robert Rowley never came to the States again.
Lange: Really? He left the United States.
Kreilick: He is still in Germany. He is married and has two sons.
Lange: Are you in touch with him at all?
Kreilick: Yes, I received a letter from him only last week. Mm hmm.
Lange: Do you consider him one of your great successes?
Kreilick: I think I’ve changed his life. I changed his life tremendously in doing this. And I told him, “Don’t you ever tell your mother that that course was not required.” (laughter)
Lange: Oh, that’s a wonderful story.
Kreilick: So this is our little secret.
Lange: So I take it by that that you did not resent being assigned students to counsel.
Kreilick: No. I don’t resent that.
Lange: So that was sort of standard operating procedure for all faculty.
Kreilick: Yes, at that time.
Lange: At that time.
Kreilick: Under this dean. And I don’t remember which dean it was. But under this dean, yes. And I think it’s a good idea to check on them. And they’re more familiar with the art department than a counselor would be.
Lange: Oh, for sure.
Kreilick: So, and it gives it a much more personal attention, I think. I think it’s a good idea.
Lange: Did you, this is sort of an add-on. Did you as a professor become friends with students? Is it possible?
Kreilick: No, I didn’t socialize with students. But I did hire students in my studio. One student at a time.
Lange: I was just curious. You can develop 00:30:00 friendships, I suppose, after they’ve left.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes. That’s what happened. But I didn’t spend my, I didn’t socialize with my students. No. I mean, I took students, well, this will come later. I took students to New York. But that’s quite another thing. I was kind of a chaperone and I had organized everything.
Lange: Right. But you’re still in charge.
Kreilick: But I’m still in charge, yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: Now you’re talking about 1970-71. This is a very tumultuous time on campus. Certainly 70 was the Sterling Hall bombing.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Any recollections of that time period?
Kreilick: Yes. I think the Humanities Building was all abuzz because, with activity, because the history department was in that building. I didn’t find any art students that were against the establishment. I think they were too busy. At least, my art students were too busy. They had too much to do. And they weren’t that politically oriented, actually. I don’t think so. No. I don’t think they were. When I see them. You go to the Humanities Building on Saturday or Sunday, the art students are up there working in the laboratories. They’re not, they’re not out on the rally, walking up the University Avenue or anything. No, you don’t find them rallying. I haven’t seen any of it.
Lange: I recently interviewed Dick [Richard] Lottridge from the School of Music. And I asked him the same question. He said, my students, all the students were too busy to participate.
Kreilick: Yeah. Absolutely.
Lange: I said, really? He said, “Yes, Bob. They were practicing every day.”
Kreilick: Yes. Absolutely. The art students were the same. They had to get, they wanted to get, use them in the print shop, they had to use the machinery in the print shop. The facilities were there in etching. Everything was there. It was there for you to work on. And they were busy working. I think the medical students, you don’t find them. They, too, were too busy. Medical students, the art students. Surprisingly, everyone thought you’d have rebellious art students. No. 00:33:00 I didn’t find it at all. Even down in the pot shop, you know. When I first came in the School of Education, not in the new building, but in the old School of Education, Harvey Littleton’s basement pot shop, we used to leave one window unlocked in order to get in to work. The building was locked.
Lange: Really? You had to climb, or they had to climb into the window?
Kreilick: I had to, too.
Lange: You had to?
Kreilick: I had to, too. Yes. Yeah. And we wanted to work.
Lange: Driven by the power of the creative urge?
Kreilick: Not only that, but the facilities were there. I mean, where are you going to get a pot, a wheel to throw your pots on? And you’ve got to practice that. There’s no other place you can do that. You know.
Lange: Were you politically active—
Lange: —on campus at that time?
Kreilick: No. Absolutely not. I had too much to do. No, I couldn’t handle it all. Besides, I’d just bought a house. On top of this. No, I couldn’t do it. So.
Lange: Were you surprised at the Sterling Hall bombing?
Kreilick: Well, I heard it, at my house, I heard it. And I thought, I was on my feet before, I was sound asleep. And I was on my feet immediately. But I thought the gas station at the corner, I thought the pumps had blown up.
Lange: Oh, the one down here on—
Kreilick: Yes. University.
Lange: University and Highland?
Kreilick: That’s right. Not Highland, University and Farley.
Lange: Oh, yeah, right down here.
Kreilick: Yeah. Oh, it was that loud. So I went out to my outer balcony and looked to see if I could see any flames, whether I should call the fire department. Nothing. Mm hmm.
Lange: So you did not immediately think Army Math Center.
Kreilick: I didn’t think, no, no, I didn’t think about that at all. It was just too loud. I couldn’t imagine what had blown up.
In 73, the art department hired another woman. It had been ten years that I’d been the only woman, since Helen—
Lange: You were still the only woman?
Kreilick: Yes. Helen Annen retired. And I forget when she retired. But for ten years, I was the only woman, 00:36:00 until Eleanor Moty (b. 1945) was hired. And that was a good hire.
Lange: What kind of artist was she?
Kreilick: She is a metalsmith. She went down to help Fred Fenster.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Working with Fred Fenster (b. 1934). A very capable person. A good addition.
Lange: Did you mentor her?
Kreilick: Um, I’ve had her to dinner. I didn’t mentor her in what she was doing. I felt she was capable. And supported her as far as faculty, faculty meetings.
Lange: I neglected to ask you at what point along here you finally do get tenure.
Kreilick: I noticed in riding here it was in 67.
Lange: So you had been here fourteen years before you got tenure.
Kreilick: That’s correct.
Lange: I don’t understand how it could have gone that long. Was it personal animus toward you?
Kreilick: I don’t know. How am I to know?
Lange: I don’t know.
Kreilick: I don’t know.
Lange: You said that Warrington Colescott was your advocate on this?
Kreilick: Yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: Did you know you were being put up for tenure, or did they tell you—
Lange: —that you’d gotten it.
Kreilick: I think they told me.
Lange: Did receiving tenure change your perspective at all?
Kreilick: No. I continued to do what I always did. And nothing changed. I didn’t feel any bigger or better than I did before. And I think what happened, maybe that two years in Rome, at the academy, probably put me back two years because they used my salary. So when I came up for professorship, they had to put a lot of money on me. I got several comments on this by faculty.
Lange: Not supportive comments.
Kreilick: No. Exactly. Mm hmm.
Lange: You know, you’re talking about in 1973, the second woman has been added. Any observations about the faculty and the department? Essentially we were talking about 00:39:00 in the early 60s. Have things changed at all?
Kreilick: Well, there was Nelson, who was, I didn’t consider almost part of the faculty, because she was Extension. And was brought in and put under the faculty roof, let’s say. But she was working in Extension, mainly. Not teaching our basic classes. I think later she did, but I’m not quite sure about what she was teaching.
Lange: Was the tenor of the department at all better for you? Or was it the same?
Kreilick: Well, everything changed when we moved to the new building. It was absolutely different. When we were in the old Education Building, I don’t think I mentioned this before, but the Education Building, when you taught sculpture downstairs, the sculpture was on the ground floor. And to get from Sessler’s print shop and all those students on the first floor, instead of having to go around a great big U to get to the back door, they’d come through the sculpture studio. It was wonderful. It was really great. Because sculptors got to know the printmakers. And they’d stop and talk to—they’d see the sculpture grow bit by bit, and talk to the people who were building it. There was a lot of conversation between students. And it was very comfortable, all right?
Move to the new building and everybody has their office inside their laboratory, inside their room. And it’s the size of a broom closet. You have room for a desk and a map case and a file case. Map case to keep drawings in, or work. And two chairs. That’s it. And you have to inhale a bit to get past (laughs), past the desk. So that once you get into your office, nobody sees you. Nobody sees you at all. You don’t see anybody else. Which is very interesting. They don’t know whether you’re there or not, and you don’t see anybody else. I can go weeks and not see any faculty member.
Kreilick: Yes. 00:42:00
Lange: And you move over there in 69.
Kreilick: Sixty, uh, what did I say, 69? Was it 69 then?
Lange: You said 69.
Kreilick: Sixty-nine. Yeah. Mm hmm.
Lange: So what collegiality there had been—
Kreilick: Is none.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. You saw them at faculty meetings, but that’s about it. There’s no reason you had to go into the office unless you had to check something. And there was no computers. No computers. And the art department didn’t have computers. Really, this also upsets me. All my friends in L&S were taking their computers home to play with them. They were issued computers to take home, to see how they worked, etcetera. Education didn’t. Education wasn’t teaching the campus how to use a computer. Very interesting.
Lange: That is interesting.
Kreilick: I never got a computer, ever, on campus.
Lange: Huh. Really?
Lange: Is that true for all the art faculty?
Kreilick: I don’t know. No, because Ted [Edward] Pope was teaching computer. Graphics, that is. Computer graphics.
Lange: Computer graphics.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. But that’s one of the reasons he left is because he couldn’t get computers. The budget, they wouldn’t give it to him. That’s one way to get rid of a faculty member.
Lange: Who’s serving as chair of the art department during these years?
Kreilick: Oh, that would have to be looked up, because it changes so often.
Lange: And whoever was chair didn’t really impact on you?
Kreilick: No. No. Wouldn’t make any difference. I never had lunch with him or did anything with him. I never was invited to any of their homes. No.
Lange: Why was that?
Kreilick: I don’t know. I think the women did the socializing. They made the dinner arrangements, undoubtedly. And I didn’t know the women. The men went out and drank beer. 00:45:00 When they got together.
Lange: Is Harvey Littleton still here at this point?
Kreilick: I don’t think so. I think he’s left, but I don’t know when. Sixty-five?
Lange: Had you and he maintained a collegial relationship?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. And Bess. Mm hmm. Sure.
Lange: Is this a good time to ask you about Dale Chihuly (b. 1941)?
Kreilick: Oh, if you want to. He had been one of the—you see, the biggest problem, this comes right up what the problem was. The biggest problem in teaching—not only in the art department, and this probably happens in other departments, and you will know this, I don’t—but we had no support for graduate students. There’s no support. So what they do is give the graduate students the beginning design courses. And I’ve talked to, George Mosse and I used to talk about this all the time. That’s why George always kept a beginning history course as long as he taught. He taught graduate students and a beginning history course. He found that it was the most important course in history. And I feel that the beginning design courses are the most basic foundation you can get. And they should be taught by your most sophisticated teachers. You have to get the very essence about what’s important, and how later this can be used in the development of whatever the student wants to do.
And this is being taught by graduate students who come from, not from our department, but graduate students from all over. And they don’t have one thing in common with one another. And they don’t have the same kind of background. So how are you going to get these students together to teach? I decided, I think a book would be the thing to do. We’ve got to teach by a book so you know when the student has finished this beginning design course, these are the things he should know.
Well, that was whistling Dixie. I assigned books. We talked about books. But nobody used them. All right? Chihuly was one of those fellows. Chihuly was a big ad man, all right? Chihuly, to me, is all hype. I don’t think 00:48:00 Chihuly ever would have known a chemical formula for glass. At all. At the present time, he’s making a big name for himself and works fulltime at this. He has Italian craftsmen mixing the glass and blowing the glass. He does drawings, and you should see the drawings. You couldn’t identify to make a pot out of a drawing like that. It’s all hype.
Kreilick: All right? As I see it. Mm hmm.
Lange: He and Harvey Littleton [1922-2013] were they…
Kreilick: He worked one semester, I think, with Harvey.
Lange: Oh, is that all?
Kreilick: I think so. He wasn’t a pot man. He came in for the glass.
Lange: Well, he certainly has been successful in promoting. I think many people, artistic and not, are well aware of Dale Chihuly.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Mm hmm. That’s true. But that’s what, hype in the States it’s so big. In advertising, I don’t care what it is.
Lange: And that’s essentially a—
Kreilick: It’s true in art, too. In painting. It’s true. I mean people like [Andy] Warhol (1928-1987), that’s all hype. That’s advertising! It has very little, nothing to do with art.
Lange: Would you say that’s a post-World War Two phenomenon in American culture?
Kreilick: I think it, yes, it’s much more evident. Yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: And my sense would be is that that is intellectually distressing to you. That it…
Kreilick: It doesn’t distress me. I’m not going to change that. I think this is what makes the world go around is advertising and selling in the States. But commercially, we’re much more concentrated on wrong values. And this is why we see in retirement so many people are unhappy. They’re not fulfilled. They don’t have the joy of reading or of participating in things like painting 00:51:00 that make life worthwhile in the long run. What is really important in life. We have so little time to live it.
Kreilick: Yes. And I think, I blame advertising. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I mean, we’re bombarded by advertising. I can’t turn on the television, we’re bombarded. I don’t feel well at all if you take all those medicines. (laughter) It’s so awful!
Kreilick: But even our newspapers and our magazines are all full of buy, buy, buy. And I’ve never purchased anything I’ve seen advertised. Alright. Ever. Including automobiles. (laughter) Okay.
Lange: All right. So you’re at 73. And another woman has joined.
Kreilick: Seventy-three. Yes. And then I designed a mosaic for the architectural pool at Telfair Academy in Georgia, Savannah, Georgia. It was a thirteen-foot square pool. And it was Allan McNab who told me about this commission, that I had done—
Lange: Oh. The guy who was at Mayo.
Kreilick: The Mayo Clinic. Yes. So we did that in 73. And in 75, I was looking for a local stone material. And I went to the geology department and talked to them about any marble in Wisconsin. And any other stones, where I could find quarries and stones of color and so forth. And they said yes, there’s a marble quarry up north, just out of Bayfield.
Lange: There is?
Kreilick: Yes, there is. And I said, “Well, who owns that? Who do I contact? Because I’d like to get some of this material and do some really Wisconsin marble mosaics.”
And they said, “Samuel Johnson (1928-2004) owns that. From Racine.”
Lange: Oh, of S.C. Johnson?
Kreilick: From Racine. So I wrote a letter to Sam Johnson and told him what I wanted. And I’d like to obtain some of this marble and see how it cuts and whether I can use it or not, and what color it was and so forth. And he said, “Well, if you want to go up, I’ll have one of my workmen meet you. 00:54:00 And we’ll get some of the stone from some of the marble.”
So that’s what I did. I drove up to Bayfield and met this man at the quarry. And he gave me chunks of marble. And I wanted different shades of the green. It was a green marble. Light green. Kind of a yellow-green marble.
Lange: Was it any good?
Kreilick: It’s too soft. It doesn’t cut well. But it could be used, you know. They were mainly using it to grind up, kind of like a chunk gravel, or decorative covering for landscaping. So I brought it back and Samuel Johnson said, “Well, would it be possible for you to use some of this and make a mosaic for me?”
