Wendell Castle, Nirvana (chair), 2007, Gift of Wendell Castle, 2013.0216
Wendell Castle, f’58, g’66, a sculptor hailed as the founding father of the American art furniture movement, died Saturday at his home in Scottsville, NY. He was 85.
Castle used sculptural techniques to creature modernist tables, benches, lamps, coat racks and clocks that were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Spencer Museum of Art and dozens of other venues, pioneering a new art form that applied the techniques of modern sculpture to furniture-making. Two of Castle’s works, a KU-blue chair titled “Nirvana” and a sculpture called “Hanging in the Balance,” are on view in the Spencer’s permanent galleries.
In 2015 the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City organized an exhibition that paired Castle’s early 1960s pieces with new work, highlighting the restless, inventive creativity that drove him throughout his 60-year career always to strive to accomplish something new.
“There have been times when I made something that has been very successful, and there would be buyers out there if I wanted to make a lot of them,” Castle told Kansas Alumni on the eve of the exhibition. “But I don’t want to make a lot of them. I want to move right on. … I don’t believe it’s true art if there’s no risk.”
The Emporia native returned to campus several times over the years, including in 2013, when he received an honorary Doctor of Arts from KU, and in 2008, when the Spencer organized an exhibition of his curious, whimsical clocks: “Wendell Castle: About Time.” The showstopper was a bell-shaped aluminum piece with a motor inside that caused it to roll slowly on the floor, tracing a complete circle every 12 hours.
“Because the sculpture is not perfectly round and the surface it rolls on is never perfectly flat, the piece occasionally encounters resistance, like a wheel caught in a rut,” Kansas Alumni reported. “At such moments the sculpture must build momentum to overcome that resistance, and it rocks in place before lurching forward.”
“It illustrates, in a primitive kind of way, one of Einstein’s thoughts about time, that time moves in fits and starts,” Castle said. “We all know that: If you’re waiting for something time takes forever. If you’re having a great time, time flies.”
The Spencer Museum of Art published this video in 2013 in anticipation of Castle’s honorary Doctor of Arts degree. In the video, Castle discusses his decision to study art at the University of Kansas. For more coverage of Castle and his achievements, click here.
Check out what fellow Jayhawks are up to in our biweekly edition of “In the News.” It’s like an online version of Class Notes. If you’ve seen Jayhawks in the news who should be featured, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labette County District Judge Jeffry L. Jack has been appointed to sit with the Kansas Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in one case on the court’s Tuesday docket. Jack was appointed a Labette County district judge in 2005. He graduated from the KU School of Law in 1987. Read full article.
Gregory Benefiel was confirmed as the next McPherson County Attorney Thursday evening. Benefiel, l’06, is currently an assistant attorney general for the state of Kansas in the criminal litigation division. Read full article.
Mahesh Daas, dean of the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design (Arc/D), and the school’s Dean’s Advisory Board have announced the names of Arc/D’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Awards. They are furniture designer Wendell Castle, designer and community planner Silvia Vargas, and architect Jim Walters. The Young Architect-Designer Award recipients are architects Justin Cratty and Kenneth Simmons. Read full article.
Visual artist Nick Strange’s life revolves around his art. Strange, a University graduate who majored in visual art with an emphasis on printmaking, recently returned to his alma mater to design the solar eclipse promotional posters seen around campus. Read full article.
Andy Hyland didn’t win when he appeared on “Jeopardy!” and in a way, maybe that’s a good thing. Hyland, who is an assistant director of strategic communications at the University of Kansas, was a contestant on the game show episode that aired Monday, Sept. 18. Read full article.
A new restaurant opened on Mass Street in downtown Lawrence recently. Stonewall Restaurant and Pizzeria features a unique combination of authentic New York-style pizza and home-cooked classics like fried chicken options. Joe Kieltyka, a University alumnus from New York City who opened and operated the original Stonewall Pizza in Lenexa in the late ’70s, co-owns and operates the restaurant. Read full article.
Bill James, baseball historian and analytics pioneer, and his daughter and researcher Rachel McCarthy James, chronicled a 15-year killing spree in small-town America that they believe was committed by one serial killer who hopped on and off trains. Read full article.
