The Arts and their Creators in Hinterstoder – Chapter 12
There has been a steady flow of people who have an artistic calling that frequent or are native to Hinterstoder. This has encompassed all flavors of art, from the graphic arts, to whittling, theater, music, and writing. Despite my best attempts to cover them all, I will not be able to do so as there is not enough space nor time.
I will start with those who are most familiar to me. The first would have to be my father, whom you have already met in this book. If you asked him what he thought of himself he would say, “I am a philosopher!” Indeed, he was a philosopher, in addition to being a physician, a painter, a sculptor, a linguist, learning a new language (Spanish) in his late 70’s, and also a consummate chess champion. This is how he saw himself and how the Hinterstoder inhabitants saw him, when we were still in Hinterstoder 1949. Since you have already seen many of his works in this book, I want to show you this painting of the Monk. This was inspired by the young Hinterstoder artist, Karl, in the early 1940’s, who was murdered by the Nazi’s for the crime of having Cerebral Palsy. Vladimir painted this many years after leaving Hinterstoder, while living and working in one of the largest insane asylums in the US, Peoria State Hospital, in Peoria, Illinois, with 6,000 patients, many of them classified as criminally insane.
A side by side comparison of Vladimir’s Monk left, and Karl’s Jester right. Both exude evil and both have piercing eyes that follow you. A little aside story regarding the painting of the Monk. Vladimir, at the time of this painting in Peoria, had developed hyperthyroidism, a disease where the thyroid makes too much of its own hormone. This makes the affected patient very active, unable to sleep, and “bug eyed” which you can see in the Monk, as Vladimir used himself as the model. He also painted at night as he could not sleep. The hospital director who was a bit paranoid himself spied on his physicians. He discovered that Vladimir was up most nights and was darting back and forth looking into a mirror holding a candle. The director could not see the canvas through the window. He concluded that Vladimir had become crazy, just like the patients which he attended. He sent the men with the straight jacket to bring him in. It took a while to sort it all out, and eventually resulted in the director having to resign, as he was unable to explain what he was doing outside of Vladimir’s window in the middle of the night.
I must include the artists who created Hinterstoder’s most spectacular buildings, two reknown architects from Vienna who built large government structures, including bridges that spanned the Danube. They came to Hinterstoder on vacation and were enticed to design three of its more prominent structures. These men were Hans Jacksch and Siegfried Theiss. The buildings they created were the Peham Villa, the Dietelgut, and the Turnhalle (Gymnasium) now used as the Fire Station.
Hans Jacksch Siegfried Theiss
Friedrich and Erika Neulinger were very well known in Hinterstoder, and perhaps the town’s biggest cheerleaders for decades. He was the Principle of the school, whose artistic genes were seen in the acting and drama arts. The above Turnhalle saw more than one of his plays. Erika was very active in one of Hinterstoder’s women’s groups that carried on traditions and customs of Hinterstoder, about which she wrote a book (Old and New Customs in the Stoder Valley) .
Here is a production in the 1950’s which the Neulingers were in, an early production of many which continued for over forty years to a full house of enthusiastic locals as well as tourists. Both Friedrich (bottom right with mustache) and Erika (top left) appeared.
Later in life she became fond of working with ceramics. One of her works she gave to me, and my wife Mary, in October 2002, on one of my many visits to Hinterstoder.
Erika is seen second from the left wearing the traditional Gold Haube (Gold Hat), the creation of which is in and of itself an art to make. Making the Gold Hat requires painstaking attention to embroidery details with special gold thread, sequins, and beads.
Here lie father and son in the Hinterstoder Cemetary. Albert Messany Sr. and Albert Messany Jr., both artists. The father was a Schubert singer (interpreter of Franz Schubert songs), a photographer, and an author. The son was an opera singer and director of the Linzer Opera for many years. I vividly remember the first opera I ever attended. I turned seven years old a few weeks before and a heavy snow had fallen that day. In order to be seated, we had to be in Linz by curtain time, 7PM, 90 kilometers from Hinterstoder. My father drove the old family car, a DKW, held together with white bandage tape enhanced with black shoe polish to match the black color of the car. There were actually mushrooms growing inside of the car, feeding on the rotting wood frame. Near the end of the journey we still had the Dorn Leiten to climb (a rather steep hill appropriately named “thorny path”) right before Linz. Luckily my father had thought of bringing chains for the car. Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) was the last opera he wrote. It premiered in Vienna on September 30,1791. Mozart died December 5, 1791. Young Albert was Papageno, the comic bird catcher who wanted a Papagena, and we had front row center seats. Tante Lisi (Aunt Lisi), as I called her, was with us. She was Albert’s sister, a talented artist in her own right. Both of the above drawings of her brother and father are her creation. She was a prolific watercolorist and wrote two books that were life reflections – What I Still Want to Say and Tides of Life.
Robert Angerhofer was an academically trained artist in Munich who devoted much of his time to Hinterstoder scenery. The two here are of the classic Hinterstoder mountain scene and the church in Vorderstoder.
Max Rieger was a contemporary of my father who painted Hinterstoder scenes and sold many to American soldiers that were with General Clark. The three here are a hunting scene of a mountain goat, the Prielervilla, an oil painting where he used gasoline to dilute and thin the paint to give it a watercolor style, and finally the well known and often painted/photographed Spitzmauer in pastel.
Dr. Helmut Schachner was also an enthusiastic Hinterstoder painter, adding one more rendition of the most painted spot in Hinterstoder, the Schiederweiher in the Polsterluke.
Wutzel schnitzen (carving wooden roots and tree branches) has to be a Hinterstoder specialty, as I have not seen it elsewhere. There is a folk belief I have heard since childhood that roots and branches that are particularly twisted, especially if they have some human like characteristics, have a hidden spirit within. The wood whittler can bring out that spirit. Austrian fable has it that these roots and branches can have a magical power that is transmitted to the owner of the root. One story that goes back to the middle ages is of a young man who was particularly enchanted by the soon to be married young and prettiest woman of the village. She was to marry an older, but very rich man, of the district. He gave that wealthy man one of those roots that would make him have magical powers, but warned him that should he get married, the first man to have relations with his wife to be would surely die. The rich man, not being the brightest candle in town, believed him. On the appointed wedding night he found a vagrant (the young man in disguise) to stand in for him the first night. The magic worked for both the young man, who got his wish, and the old man, who didn’t die. The rest is history . Below is one of those Wurtzel Schnitzers bringing out the spirit from the wood. Being a Hinterstoderer, I have my own collection of Alraunen (the German word for these magical roots and branches). So far I have yet to experience any supernatural powers, although it could happen any time. I just need stronger faith.
Two “Alraunen” both with magical powers, the left perhaps more wise and good and the right not so wise and on the other side of good.