So I said yes. I made a five-foot by three-foot mosaic for Sam Johnson out of this material.
Lange: Again, your own design. Or did he participate?
Kreilick: No, my own design. And it was a Williamsburg pool. A pool. Green with green marble, etcetera. And natural stones combined with it.
Then in 76, I received an independent study grant for research. I applied to the grad school for a research grant. And I wanted to go out and work in the laboratory of Dominick Labino (1910-1987). I knew Dominick Labino in Toledo, Ohio. Dominick Labino was the research director for Johns Manville in Toledo. He probably has more, not contracts, what do you call it? More, oh, what is the word? Patents. He has more patents on glass formulas than anyone. And the making of glass fiber, of almost anyone I know. It’s Dominick Labino who has done the ceramic tile that covers, encapsulates our rockets that go to the moon.
Kreilick: Yes. 00:57:00 Yes.
Kreilick: And it’s Dominick Labino who made the glass formula for Harvey Littleton. Dominick Labino put on a glass lab for the school, University of Toledo. And they had now built a glass museum in Toledo. Toledo has the best glass collection other than Corning. Corning has the first glass collection in the United States. Toledo has the second. Marvelous collection.
Lange: I know. I’ve been. I love it.
Kreilick: So, did you see, have you seen the new museum? I haven’t.
Lange: I haven’t seen the new museum. My sister-in-law and her husband live in Toledo. So whenever we go—we haven’t been for a while. But it’s just beyond belief.
Kreilick: Yeah, yeah, it’s a terrific museum.
Lange: It is.
Kreilick: But at any rate, that’s Dominick Labino. That’s who he is. And I got to know him. He came down and took a class in the evening at University of Toledo, in the art department. So I met him I think in the hall, I don’t know quite. He didn’t take my course. But he took a drawing course, I think, or something. Anyway, he was taking a course down there. And that’s where I met him. And we have a limit in marble mosaic because we don’t have any blues. We’ve got lapis lazuli. But unless we live in Brazil, where you can buy it by the ton, it’s a very expensive stone. Probably doesn’t cut very well. So, I would—
Lange: Is it a marble?
Kreilick: No. It is not. It’s a stone. But we don’t have any blue marbles.
Lange: Okay. So you’d have to use lapis lazuli. How do you say it?
Kreilick: Lapis lazuli.
Lange: Lapis lazuli. I know the stone. I think it’s gorgeous.
Kreilick: Yeah, it is. It’s an intense stone. So I wanted to add to my selection of stones so that I know if I had a little more intense blue and I put an orange next to it, or a warm stone next to it, I can intensify that blue from what I know in my color theory.
So I went to work with, I called Nick. He said, “Fine. Come for the week.” 01:00:00 So I drove back to Toledo. And he has a marvelous barn laboratory of his own, because he had worked for Johns Manville during the day. He’d come home, work in his studio at night. He built his own kilns, all of his kilns. He had three or four kilns going at the same time. It was a wonderful place. Just all full of equipment and things to do. Good man to work with. Wonderful man to work with. Told him what I wanted to do. Could he get some formula that I could do this with. Could we get it so I could cut it so it wasn’t shiny glass. So it became a kind of, I don’t know if you know what Egyptian paste is.
Lange: I don’t.
Kreilick: But it’s not shiny. It looks as if it’s like almost a little bit like cheese. It might have even a few holes in it, being a kind of granular, etcetera. So I experimented for a week, pouring different formulas into U-channel, so that you would have sticks of glass. And then cutting them. And that was very important for me. Being able to have somebody like this to work with, and to know you’re going to the right person to be able to do this, was a great help. And good person to work with.
Then in 79, Professor George Mosse, (1918-1999) the cultural historian on campus, came to look at my garden and George said, “I want a piece of sculpture in my garden.” (laughter) After he came to see mine.
And I said, “Well, George, I think we can do that. I’ve got a piece, but we’ll have to have it cast in bronze, because I welded it. It’s sheet steel, welded, and it won’t take, it will rust outdoors. You’ll have to do something to preserve it. And I think we should cast it in bronze. And I’ll see what I can do and how much it would cost, and then you see if you’re interested.”
01:03:00 Well, George’s garden is a little bit on a hillside. And it’s very flat and woody and wild. Woody and wild. That’s how George wants it, and he doesn’t pay any attention to it much. So I said, “George, in order to see this, we’re going to have to, you need a vertical in your garden to see this. And in order to see it from your living room area, it should be a vertical out there. What would you think of casting that piece twice, and then put one on top of the other, so that we would have sunrise, sunset?”
He said, “Fine. Go ahead. Do it.” George even wanted to go to the foundry, see how this is done.
Lange: I bet.
Kreilick: We took him to the foundry. And cast two pieces. And brought it back and then welded the two pieces together. And then mounted, and then had them mounted in his garden.
Lange: Mm hmm. I’ve seen it.
Kreilick: Yeah. That’s it.
Lange: Just for the record, I take it that you and George were friends.
Kreilick: I knew George Mosse, I got to know George Mosse, just before, in 1960, just before I went to Rome. I met him at a cocktail party for a woman, a lady was in my class, I learned, was a professor’s wife. I hadn’t known that before. And her husband was a history professor, American history professor. So she invited me to a cocktail party that summer. And I met George Mosse. And I met George just before the cocktail party was breaking up. And George was saying, I think he was saying, “Well, I’m going to be gone next year. I’m going to Rome.”
And I said, “You’re going to Rome. I’m going to Rome, too. Where are you going to live? Where are you staying?”
He said, “The American Academy.”
I said, “George, I’ll see you there.”
So, George arrived at the American Academy and stayed that semester. So I got to know George Mosse in Rome.
Lange: In Rome. (laughs)
Kreilick: We had a wonderful time in Rome. I used to take George to the flea market in Rome. He used to take me to all the embalmed bodies. (laughter) And whenever he wanted to mail something 01:06:00 or wanted to get something done or where did he buy something, he would come to me. So I got to know George very well in Rome.
Lange: Oh. And then I take it that you all stayed friends.
Kreilick: Yes. We were good friends. George would go away on a trip, which he usually did, Israel to teach for a half year or so. He’d come back, give me a call. And I said, “George, you just want a good meal.” (laughter) At any rate, he was a very good friend. And I enjoyed him tremendously.
Lange: I’m sure.
Kreilick: Yeah. So, George got his sculpture. Then in the fall semester of 78 to 79, I proposed a design workshop. And I had been talking to my gallery in Chicago, Fairweather Hardin Gallery. And I said, “I’ve got the best idea. All I need is a little money. Because these kids, most of them, country kids, don’t have the slightest idea what they’re going to do with art. They don’t know what is possible. They have never been in an art studio, really. In an advertising studio, in a weaving studio, in a big interior design studio. None of them have ever seen the back even of a theater.” You know? What do these people in lighting do in theater? Who designs and makes the sets? You know. Who does the costumes? All of this information, they have no idea that they can use what they learn in art as basics to apply it. How can they apply this?
I said, “What I’d like to do is to take them on a trip to New York. I’d like to take these kids to New York. And I would like to organize a class in which during a semester I bring in people to lecture to them, and they can ask them all the questions they want.” They have to ask the questions before the people come, so they have something to, I don’t want them sitting there like a bunch of dummies. They have their questions to ask about different areas.
And I picked out the areas of being lighting design, theater design, textile design, advertising, museology, for museums, illustration, graphic design. So I then, and the gallery said, “I’ll give you 01:09:00 two thousand dollars to do this.”
Lange: The gallery said that.
Kreilick: My gallery gave me two thousand dollars to do this so that I could invite people to lecture here.
Kreilick: Okay? And what I did then was write to Pratt in New York, one of the best design schools. And said, this is what I want to do. What could they do to hook me up with design studios in New York? They organized a program for us to do that. And we would go between Christmas and New Year’s, I think it was at the time. And organized one of the YMCAs. They took women and men. And we got housing there. Organized that. And then the people that I got to come here, they’re a great bunch of people. Forty-six applicants were screened. Forty-six kids signed up that were interested in this.
Lange: How many could you take?
Kreilick: Oh, I would take—I forgot how many I took. Fifteen, maybe? I could count them.
Lange: That’s okay. You didn’t take all forty-six.
Kreilick: Oh, no way. No way. No, no. We screened them. I had Philip Hamilton, who’s in graphics, in advertising, look at portfolios. They were chosen by portfolio, all right? And I had Mr. Allan McNab, who I knew, to screen them, from the Art Institute. And myself. We had three people screening. And we took fifteen students out of these.
And from Chicago, I invited Mr. Ed[ward H.] Weiss (1901-1984), who’s chairman of Lee King, the Chicago advertising agency. And I had Allan McNab, who was also art director of Life magazine, and art director at the Chicago Art Institute. I had Nancy Ekholm Burkert (b. 1933) from Milwaukee—
Lange: Oh, really?
Kreilick: —to come and talk about illustration of children’s books. I had Professor Arthur Prieve (1933-2014) come and talk about arts administration. And botanical illustration, I had Lucy Taylor (1952-2012), who was a grad student here in Madison. And I had Robert 01:12:00 Benassi (1925-2018) from the Mayo Clinic do medical illustration, from Rochester. I had Professor Manfred Wentz (1939-2016) on textile design, and Professor John Ezell (b. 1933) on theater design. And I had Gilbert Hemsley on lighting design.
Lange: Wow. What a power course.
Kreilick: Oh, yeah. The kids didn’t know what power they had here. So, these people met with them. I also had [Prudy Stewart?] from educational placement helped the students. And I had them design their stationery in which they would but their curricula vitae on. They had to prepare their portfolios for New York and they had to prepare, I had these, I brought in also Susan [Jackson] Keig (1918-2018), whom I knew, graphics designer. She looked through these things and screened them, and came to talk to the kids on graphic design as well. It was January the third to the seventeenth they spent in New York City.
Lange: What a gift.
Kreilick: It was a lot of work.
Lange: Indeed it was.
Kreilick: A lot of work. This is probably one of the, this Dana Tenz was one of these students who took, this was probably one of her stationery that she did.
Lange: Again, I have to assume you enjoyed putting that together.
Kreilick: Well, I thought it, I thought if I did a test run to show it could be done and to show how much these kids could get out of this, that it would become part of the curriculum. That’s what I wanted.
Lange: Oh, to make it a permanent part of the curriculum.
Kreilick: I wanted it a permanent part of the curriculum. Once a year, the best students—
Lange: Got to do this.
Kreilick: —got to do this.
Lange: Great idea.
Kreilick: I wanted this very badly, something to do. We saw the top studios in New York. Pratt got us the top studios. Jack [Lenor] Larsen (1927-2020) in textiles. We went to the opera. 01:15:00 The city opera. Went backstage. They showed us how the sets were done and how they were prepared. They did lighting. Not only that, the YMCA got us tickets to one of the plays in New York. I got to take all the kids. Free. Unbelievable.
Kreilick: Unbelievable. Pratt looked over their portfolios. Do you know, as a result of this fifteen kids, two kids got offers, job offers? From their portfolios.
Lange: Wow. While they were in New York?
Kreilick: While they were in New York. They wanted to see them back again. Yeah. Here. You want to stop this? Yes.
Lange: Okay. Okay, we’re back on.
Kreilick: We came back and James Orr (1936-2012), the Milwaukee Journal art editor, wrote an article about the design workshop, this workshop. In the September 24, 1978 paper. And he quotes me as saying, “The commercial art market wants university-trained artists who have a liberal arts background as well as technical and writing skills.” That’s the biggest difference, I don’t think my faculty ever realized, between an art school and a university art department. I think that should be emphasized by the dean as well as by our chair. You want students who are well skilled in writing and expressing themselves, as well as technical ability.
And then Orr says, “This course seems a neat and fairly inexpensive way to meet this need. It deserves study by other degree-granting institutions.” So that was, nothing was said in my department. No report was ever asked for me to give on this expedition.
Lange: Did you request permission to run it again? 01:18:00
Kreilick: There was no money.
Lange: Yeah. So they wouldn’t give you any money to do it?
Kreilick: No. No. Nothing. It was never talked about again. Nothing happened. It was dead in the water.
Lange: Again, is that because of what you were just saying about that they were not interested in commercial success?
Kreilick: I don’t know why. I don’t know why. I think it’s money. I think everything is money. I don’t know.
Lange: So the feeling may have been in the dean’s office even it’s a good idea, but there’s no money so forget it.
Kreilick: I didn’t go to the dean. I went through channels. I went through my chairman.
Lange: Who was chair then?
Kreilick: I don’t know. I’d have to look it up. I don’t know.
Lange: Okay. When you went to talk to the chair, what was the chair’s response?
Kreilick: Oh, there’s no money. That’s usually the response to everything. That was the biggest, you know, the biggest response.
Lange: But again, there is money if somebody wants to do something. You know, the university is replete with examples of where resources are reallocated. And so that’s what I’m trying to get at. This was obviously a good idea. And it wasn’t advocated for.
Kreilick: The other thing I think that our university art department should have had, which we had at Ohio State, was an art honorary. Delta Phi Delta was the art honorary. And I was president at Ohio State. So the highest grades in art were issued into the art honorary. And that was a national professional—
Lange: Sort of like Phi Beta Kappa?
Lange: And why was there not one here at Wisconsin?
Kreilick: I have no idea.
Lange: You advocated for it.
Kreilick: I suggested it. But nothing. No. I probably would have had to do it myself. And I’m pretty busy.
Lange: Yes, certainly you are. Did you ever keep up with the students who were in that workshop—
Kreilick: Some. A few. I wish they had written to me. I asked them to when they got their first jobs. Write to me. But they didn’t. They’re busy. Luanne. I know a few are still in this area. And Luanne is still in the area. He is up north and has a silkscreen shop, I think. 01:21:00 He was on campus, and I don’t know what he is doing. She is still around, Conrad. And this is, she has written, this is really well done, too, I think. This is on the whole workshop. And I had all of the students had to write. They had to write a paper—
Lange: About their experience?
Kreilick: Exactly. I made them all write. And they had to read, too. They were busy. She lists in detail all the places they stayed.
Lange: This, too, I would like to copy. I’ll return this to you, if that’s all right.
Kreilick: What good is it going to do me? I should get rid of this stuff.
Lange: Well then, I will take it.
Kreilick: I think so.
Kreilick: I think so.
Lange: In terms of your feeling about the department, were you disappointed that they didn’t pick it up?
