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Hazel Archer



Honored June, 1984

Hazel Archer

"Watching has always been a part of my life. I don't know why," said Hazel Archer. "1 was always more interested in watching what was going on. When I began photographing, I was the observer."

Born in 1921 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Chris and Ella Larsen, Hazel grew up with two brothers and a sister. At age ten she contracted polio. "I was fortunate to have such a supportive family," she recalls. "They encouraged me. Milwaukee had a very good homebound school program," which she attended until high school. "In high school, I started on braces and crutches." But although her activities were restricted, she developed keen powers of observation as a result.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Hazel "happened to notice a few short little paragraphs in a Milwaukee paper about this summer school. One of my former teachers from Milwaukee was going to be there for a few weeks." Hazel applied. "Unbeknownst to me, a blessed star fell on my head," she said. German artist Josef Albers had assembled "this incredible faculty" at Black Mountain College, the renowned experimental arts institution in North Carolina.

At Black Mountain College Hazel studied photography. The college didn't have a degree program. "When the faculty saw an outstanding student who was very well qualified, the student would be accepted for graduation by an examiner."

There she met Buckminster Fuller and "photographed him a lot. We became good friends. He built his first dome ever at Black Mountain. He took me up in a small plane to photograph his dome."

Later, Hazel taught at Black Mountain, where she met her husband, Charles Archer. He had contracted tuberculosis in Japan during World War II, and came to North Carolina to recuperate. Hazel met him in a photography class. After they married, "the college began to disintegrate. We moved to the village of Black Mountain, started a photography studio, and became parents to Erika."

They moved to Tucson, Arizona, where Hazel founded two private schools--Hidden Springs and Avalon--because she "felt so strongly," and still does, "about the education of young children."

Hazel arrived in Santa Fe in the mid-1970s, lived on Canyon Road, and taught perception classes to adults and children. "I usually introduce the perception class by particular words that I find can bring about enfoldment," she said. "Perception is hard to describe, but it's wonderful to learn to watch without judgment and opinion. That which was not recognized previously begins to surface as some kind of surprise, and one begins to become aware of what one was not aware of previously."

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes