Tag Archives: Bauhaus

Fibers Rooted in Nebraska

June 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The world-renowned fiber artist Sheila Hicks never forgot that she started in Nebraska.

“Why am I coming to Nebraska?” says the Hastings native. “I’m coming because I owe it to Nebraska. It gave me so much. Such a feeling of well-being. I had an extended family of grandparents and great aunts, and cousins.”

Hicks says her formal art career, which is “sometimes relegated to the category of craft, sometimes to fine arts,” began taking shape at Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where she studied under Bauhaus artist Josef Albers.

It was a trip to South America, however, that inspired her unique work in textiles.

“Having been given a Fulbright to go to Chile (in 1957-1958), I economized and ended up visiting every single country in South America except Paraguay,” Hicks says by phone interview from her home in Paris. “I found I could go down the West Coast starting in Venezuela. One year later I had missions and tasks to complete; I went all the way down to the southernmost city in the hemisphere. Then I came back up on the east coast. I did a show in Santiago at the National Museum. It was  a great privilege. I did an exhibition in Buenos Aires.”

SheilaHicks2That next year, she came back to Yale and earned her MFA, partly because Albers convinced the faculty that her trip counted as field work. She relocated to Paris in 1964, where she has continued to work for more than 50 years.

Her current art exhibit, on display at Joslyn Art Museum through Sept. 4, will give Omahans a glimpse into Hicks’ unique work.

“We are so delighted to be able to share such a large and important body of work by one of the world’s most exciting and engaging artists,” says Jack Becker, Joslyn Art Museum Executive Director and CEO. “Sheila’s work at present is featured around the globe in Australia, Asia, throughout Europe, and this year, in Omaha.”

“They will never have seen anything like this, the innovative use of materials,” Hicks says. “They are meant to go into the history of our civilization and to earlier civilizations and earlier cultures. That’s why I’ve chosen this medium because people can see textiles historically.”

That innovative use of materials includes using corn husks in her work, a tribute to Nebraska. A concurrent show running in Hangzhou, China, includes shells of things she has eaten, such as seafood. Hicks was particularly excited about this show as Hangzhou has the world’s biggest silk museum.

Textiles, Hicks says, “Also helps with remembering things from other cultures as being reinterpreted and actualized.”

As much as the use of materials, it’s the use of color for which Hicks is known. She once painted her childhood bedroom royal blue with scarlet and orange accents, and has preferred bright colors her whole life.

She feels inspired to work with fibers because they are so intertwined in people’s lives and belongings. But she also enjoys working in many other mediums.

“I don’t consider myself a fiber artist any more than I consider myself a watercolor artist or a black and white photographer,” Hicks says. “I am a maker of things. I love to invent and make things.”

This particular show will impress people with the breadth and depth of the work. Hicks says, “It swims back and forth between painting and sculpture and environment and architecture.”

“I think that we are most excited by the diversity of the work and the remarkable way Sheila employs color and design to engage viewers,” Becker says. “The accompanying catalogue provides a lasting record of the exhibition while advancing the conversation and scholarship around this important artist.”

One thing is for certain. No matter where she goes, she knows her Nebraska roots have helped her feel at home in many places.

“I am up to my ankles in Nebraska,” Hicks says. “Wherever I go and whatever I do, I don’t feel foreign or confused. I am a very well grounded person coming from a Nebraska family of many generations.” 


Nine and Two

September 2, 2015 by
Photography by Colin Conces

This article appears in the Sept./Oct. 2015 edition of Omaha Home.

Some of our friends called it a fortress,” says Kim Dickhut of the early ‘50s home she and husband Randy bought in 2007 as empty nesters. “Others,” Randy adds, “said it looked like a prison…cold…intimidating.”

Messing with a classic is fraught with danger, but the cement panels that now clad various surfaces of the Dickhut’s home not only counterbalance the sterility of the once severe structure, but also serve to amp up the home’s Mid-CeMidCenturyModern4ntury Modern credentials.

The germ of the project was seeded when the Dickhuts’ attended a tour of green homes. There they stumbled onto the work of general contractor Doug Kiser of dKiser design.construct. Kiser brought in the architects and the roster was set for the creative team. Besides doing most of the constructionl work, Kiser collaborated on the overall design and was particularly instrumental in the selection of materials and colors.

Most work today on Mid-Century structures involves the process of subtraction, that of removing layers of once-trendy “improvements” done over time in ill-advised tinkering. The Dickhuts took the opposite approach—one of addition.


“The concept was that of a virus,” explains Brian Kelly, a professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and his architect wife, Andrea (formerly of Randy Brown Architects and now a stay-at-home mom), collaborated with the Dickhuts on the project. “The panels become like a virus. They wrap around the house and intermittently reappear” to sprout again on a chimney stack before being repeated at the rear of the home in punctuating a master bedroom expansion accompanied by a balcony. The street-side panels are, of course, the most noticeable, Andrea says, “But the bedroom and balcony in the back are really the epicenter of the theme.”

MidCenturyModern5Just like the aggressively spreading species of vining plant that threatened to consume the planet in the 1951 British sci-fi flick, The Day of the Triffids, the panels evoke an organic—if decidedly minimal—vibe. Further softening the facade included a focus on the formerly stark entryway (a door…just a plain, unadorned door). The approach was made more inviting with the erection of a latticed trellis, a motif that is duplicated out back in a patio pergola.

And just exactly what hue is that signature orange that echoes throughout the home?