Kreilick: Well, I pretty well knew who I was working with in the department.
Lange: So you weren’t surprised.
Kreilick: I’m not really surprised. No. No. And the biggest advantage, I had offers elsewhere to go and teach. But I wouldn’t have my summers free. I wanted to do mosaics. I wanted to do, you know, architectural work. With architects.
Lange: So you didn’t look for another university position.
Kreilick: Well, Philadelphia offered me a job.
Lange: University of Pennsylvania?
Kreilick: No, not University of Pennsylvania. Temple.
Lange: Oh, Temple.
Kreilick: But that meant, it was a twelve-month appointment.
Lange: Oh, it was.
Kreilick: I’m not doing that.
Lange: So, it was the structure here at Wisconsin, the nine-month contract?
Kreilick: The nine-month contract and the graduate school gave me a little help when I needed to go and work on this marble mosaic, which I wanted to do. The things I wanted to do, they gave me a little help with. My department didn’t do it. No.
Lange: This perhaps is not a good question. But I’ll ask it. Was it then or is it now clear to you that women in art were not welcome?
Kreilick: Well, yeah, it was clear to me then because 01:24:00 in committee meetings when we were hiring and I was on one of these committees, one of my faculty members separated these folders and threw them out and said, “No dames.” They didn’t even look at the women.
Lange: That blatant.
Kreilick: Yes. That blatant. So, yes, I knew that. But one person can’t do anything. And the chairman is the only person who reports to the dean. And it’s the old boys’ club. And then a few of the faculty members, it is very interesting, because it depends who is the chair of the department. And then they all have lunch together. You should see how some of the members in the faculty always gravitate toward the new chairman. (laughs)
Lange: And you were never welcome.
Kreilick: Oh, no. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be. No. It’s the way it was.
Lange: Who are your friends at this time, besides George Mosse? Do you have, are there artists among the faculty who are friends? Do you have much of a—
Kreilick: Colescott, maybe. I’ve been to Colescott’s house, I’ve had cocktails with Colescott and his wife. Dean Meeker (1920-2002) invited me once. And his wife is an artist. I’ve gotten to know her much, much better after they were divorced. We’ve become quite good friends. But not before. Who else? I didn’t know any of the other people.
Lange: It’s really rather a dark hole.
Lange: Or black hole, I should say.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Lange: For you. And you don’t have relations, really, with art history, based on what you have said.
Kreilick: No. 01:27:00 Presently, I do. I had, no, I have with Narciso Menocal (1936-2018). And I’ll tell you why I know Narciso Menocal. Because Narciso Menocal’s family in Cuba were known by Allan McNab.
Kreilick: Who built the museum in Havana, Cuba.
Lange: Oh, really?
Kreilick: Uh huh.
Lange: Oh, interesting.
Kreilick: Yeah. So I got on the telephone. I didn’t know Narciso Menocal. One of my students was telling me about Menocal’s class. John Sheehan was telling me about that good class by Menocal in architecture. He was having such a good time. I said, great. And then the Menocal name came up. And McNab said he knew him. Knew the family. A very well-known family in Cuba. So I got on the telephone and I called Narciso Menocal. I said, “You don’t know me, but I’m on the faculty in the art department. Would you be interested in coming to dinner with your wife?” So that’s how I got to know Menocal. That’s the only way I got to know people is if you call them up and invite them, I guess.
Lange: Yes. And you were always the one extending.
Kreilick: Usually, yes.
Lange: It sounds to me.
Kreilick: Yeah. Yeah.
Lange: Interesting. I wanted to ask you, John Tortorice told me that when you were mentioning Savannah, that you knew some of the people mentioned in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Lange: Which I enjoyed, I enjoyed the book very much.
Kreilick: Yes, I knew Jim [James Arthur] Williams (1930-1990).
Lange: Did you?
Kreilick: Oh, I went to his Christmas party. Oh, yes. I knew all those guys. I also knew the one who was murdered [Danny Hansford (1960-1981)].
Lange: Oh, you did?
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Savannah seems like a pretty strange place. (laughs)
Kreilick: It is. It is very strange.
Lange: Did you enjoy your time there?
Kreilick: Uh, I enjoyed what I learned in Savannah. Because I didn’t know the Deep South. And you want this on—
Lange: Uh huh. I do.
Kreilick: All right. One of the first things I learned was the first thing they ask you is what church do you go to? 01:30:00 Which surprised me a bit.
Lange: Was this before you had the commission? Or after.
Kreilick: No, I had the commission. I’d done the commission. And so I said, “Well, you know my husband is a Scotsman.” And that’s all I said. That’s pretty obvious, he’s a Scotsman. And they rank you about which church you go to. I was warned never to use the buses. I was warned about which grocery stores I could go into. Things like that. Mm hmm. It’s a very inbred society. They always look back. They never look forward. They’re still fighting the Civil War. And Northerners like myself are considered rather [pause] not crude, but—
Kreilick: Well, no. More businesslike than friendly adjectives. All right?
Lange: Not charming.
Kreilick: Not charming. No. No. Not charming. I don’t have that Southern, that Southern drawl and the ability for the adjectives to say nothing, actually. (laughs) Mm hmm.
Lange: I think the American South is the most interesting place in the United States. Because it’s so different.
Kreilick: Well, for us it’s so different. I wish, I wish this country would come together using the same textbooks North and South. I think we have to really begin to work at this.
Lange: No question.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Lange: No question.
Kreilick: And go forward. But I learned. It’s a very knit society, it’s a very divided society. When I was in Savannah, 01:33:00 Georgia, the Blacks still used the alleys and not the sidewalks.
Lange: Really? And this is 75?
Kreilick: Uh huh. Mm hmm. In general. Maybe they’re used to doing this. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. All in all, while I was there, I even heard and saw a man get beat up, a Black man get beat up by the police. He was only drunk. There was no reason for that brutality. No. Well, that’s my experience.
Lange: How long were you there all together?
Kreilick: I went back and forth. I was there for the installation of that. Ernst Schroeder helped me. And we were there about maybe a week or two.
Lange: Interesting. So now we’re back at the university. You’ve done this workshop. That was 78.
Lange: Seventy-eight, 79. And then it was not renewed.
Kreilick: That’s right. Nothing happened.
Lange: Nothing happened.
Kreilick: And then, so we ought to be up to the 70s.
Lange: Yeah. The late 70s, early 80s.
Kreilick: Late 70s. I don’t know quite when this was. What does this say? Seventy-nine? Fall semester, 79. Oh, this is the fall, this is the posters we put out for the design workshop, going to New York. Yeah.
Lange: New York City.
Lange: Oh, this is great. Outlining careers, preparing portfolios, meet professionals.
Kreilick: It’s yours. Now the other thing I got involved with that I wanted to introduce to the department in summer school because I realized that in the departments there were a lot of things going on that were health hazards. And this ought to be looked into. How wrong I was.
Lange: I’m sorry. How wrong you were?
Kreilick: Yes. (laughs)
Lange: In terms of that it should be looked into?
Kreilick: Looked into. (laughs) I knew Monona Rossol (b. 1936) 01:36:00 from Harvey Littleton’s class in pottery downstairs. Fantastic student who had a degree in chemistry and also another degree in pottery. She had a double degree. And she was working, I found out, for the Center for Occupational Hazards in New York City. That’s where she got the job. And she had written and testified on toxins, as well as contributed to Art Hazards Newsletter. And I got the Art Hazards Newsletter. So I invited her, and she was very well-qualified, to come and do a summer session for schoolteachers, for art teachers in Wisconsin. I wanted to do a summer session. And I don’t know how I got the money. I don’t remember that. How I got money for Rossol to come. But somewhere, I got money for her.
And we scheduled a health hazards lecture workshop in the mornings. I said let’s do everything in the morning, so that we have the afternoon that these schoolteachers can come in the afternoons and take another course. That would make it worthwhile for them to have enough credits. And not only that, what I also did was to contact, what is her name? To contact the woman who was heading the schools in Racine. The whole cluster of schools in Racine. And talk to her about this program and what she thought of it. And also the head of the educational school system, state person.
Lange: Oh, the state superintendent?
Kreilick: The state superintendent of education. And this other woman whose name I can’t remember now. Well, at any rate, it’s here someplace. And I talked to, met with her. And she met with the head of the state schools. And we established this program for the summer. And it was, 01:39:00 I don’t remember how many. It was quite well attended, I remember. And it was a success. And it’s surprising how much, you know, the teachers, in making some of their own materials, which would save them quite a bit of money, like doing finger paints and things like that, some of those paints are poisonous. Kids that put their hands in their mouth and so forth. It was not a good idea. So that I thought teachers ought to know which paints are poisonous and which are not, and which could be used, etcetera. And Monona could give them all of this information.
So while she was here, I said, “What you ought to do, also, is take a look around our department and give us a critique, as long as you’re here, about what could be improved in the studios. Because I know the fumes are pretty bad in some areas.” Etcetera.
So, she went around and looked at the studios. The sculptors were casting plastics. No ventilation. No masks. Or anything. [Laverne E.] “Ernie” Moll (d. 2001) was doing that. [Wayne] Norman Taylor (1931-2001). Richard Reese (1933-2008). Hal Lotterman (b. 1920) was painting in lacquers. And Hal Lotterman was using lacquer thinner to paint on canvas, etcetera. All of these were really bad news.
Also, Professor Carol Pylant was complaining that she couldn’t teach in certain rooms because the fumes were too bad. And she got something, I think a health permit from her doctors or something saying that she couldn’t do this. Jack Damer was complaining, also, about fumes. Shouldn’t be used, also, in graphics, in etching, all of those fumes.
She went up and looked at what was being used in the pottery shop. And there were certain clays and things up there that the dust would be harmful for the lungs. And she was chased out of the pottery shop by rights.
Lange: Oh, didn’t want her in?
Kreilick: No way. It was his domain and she was not to be in there, period. Out the door. So. Take a break. 01:42:00
Lange: Okay. We’re on.
Kreilick: Very good. There were health problems, I think from poor ventilation, on the eighth floor of the Humanities Building.
Lange: And that had been true since the beginning. Is that correct?
Kreilick: Yes. That had been true since the beginning. There were a lot of problems, I think, in the construction of that building. And there were some labor disputes, I think. That was during the time, also, that the students were rioting.
So that’s what we came up with. And the teachers seemed to be very pleased. And we filled the summer school because those teachers that came in for the classes on health hazards got all this information. Rossol was very good with them. She’s an excellent person. Named after Monona.
Lange: Monona Lake? Really? (laughs)
Kreilick: Lake. Yes. Yes. Named after the lake.
Lange: So what did you do with the information that she provided about the working conditions?
Kreilick: Well, I think she did a review about the working conditions and what should be done in the building, what substitutes should be made. Handed it into the chair. Which I think should have been done. And I don’t know what happened to it after that. This course has never been issued again. Ever. And I don’t know if those who teach education know about it at all. I don’t know.
Lange: What I was saying to you off tape was that it’s interesting to me that first you did the design workshop, real world experience, 78-79. That was not pursued. And then in the summer, you’re creating this new course, both for teachers in the secondary school system and you are also looking at the laboratory of where the art is created at the university. And what springs to mind is that you’re indefatigable.
Kreilick: Well, if we have an expert on campus, why don’t you use the expert’s knowledge? I mean, I thought it was a wise idea to use her to go around and find out what is happening 01:45:00 in this building.
Lange: Yes, I would agree with that. But you had not been, you were not turning your back on the process here after having your—
Lange: —course drop 78-79. So here you’re trying something new because of the inherent logic of taking advantage of the expert here.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Lange: And that seems to be the way you approach many things.
Kreilick: Well, you see something that needs to be done, you do it. It would improve the situation. Why not do it? It would improve the knowledge of these teachers to have this information. And it would improve our working situation, also. So why not do it? There’s no reason not to.
Lange: Did you get, did others of your colleagues speak to you about this report on working conditions?
Lange: So that was turned into the chair of the art department and never heard from again.
Kreilick: Yes. As far as I know.
Lange: Nobody talked to you about it.
Kreilick: No. No.
Lange: Was your health affected by the working conditions up there in—
Kreilick: Oh, no. Oh, no. I just worked in paint. You know, color class, mainly. Downstairs in welding when I did sculpture and so forth, there was plenty of air going through. We had double doors down there, and all the doors were open. So there was a lot of ventilation going through. It was natural ventilation, more or less. And I thought the situation was at a good place. But to have on the top floor, eighth floor, maybe they thought the ventilation ought to be good there, too. But these people working in those polyesters and the plastics, casting the plastics. Duane Hanson (1925-1996), the well-known American sculptor who does these figures that look like real figures if you see them in museums, you know, he died a very young man because of the plastics.
Lange: I did not know that.
Kreilick: Yes. He was under fifty, if I remember.
Lange: Oh my gosh, really?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Quite young. I’d have to look up exactly to tell you what. But he was very young. A young man. I think, also, that this affects the health of our sculptors. Our sculptors died, Wayne [Norman] Taylor died at seventy. Which might be average for most people, although those last years were not very good years. 01:48:00 The same is true of Ernie Moll. Both of them had cancer. Ernie Moll was in poor health for at least five years after he retired. And Hal Lotterman was seventy-three, I think, either three or four, when he died. And his remaining years were not—
Kreilick: —pleasant. No. And I would predict that their working conditions and the materials they were working with didn’t contribute to a long life. Or a long, healthy life.
Lange: Are graduate students working in those disciplines more health-conscious these days?
Kreilick: I don’t know what the graduate students are working in, to be quite frank. I haven’t seen any sculpture. I don’t know. Okay.
Lange: Marjorie, one of the areas I want to ask you about, now that we’re in the 70s, is the relationship between the Elvehjem Museum of Art and the art department. And I know that there was a, not every year, a periodic, maybe every two or three years, faculty show from the art department in the Elvehjem, which was the university museum. Can you talk about whether you were involved in that show, and why the show happened so seldom?
Kreilick: Well, I don’t think there was enough work, probably, for the teachers, for the professors to show every year on larger pieces. I mean, printmakers could do that. But some of the painters working in a larger scale couldn’t do that. I certainly couldn’t do that. Sculptors couldn’t do that every year and carry on a heavy load teaching.
Lange: So you felt the frequency of the faculty show was appropriate.
Kreilick: Yes. I do think you have a better show, better selection, in doing this.
Lange: And how was work selected for exhibit?
Kreilick: It was just presented. There was no culling by anyone.
