Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hayloft

ANDREW WYETH: "I played alone, and wandered a great deal over the hills, painting watercolors that literally exploded, slapdash over my pages, and drew in pencil or pen and ink in a wild and undisciplined manner."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Karl Kuerner, known as Karl J. Kuerner III, met us Monday morning at the barn. I was glad to see him again. He is the grandson of Karl Kuerner, Sr., Andrew Wyeth's first, and arguably most important, muse.  Karl J., was there to feed animals and take care of morning chores. The barn was dark inside, and he helped us open whatever could be opened to let in light, and sometime early mid-morning was gone. He is an artist, and we'd hoped to stop by his studio to see what he was at work on, but a bad cold kept me away. 

Sometime later in the morning another man arrived and began shutting up the doors. He was somewhere in his eighties, a bit unsteady yet fit. It took awhile to explain that I was photographing the barns and needed to keep the doors open for the light. I explained we might be shooting for awhile, and tried to make clear "awhile" might be measured in multiple hours, not minutes. He was as hard of hearing as I am but had no aids; it took awhile to find the right wave length for communication, and I wasn't sure if we ever completely found it. When he left he said he'd be back later to close up; he was worried about children falling through the open hatches where hay was tossed.  So was I and also worried about me falling through a hatch or Gary, and the man's concern doubled my caution. 

He moved further into the barn and had a similar conversation with Gary, and I returned to shooting, a bit guilty that I might have rushed him on to get back to my image. It was perhaps a half hour later when he appeared with a book to show me, and I instantly realized my mistake.  The book was the book I'd bought at the Brandywine Museum on my last visit, the book of Karl J. Kuerner's paintings. This man was Karl Jr., the proud father of the artist and the proud son of the muse, here for his chores. Do I recall Karl the grandson saying his dad still ran the farm, did the haying? We were pleased to discover he would pose for us.  This was Karl Jr., our host.