By Betsy Reed
This summer the Ludington Area Center for the Arts features “My Father’s Love,” a massive wood mosaic created by Kalkaska artist Edgar Lantzer.
Lantzer passed away in late 2009 at the age of 77. He lived most of his life in Northern Michigan and Florida. A carpenter by trade, he learned the art of marquetry at his father’s side.
In marquetry small wooden shapes are inlaid on a wooden base to form images and patterns. Lantzer’s masterpiece comprises thousands of diamond-shaped pieces of identical size and shape. Composed of 30 separate 4-foot by 8-foot panels, the piece depicts scenes from the Bible and took the artist 30 years to complete.
The art itself is beautiful to behold. The tiny blocks fit together with incredible precision. The warm, natural colors and grain patterns of the unstained wood beg to be examined up close. Viewing the work from greater distances and different angles offers a different experience altogether.
Lantzer’s work is impressive to say the least, even more so for the fact that he never sketched or made written plans for his work. He said that he visualized each image in its entirety in his mind’s eye before the wood was even cut. Lantzer reported that he lost his ability to write and draw as a child, due to brain damage associated with scarlet fever. He said he developed other abilities to compensate, such as working with numbers and symbols.
In the course of his life, Lantzer spent time working steady jobs, married, had children, and divorced, and experienced periods of homelessness. For several of his later years, he squatted in an abandoned school house in the Kalkaska area. There was no heat or running water and he did odd jobs to get by and worked on his art.
Then, a chain of acquaintances connected Lantzer with Paul Hresko of Elk Rapids. Hresko was deeply moved by Lantzer’s work and dedicated himself to finding a more appropriate home for both Ed and the artwork.
Lantzer had some legal issues to straighten out, and needed help accessing health care. Hresko and other friends helped him get what he needed, including an apartment. Regarding the artwork, Hresko and others organized the My Father’s Love Foundation to protect and promote the panels.
Many aspects of Lantzer’s life story—living somewhat on the fringes of society, working hard to overcome a disability, reaching success in the face of challenges, years of dedicated work towards a meaningful goal—are not unlike a recovery journey. Viewers will be inspired not only by his work but by his personal story.
In keeping with the artist’s wishes, the panels are not for sale. The free exhibit is open to the public at Ludington Area Center for the Arts until Sept. 7. Board members of the My Father’s Love Foundation will present a discussion of the artist and his work on Monday, July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.
Betsy Reed is the Special Projects Coordinator at West Michigan Community Mental Health System.