Lange: Oh. So you were allowed to pick your own—
Kreilick: Well they say you have, you’re going to 01:51:00 have so much wall space, they can say. Because some people would take the whole wall of all their own work. So they can say, we’ll give you so many running feet with what you have to show. And try to make that equitable with the other professors. I’ve never known anything that’s ever sold out of that show. That’s interesting.
Lange: Did you enjoy that show? Did it give you a chance to see what your colleagues were doing? Or did you already know?
Kreilick: No, I didn’t know. I mean, the printmakers, you don’t see what the printmakers are doing. No. In sculpture, it depends who it was. We always saw what was going on when we were in the old building. In the new building, everything is shut off so that you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t go through those rooms to get to other rooms. So it was a much more private, cut off area. We didn’t have the same kind of communications. And the architecture made the difference.
Lange: Yes. Yes. You were saying yesterday that perhaps you should have been an architect.
Kreilick: Architect really made a big difference.
Lange: I take it, then, that there wasn’t really much of a relationship between the Elvehjem Museum and the art department, other than that show.
Kreilick: No. There was none that I could see. There was none.
Kreilick: I don’t think that, I don’t think the, I don’t think that the Elvehjem at that time took advantage of its situation on campus with all of the marvelous heads that they had to work with. I mean, they could have made up, I don’t know that there are any exhibitions that the museum itself put together. For instance, you’ve got a wonderful German department here. What could possibly have done. You could have, with all of the good German painting that you have in Milwaukee that’s in storage, etcetera, you could have done a wonderful show, I think, using the German department and illustrations from Milwaukee and what they have in there. I don’t know what they have there, but I’m sure there is a lot. Because I know [La] Vera Pohl’s (1900-1981) collection. She had a big painting collection. And she had some marvelous German paintings, German Expressionism and prints. 01:54:00 And in the locale, between Milwaukee and Chicago, oh, you could do marvelous things. You can originate your own show. Just like I did the ceramic show in Toledo. And it doesn’t cost a lot of money. You don’t need that much money.
Lange: So you didn’t see initiative coming out of the Elvehjem.
Kreilick: No. I didn’t see any creativity coming out. I see shows that are packaged and brought here. But I don’t see creative heads being used to initiate exhibitions so that you look at things in a different manner than you ordinarily would have.
Lange: I was always interested, and still am to this day, how few university students are in the Elvehjem. Or the Chazen.
Kreilick: Oh, yes.
Lange: Other than art history students taking class.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: But I guess that’s just an editorial comment.
Kreilick: That’s about it.
Lange: So we’re now at the university looking at your career beginning in the early 1980s. What are you doing now? What new directions are you going into?
Kreilick: I’m doing more painting than I am in sculpture. Or, yeah, sculpture. I don’t have the facilities to work in sculpture here. If I had a foundry nearby, that would really help. There’s one in Illinois that I had George Mosse’s piece cast. And that’s a possibility. But it’s also costly. So I like to have something to work on so that I know where it’s going. And I know what my investment’s going to be. So it’s a practical kind of approach.
Lange: Are you still, are you teaching a full load in the 1980s?
Kreilick: Yes. I’m teaching a full load.
Lange: You’re still teaching color?
Kreilick: I’m still teaching color, I think. Mm hmm.
Lange: And what else?
Kreilick: That’s it.
Lange: That’s it. Are you doing three sections of color?
Kreilick: Yes, yes.
Lange: That’s quite a bit, isn’t it?
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I’m doing a full load, and I have a waiting list. Yeah. I never have any trouble having students take it.
Lange: Well, what commissions are you getting in the 80s? 01:57:00
Kreilick: I don’t think I’m getting any in the 80s, as a matter of fact. In 1980. The one that I really wanted was the one, the one in Minnesota I was telling you.
Lange: Oh, the church?
Kreilick: The church that I wanted in Minnesota. Yeah. That I wanted very badly. But it didn’t come to pass.
Lange: Are you traveling, are you lecturing much? Are you going to—
Lange: —other universities?
Kreilick: No. I haven’t spread my word around. I had before at the School of the Fine Arts in North Carolina. Because one of my students was there teaching. And he asked me to come down as a visiting professor. At Winston-Salem. Very interesting place. All Russian ballet teachers. It reminded me a little bit of Cranbrook. Everybody about, doing their thing and mixing up with one another on campus. Theater, lighting, dance, painting, sculpture. School of the arts. It was very good.
Lange: And you liked it there.
Kreilick: Yes, I think, it was a, I like talking to other people. I like arts talking to one another. I think it helps one another. This is, there’s electric spirit about New York City, for instance, because there is so much going on there. You feel it in the air.
Lange: Yes, you do.
Kreilick: And it stimulates one to think further and do things. It’s very exciting. I find it lacking here. I think the emphasis on agriculture, as an agricultural school, has made a big difference. It began this way. And now that it goes into biology and stem cell research, again, there is a lack, I think. Almost everyone ought to be required, and especially in the School of Education, these students should have languages. They ought to have a required two-year course in 02:00:00 liberal arts. Everything, I’ll tell you. Everything that the lawyers take, everything that the doctors take, the artists should have to take, too.
Lange: You bet.
Kreilick: That gives you a good basic grounding in the beginning. Besides, most kids don’t know what they want to do. They haven’t tried enough things. They don’t know enough about what that person does.
Lange: I would take it, I would guess then that you would be in favor of a rigorous set of requirements.
Lange: For all undergraduates.
Kreilick: Absolutely. The biggest thing that happened in the 60s when we had this uprising with students is that the establishment caved in. I think it’s ridiculous. We now have smorgasbord education. You take a little bit here, a little bit there. You don’t have to take beginning art history from the beginning of time, and you take it in sequence and you develop it. Now they have a lot of courses. And they don’t get this background, because they may be taking something in Asian art. They’ll take something in archeology or something. You have little bits here and there. But you don’t have the development that you get maybe in American art history, or American history. Period. Because we only have two hundred years there. But if you’re jumping around all over, you never have that feeling of development. You learn it that way. And then you really never lose it. And we don’t have that in education today.
Lange: And that’s true not just at Wisconsin. That’s generally.
Kreilick: I think that’s a general happening since the 60s.
Lange: Yeah. I think so, too. We can talk about that off tape. But talk if you would now about what the art department is like in the 1980s. Who are the other significant figures? What problems are there in the department? What should history know about? Because you retire in 91.
Kreilick: I retire in 91.
Lange: So what is your last decade like, and what are the faculty like in the department?
Kreilick: Well, they’ve added, and it I have the years those people were added. I would have to have exactly when they were added. Hmm. 02:03:00 [Elaine] Sheer was brought in. some of these people were brought in on they call it cluster hires. And if they brought them in, then the department got money. It was all about money. Not that this had anything to do with our curriculum. Or what the person would teach, exactly. But it was mainly bringing in the money. This is what happened with Nelson.
Lange: Oh, with the Extension?
Kreilick: From Extension. Yes.
Lange: So with whom else would the art department collaborate for a cluster hire?
Kreilick: I’m not sure. It depends who was available, I would think, in what other department.
Lange: Are more women joining the faculty in the 80s?
Kreilick: Yes, yes. There are more women. Moty has retired, and somebody has taken her place, which is a woman. Elaine Sheer, and I don’t know really, exactly what she teaches. She’s chair of the department now, but I don’t know what she teaches. And I would have to see the new list.
Lange: But the department is larger?
Kreilick: That I cannot say. I’d have to check, again, if it’s larger.
Lange: You were pretty committed to your own work, I think.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Lange: Doing your teaching, your commissions. I don’t get any sense of a spirit in the department, at least that included you.
Lange: You have said that the men went out.
Kreilick: They went out and drank beer.
Lange: Beer. And at lunch, or after work or something.
Kreilick: Yeah. Mm hmm. Or in their houses afterwards. I don’t know.
Lange: Are you happy?
Kreilick: I’m not unhappy. I think I’ve lived a pretty rich life.
Lange: (laughs) I meant in the decade of the 80s, working at the university.
Kreilick: Uh, was I happy? Hmm. Well, I like what I, I’m glad I chose what I do. Mm hmm. Yes. It’s made my life so much richer. People don’t realize unless they can see, really see, and see in relationships 02:06:00 how much happier, fulfilled, their life can be. I think, wasn’t it during this time that the kids built Lady Liberty on the lake?
Lange: Mm hmm. The Pail and Shovel Party.
Kreilick: It was wonderful.
Lange: What was wonderful about it?
Kreilick: Symbolically. That our liberties are slipping away. They’re becoming inundated by all of this, what shall I say? hypocrisy, politically situation. I thought that was a very, very marvelous statement students made. And the students, these are not the students who were the ones who were rebellious and tearing the establishment apart. They were making a statement. And busy. They built all that. They built all that. I can’t believe that. Got together. Worked together. Built it. Made a good statement. And only, Dana Kenn tells me, it only took ten cents of each one of the student—
Lange: Oh, the fee?
Kreilick: Uh huh. And they applied ten cents from all of them to build this Lady Liberty.
Lange: It got huge national press.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Lange: Any, some of your students involved in that?
Lange: Which ones, do you remember?
Kreilick: Well, she’s one of the biggest movers. Dana Kenn.
Lange: Dana Kenn. Okay.
Kreilick: She went back to work in New York City theater. Mm hmm. I don’t know what’s happened to her. Her grandfather had been a lighthouse keeper for New York City.
Kreilick: And she was, she was happy to kind of return. Okay.
Lange: I’ll turn it on. Marjorie, you retire in 1991. When do you start thinking about retirement? And what’s it like for an artist to think about retirement?
Kreilick: Well, you think about retirement only from your students.
Lange: Oh, okay.
Kreilick: One never retires. And I didn’t realize how much I’d miss my students. I don’t 02:09:00 I don’t miss anything else in retirement. It gives me much more time and space. But I enjoyed my students very much. They were fun, they were stimulating. The exchange was good. I learned things from my students. They taught me as well as I taught them.
Lange: What does that mean? I’ve heard other faculty say that. What did you actually learn from students?
Kreilick: Well, let me give you one example. In the beginning design class, for instance, I had a project in which the students were to do, we cut out circles. Exactly the same size circle. And the problem was to get the black circles and the white spaces to equal one another, all right? Now you might think that a checkerboard would equal one another. It has the exact equal amount of space of black and white. But those black points on a square, you have points on each corner of a square. Visually, this bleeds into the white. So you don’t get an equal amount when you look at this from a distance. You will get much more of the dark than you do of the white. So you make them circles. And you say, all right, now how can you do this so that I want a complete gray when I squint my eyes and look at this. So the black and the white will become one. In visual perception.
So I did this and I had a Chinese student in my class. [Heston Chow ?]. And after class, and he had been working at this. This takes quite a while to do, and it’s very tricky. And it’s training. It’s eye training, too. So he came up to me after class. He said, “Do you know you just taught me something that I didn’t know in calligraphy?”
I said, “Well, what is that, Heston. Tell me so I know.”
And he said, “Because if you have a good piece of calligraphy, Chinese figures, it’s only well done if the black and white are almost, have an equal area to form a flat plane. If there’s too much black, no. 02:12:00 If there’s too much white, too thin.” So this is why they copy calligraphy from somebody else’s calligraphy, so they get this feeling of the spacing to form this flat plane. So, I learned something about Chinese calligraphy.
Lange: Uh huh. And I suspect maybe there are many instances like that?
Kreilick: Yes. Yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: So that would be pleasurable for the academic experience.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Lange: For an academic like you.
Kreilick: Well, I go back. And the next time I go to the museum, I go and look at some Chinese calligraphy and things. Because I see it differently than I did before. It’s very revealing.
Lange: Yeah. I can see that.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Now you came to the university in 1953.
Lange: You retire in 1991.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: So that’s thirty-eight years on the faculty here. When you had retired, what did you think about your career here?
Kreilick: I didn’t think about it. I had so much to do. There was so much lacking on the home front that I hadn’t done because it was neglected that I had a lot to do. First of all, I had to move everything. I had to remake a studio here for myself. I spent almost two years redoing and making the studio. And getting things shipshape.
Lange: Did you, how should I ask this, did the student body change much over the years? The kinds of students that you got?
Kreilick: I don’t know about the student body today.
Lange: No, but—
Kreilick: But over time, no, no, not for me. They didn’t change very much. I knew about where they were, about what they knew and what they didn’t know. No, I think at their age becomes more relevant about what they’re thinking and what they have seen. That makes a difference, what they have seen. I think students have probably traveled more recently than the students that I had known. And they have seen more 02:15:00 in museums abroad than the students that I had known in 53.
Lange: Would you, oh. As you think back on various students that you have had, you’ve mentioned some. Are there an others who you take particular pleasure or pride in having taught? Others who have gone on to be significant figures in the art world, or in other worlds?
Kreilick: There are very few who are significant figures in the art world, considering all the artists in the United States. Very, very few. Maybe on one hand, or two, at the most. So that I don’t think any of my students have become big significant figures. I haven’t become a big significant figure. And I don’t think any of my faculty have become big significant figures. All right? And I’m not so sure I would want to be a big significant figure.
Lange: Why do you say that?
Kreilick: Because I think there is too much commercialism and hype in the world. I mean, in the art world particularly. And I would rather just be able to go do my thing.
Lange: To write your truth and be left alone with it.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Lange: I thought it was very interesting what you said yesterday about that commission that you did not get. The entire process of meeting them, understanding what they were after. And then letting your research guide you to a different outcome than what they wanted. But you were presenting what they wanted, after having taken it through the artistic process. Is that fair?
Kreilick: Yes, but what I ended up doing was being the—well, the thinking is almost parallel to that of the state office building. Because I take what they want. I think about it. I do research on it. I think about the results and what it’s going to do to young people and their thinking. And it isn’t really the visuals that are important in this case. It’s the word that’s important. 02:18:00
Lange: Yes. That was the leap that I heard you make yesterday.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. It’s the word that’s really important. And the word is an abstraction, you know? It really is. So you have to visualize an abstraction. If I say to somebody, “I want you to do a blessing. Visual blessing.” What would you do? And that’s what I would like to talk to people about. But you can’t talk to people who are so literal in their thinking. It’s impossible. They can’t get past this. They have a hymnal, nineteenth century book, doing fluffy—
Kreilick: Sheep. Fluffballs of sheep. And this has nothing to do with the time or the place of what it might have been. And even closer, Giotto in the paintings, are much closer than this. And we’re in the twenty-first century. Come on! We’ve got to think very differently than we did then. Our architecture isn’t the same. We’ve got to think in terms of the architecture.
