Ever heard of John Henry Peirce, or just John Peirce?
These are works designed specifically for the homes in this neighborhood, inspired by Spanish artist Antoni Gaudí.
The artist, you’ve probably never heard of. But he represents one of the many reasons that I love CenPho: whether you love Gaudi-influenced art, or not. You won’t find this anywhere else in Phoenix, maybe all of Arizona.
I don’t particularly go out of my way for Gaudi works. Although I’m a fan of Brian Froud‘s work with Jim Henson, whom I think borrows a little from Gaudí.
Regardless of my taste, these pieces are an incredibly unique contribution to downtown Phoenix. We have John Peirce and his son Clifton Peirce to thank for it.
Clifton was actually the one formally schooled in the arts. But after returning from Spain in the 1980s and retelling of his visit to Gaudí’s master works, his father was hooked. Together they returned to Barcelona 5 times over the next decade. According to Clifton, “My father had every book there ever was on Gaudí.
Peirce, the senior became an artist at the age of 56 and kept it up until his death in 2011.
But together, they tried to bring a little Gaudí home with them. They went in to the business of making tiles that fit together in to elaborate Gaudí-esque ceilings. Gaudí put these ceilings together, like this one at the Casa Batlló, using woven straw and plaster.
The Peirce version, as seen in the photo below, is done with more modern materials, but is basically the same principle.
You can probably guess that these were a product that appealed to a very, very niche market. So, the business sputtered.
What came next was what you can see now on the houses of neighbors, and especially on the Peirce residence.
See below for a whole stream of pictures from my visit to the home today. I was saddened to learn that the family is having an estate sale tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday from 6am to 2pm at 914 West Willetta. The future of the home is unknown, but I certainly hope that we can find a way to preserve this little treasure, which I am guessing few would appreciate until long after the owners are gone.
John Peirce left us a message through his art; a little whisper that you can hear only in FQ Story, if you stop to listen. He and Clifton respected what was unique about this historic neighborhood and added to it in a subtle and unique way.
For that, I thank Mr. Peirce and Mr. Peirce.
I can only hope that 60 years from now historic property buffs will say that FQ Story is known for its John Henry Peirce influence.