(Photo Credit; Copyright Cranbrook Archives, 1990 by Nina Hauser Swanson)
I received my M.F.A. in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art. A small art school located in a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan. My decision for going there was that it was not New York. I needed to get away. I flew out there for a day, toured the school, met Carl, and decided, yes, this was the place for me. It was different from everything I knew. Close to, but far enough away from a big city, small student body – only 150 students or so spread across 6 or 7 disciplines.
And then there was Carl. I was familiar with his work from it being published, and he received his M.F.A. in creative writing, having studied with Robert Creeley, my favorite poet!
Carl was more intellectual then most teachers I had in the past. Post modernism was the flavor of the day at the time, and he constantly wondered why not one of his students were involved with this movement. None of us liked it or cared for the work being done.
At the end of my first year, I was packing up my car to head back to New York for the summer. I had it in my mind that I might not come back. I constantly fought with the second year students who felt my work was too “emotional”. I didn’t get why that would be problem. Isn’t that the part of how art should function …. to make one feel?
My car was parked in front of Carl’s house. It was about 1 o’clock in the morning. Carl saw me through his window came out with a beer. He sensed that things were tough for me and that I might not return. We sat and chatted for about two hours under the street lamp. Afterwards, I couldn’t say if I would return, but if I did, he said, it would be good for us both.
I did end up returning.
Thank you Carl for opening my eyes and learning to accept that which might not be comfortable. Thank you for the endless games of softball.
Carl Toth’s art is influenced by contemporary literature and poetry, and is included in collections at museums and centers including the Museum of Modern Art, The International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, The Center for Creative Photography and The Art Institute of Chicago. Toth is the recipient of three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.