Kreilick: And in doing that, it becomes more abstract.
Kreilick: So. That’s my thinking. Mm hmm.
Lange: Today is the ninth. This concludes the third interview with Professor Kreilick, April 9, 2008.
End April 9, 2008 Session.
Lange: This is Bob Lange with the oral history project of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This is the fourth in the series of interviews with Emeritus Professor of Art Marjorie Kreilick. Today’s April 10, 2008, and we are joined for this session by John Tortorice. Marjorie, before we get into the substance of today, you said there was an additional episode of your time at Cranbrook that should be noted.
Kreilick: It’s interesting, this episode at Cranbrook, because it repeats itself again later in Rome, when I worked as an apprentice in the studio of Giulio Giovanetti. But at Cranbrook, I was working in my studio one day. And we had radiators under the windows. And I looked down and the hole for the pipe coming up to the radiator, flames were coming up.
Kreilick: Yes. And I looked at this. And the only other person, Marian, was in her studio down at the end. So I ran out and got Marian. She was in the first studio. And I said, “Come on, there’s a fire downstairs. Come on!”
And so we went downstairs to see what was happening. And there was John House (1926-1982), he was one of the sculptors. And the whole room, about 24 inches off the floor, was a sea of fire.
Lange: Oh my God.
Kreilick: And we got to John. I said, “Marian, get him! We’ve got to get up the steps! Come on! Come on!” So she pulled him in the front. He was stone. I mean, absolutely. You hear about animals, this happening to animals. It happens to people, too. He was absolutely—
Tortorice: Petrified. In shock.
Kreilick: Petrified. Absolutely petrified. He wouldn’t have moved.
Lange: Oh, he was immobilized with fear.
Kreilick: Absolutely. Absolutely. He couldn’t see. He wasn’t focusing. He was just absolutely, I’d say stoned. (laughs) But she pulled him up the steps. I was behind him, hitting him all the way to get him to move. So she pulled him and I pushed him and kicked him until we got him up the steps. And then I said, “John, take your pants off! Take your pants off!” You know? He held on with two hands. (laughs) He absolutely would not move those pants. And the bottom of the legs were burning.
Lange: Oh my God.
Kreilick: Yeah. And Marian and I put him down. We got him on the ground 00:03:00 into the grass so that we could extinguish the fire. And somebody came in. And I’m yelling, “Fire, fire, fire!” And absolutely they got the fire truck. But we were the only three there working.
So, that was my story about fire. I’ve been in three fires. And the next one was in Rome, when I was working in the studio of Giulio Giovanetti’s studio. And I was chopping marble during those first six months. Chopping, chopping marble. And Carlo was doing filetto, which is to take the glass pieces of marble and you heat them and you pull them into strings. And this is how you get the very tiny pieces for tesserae that you make into jewelry and very miniature mosaics. So he was working. And I was chop, chopping. And all of a sudden, [makes flaming noise] just like that, this fire covered this studio about 24 inches from the floor. It’s a cement building, cement floor, garage kind of circumstances. But a lot of sketches and things on the walls that were paper.
And I said to Carlo, we used burlap, soaked burlap over the mosaics when we’re working on them because the water develops the cement. Cement doesn’t dry out. When it cures, water is required. So we had these burlap bags and things that were wet. I said to Carlo, “Put the bags on them. Put the bags. Get the fire out!” So I ran out of the building. I wasn’t helping him. I ran out. And I noticed that the signora, his wife, was out on the terrace above a garage, shaking rugs or something, etcetera. And I was yelling, “Fire! Fire! Fire in the studio! Fire!” So she left, you know, and I said, “Telephone, fire!”
I went back to help Carlo. And the maestro had been to coffee at the bar. He came back. And once he walked in, he again froze. He froze, too. Carlo was there, working like a madman because he’s probably going to get his fees deducted and everything else. He won’t get paid. But Carlo got it out. And the reason, 00:06:00 both of these cases happened was because the guys didn’t put the cap on the gasoline can. They used an acetylene, not acetylene torch, blow torch. A blow torch that you had to pump up with gasoline in it to get this torch working. And Johnny was using it. And he never put the cap back on the gasoline can. So you had all of these fumes coming up and floating. And Carlo did the same thing. They take the cap off, but they don’t put the cap on after they filled the blowtorch.
Lange: This has a direct line connection to what you were telling me yesterday about the woman that you brought in to do, among other things, a safety review.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. Monona Rossol.
Lange: Of those lab conditions at, so you have firsthand exposure to what danger in an artistic lab.
Kreilick: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. So this was the second time the same thing happened.
Lange: And why do you think the two artists—
Kreilick: Oh, and let me finish this first. There’s one thing that’s very important. After they got this cleaned up and so forth, the next day I came to work in the studio. I got the worst bawling out you’ve ever heard. More Italian words I didn’t know (laughs) were bombarded and fired at me for calling the fire department. Did I get hell! Because the maestro has to pay for the fire department if they come.
Lange: Really? Fee for service.
Tortorice: That creates a real safe environment.
Kreilick: Doesn’t it? I didn’t know what was happening when I walked in the studio and I got this bombardment like something I had never heard before. Uh huh.
Lange: Why do you think that both of those artists were indifferent to capping the gasoline?
Kreilick: I think men don’t put caps on after they use things. That what I, in general.
Lange: Well, that’s actually where I was headed, thinking that men generally don’t attend to details. And can get killed as a result.
Kreilick: Yeah. Exactly. I think that’s true.
Tortorice: And also wasn’t there almost a culture of dismissal of these kind of safety concerns—
Kreilick: Oh, yes.
Tortorice: —in the artistic community because of—
Tortorice: —we were male 00:09:00 artists and the image of the—
Kreilick: That’s right.
Tortorice: —male artist in those years was Bohemian, heavy drinking, very kind of dismissive—
Kreilick: Yeah. The Picasso type.
Lange: Yes. Right.
Kreilick: That was the idol. But you know, Bob, one thing that’s interesting here is that I told you my mother would tell me, “Your father’s working in the garage. Go out and watch your father. You might learn something. Stay out of the way.” (laughs) And I would for hours. I’d go out and watch him. I learned a lot of things from my father. But I learned to put the cap on the gasoline can.
Lange: From him.
Kreilick: From watching him. Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? As a child? Yeah.
Lange: It is, again, it’s also an insight into you. Because it reminds me of what you said about that bookkeeper. When you went from being a typist to, you learned some things there that didn’t produce a bookkeeper, but the essence of it. It strikes me as the same thing about—
Kreilick: Yeah. It is.
Lange: —being careful working with toxic substances.
Kreilick: Yeah. Put the cap on after you use it. Yeah.
Lange: You’re an extremely observant person, I would say.
Kreilick: Well, I would think most artists learn, yes, learn to see and are observant. Yes.
Kreilick: And this is a difference, I think, between just ordinary craftsmen. There is a little difference there.
Lange: Elaborate on that.
Kreilick: A craftsman, a mason, let’s say, doing brickwork, like Churchill— (laughs)
Kreilick: —learns his trade and you learn the feel of the cement to the amount that you put on that you spread for the brick and so forth. But that’s a repetitive job. And after a while it becomes almost comforting. You’re building and they’re satisfied after it’s done. But the job itself is repetitive. You just keep doing this over and over and over again. All right. In a way, a carpenter is much the same way. He learns his trade. He repeats this. And you do much of the same work over and over again. Okay?
All right. An artist does a lot of different things. They’re not limited. Most artists can, they can do pottery. 00:12:00 Picasso did pots. You can do, you can apply whatever you’re doing to different materials. So you really have to know and observe. But you apply the same kind of principles in different areas.
Lange: So you really have to take, so you see the essence that’s involved in taking care of those toxic substances or bookkeeping. And then you apply it universally—
Lange: —to whatever you’re doing.
Kreilick: Yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: That’s very good. That’s a very good statement to have. Marjorie, let me ask you now, I want to return to the UW campus.
Kreilick: All right.
Lange: And the first issue I want to ask you about is why there are no Kreilick mosaics on the various campus buildings? You were a noted mosaicist. There are mosaics done. I’d like you to speculate as to why you were never invited to do a mosaic on campus.
Kreilick: Well, I was surprised when we had a mosaic go up in the Commerce Building. And that was here, I think, in 53. And then a mosaic appeared in the library on campus. And then a mosaic appeared on the face of Vilas Hall. So there were three mosaics that appeared on campus. And I often wondered why the university advertises nationally to fill its positions, its professors’ positions on campus, advertises nationally for this. And yet, it never advertised for any of those installations, mosaic installations. It never advertised that the mosaic was available, or was going to be available.
Lange: And you never knew about them in advance.
Kreilick: I knew nothing about it. No. I don’t think anyone on campus knew anything about it in the art department.
Lange: And why was that, do you think?
Kreilick: Well, the word didn’t get around. That’s why. It wasn’t advertised. We didn’t get any notice that there was a mosaic going up, or we had a place for a mural someplace. That information 00:15:00 was never advertised. It seems so strange because you know most of the buildings on campus last longer than the faculty does. Although they nationally advertise for faculty. But they never advertise nationally for any of the artwork.
Lange: So when those mosaics were done, was it basically just an understanding?
Kreilick: I don’t know. How would I know?
Tortorice: They were all done by the same person.
Tortorice: Oh, were they all—they were all done by [James] Watrous (1908-1999).
Tortorice: They were all probably commissioned by Watrous, too, for all we know. I mean, I assume that he was so well-connected with this small group that seemed to make all of the decisions on campus that he just said, “I’d like to do a mosaic for this building right here, so make room for it.” Or something along those lines. Or it was done behind the scenes. There was never any kind of input from the faculty or the larger university.
Kreilick: We don’t know how it was done. But it was done behind the scenes. It’s very interesting, I was telling John, that Harvard requires of their business school graduates that they take, I think it’s two semesters of a design course in the art department. Because sometime in their business career, they’re going to have to make some aesthetic judgments.
Lange: How interesting. Very enlightened.
Kreilick: Absolutely. I think it makes a great deal of sense. Yes. But who made these aesthetic judgments? That’s what I would like to know on campus. Who’s responsible?
Lange: And at that time, in the 50s and early 60s, I’m assuming that there wasn’t that state rule that a percentage of the—
Kreilick: No, there was not.
Lange: —of a new building had to be devoted to art.
Kreilick: No. But these were done after that.
Lange: Oh, they were.
Kreilick: Oh, I think so. That Vilas had to be done, when was Vilas Hall built?
Tortorice: About 1970.
Kreilick: Yeah. Sure.
Tortorice: That could have been. I’m not sure when that rule came in. It seemed to me that maybe—
Kreilick: It was before that.
Tortorice: Was it?
Kreilick: I think so. But we’d have to check the exact figures.
Lange: Marjorie, the Vilas mosaic, when did you find out that was happening? When it was underway?
Kreilick: When I saw it on the wall. 00:18:00
Lange: That was the first you knew of it?
Lange: And again, for the record, I think it’s important that I ask you this. That you were not consulted at all as in the design or placement or anything related to that mosaic.
Kreilick: Oh, no. Oh, no. No. No. It was a surprise. No, I didn’t know it was happening.
Lange: And by the time that that went up, you had done quite a bit of work nationally.
Kreilick: Oh, yes. I had done, yes.
Tortorice: Well, even the major work in Milwaukee. Large mosaics.
Lange: Right. Yeah.
Tortorice: A great number of spectacular.
Kreilick: And I’d done all that in Detroit before.
Lange: Did you ever have a conversation with Jim Watrous about the mosaics?
Kreilick: No. I had very few conversations with him.
Lange: Was that hard to deal with? The fact that they would do all these mosaics without inviting you to participate?
Kreilick: No. I thought they were not very good mosaics.
Kreilick: (Tortorice laughs) Didn’t bother me one bit. I just thought that I could have done it better. And it would have been nice to be able to compete. I would like to have put forth some ideas for those areas. I would like to have competed. I’ve competed quite a bit. And to have the chance while you’re on campus to do this, I don’t see why everybody couldn’t compete.
Lange: Vilas, John, was built after the Elvehjem, was it?
Tortorice: Yes. It was built almost immediately after the Humanities Building and the Elvehjem.
Kreilick: Yes, it was. After humanities, right?
Tortorice: Maybe, I think humanities and the Elvehjem opened, say, in 69. And this building maybe opened 71. Something like that.
Lange: John, you were saying off tape before we began this session, that there was a small group in some sense, or that’s the sense that ran the university. And Jim Watrous was one of them. Who else, from your perspective?
Tortorice: Well, Marjorie 00:21:00 do you agree to some extent with this analysis that there was this small group of men, in those days it was all men—
Kreilick: All men.
Tortorice: —who made the major decisions, who set the tone of the university.
Kreilick: How many of those were graduates of the university?
Tortorice: I would say probably a good portion of them.
Kreilick: I would like to know, and I’ve never seen this, but I’d like some research showing me how many of the chancellors came out of the university.
Tortorice: Interesting question.
Kreilick: It was an ingrown group.
Lange: Still is, isn’t it?
Kreilick: I don’t know if it still is.
Lange: David Ward (Chancellor 1993-2000, Interim Chancellor 2011-2013), John D. Wiley (Chancellor 2001-2008).
Kreilick: Well these two, yes, so far, yes. But not only that, I would like to see their credentials. You know, when I go back, and I didn’t really look at this that carefully then, but I’d go back and look at the number of people in the art department who didn’t have MFAs, who just had master’s, who were teaching graduate students. No way! Half of them. Half of the department would not be able to teach graduate students. And they were the ones who were teaching the graduate students.
Tortorice: Well, I’ve heard of this group from a number of people.
Kreilick: Other people? Good.
Tortorice: It’s not, I mean, George Mosse used to talk about this group also, clashing with them on various occasions, etcetera. Not that it, often they were right, and you know, they did make this university flourish. I mean, there were things—
Kreilick: They contributed.
Tortorice: They contributed in many ways. Also, it’s not as if it was all a negative phenomenon. But there were groups that really scratched each other’s backs, put each other on committees. And this question of commissions for artwork is a perfect example of how they pretty much took all of the commissions for themselves. The whole question of the Humanities Building and that whole issue of how you got a building in which three departments were going to be located in which there was so little input from the departments is another. I mean, there was a lot of behind the scenes decision making that was done.
