I’ve interviewed a lot of really smart people over the years managing to bluff my way through most of them by avoiding questions that might expose my stupidity.
One that comes to mind is the late Buckminster Fuller. Fuller, who died in 1983, was an American engineer, author and inventor whose futuristic architectural designs, like the geodesic dome, captured the imagination of millions who revered him like a god. ( My friend, Richard Muller from South Dakota Public Broadcasting, was one of Fuller’s disciples and even constructed a geodesic dome for his home in Vermillion.)
“Bucky” as some called him, was lecturing at one of the colleges in Sioux Falls back in 1980 and I was assigned to catch up with him at the airport upon his arrival to town.
What the heck am I going to ask this guy who not only was a MEMBER of Mensa, the high I.Q. society, but its second president? I thought Mensa was the sign on the door of public restrooms in Italy. Fortunately, Mr. Fuller’s handlers made sure I was provided with a news release and biography so as not to be totally in the dark. The interview went fine as I recall and can still see that old man’s eyes light up when talking about his futuristic concepts.
It’s got to be tough, though, for highly intelligent people to avoid being in a perpetual state of frustration because so few can actually comprehend their thoughts and ideas.
Dick Termes is a gifted artist who puts a different spin on his creations.instead of painting on a flat surface like everyone else, he paints on variably sized orbs that he calls “Termespheres.” Not surprisingly, he was greatly influenced by Buckminster Fuller. I first met Dick Termes about 30 years ago showing some of his work in downtown Sioux Falls. I grabbed a cameraman and over we went. I found him amidst a galaxy of his creations suspended from the ceiling by strong fishing line and rotating on a central axis powered by electric motors. I’d never seen anything like it and couldn’t stop staring at them. Equally impressive was Termes himself. He has a distinctive voice with a delightful Midwestern accent that provides the perfect narration for explaining how to see things from a six point perspective. I remember one of his spheres was like looking into the reflection of the ball on a brass bed. Others were like walking through a Roman palace.
Working out of his geodesic dome studio in the woods around Spearfish, Dick Termes has created hundreds of spheres in the time since our interview. In fact, I did another story with him at the Washington Pavilion shortly before I retired. His Termespheres are now highly sought after and can be found all over the world.
Dick Termes has never lost his zeal for educating others on how to see things his way. Maybe best of all is that he delights in bringing his spheres to schools where kids can experience them first hand and marvel at the mathematics and geometry necessary to make them. Here’s how he describes the process in a way that even I can understand.
“Imagine that you are standing inside a transparent ball suspended fifty feet above the Grand Canyon floor. You are higher than some canyon walls and lower than others. You have paints and a brush, and you begin to paint what you see on the inside surface of the ball. You paint the north face, then the east, south, and west. Finally, you paint everything visible above and below you. You move your globe to safe ground and step out to observe your paintings.
Walking around the sphere, you see that you have captured the entire three dimensional landscape. In fact, you’ve discovered the structure of your visual experience.”
Dick Termes likely may never be as well known as other South Dakota artists like Oscar Howe, Harvey Dunn or Terry Redlin but I think he’s a state treasure and from my 6 point perspective, his works are every bit as magical and intriguing.
See you “around.”