Hank Murta Adams discusses his role in producing the Blenko catalog.

Hank Adams

Hank Murta Adams discusses his role in producing the Blenko catalog. Oral history interview with Hank Murta Adams by Barb Elam, conducted via telephone, June 7, 2019, Bard Graduate Center. Clip length: 03:31.

Hank Murta Adams: There are two really interesting facts I’ll tell you quickly: one was that the catalog was completely shot on film, obviously, back then—and that some of the shots for this color catalog were hour long exposures for each shot. They’d set the camera open, and open the shutter, and leave cause it was shot on these four-by-four Kodachromes. And when you look at these catalogs, there’s just this beautiful—like when—you know, when you look at a Kodachrome slide, there’s just something that’s so—I mean, we think of it as authentic, but it’s not, it’s just a very saturated color, it’s just another reality. And then, towards the end of my tenure there, like, ’90, maybe ’93, I go up there to produce the catalog and I would have to go up—it’s like a two hour drive up there—two and a half hour drive up from Milton [West Virginia] on up to Williamstown and Marietta to the publisher, and I would have to get a—Blenko had a big box truck, so we’d fill that thing entirely up with all the samples to be photographed. And because you have all the samples produced in six colors and the colors are always, you know—the color tank—the colors aren’t always right; they go off. And so the time period between when the samples we’ve produced, and even the stocks of the lines that are staying in the line—the items that are staying in the line from years prior—you had to assemble all that so it could be rephotographed. So we’d get a big box truck, fill all with these samples and then I’d get up there and you start to assemble the stuff on the glass shelves for the catalog and the color’s wrong or the piece is made horribly—I’d have to drive up and down and get these things, and I’d spend, the week, or 10 days I’d be up there—I’d be up and down a bunch of timesI’d have to go back and then call the factory—and say, ‘You’ve got to make this in topaz.’ The sample we have is just impossible, I can’t even fake it in a photograph. So towards the end of my tenure I tell that to the photographer and the publisher comes in, he says, ‘Oh don’t worry about that, we now have these Japanese digital printers, and we can adjust that color for you.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean, you can adjust the color?’ And this is the earl—this is in the early part of digitization, and I’m like, ‘What the hell are you talking about you can adjust the coloring of the—’ you know, I just was like—you know—honestly, I mean it’s just seems—I’m not that old and it just seems like it’s so archaic and such another era—and so sure enough, that year—and it’s in the beginning of it—and they were these brand-new—I remember they were Japanese printing presses and they were able to dial in the color, and so he said I didn’t have like a topaz piece, or whatever the hell it was, he says, ‘Don’t worry about it, we can make that emerald if you want.’ And I’m like—I just was like—it was—to me it was impossible. And so—but I was happy, I didn’t have to drive up and down to Milton all week, and so—but it also was kind of like—and it really struck me as an artist back then, I was like, well, you don’t even have to make the work then, you know, like which is what it is today; you don’t have to make the work—you can completely—but that matches in with this reality of this, you know this very human, this very physically exhaustive, this very present material. And that’s the way I teach it, I teach it as a teaching example, you know, and there aren’t—give 30 years from now that’ll all be completely the perspective of that—I’m not saying I’ll disappear, but there’s a time period in this country from the seventies to like the middle eighties—late eighties that really speaks to what you’re talking about, about the loss of even—it’s kind of like right in front of our faces, but disappearing.