Buffalo native Lee Bergwall Hanks received her MFA in printmaking from the University at Buffalo in 1977. Made while she was a student, Homage to Louis Sullivan positions us standing on the sidewalk and looking up, as if in awe, at the 1895 Guaranty (later Prudential) Building, located at 140 Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo. Designed by Louis Sullivan, a nineteenth-century American architect who is sometimes referred to as the father of the modern skyscraper, the Guaranty Building was designated a National Historic Landmark the year before Hanks made this exactingly detailed image. Sullivan believed that a building’s form should relate to its function; for example, he is known for using identical floors and exterior vertical lines to emphasize a skyscraper’s height. But instead of giving us a view of the Guaranty Building’s height, Hanks emphasizes its more unusual terracotta sheathing. Through her controlled etching, Hanks replicates its intricate ornamental pattern, covering the surface of her design with marks just as Sullivan covered the skyscraper with tiles. Similarly, she uses the building’s design, with its harmony between different shapes and lines, to form the basis of her own composition, balancing rectangles with circles and straight lines with curves.
Label from Window to Wall: Art from Architecture, November 18, 2017–March 18, 2018