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2003
the dance of the pen

His devotion to calligraphy as world-view had begun a West Coast revival of the art after he had been teaching the class at Reed for a decade. By the ’50s, Reynolds had built relationships with the A-list scribes of the day: Alfred Fairbank, Arnold Bank, Father Catich, Ray Daboll, and others. In 1958 Reynolds organized (with Max Sullivan and Francis Newman) a major exhibition at the Portland Art Museum: Calligraphy—the Golden Age and Its Modern Revival.

 

In Portland, Oregon, for the first time in a long time—more likely for the first time ever—calligraphy had buzz.

Just imagine the classroom, circa 1967 or ’68, to understand: the students sit on the floor in a reverent semicircle. At the center is Reynolds, legs drawn up, elbows on his knees, the pipe in one hand. He is speaking intently. Dark suit, silver hair drawn back, white shirt, skinny tie. Thick black glasses magnify his eyes. Buddha by way of a ‘50s TV show host. Ernie Kovacs channeling the prophet. What is he saying? Who knows—in any of his classes, Reynolds could do three hours of connect-life’s-dots without breaking a sweat, all from cryptic notes he kept in his pocket. From the Reed archives, scribbled in a tiny notebook: “Lect. Feb. 24—Browning + Arnold Child Rolande—mood of human desolation—poetic exploitation of ugliness—great vigor, movement."
Knowledge of many kinds flowed into Reynolds’s calligraphy classes like the Higgins Eternal Ink he favored for his pen. “I was blown away,” graphic designer Michael McPherson ’68 remembers. “It was a life-changing, mind-altering, psychedelic experience. Why was calligraphy such a popular class? Because Lloyd Reynolds was just a guy who could make you see, make you understand. He had a prophet-with-a-wink persona, and a way of making connections, just riffing in a seamless, playful way. He’d jump from Michelangelo to William Blake to Zen Buddhism effortlessly, and it all made sense.”

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2003