Lange: Marjorie, would you talk a little bit, we didn’t go much yesterday into the problems with the design of the Humanities Building. 00:24:00 You were on a committee that never met to—
Kreilick: Fred Logan was representing, I think, the art department. And he was to gather information with a committee for the art department. And I was one of those members on that committee. And I remember having made out a whole list of things. Like I wanted cork on the walls. I wanted balanced lights in the artificial lights. I made a whole list of things that I thought we ought to have in our, in my classroom, at least. And that, I waited, you know. I waited for this meeting to be held. And it was never held. They never met. That committee never met.
Lange: So the Humanities Mosse Building, now Mosse, was built, at least for the art department, with no input from the art faculty.
Kreilick: Well, I don’t know if anybody else, if it was done behind, if I wasn’t invited to the committee. That could be. I don’t know. I can’t say that. I can’t say that. But I know they took measurements about our offices. And the office, we had a broom closet for an office in the sculpture area that, as I told you, held only a desk, a map case and a file case and two chairs. So it was really tight. So I don’t know if anything happened, what they did in ceramics or what they did in glass. I don’t know these other areas, what happened. I can’t tell you.
Lange: Was Fred Logan one of the players in the small group?
Kreilick: I doubt it. He’s a Milwaukee player. I don’t know. I don’t think he ever got out of Milwaukee. And he’s another one who didn’t have an MFA.
Lange: He was chair when you were hired.
Kreilick: That’s right. Mm hmm.
Lange: And he did not have an MFA.
Lange: But you did.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Tortorice: I imagine he was connected with the group in Madison that really made a lot of decisions on campus. If he was chair when you came and he was still around and pretty much chair in the late 60s, that means somebody had certain, you know, connections with the establishment on campus.
Lange: So are we getting the answer here about the commissions and back on the mosaics, 00:27:00 a small group talks and somebody will say, “Well, Jim,” Jim Watrous, that is, “could you do a mosaic for us?”
Kreilick: Or maybe he volunteered.
Lange: Or, yes. Or, “I’d like to do a mosaic.”
Kreilick: Who knows? Who knows? I don’t know. I can’t answer that.
Lange: But that’s where the decision was most likely made.
Tortorice: Yeah. It was pretty much made in that kind of offhand way, I would think.
Kreilick: You know, Governor [Gaylord] Nelson (1916-2005) was also a buddy of Watrous’.
Lange: No, I didn’t know that.
Kreilick: Sure. They went to school together. Yeah. These were all ingrown group. Had done their undergraduate work and so forth together.
Tortorice: And then Watrous hired some of his students as faculty members in the art history department, if I recall.
Kreilick: I told you how many. There were ten. I mean, there were ten between the art department and art history.
Lange: Yes, you said that on the first—
Kreilick: Very beginning.
Tortorice: So really if you think of someone coming here to go to school and Watrous then even when he was a student did those murals.
Tortorice: In the Union and the Paul Bunyan room.
Kreilick: Uh huh.
Tortorice: And then was here—
Kreilick: Best thing he did.
Tortorice: Yes. They’re actually quite good.
Kreilick: They’re good. Mm hmm.
Tortorice: And then he was here for his entire career, you know?
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Tortorice: It’s a kind of ingrown atmosphere that allows for certain people to really accumulate a lot of power, a lot of influence, to the detriment—
Kreilick: And a lot of buddies.
Tortorice: A lot of buddies.
Tortorice: Yes. Political buddies. And I mean, I think [Louis] Kaplan (1909-1994) was in that group.
Lange: Oh, was he?
Tortorice: Oh, yeah. He was, you know, he was very good at playing campus politics.
Kreilick: Oh, yes.
Tortorice: Very much to the benefit of the library, by the way. And you know, some of the deans were other ones that had been here since day one.
Lange: Now, Jane Hutchison (1932-2020) was one of Watrous’ students, wasn’t she?
Kreilick: That’s right. That’s right.
Lange: Marjorie, maybe this is a good time to also, while we’re talking about political influence, to look at your 1981 nomination to be a distinguished teacher, which was submitted by Walter Hamady (1940-2019)?
Lange: A noted figure in his own right. And I’ve seen the nomination. You shared the letter with me. It’s a very strong nomination. The letters of endorsement from former students, graduate and undergraduate, is very strong. And yet you did not receive it. And I realize not everybody who is nominated get a distinguished teacher.
Lange: But there seems 00:30:00 to have been good cause for you to have been so recognized. And as this interview shows your commitment to teaching. Why do you think you did not receive it?
Kreilick: Other people must have been better. (laughs) I mean, how else can you, I haven’t seen any. I don’t know who else was in other departments, who was applying. I don’t know. I can’t answer that. That’s an if. (laughs)
Lange: It is an if. Do you think that politics was involved?
Kreilick: It could be. Whenever I can’t answer something, I think perhaps it’s politics.
Lange: Yes. And those distinguished teaching awards are significant, I think, on campus.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Professors like to get them. And there is good recognition associated with that.
Kreilick: I don’t think anyone in the art department has ever gotten it. Ever.
Lange: Really? Ever?
Lange: And what do you attribute that to?
Kreilick: Maybe they didn’t apply. Somebody didn’t support them. You know, I had to have Walter Hamady do the work for this. I mean
Tortorice: He put you up for nomination.
Kreilick: He put me up for nomination.
Tortorice: Promoted this—
Tortorice: He was behind it.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Wrote the letters to all these people to support. And wrote the cover letter. You know, that takes somebody to support you. Nobody else is going to—artists don’t support one another very easily. They consider one another competitors.
Lange: Across the disciplines? Glass artists?
Kreilick: Well, no, it wasn’t even that. You should see the graphic artists, for instance. All of them sending in for their shows either etchings or prints of some serigraphs, some kind of another. And those who got in the shows, you should see these guys quibble against one another. “I got in but you didn’t get in” sort of thing. Really competitive. Oh, yes. Mm hmm.
Tortorice: I wonder if it wasn’t a perception on the part of other departments in the university that teaching art was not of the same intellectual 00:33:00 rigor as teaching, say English or history. Because usually on those committees you get people from other fields that are more based in what they would say is rigorous scholarship.
Tortorice: Whereas the arts are not, you know, well, they just go in there and throw a bunch of paint around.
Lange: That’s what I was—
Kreilick: This is art history. This is art history. And you find Watrous and also [Frank] Horlbeck (1924-2019) saying, “Well, art department isn’t an academic discipline at all.” Mm hmm.
Lange: That’s the position of art history towards art?
Kreilick: These are individuals. I won’t say it’s art history. I said, these are individuals. And you know, when an individual has to put somebody else down, I question that very much. Mm hmm. That it’s necessary to do that.
Tortorice: I’ve just always been really surprised at how an institution as sophisticated and as dynamic and rigorous in many ways as the University of Wisconsin can be really influenced in a major way by a small group of people who essentially work together to have a tremendous level of power and influence. I think it’s probably different now. There’s still this culture of back scratching and putting the same people on committees. Because you know what you’re going to get from them. They’re going to promote your—
Kreilick: Bringing in chancellors, it’s the same thing.
Tortorice: Yeah. I mean, it’s really, and I think some of these awards decisions are made on the basis of these kind of—
Tortorice: —calculations also. Not to become, to overemphasize this, but I think it is a part of the culture of the university that’s still here. That’s my opinion.
Kreilick: I don’t know if it’s that way in other universities. Perhaps it is. A breath of fresh air was when [Donna] Shalala (Chancellor, 1988-1993) came in. Because she came in with fresh eyes. And didn’t have any of this, any of the background on campus. And her appointments definitely on diversity, which she was very keen on promoting, I think was good and I think it was bad. Both. 00:36:00
Kreilick: Yes. Yes. I think there were some bad appointments. I think the dean in the School of Education was a very bad appointment.
Lange: Was that ?
Kreilick: I think so. Mm hmm. He didn’t stay very long. It was not a good appointment. I think the dean in law was not a good appointment also. And he didn’t stay very long.
Lange: [Daniel] Bernstine (1947-2016).
Kreilick: Mm hmm. Yes. But I think it’s a good, I think it’s a good mix. I like seeing, as you said, I think we said before, that United States inherited from immigrants the very best.
Lange: Yes. We were talking about that yesterday.
Kreilick: And I think it’s true. And I think Leo Steppat was probably the most intelligent on my faculty. As an Austro-Hungarian.
Lange: Oh, he was from Europe.
Kreilick: Oh, yes.
Lange: I did not know that.
Kreilick: Yes. He was from Europe. He was giving lectures in the psychology department. All over campus. Mm hmm.
Tortorice: I believe he was a Jewish refugee.
Kreilick: Absolutely. Mm hmm. He was.
Lange: When you, one of the things that I hear from faculty that I interview, particularly emeritus faculty, is the bias seems to be in favor of the ingrown nature of the university as having made the university what it is. Do you agree with that? Or do you have a different take on that?
Kreilick: That’s a, I probably have a different take on it. Because I’ve been programmed very differently, being this only woman in the department for a long time, or two women in the department all the time. So you don’t have the, you don’t have an equal footing, really. You know, I suggested on our faculty meetings that these be taped. It would make it much easier for the secretary to take notes, etcetera, and we would know what happened the last meeting.
Kreilick: Oh, boy, did that go down under the table in a hurry. No way. They said, “Oh, they’ll change the tapes!” Which is stupid. Everybody’s too busy to fool around changing tapes.
Kreilick: But that’s the difference. 00:39:00 Just like I wanted to have the applicants for new jobs that we had open, I wanted these applicants’ names to be scratched out so we didn’t know if they were male, female, or who they were.
Lange: Exactly. Like auditions for the symphony.
Kreilick: Exactly. That’s the way it should have been.
Lange: And that was not done, I take it.
Kreilick: Oh, no! What they did is went through and took out the women first. And then put them on a pile and said, “No dames.” They didn’t even consider them.
Lange: To continue with the interview now, I’m going to ask John Tortorice to lead the discussion with Marjorie on her role as a university citizen serving on various university committees, with a particular emphasis on her work in gender equity for graduate studies.
Tortorice: Marjorie, well maybe we should start from the beginning of your service on committees.
Tortorice: Did you serve on any committees in the 60s before—
Kreilick: You’ve got the list.
Tortorice: Okay. So there were a number of committees.
Lange: There’s quite a long list, actually.
Kreilick: There’s a page.
Tortorice: I know you were active in the library and a number of other units on campus. But one highlight that you have mentioned was your work on the committee for equity in graduate education. What year was that that you served on that committee?
Kreilick: Hmm. It was two years, I think, 73, 74. Seventy-three, 74.
Tortorice: And this came out of your own experiences at the university and also the emergence of the women’s movement—
Tortorice: —nationally and on campus, and in response to that. But also, I mean, your willingness to devote the time to the committee really came out of your own experiences.
Tortorice: Tell us about the committee, what its task was, what its results were and who served with you.
Kreilick: Well, I think that, let’s see, Cyrena Pondrom, I think headed this committee. Eric Rothstein (d. 2021) and I did a lot of the footwork. Visiting, I think, twenty-some different departments 00:42:00 on campus. Checking and doing all the graphs on this so that you could figure out exactly what percentage was being offered support, what percentage of women to men in the department itself, and—
Lange: Of graduate students? Or of faculty?
Kreilick: Of graduate students.
Lange: Of graduate students. This was focused solely on graduate students.
Kreilick: On graduate students. Yeah. Mm hmm. So Eric and I did most of the footwork. We’d go together to check these departments.
Tortorice: You would interview—
Kreilick: The chair.
Tortorice: The chair.
Kreilick: Graduate chair.
Tortorice: Collect data.
Kreilick: Collect data or have him collect data and get it back to us, usually. And I think it was, in itself it didn’t serve a great purpose. Because departments varied so much. You really couldn’t compare them absolutely. But it did bring to the surface an awareness that departments were not aware of at all about these discrepancies. And there were discrepancies.
Tortorice: I imagine there were.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. So that was a service, that was the position that they served.
Tortorice: It got the university to begin to even think about this question and to address it.
Tortorice: Did you find any resistance on the part of the departments to even the collection of this information?
Kreilick: No. Everybody was very, they were a little uneasy. (laughs) Because I don’t think they really looked at it in this manner to gather the material. But we gave a faculty, I gave a senate faculty report after two years. And things improved within those two years, which means that the committee had some effect.
Lange: Were you looking primarily at the number of female graduate students, or their compensation? Or both.
Kreilick: We didn’t look at the amount of compensation. We just looked at if they were supported or not.
Tortorice: And the number of students.
Kreilick: And the number of students that were supported. So we don’t have that, we’re not down to fine tuning, 00:45:00 that fine tuning.
Tortorice: But the number of male versus female students, you collected that.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. We collected all of that. And some departments, some, it was interesting, because you began to see the divisions in different areas. In some areas, there were no women at all. Like astronomy. Physics was low. Math was rather low. History wasn’t very high. Art department wasn’t very high, either. In comparison.
Tortorice: Were you visiting all across campus? Were you in the professional schools, too?
Tortorice: Just Letters & Science and Education.
Kreilick: Everything else. Agriculture.
Lange: Oh, you were at CALS [College of Agricultural and Life Sciences]?
Kreilick: Oh, we do have medical school, too. Yes, we did medical school. Letters & Science. We didn’t do the law school, I’m sure. We did medical school.
Tortorice: The business school?
Kreilick: Nope. I don’t see the business school here. School of Education, College of Engineering.
Lange: Oh, you got into engineering.
Kreilick: Absolutely. Ended up with, they ended up, I think with 50% women in engineering.
Kreilick: Did you realize that now?
Tortorice: That’s now. Yes, indeed.
Kreilick: But after this. After this. College of Letters & Science. And medical science. That was it.
Lange: And this committee has been undertaken at the behest of the faculty senate? Or out of the chancellor’s office?
Kreilick: I would say maybe the beginning of women’s studies at that time.
Tortorice: Which was about that time.
Kreilick: I think it was Cyrena Pondrom, who was active in women’s studies, I’m guessing. I don’t know absolutely this is true, but I’m pretty sure this is what happened. And we then began to look at how many women are being supported in the graduate school. And shouldn’t we take a look at this. Not only in those that are being hired, but also those who are being supported. 00:48:00 Encouraged, let’s say, by their support.
Lange: How did you get on the committee? Did you know Pondrom?
Kreilick: I have no idea how I got on those committees. I have no idea. That’s a good question. I don’t know. Somebody put me on the committee. So I don’t know who it was. Did I know Cyrena? Yes, well, I knew her very well after this. No, I didn’t know her, really.
Tortorice: You must have had an interest in it. Or someone must have realized that given your history at the university, you would be a good candidate for this.
Kreilick: Somebody must have known. But I don’t know who.