“We just call that ‘Kim’s favorite color,’” Randy says with a chuckle. “It’s our rebellion against beige,” Kim adds.

If the exterior and bedroom were exercises in addition, the mathematics of the interior were lessons in subtraction. Rustic barn wood was lopped from the now crisp, cozy space the couple call the Map Room. Moldings were eradicated like invasive weeds. Visual clutter was pruned at every turn in setting the stage for the couple’s collection of Mid-
Century furnishings.


“The whole idea was that we wanted the look of simple loft living…but with a yard,” Kim says. She
points to her mother, who studied both architecture and interior design, as having inspired in her a Bauhaus-influenced aesthetic where form follows function.

“I knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was before I knew who Dr. Seuss was,” she says. “And I grew up assuming that everybody lived in a home with original art.”

The living room is decorated in abstract works by local artists Helen Gloeb and Karen Schneph. Gloeb’s piece hangs above a sofa that has been in Kim’s family since 1968. Nearby sits a pair of original Bertoia diamond chairs (first introduced in 1952) that the Dickhuts outfitted in new leather seat pads. The kitchen features an original Paul McCobb dinette set.

Another favorite is a George Nelson starburst clock introduced in 1949 that Kim says they’ve had “forever.” The radial spikes of the clock are rendered in a rainbow of colors, but the arms indicating the nine and two positions tell a story of their own.


“If we had to point to the one thing that drove the color scheme,” Randy says as Kim nods in agreement, “it’s the orange arms of that clock.”

The Dickhut home is carefully curated, but there is nothing finicky, inaccessible, or museum-like in the finished result. Comfort, they say, was the main objective. And the scale, line, and form that are the hallmarks of Mid-Century Modern are a perfect fit for this couple.

“We are not big people,” Kim says, “so the scale of these pieces suit us well. There is nothing big or clunky about Mid-Century Modern.”

“And it’s very livable,” adds Randy of the 1,900 square-foot space where clean, straightforward lines and right angles are king. “It’s a great place for quite time. It’s a great place for where we are at this stage of our lives.”


Bauhaus on the Prairie

July 25, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Flat roof? Check. Clean Lines? Check. Cornfields? Insert here the sound of a needle being violently ripped across a vinyl record.

Contemporary architecture is perhaps most commonly thought of as an urban phenomenon, but Donna and Jon Smith have executed their Bauhaus-inspired home on five acres of rural Sarpy County land.

“A lot of our friends say it looks like a commercial building or a strip mall,” says Donna. “We’re okay with that. To each his own!”

The 4,200 square foot home was built in 2010 and was designed by Jon, the owner of the branding firm Corporate Three Design. Jon had absolutely zero background in architecture when he first put pen to paper in conceptualizing his creation. The couple share the space with their children, David (19), and Suzy (18).

The imaginative materials used throughout the project were more than just money-savers on the bottom line, they are integral to the success of the contemporary scheme.

Common cinder block is rendered less so when stripes of contrasting brick form a design along the zig-zag angles of the exterior set below exposed steel beams of the roofline that have now taken on an organic, earthy patina. Rolling barn-like doors of walnut evoke a little bit of country while also punctuating the space with fields of contrasting color. Add to that gently dappled concrete floors below an assortment of warm area rugs, and the foundation is laid for a country home loaded with surprises.

No storage room? No problem. Remember, form follows function in the Bauhaus aesthetic. Jon designed a section of the stairs leading down to a utility room so that, when lifted on a hinge system, a storage space is revealed. Oh, and where exactly is that refrigerator? Tucked away just around the corner from the kitchen so as to minimize busyness in the crisp, clean space accented by marble baseboards and window trim.

“Everybody always talks about the ‘kitchen triangle pattern’ when it comes to kitchens,” Donna says, “but taking two extra steps to get to the fridge is a small price to pay for the uncluttered look we sought.”

The home has no load-bearing walls, and the roof is instead supported by a series of massive pillars. This design element allowed maximum freedom in terms of an open floor plan. Jon further capitalized on this by mixing and matching the heights of the walls. The central space is defined by floor-to-ceiling surfaces. Within the bedrooms, closets are left open on top to distribute light and to create interesting sight lines.

Two wells on the property fuel a geothermic heating system and radiant floor heat keeps the place toasty even on the most bitter of winter evenings. The pool is heated by the same technology.
“The look we were going for,” Jon says, “is part Bauhaus,  part Palm Springs desert-style.” The flat roof contributes to the desired look and its lines mirror the plains surrounding the property.

“And we wanted really low maintenance,” adds Donna. “These materials will long outlast us and our kids.

Speaking of maintenance, who does snow removal on the graceful arc of the home’s long driveway? “Oh, that’s just a matter of driving the truck back and forth until we can get out. And Jon does all the
mowing himself.”

“I have mowing down to five hours now,” he adds. “If I didn’t have to make little crop circles around all of the trees it would be even easier.”

The interior is certainly dramatic, but Jon also had an eye to outdoor living in his design. The property that features hundreds of saplings also boasts a swimming pool and a full soccer field. That’s where Suzy, a recent Papillion La Vista South High graduate who will play in the fall at Missouri State University, honed her skills. That’s when she wasn’t camping on the roof with friends under a canopy of stars.

This home is something that Jon always wanted to do,” says Donna, “even if we are
out here where few people ever see it.”

That is, except when the couple who love entertaining have as many as 50 people over for a little soiree.

“It’s a different kind of living,” Jon admits. “It may not be for everybody, but for us it just…it just works.”