At The Los Angeles Times, Lyra Kilston wrote about midcentury Southern California designer Gere Kavanaugh, whose work is celebrated in a new book from Princeton Architectural Press, “the first monograph on Kavanaugh’s life and work, (which) tells her story through a fascinating avalanche of visual material.” Here’s Kilston on Kavanaugh’s direction after finishing at Cranbrook Academy of Art:
She graduated in 1952, becoming the third woman to earn an MFA in design at Cranbrook, and was soon hired by General Motors as one of its “Damsels of Design” to work on car interiors, kitchen appliances and its lavish modern showrooms. Her ideas were fresh and inventive: For a spring showcase of new cars she conceived of a garden party theme, filling the auditorium with blooming hyacinths and creating 30-foot-high bird cages containing 90 singing canaries. Soon she was choosing between offers at architecture firms run by Finnish architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen in Michigan or architect Victor Gruen in Los Angeles. She took a fateful one-week trip to check out the West Coast, visiting the artist-activist nuns Sister Corita Kent and Sister Magdalen Mary, who welcomed her warmly and insisted she relocate to Los Angeles. She complied, embracing and embodying the colorful region where she still resides today.
I hadn’t heard of Kavanaugh before reading Kilston’s piece, and I think we’re going to have to order A Colorful Life.