CM: Scott Frankenberger read Nikos Kazantzakis' books while studying art at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and decided to take on the Odyssey as a focal project in his senior year of studies. He did the illustrations as part of a senior honors project in his art studies in 1970. Kimon Friar came to Appleton after hearing of Frankenberger's project, and gave a lecture on some aspect of Kazantzakis' writing. Friar applauded Frankenberger for the etchings he designed after Kazantzakis' Odyssey. Each of the twenty-four images incorporates the Greek alphabet letter associated with the chapter as the underlying flow or structure of the image (according to Friar, there are the same number of chapters as Greek alphabet letters, intentionally so by the author). The content of each image is to reflect the theme of each chapter.
The images were made in the soft-ground etching process. Frankenberger recalls: "As a poor student then, I had made most of my printed artwork in linocut form, as it was much more affordable than zinc or copper etching plates. But my mentor then encouraged me to step up to the challenge and do everything as zinc plate etchings. I still wanted them to have the 'blocky' look of woodcuts; a more appropriate impression I thought than the fine detail one normally encouraged with etching. This to me was more in tune with the ancient themes of the book than trying to force a modernist graphic style onto the text."
Thirty years later, at ACG Art Curator's kind request, Frankenberger went through his student art folders and found several things of interest. First, he found the original master drawing, from which he made the linocuts. Second, he found a few written notations about the Odyssey to help him design the images, and an old news clipping from 1970.
Mr. Sam Ray, who assisted the artist in making the prints at the time, wrote recently to Frankenberger: "I have almost photographic memories of sitting around a lovely table on floor cushions in your apartment; a lively and almost awe-inspiring conversation; and the nearly-religious ceremony of presenting the prints to Kimon Friar. It was the closest I came to a truly spiritual moment at Lawrence (except, perhaps, assisting you in the print shop - which, in retrospect, I've always thought of as evidence of your supreme patience with the untalented and uninitiated). I have treasured the set of twenty-four chapter prints (and remember when initial sketches of Alpha and Beta first took form... and my amazement at the elegant simplicity and lyrical flow of the illuminated Greek letters - which I still think of as a stroke of genius...brilliant as an almost-obvious symbolic synthesis... and the single, larger Prologe / Epilog print with seven interpretations ('7' as the Greek number for perfection - much as '3' signifies the Trinity in Christendom - sunrise / sunset, male / female, birth / death, agony / ecstacy, contortion / repose, pleasure / pain... Thank you for the friendship, for the misty-morning stop to chat in the middle of the John Street bridge (between the Beta House and the Union) which gave testimony to the fact that we never crossed paths casually, but always stopped to honor the moment - and for letting me be an involved spectator - privileged to watch your craft take on life. I must have recounted a hundred times how much it meant to me to be able to peek over your shoulder into the secret world of a creative mind at work... the only real magic I've ever witnessed at close range. At the risk of sounding even more effusive - you were and have been my inspiration to focus on creative excellence... and whenever I have actually succeeded in excelling at anything, I have a flashback to some spark I saw in you back then, and (either out of laziness or the inability to make contact at the time) only thanked you in silence."
To the beholder, Frankenberger's illumination is a clear and stellar complement to the 33,333 lines of Iambic hexameter, which Kimon Friar translated in Olympian blank verse.