At the time of Ray Bradbury’s death last week, I had just read something by him for the first time in decades: his short reflection called “Take Me Home” in the Sci Fi-themed special double issue of The New Yorker (88(16): 66, June 4-11, 2012).
Reading his nostalgic piece invoked my own fond memories of the enthusiastic Junior High English teacher who first introduced me to Bradbury’s work. It also, along with the spate of obituaries and tributes that followed that last published work, highlighted some connections between Bradbury’s influences and my current profession.
Ray Bradbury championed libraries, to which he attributes his education as a writer. His “How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated from Libraries or, Thoughts from a Chap Who Landed on the Moon in 1932″ (Wilson Library Bulletin 45(9): 842-851, May 1971) is stored in UofL Libraries’ Robotic Retrieval System.
In addition to the role libraries played in his formation as a writer, Bradbury was influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So was my colleague George McWhorter, who established the Nell Dismukes McWhorter Memorial Collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the largest institutional collection of Burroughs materials in the world, in the Special Collections department at UofL’s Ekstrom Library. McWhorter confirms that the collection includes letters from Bradbury.
Bradbury is not the only writer to acknowledge his debt to Burroughs. The Library of America has published two Burroughs titles, with introductions by Junot Díaz and Thomas Mallon; Michael Chabon contributed to the screenplay for the recent film John Carter, based on a story by Burroughs. The U.S. Postal Service is celebrating the centennial of Burroughs’ publications by issuing a Forever stamp of him later this summer.
Marguerite Peters Gifford was a fixture on the art scene in Louisville from the early 1940s through the 1960s. Born in 1887, Gifford was educated in the Louisville public school system and at the prestigious Semple Collegiate School. Early on she became an active member of community organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, and served as president of the Woman’s Club of Louisville. At this point, Gifford’s life was typical of a woman of her class. Then, in 1937, about two years after the death of her husband, she took a trip that changed her life.
Gifford set off in the summer of 1937 for a two-month tour sponsored by the International School of Art. After visiting artists in four European countries, when her tour group was scheduled to depart, the 60 year old widow decided to remain on the continent, traveling extensively until the fall of 1941. During her 4-1/2 year, world-wide travels Gifford witnessed notable events, such as the meeting of Mussolini and Hitler in Florence. She was close enough to see that “Hitler looked cold and ordinary and Mussolini warm and expensive.”
She also sailed to far-off locations, including New Zealand, Bombay, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Greetings from Bangkok
These journeys allowed her to experience the different cultures of the areas and her artwork reflected that variety. In certain areas, like New Caledonia, she was so inspired by the natives that she extended her stay in order to paint them.
Kanaka Chief from New Caledonia
Gifford’s travels also allowed her to learn about and experiment with different artistic mediums. In London she took lessons in watercolor painting and in Japan she was introduced to woodblock printing.
Upon her return to the U.S., Gifford became a well-known figure on the local art scene. She was repeatedly featured in the Louisville Courier-Journal, and often exhibited at local venues as well as in galleries outside the state. Gifford also continued to study art, working with Fritz Pfeiffer in Provincetown, Massachusetts. With her global experiences, her work in several media, her strong support of the arts and her Old Louisville community, Gifford established herself as an important force in the Kentucky art scene.
The Bridwell Art Library has the papers of Marguerite Gifford, a small collection that includes her sketchbook, drawings, photographs, her abundantly-stamped passport and the texts of lectures she delivered in Louisville.
Written with Colton Wilson, student assistant in the Art Library