Tortorice: That you had expressed an interest in this.
Kreilick: You know, the interesting thing about this also is at the same time, you have the women’s museum [National Museum of Women in the Arts] in Washington being established. Because the women who were getting publicity, let’s say, there is a, when was this done? In 72, there was an article that came out in which June Wayne (1918-2011), who founded the Tamarind Lithography, printmaking business. And she got her workers together checking on how much coverage in the newspapers and how much coverage in magazines were women artists getting. And what percentage was that against men? The newspapers were the New York Times, that had the best reviewing record. They took 236 artists in a 26-week period, and 82% of them were men reviewed. And the same was true in the LA Times. Eighty-seven percent of the coverage was going to men. And the San Francisco Chronicle, 84%, again, were men. It’s amazing.
So they were interested in having a museum for women, just showing women artists throughout time, so you know women were working all this time. But most of the women painters were in the basement. So no one ever got to see them, or knew anything about any 00:51:00 Renaissance painters being women. As a matter of fact, the textbook in art history had no women artists at all.
Tortorice: This was the Janson I’m trying to think back. I don’t think there was one woman.
Kreilick: No. There isn’t one woman in Janson.
Lange: You won’t be surprised, but I’m now ashamed to tell you, that was my text when I took art history. (laughs)
Tortorice: That was everyone’s text.
Lange: And my wife has asked me to remove that book from our library. (laughs) Anyway.
Kreilick: So this was happening at the same time. There seems to be a movement.
Tortorice: In the whole country.
Kreilick: In the whole country.
Tortorice: Yes, the whole USA. There certainly was. It wasn’t that Madison was being a pioneer—
Kreilick: No. No, no.
Lange: At this time, Marjorie, in your personal philosophy, are you categorizing yourself as a feminist? Or are you not thinking in those terms?
Kreilick: I’m not thinking in those terms. I just want an equal chance, all right? I want an equal chance to be able to compete. I want an equal chance in the salary, raises and promotions. One thing they do, the salaries and promotions were controlled by the chairman. Because the chairman would assign committees within the art department. If you’re never assigned to a committee, they say, “You’re not doing any work in our department.”
Tortorice: Right. Therefore, we can’t give you a raise.
Kreilick: Yes. So I’m doing all this work outside my department.
Lange: For which you get no credit?
Kreilick: Well, I don’t know. It depends upon the chairman, evidently. I mean, you report all of this annually.
Lange: Were you heartened by or indifferent to the creation of the women’s studies department on campus?
Kreilick: Well, a lot of my women artist friends, like Claire Van Vliet (b. 1933), etcetera, would have nothing to do with the women’s museum. No. They said, we’re artists, our gender doesn’t make a difference. They felt almost it was demeaning to show in a women’s museum.
Tortorice: Oh, ghetto-like.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. That’s right. So 00:54:00 how did I feel about that? I thought that it was necessary because people were so uninformed and hadn’t been able to see a lot of this really good work that was in the basement of museums that I thought a woman’s museum was necessary. And I support it. I support a women’s museum. Only because I think of the education. Educationally, it makes a contribution.
Lange: Did you see it then as a transitional step, rather than an end in and of itself?
Kreilick: An educational step I’d say. Yes, because the more people know about something, the more they’re informed, that’s when we can build. And you know that these women were competent. There were a lot of very competent women. There were a lot of women working on the WPA.
Kreilick: And some of those were very competent printmakers. It was really interesting to see what they were doing. So, I think unless it’s visible. You have to have it visible and let everybody make their own judgment, really.
Lange: Were you doing any lecturing yourself in the women’s studies program on campus?
Kreilick: No. No. But I did do a couple of lectures on women artists. And I had slides with all the women artists throughout history. I had made all of this. And I thought students, especially young art students, they should know. There were women doing this at this time.
Lange: Are you friends at this point with Gerda Lerner (1920-2013)?
Lange: She’s on campus, isn’t she, John?
Tortorice: No, not until 1981, I think it was.
Tortorice: She was only here for the end of her career, but it was probably the most influential part of her career, also.
Kreilick: I can’t remember where I met Gerda.
Tortorice: Probably through George.
Kreilick: George, I think.
Tortorice: She was one of his friends.
Kreilick: I think so.
Tortorice: After you sat on that gender equity graduate school committee, did you do anything further in committee structure about the presence and support of women on campus?
Kreilick: I can’t remember. I don’t remember.
Tortorice: Well, I think the only recollection that I could contribute is that you were a mentor to some women who were up for tenure, 00:57:00 who were denied tenure. And that you supported them. I recall us talking about that. That some women in the art history department that you supported. And I’m thinking in particular of Gail. When she was denied tenure.
Kreilick: Oh, that’s true. Oh, that’s true. That’s true.
Tortorice: That’s when you became really good friends.
Kreilick: Yeah. Mm hmm.
Lange: Oh, so you were a resource for women denied tenure.
Tortorice: Well, in a couple of cases.
Kreilick: Mm hmm. I would support them. Yes.
Lange: What does that mean when you say you would support them?
Kreilick: Well, what lawyers to go see on campus. Other people to talk to.
Tortorice: Encourage them to—
Kreilick: Encourage them to continue. Mm hmm.
Lange: Is it your opinion, either anecdotally or based on analysis, that a disproportionate number of women were denied tenure?
Kreilick: I can’t talk about the whole campus in this disproportionate. I can only talk about art history and art, really. I think the choices, especially I can talk about the art department, especially in the art department. A lot of those decisions in the searching that went on, the national search, a lot of those decisions were made before when some of the fellows came to apply for the job and they all took them out drinking beer. That was it. There wasn’t any kind of formal interview, let’s say. Mm hmm. And they wouldn’t have done that if she were a woman applying for that position.
Tortorice: That would put them at a distinct disadvantage.
Kreilick: Disadvantage, yes.
Tortorice: And what about art history.
Kreilick: Well, art history is as unfortunate as the art department is. Because you have too many people in art history who are either students 01:00:00 of the department, so that makes a difference.
Tortorice: Becomes very incestuous.
Kreilick: Incestuous. Ingrown. And they feel threatened. There’s a threat. This other person’s coming in. Probably has more background than you do. Mm hmm.
Lange: Marjorie, you’ve already made one reference to Donna Shalala.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: Let me return to her for a moment.
Kreilick: All right.
Lange: You said she was a breath of fresh air. Can you elaborate on your reaction? One, whether you knew Donna personally. And two, what you think her lasting impact on the university has been. And three, if you’d like to see another Shalala come.
Kreilick: Yes. I mean, I would like to see fresh air come. I would like to see a person come and take a nice perspective to the whole campus, and to the various departments. And I would like them to, and I would like our chairs to know their faculty. We had, with John Palmer as one of our deans, I didn’t know who John Palmer was for over two years. About two and a half years. I’d never seen him. I saw the name, but I didn’t know who he was. He never appeared to the art department. He never came and talked to us. I’ll swear that man doesn’t know anything about the art faculty or what their background is or what degrees they have. Or else they wouldn’t have been teaching what they did.
Kreilick: All right? And I would like some fresh air. Yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: Would you prefer to see another woman come in?
Kreilick: That makes no difference to me.
Lange: But you want an original, fresh intellect.
Kreilick: Exactly. Yes. Mm hmm.
Lange: Did you have much to do with Donna herself when she was chancellor?
Kreilick: Well, where did I, I don’t know where I met her, etcetera. But I said, “When your mother comes, have her come and join our gym.” Because we had, in 1980 there was this group 01:03:00 of women, there must have been about fifty women over at the natatorium who worked out three days a week, in exercise. And I know about Donna’s mother because she is a good friend of one of my college mates at Ohio State, from Cleveland. So that’s how I knew of her mother. And Donna was so taken aback by this. (laughs) Talking about her mother.
And then I saw her, she invited the art department over to the president’s house for dinner one night. She was doing this around the different schools on campus. When I talked to her and said to her, “You know, this is the first time this group has ever sat down to the same table.” (laughter)
Lange: She probably wasn’t surprised.
Kreilick: Oh, I don’t know. But at any rate, I didn’t know her any more than this.
Lange: Uh huh. What do you think her lasting impact has been, if any?
Kreilick: I don’t know what she did for the, because I’m not involved in the football. But I’m sure she got some extra money for football. That’s what I think, there was a big support for football. Now I may be wrong. I don’t know.
Tortorice: But she also, wouldn’t you say that, as you say, a breath of fresh air. She brought a different pair of eyes.
Tortorice: To a campus that had become quite insulated. And that group—
Kreilick: Even blinded. Narrowed. So narrow.
Tortorice: —that had run the place for so long was really disrupted by her.
Tortorice: And she did, I think that was one of her major contributions—
Tortorice: —just changing that atmosphere. But I shouldn’t put my—
Kreilick: No, I think that’s true, John. And appointing different committees. She was pretty strong about appointing different committees.
Tortorice: Different people.
Kreilick: Different people. Exactly.
Tortorice: Who had never been asked.
Lange: When I do these interviews, everybody has an opinion on that.
Tortorice: I imagine. Are they usually pro or con?
Lange: Actually, John, they are usually pro. I would say three out of four, to varying degrees, have said the university needed a different perspective. The degree of enthusiasm varies. It’s not as often as I had anticipated that I would hear people say, “Oh, she was terrible.” 01:06:00 I don’t hear that as much as I had thought I would. Marjorie, we were talking, continuing the subject of women on campus. And I was asking if there was any other observation about, during your career here what it was like for women and what the issues were. We were talking about—
Kreilick: Well, the issues, I suppose, were pretty parallel to the issues that I found. The thing that was so difficult, and maybe these women came together with women’s studies, which I didn’t participate in. I didn’t have time to participate in women’s studies. I had my hands full. But there is no other, socially no other way to meet people. And the cocktail party about this time is no longer functioning. This was a very good time for people to get together for a short length of time and you get to know other people on campus. But other than that, you never get to know people on campus. And the Faculty Club doesn’t serve this kind of purpose at all. You had to know the people first in order to go to the Faculty Club. So, and there was no other way of knowing people.
And it got worse with the new Humanities Building. Because everybody was isolated into their offices, which were inside another room. So you never got to see anyone.
Tortorice: Insulated in their hovels.
Kreilick: Yes. Insulated in their hovels.
Tortorice: But it’s amazing how if you walk down the hallway of the art department in these very kind of cold corridors, you don’t really ever see anyone.
Tortorice: And the faculty, I’ve hardly ever run into a faculty member up there.
Kreilick: That’s right.
Tortorice: It’s really quite amazing how design has such an effect on human interaction.
Kreilick: Yes. Yes.
Tortorice: And there are really no common spaces in any of the departments, really.
Kreilick: No. No.
Tortorice: It’s really a shame.
Lange: Marjorie, I think we did touch on an early point, the issue of a school of fine arts.
Tortorice: Do you have a position on that?
Kreilick: Oh, I sure do. I don’t think that, the arts on this campus will ever survive until there is a school of fine arts. I think it has no clout. 01:09:00 It has no voice at all in the whole. And I think it needs to be, you can’t do it by an institute of art.
Lange: What there is now is just paper.
Kreilick: Well, it has a program and it brings in lectures. But you don’t have the interaction. If you had buildings, a school of fine arts, where you had, when I came to campus, where I told you about the music coming through all of these windows, and floating through all campus. If you had something like this, or if you had theater, which is next to music, or you had dancers working, you know, on campus. We had, if all of the arts could talk to one another. Not only talk to one another, but you had to have a very strong chair. A very strong chair. Like the one in Georgia. What was his name? For ten years, he guided that department. He got more money from the government to run that art department in Georgia. And that was because they worked as a unit. All the arts worked as a unit. He welded these people together. And everybody is so afraid of the money. I mean, music broke off from L&S, didn’t it? All right.
Tortorice: No, music’s still in L&S.
Kreilick: Is it still in L&S? Well, it broke off from the School of Education, then. All right? And went to L&S. Well, I think all of these, I think, music and the arts and dance and theater and also interior design, fashion design, costume design. We could consolidate some of these and have a much better program and better departments. Better students because they have an interaction with one another. They can grow. We grow together, you know? We can enhance one another.
Lange: Do you think that will ever happen?
Tortorice: It’s too late.
Kreilick: No, it isn’t too late. You just don’t have any leaders. There are no strong leaders.
Lange: In the arts community. Or any—
Kreilick: On campus, who have an art kind of background. Who want to know, in the humanities, particularly, who emphasize the humanities. Humanities are low dog on the totem pole. English, 01:12:00 English and art and music. And they’re so important. That’s what I said about teaching. I think that all students, almost freshmen and sophomores, ought to take a liberal arts background like doctors and lawyers before they begin even to think about specializing. All on campus.
Lange: Yes. You were quite emphatic yesterday about the justification for requirements.
Kreilick: Oh, yes.
Lange: For beginning undergraduates.
Kreilick: Oh, I believe in it. I can’t understand art history, where kids would come in and take modern—they all want to take modern—they don’t know a thing about what happened before, or the development that comes up to this. And they take Art History 2 first. And then maybe they’ll jump around and take—it’s smorgasbord education. They jump around all over the place. And how they can ever put these things together, I don’t know. I don’t think they ever do. They don’t see the development or the relationships about what happened before and how it develops into this. And I think that’s the way, just the way you study geology. You have to have those categories in place before you put things and grow with it. And I think that is true with all the basics.
Lange: Marjorie, your career really was focused on your teaching here at the university.
Tortorice: Could you talk about the mechanics of your classes? How your philosophy of teaching, but also the kind of details of what you expected from the students, how you interacted with them, what kind of requirements you expected them to need?
Lange: Some ideas about how you taught, how the students responded and what you think this contributed to their really lifelong perception, aesthetic perceptions and design perceptions.
Kreilick: Well, I always used books. I believe strongly in books. Ever since Frey. They always had a bibliography 01:15:00 and assignments. I always gave six weeks’ tests. Written tests. I expected them to know what they’re doing and why that occurs. As well as to produce a certain amount of work. So I also believe that if they have to criticize, they can improve. They can improve what they’re doing or they can improve somebody else’s work. But they have to participate and criticize. Whether it’s going to be sculpture or color or design.
Tortorice: So essentially that they would work on a portfolio or they would work on a specific object that you then would critique, or the other students would go back and forth and critique? Or—
Kreilick: In sculpture, if we were doing sculpture, you’d have a certain amount of time. Let’s say, we might in a semester get three or four pieces done, at the most. Maybe three. It depends.
Lange: Per student.
