From generation to generation

Bill Katavalos demonstrating the concept of tension

Bill Katavalos demonstrating the concept of tension in a structure, 1962

Although I didn't have him as a teacher until my third year, he was legendary. During our first year we would see him in the hall and whisper to each other, "That's Katavalos." One day during my freshman year I came up the back staircase to the 3-D rooms. There he was, standing in front of one of the showcases, nose almost pressed to the glass, hands clasped behind his back. Looking. The showcase was filled with foundation 3-D exercises-- compositions in plaster of rectangular and angular shapes. All white on black bases. And there he stood, looking. And I thought, "What is he looking at? It's just a bunch of plaster stuff."

Bill Katavalos (rear) with student

Bill Katavalos (rear) with student Joseph Koncelik, 1962.

Again, 25 years pass. I'm on my way to teach my 3-D class and I stop by the showcase in the foundation department. In it are exercises in dimensional composition, made from plaster. I stop to look. My hands are clasped behind my back, and I'm humming softly to myself. Looking. "That curve. God! That's a beautiful curve. The way that edge resolves into the straight piece is wonderful. That other one... not quite as elegant. The curve bends away too quickly. The form is too awkward-- like Popeye's arms. Just a 16th of an inch taken off that rise would have fixed it. But that next one... great proportion. The volume of the first piece in contrast to the slightly curved plane works well. And the space between. Just right. Sets up a nice internal tension between them. Just holds it all in. Wonder how large it could be and still maintain that. Would you still see it if it were 20 feet instead of 12 inches? You just might. Maybe you'd just feel it if you stood within it. Would be fun to try that one..." and on and on.

And the elevator door opens, and a bunch of students get out on their way to class. And I wonder, are any of them looking at me and asking themselves, "What is he looking at?"