The Disturbed

Sean and or Adlai Stevenson, United Nations, 1962

The books

My grandmother had a true talent for interesting stories about people in her family. They first came to Virginia in 1608 and, according to Grandma, did wonderful and horrible things. She had stories about her own life homesteading with her mother in Aspen. For example, for her 16th birthday, she asked the local cowboys to make a floor for their dirt floor cabin. She also had a family bible with notes on the side and in the margins. I took the information from this and other family books and attempted to make sense of it with a diagram family tree. It quickly became a tangle of fishing lines as the Virginia branch enjoyed marrying cousins. 

The 9 foot diagram

Detail

In my search for images of people in the chart, I found an image of President Chester Arthur's wife, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, and was amazed at the resemblance to my mother, 100 years later. This also happened with an image of my great-grandfather when he was 18. I compared the images in Photoshop to determine if the facial structure was similar, or I was nuts. This led to a disturbing hobby of replacing a relative with me. I have one rule; I can only use an image of a relative. This is an ongoing project with new additions periodically. I can’t explain the psychosis here, but I’m sure it points to some form of madness.

Below: The disturbing project

Below: the book version in process

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

The Circle of Life Part II

As it’s Election Day, and almost every man in my family line was a politician, I’m posting about someone who went down another path. Chester Alan “Gavin” Arthur III was President Chester Alan Arthur’s grandson. His grandmother, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur is one of the family members who looks exactly like my mother. After President Arthur died, his son, Chester Alan Arthur II withdrew from Columbia Law School and sailed for Europe. He then spent his life mingling with the social elite of Europe and America. He was interested in horses, women, and fine cuisine. He owned a 250,000-acre ranch in Colorado, but never dirtied his hands with actual work. Oddly, I’ve found this to be a pattern with a large portion of family members.

Conversely, his son, Chester Alan Arthur III rejected the elegant living and embraced political and social issues. In his 20s, he joined the Irish Republican Movement. In 1930, he founded the magazine, Dune Forum, which promoted communication between the masses and intellectual elite. He was a member of the Utopian Society of America with John Updike. In the 1950s he taught at San Quentin State Prison.

By the late 1950s, Arthur moved to San Francisco and was part of the Beat Movement, devoting his time to astrology. In 1966, he wrote The Circle of Sex, a book about gay, bisexual, and gender issues in astrology. His life intersects mine in 1967. He used an astrological chart to determine the date for the Human-Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I was there. At the end of his life, in 1972, he was a leader in the gay movement, and had been married to three women.

This seems to be the pattern in the family:

Generation 1: Someone works hard, does well, and is engaged politically.

Generation 2: Uses the money from the previous generation and enjoys the high life.

Generation 3: Goes counterculture

Generation 4: Works hard, does well, and is engaged politically.

And it starts again.

If I could do it again, I’d rather be in Generation 2, than 4. Its sounds like so much more fun to spend life worried about first class tickets on the Queen Mary, than going to meetings and meeting deadlines.

President Chester Alan Arthur I

The Circle of Life

I was looking through images on the Library of Congress site and came across a photo of a woman who looked remarkably like my mother. She was President Chester Arthur's wife, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, or "Nell". Herndon and Lewis are family names, so I did a little digging. You'll be surprised, but of course, she was part of the family. In the same vein, I found a photograph of my great grandfather who looked remarkably like me at the same age. If these people had such similar genes responsible for our appearance, how much of our behavior is tied to them? Does that mean I'm crazy because Meriwether Lewis was?