Kreilick: Per student. And you had a time limit. I’ll give you so much time to get this piece done. And then we had to do casting. They had to realize how they could preserve it and how they could cast. So that if they got three pieces done a semester, that was pretty good. And to read and to have slides. All right. So if there’s so much time in a semester—I don’t know how many weeks—to get a piece done, then we would have a critique. You had a deadline for a critique. So that I would critique, but I’d have them critique first, so that we would talk about is, this piece balanced as we turn it on the turntable? Can we see this, each angle, 360-some angles that you go around. And is it balanced or if it isn’t—the sculpture should always be balanced, you get something out of balance and one always feels as if you had to look at it, you know, at an angle.
So I would call on them and they would criticize this. We’d talk about what they had been reading at the same time. And some of that reading material would carry over into the criticism. I could tell if they read or if they hadn’t. So we would have probably three critiques. We’d have a written at the end. And in some cases, I’d have them photograph what they were doing, so they’d have a record 01:18:00 for themselves, as well as myself. So that takes care of sculpture.
Now in color, when I was teaching the color class, or the design class, color class I would usually have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday. This developed, I think we talked about this, we developed, finally I had three full classes of color. And I would have to, if I was showing slides, I’d have to have three consecutive sessions. I thought, this is idiotic. What we should do is to combine all three sections into one slide show. So I had to find a place, an auditorium someplace where I could show these. And we finally ended up down in the basement of the Mosse Building. So on Wednesdays, we’d have a slide show. On Mondays, I would talk about what is the problem? How are we going to solve it? And there was a problem, there was a color problem every week. And that color problem had to be solved on Friday.
Lange: What is a color problem?
Kreilick: All right. How do you make red look like two different colors? All right? How do you isolate red so that it does not affect, or is not affected, by the colors around it or next to it or outlined by it? How do you do that? How much of a warm color does it take to balance a cool color? And then how would it differ in amount if we were to add saturation to the color? Okay? So. Every week, they’d have a problem like this to solve.
Lange: Uh huh. And you would present that problem on Monday.
Kreilick: Yes. Present that on Monday. On Wednesday, I would show them some of the experiments that Albers had done in showing how this works. I would show them maybe Oriental 01:21:00 rugs to show how the color worked and how they controlled color and made one color look like more than one color. Or optical mixing. I would not only show pointillism, but also Chartres windows. So we had to, all these slides, I must have made hundreds of slides. And all of them I had to make, because we didn’t have a slide collection. So you have all these examples that you show kids.
And then sometimes I would show one or two that had solved the problem in an earlier class. I said, “Take a look at this! Would you ever think of doing that?” Etcetera. So, that’s what we did in showing the lecture in slides on Wednesdays.
Then on Fridays, I said, “You be thinking about this, how you’re going to solve the problem. And show me examples on Friday. Or talk to me about it so that you can work on this on the weekend.”
Lange: Everybody had to actually present?
Kreilick: Absolutely. Yes.
Tortorice: As I recall, you used to, every week you would have a workbook or a portfolio that you would review for the students. And you had them produce one a week.
Kreilick: No, no.
Tortorice: Or at the end of the semester you would look through—
Kreilick: This is what we did. Every week we had the solution, etcetera. And after the criticism on Fridays, I’d say, “You know, I’m not grading these. But they will go into your portfolio at the end of the semester. And after your criticism, you have the opportunity to rework it. If you can improve it.” And you don’t know by talking, talking means nothing, I’d say to them. “Talking means nothing in your criticism. But as you rework it, that’s when you learn. Because then you will see how much better it has improved. So you have a chance to improve.” So this is what we did every week. And it was the same routine.
And the kids got to like, they were anxious to see how everybody else, it was fun, see how everybody else solved the problem. Or if they did.
Lange: So if John and I were in your class and it were Friday, we would have to bring an actual piece of work with color?
Kreilick: No. You’d probably do a drawing. And we had fans of paper color. Hundreds of colors. Every student had one. So you could lift these out and put them side of one another and try things out. And see if it would work. 01:24:00
Tortorice: Oh, how cool!
Kreilick: Oh, yeah. It was fun.
Tortorice: Oh, that would—
Lange: Well, let’s sign up, John. (laughter)
Kreilick: Yeah. And then you would paint. You’d paint. I’d teach you how to, in the very beginning, this is one of the things in the beginning before we started, you’re going to know how to mix and match color. I’ll give you a piece of color. I say, “Mix and match this.” So you have some control over what you’re doing.
Lange: I see.
Kreilick: You have skills.
Lange: And again, I know I’ve asked you this before, but I’m just so fascinated. You would take any interested student.
Kreilick: Mm hmm.
Lange: It would not have to, you wouldn’t have to be Mozart or Picasso.
Kreilick: Well, look, these kids coming over from interior design don’t know anything.
Lange: What about—
Tortorice: They’re not artists.
Kreilick: They’re not artists.
Lange: —a sophomore who’s always been interested in color, but knows nothing?
Kreilick: Fine. Absolutely. We’ll take them. I can teach them. That’s my purpose. I can teach them. I can teach them to see. I can teach them to mix paint. Yeah.
Lange: Did you ever discover any talents among those kids?
Kreilick: Oh, I did discover, one thing I did do. I discovered, it was an Indian, East Indian, from India, young lady. And we were working in values. You know, in the very beginning I start them so that they do from black to white in equal steps up the scale to white up above and black down below and middle gray exactly in the middle in how many, twelve steps, maybe we’ll say. And she was having trouble seeing equal steps. She wasn’t seeing the black and white correctly. And I tried her on several things. I mean, it was almost a week or two on this. And I said, “You know, you’re not seeing, there’s something wrong. You are not seeing these steps.” I said, “I think you should have your eyes tested.” Because I can teach a person who has color blindness to almost identify where red is, and other colors, even though they’re color blind. 01:27:00 I do it by value. By the darkness or lightness of that value.
So she went away and dropped out of the class. And I thought oh my God, what have I done? You know? I didn’t know what happened. She didn’t appear again. Dropped the course. Didn’t hear anything about it.
Next semester, I think it was about noon. The class has left my classroom and I was about to go to my office. And here she comes with her father. And they come. And I said, “Oh, I’m glad to see you back.” You know, and welcome them in, and won’t you come in the office. I was going to sit and talk to them.
Her father said, “I’ve come to thank you from the bottom of my heart.” She had a brain tumor and wasn’t able to see these things. And I caught it.
Tortorice: She got tested—
Lange: Oh my gosh. So they presumably operated.
Kreilick: They caught it. In time. He said, “If you hadn’t done that, it would have been too late.”
Lange: Oh, Marjorie. How wonderful.
Kreilick: Yeah. I forgot that story.
Tortorice: That’s an amazing story. A medical diagnosis through color perception. That’s amazing.
Lange: But it speaks to what you were saying to Marjorie that she was a teacher. You were paying attention.
Kreilick: Oh, yeah.
Lange: To what your students were or were not—
Kreilick: Each one got, every student got individual attention.
Lange: On a weekly basis?
Kreilick: On a weekly basis.
Tortorice: They got what they paid for.
Tortorice: They didn’t pay much, but they got a lot.
Kreilick: Well, yeah, but they thought they had to work too hard for it.
Tortorice: Some of them.
Lange: Well it is interesting in all of the student letters of endorsement for your nomination, even the ones who are devoted to you say, well, she was demanding. But it was also exhilarating. But they make it clear that you had significant expectations. This was not a gut course.
Kreilick: Oh, no.
Lange: If you were going to take Kreilick’s color, you’d better be prepared to work was what came through in the letters.
Kreilick: Well, now you understand how the class was organized?
Kreilick: And then on Fridays they had something to show me or I could help them with so it was a little easier. And then they’d work on the weekends. I expected work on the weekends. 01:30:00
Lange: And then would you see that work again on Monday?
Kreilick: No, they’d probably, they could work on it more on Monday if they brought it. They’d have something to show me on Monday, although they were starting on another project on Monday.
Tortorice: Oh, yes, because you were presenting a new problem.
Kreilick: I was presenting a new problem. So we could do both. And then it continued. There was always a continuation.
Tortorice: And then at the end of the class, they’d have this portfolio.
Kreilick: At the end of the class, they had a portfolio of their accomplishment. That’s when I would go through all of them, take photographs of these and grade, I don’t know how many students.
Tortorice: That must have taken a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Kreilick: Oh! Grading was terrible.
Lange: How did you do grading? How does one grade a portfolio?
Kreilick: First of all, you grade the final project. Because I said you can do anything you like on the final project, but you have to show me what principle you used to come to this conclusion. It may be several. But whatever it is, you’re free to do whatever you like. But make it good. I’ve really got to see a good piece in the end. So this was their final project. I was very much interested, and I gave more credit to their final project. Because it was then I knew that they had learned. All right?
Tortorice: And most of the students would have improved a great deal over the course of the semester?
Kreilick: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Tortorice: And they would have accomplished something by the end of the course.
Kreilick: Yes. I think everyone learned something. Some learned more. But everyone learned something.
Tortorice: It’s a kind of teaching of art that unfortunately is not popular anymore, in some art departments, at least. That it’s more catch as catch can now that students—
Kreilick: Oh no. You’re just supposed to emote on the canvas. (laughs)
Tortorice: You emote something and then it’s critiqued. But it’s not based on—
Tortorice: —prolonged history and research and—
Kreilick: Yeah. [phone interruption]
Tortorice: Do you want to stop here?
Lange: Yeah. This concludes the oral history interview with Emeritus Professor of Art Marjorie Kreilick. It’s been a privilege. Thank you very much.
Kreilick: Thank you.
End April 10, 2008 Session.
Total April 2008 time = 513 minutes = 8 hours, 33 minutes
Marjorie Kreilick Obituary:
Marjorie E. Kreilick (McNab) passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 5 at age 97 in Madison, Wisconsin. Ms. Kreilick was a noted mosaic artist and Emerita Professor of Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a key figure in the development of public mosaic art in the twentieth century. She created over a dozen architectural installations between 1956 and 1975, most notably, a suite of monumental marble and gold mosaic murals throughout the ten floors of the Wisconsin State Office Building in Milwaukee (1963). Kreilick’s artwork includes sculptures in bronze, ceramic, and wood, a suite of paintings reflecting her vast knowledge of color theory, dozens of prints and works on paper, and fine art mosaics. Her works are held in the Chazen Museum of Art, Racine Art Museum, Flint Institute of Arts, and Museum of Wisconsin Art, and in private collections.
Marjorie was born in Oak Harbor, Ohio on November 8, 1925, the eldest child of Roland and Luella (Smith) Kreilick. Marjorie earned a BA (1946) and MA (1947) in Art from Ohio State University, studying sculpture with Erwin F. Frey. She worked as a lecturer at the Toledo Museum of Art in the post-war years and went on to earn a second MFA from the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1951-52). At Cranbrook she specialized in sculpture and was exposed to modernist architectural design theory under the direction of Eero Saarinen. It was here she began to experiment with mosaic. Upon graduation from Cranbrook, she was one of the first women to hold a teaching position in the Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she continued to impact the development of arts education for 38 years, until her retirement in 1991.
In 1955 she received her first architectural mosaic commission from noted Detroit architect, Louis G. Redstone, producing twelve abstract panels for the entry of Beth Aaron Synagogue. Marjorie’s advancements in architectural mosaic took her on a year-long sabbatical to Rome, Italy in 1957-58, to apprentice at the hand of the maestri. In 1960 she was the first woman to win a Prix de Rome Fellowship in Painting (now Visual Arts) at the American Academy in Rome, bolstered by a scholarship from the Edwin Austen Abbey Foundation. Her fellowship was extended into 1963 to allow time for completion of the State Office Building murals, which were produced in Rome. It was a very productive period during which she produced paintings, mosaics, prints, worked at bronze foundries, and took research trips to archaeological sites. Marjorie’s continued travels found her stamping passports throughout the world. In 1973 she married Scottish-born Duncan Allan McNab. Allan was a noted printmaker, a former chief administrator of the Art Institute of Chicago, and art director for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. They met in 1969 when Marjorie had already been commissioned to create a large mosaic mural for Mayo’s art in architecture program. She described life with Allan as a “meeting of the minds” and they enjoyed art, traveling, gardening, and hosting friends, until Allan’s unexpected death in 1982. Marjorie later completed and posthumously published Allan’s memoir as ‘Witness To An Ending’ (Parallel Press, 2013).
Ms. Kreilick’s philosophy was that an artist’s work is a form of scholarly exploration, and she believed the Arts should be included into a holistic university education. She was a remarkable trailblazer with many firsts to her credit. She was the first to bring studio safety standards into the Art Department, producing a summer school program in collaboration with OSHA. She developed a Design Workshop taking students to New York City to get real world experience in how to earn a living in the arts, visiting the studios of design greats. Kreilick collaborated with noted American glass artist, Dominick Labino, to develop glass formulas in pursuit of a hard, blue “artificial marble.” In the 1970s, she developed a curriculum of design and color theory courses based upon the work of Josef Albers. She was considered a tough instructor with high standards, and her classes have been credited by many younger artists as having great influence upon their work. Marjorie was an indefatigable advocate for women in the arts, delivering the first university lectures on women artists, and serving on committees to assist in hiring more women art faculty and increasing pay equity. Throughout the 1980s she designed costumes and stage sets for dance troupes, working in close collaboration with UW Professor and performer, Anna Nassif. In addition to her commitment as an educator, she will be fondly remembered for her warm hospitality, beautiful smile, elegant demeanor, and sharp wit.
In 2021, a portion of Ms. Kreilick’s professional papers were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, and the UW Faculty Archives. The State Office Building murals at 819 N 6th St, Milwaukee, WI can be seen during normal office hours. Each of the ten murals depicts the beauty of Wisconsin’s indigenous landscapes, which she truly loved. Marjorie will be sadly missed by her sister Marilyn (Kreilick) Gates and brother-in-law, Peter Gates of Winchester, Virginia, and by many friends and admirers in Wisconsin and beyond. In her last years, she established the Marjorie Kreilick Legacy Foundation Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the long-term reputation and documentation of Ms. Kreilick’s artworks and professional career and helping to preserve her public artworks for continued public viewing.
At Ms. Kreilick’s request, no service will be held. Condolences and Memorial donations may be mailed to the Foundation.
Marjorie Kreilick Legacy Foundation Inc.
℅ William Whitford, President
1047 Sherman Avenue, Madison, WI 53703
Please make checks payable to
Marjorie Kreilick Legacy Foundation Inc.