Stephen McAllister, a distinguished professor at the University’s law school, was nominated to serve as the United States Attorney for the District of Kansas by President Donald Trump on Sept. 8. McAllister earned his bachelor’s from the University in 1985, and went on to graduate from the University’s law school in 1988. Read full article.
The University of Kansas has changed significantly over the past 20 years. Alumni, including Alumni Association staff member Jennifer Sanner, reflect on the changes in this feature from the Kansan, part of a larger special feature about the decade. Read full article.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has named R.J. Melman as the new president of Chicago’s largest restaurant group. His father, Rich Melman, founded the company 46 years ago. The younger Melman earned a degree in political science from KU in 2001. Read full article.
Allen County, Kansas, has been named as a 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize winner. Dave Toland, executive director of Thrive Allen County and a graduate of the university, shares more about what the prize means. Read full article.
Have you heard news about a fellow Jayhawk, or maybe you have news of your own to share? Email us at email@example.com, or fill out our Class Notes form to be included in a future issue of Kansas Alumni magazine.
In addition, the Young Architect-Designer Award honors architects and designers who graduated from KU less than a decade ago who have already demonstrated leadership and significant contributions to their profession. Those recipients are architects Justin Cratty and Kenneth Simmons.
A jury chose the winners from nominations, submitted by Arc/D alumni and friends, which detailed the nominees’ accomplishments in leadership, public service and their professional achievements. The awards framework was developed by the Alumni Experience Committee of the Dean’s Advisory Board.
“Among our 11,000 alumni there are innumerable people whose achievements are extraordinary,” Daas said. “And our honorees’ accomplishments personify our vision to be ‘the pioneering force for global impact through design.’”
The awards will be given at Arc/D’s Fly High Banquet on Oct. 27. That celebration follows the school’s second annual Alumni Symposium, a daylong campus event when alumni will make presentations on the theme of “The 12,000 Who Transform.”
“Garfield: The Musical With Cattitude” opened Friday night and, even at the matinee show the following day, the actors, including alumna Brianna Woods, gave energized performances that would make you think it was opening night all over again. Read full article.
As one of the first American designers to challenge the boundary between utility and fine art, Wendell Castle creates an enticing breed of objects marked by superior craftsmanship and ingenuity in form, style, and technique. Castle, f’58, g’66, received an honorary degree from KU in 2013. Read full article.
Circuit Judge John Christian Yoder, whose work in law and politics spanned more than 40 years, including two terms in the West Virginia Senate, died Friday as a result of complications from heart surgery. He began a career in government service in his native state of Kansas and graduated from KU School of Law in 1975. Read full article.
NASA was slammed with a record number of astronaut applicants this year and out of more than 183,000 people, only 12 were given that proverbial golden ticket. The deserving dozen includes a Texan and University of Kansas graduate named Loral O’Hara. Read full article.
Peter Mallouk, c’93, b’93, l’97, g’97, an estate planning attorney, started his business with an eye toward servicing medical professionals in suburban Kansas City. Today the company, Creative Planning, is at the vanguard of a profound shift in finance. Read full article.
David Seely, l’82, was elected the new president of the Wichita Bar Association. He joined Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch in 1984 and focuses on civil litigation, especially cases involving oil and gas. Read full article.
Philosophy majors spend their college years pondering deep questions, such as: What is the meaning of life? Do we have free will? And what job am I going to get with this degree after graduation? As chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Sheila Bair, c’75, l’78, leaned on her philosophy degree from the University of Kansas to make crucial decisions during the financial crisis. Read full article.
Nikki Glaser’s come a long way from her days as a reluctant college student at the University of Kansas. Eleven years after graduating with an English degree, Glaser’s back in Lawrence, this time as a headliner at the Free State Festival. Read full article.
The first couple to ever say “I do” in the new, upscale Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas, in a ceremony on Sunday, happened to be Olathe native Dan Ryckert and his beloved Bianca. Dan is a 2007 graduate of the University of Kansas. Read full article.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation recognized the third class of Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellows, which includes KU graduate Justin Fairchild, g’13. Read full article.