Enid Mark, Friend and Mentor

by Sarah van Keuren

Enid and I became acquainted in the early 1970ís. We shared an interest in printmaking and photography and a desire to fuse the two. In that decade various 19th century processes were revived. Lois Johnson introduced cyanotype and gum bichromate to a photomedia class that she taught at the Philadelphia College of Art in 1973. Patty Dreher who lived in Rose Valley and I took that class and Patty later taught me vandyke which she had learned in Rochester. I believe that I was partially responsible for introducing Enid to those three processes.

Bea Nettlesís Photomedia Cookbook was published in 1978. Together Enid and I experimented with developing ortholith film in Fine Line Developer that gave a delicious grain to the high contrast film. I was studying photography with Tom Sherman during those years and renting a darkroom in his house. Enid appreciated Tomís articulate approach to photography and what she didnít pick up from him directly she absorbed through me.

Enid was going to teach a cyanotype workshop at Wallingford Community Arts Center but didnít feel up to it as she was going through treatment for breast cancer. She suggested that I teach the workshop. It was my first workshop and I was nervous but it went well and boosted my self-confidence. Around the same time Patty Dreher, who had developed Loisís photomedia class into a non-silver class, had to move with her family to San Francisco and recommended that I teach the class.

Enid never took up pinhole photography but was an excellent model for some pinhole portraits that I made and printed in cyanotype and gum bichromate. With a 35mm camera Enid photographed me in a nightgown and collaged me as a levitating figure that she printed in cyanotype.

I treasured my visits to the Marksí house where I often enjoyed lunch with Enid and Gene on the sun porch of their Wallingford home overlooking their garden. The orderly peacefulness of their home and garden was soothing to me during a hectic time in my life. Enid often sent care packages of brownies and biscotti home with me to my partner Harry Kalish who was most appreciative. When my parents died and left me some money Gene gave me better investment advice than anyone else. He knew the limits of his knowledge and prescience, a most refreshing trait, when other advisors imagined that everything would continue in a best-case scenario.

It was amazing to me that Enid had the energy to host elegant dinner parties and her now legendary June garden parties while producing artist books, traveling with Gene to lecture and show her work, and running her home smoothly. Especially through her garden parties I became acquainted with her circle of artist and writer friends and got a fuller picture of Enidís life.

Slowly our paths as artists diverged as Enid moved into the realm of the artist book and I stayed with pinhole photography and non-silver printing. Through Enid my appreciation of book design was enhanced. It was a great treat to see her books in progress and to witness her decision-making process. To sit with her latest book and slowly read through it was a peak experience.

The University of the Arts was proactive in keeping the faculty abreast of the digital revolution. I took various free classes in early versions of Photoshop and tried to make do with an inadequate computer at home. Then Harris Fogel came to UArts and got Harry and me set up with a Ďkick-assí G3 Apple computer. He helped me with Photoshop. When Enid was ready to learn Photoshop she turned to me for paid lessons because she knew me well enough not feel embarrassed being a novice. I didnít think I knew enough to teach her but Enid had a wonderful way of focusing on a project and breaking it down into manageable pieces. As usual it was calming to me to be in her environment and together we miraculously managed to solve every problem that came up. I always learned something from working with her.

Enid applied for a Pew Grant and received one at age 70. She spent a lot of time crafting her essays for the grant. Recently I saw part of her written application as an anonymous example in a package of helpful information the foundation gave to grant applicants. Her prose stood out as a model of strength, clarity and subtlety.

When Enid broke down her darkroom she donated various supplies to the non-silver classes at the University of the Arts some of which, such as a valuable large tray with her name on it, we still use.

After Enid and Gene moved to their spacious apartment in Philadelphia I continued to visit them. Enid and I worked together a bit more in Photoshop. The last time I saw her she was hooked up to oxygen and had lost a lot of weight but insisted on going to the computer and bringing up images and text about a labyrinth, her last book. It was poignant since she now seemed in a medical labyrinth herself. She seemed to grasp that correspondence though she bravely carried on, assuring us that modern medicine would triumph ó as it had indeed done for Melanie. Even though I didnít see how Enid could survive her cruel bone cancer, I chose to believe her. She was a bit of an authority figure in my life and if she insisted that all would be well with her, because she had seen more of life and death than I had, I trusted her to be right. Therefore it was a shock when I learned that she had died.

I still canít believe that the phone isnít going to ring with Enid calling to ask if Iíd seen this or that exhibition, if Iíd applied for such and such a grant, inquiring about our mutual friends and what I was up to, telling me about her latest project. I will continue to miss this distinguished woman whom I was proud to count as a friend.

Sarah Van Keuren January 31, 2009