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  • Invisible
  • Gerhardt Knodel (bio)

Water was the life-blood and inspiration for founding a city, Pontiac, in southeast Michigan. Meandering like a snake across timbered land, the Nottawasippi River generated notions of a new center of livelihood for those who could imagine its potential. By 1824 it was renamed the Clinton.

In 1980 when I moved my studio to downtown Pontiac, the river, which still flows through the city, was invisible. Only shadows of its existence remain. A block away to the south of my studio, a street is named Water Street. Mill Street crosses it. The Mill Street Inn around the corner commemorates memories of a gristmill and knitting mills located on that site, on the banks of a pond that once hosted water wheels driving new industry. My studio sits within three-hundred feet of that pond.

Invisible, but still there.

In 1963, city fathers determined that twelve square blocks of their established city needed protection from the inconveniences of open water, so they buried it within a channel running underground. Having occupied my buildings for thirty-seven years, but never having seen the river that passes close by, I recently decided to make the water of the river a reality. Like an urban explorer (or heart surgeon), I found the open water and the concrete mouths that swallow it, and then discovered the place where it is disgorged to run free once again.

In downtown Pontiac one can walk on water. Concrete and asphalt insulate feet from the cool wetness of a flowing river, but what about my longing for the refreshing, unrestrictive power of liberated water?

Crossing the city today, I walk on water. My body is like a dowsing stick that responds to unseen sources of energy, and life. [End Page 31]

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Top: Weather drain from walk on September 17, 2017 in Pontiac, MI. Center: Markings on pavement from walk. Bottom: Details from walk. Photos: Courtesy the artist.

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Vintage photograph from Pontiac, MI. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

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Gerhardt Knodel

GERHARDT KNODEL weaves, cuts, sews, and draws; he writes and photographs. He also collects textiles of the past. His interaction with audiences continues to be explored in many forms, from architecturally scaled installations to intimate games. Knodel’s studio practice spans nearly fifty years, thirty-seven of them invested as artist-in-residence, then director, and now director emeritus of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, near the studio in Pontiac. In 2017, he was honored with the Gold Medal bestowed by the American Crafts Council.



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