SHIRLEY “LEE” CSURI (b. 1927)
Orphaned at an early age, Shirley “Lee” Csuri was raised by adoptive parents, Caroline and Leo Eckles, in Alabama and Florida. At age 18, in 1945, she married Theodore “Ted” Meyer, and the young couple moved to Columbus, Ohio where Theodore started law school at Ohio State. A Navy Reservist with the rank of Ensign, he died three years later in 1948 in a training accident. Shirley was a widow at age 21.
She found work at Ohio Republican Party headquarters, and served as Executive Secretary to Dale Donavan, campaign manager for Thomas B. Herbert, candidate for Governor. Once Herbert won the election, Shirley Csuri served in several different state offices over the next three years. In 1949 Shirley Csuri enrolled at Ohio State. She had had a long-time interest in art and dance, and her first art instructor was Chuck Csuri, her future husband, who was better known at the time for his prowess as an All-American football player than as an Instructor in Art.
While working for Governor Herbert she had summarily fired several OSU football players from a part-time state job unaware of an under-the-table arrangement that even though they were paid they were not really expected to do any work. What would her football-playing teacher think of her if he found out what she had done to his teammates? Her worries over this incident were unfounded; by the end of the year Chuck and Shirley were married.
As a teacher, Shirley found Chuck “wonderful,” “enthusiastic,” and “inspirational,” not to mention “gorgeous.” Shirley graduated summa cum laude in 1950. She took up to 28 credit hours per quarter. Among her instructors were Sidney Chafetz, lithography, Bob King, painting, Paul Bogatay, ceramics, and Jane Truxess, design. For History she took a class with Ralph Fanning, and also took various courses in English, Geology, and Philosophy. She enjoyed a “very rounded” education at Ohio State.
After graduation, despite the demands of raising a family, she continued a very active artistic career. She produced hundreds of paintings; these were displayed in shows, private homes, and museums. She also continued for some years a long-time interest in dance, especially choreography, and danced with the first interracial dance group in Columbus. In recent years Shirley has concentrated on sculpture rather than painting. One painted wooden sculpture that she made for the Inniswood Gardens was nine feet tall.
Currently her output has been limited because of arthritis. Shirley reflected on the couple’s early days at Ohio State. Those were days where there was a great deal of social interaction with other members of the Department, as well as other Departments in the University. But such encounters were seen as opportunities for intellectual dialog about painting and other interesting things that had to do with one’s fields. Shirley saw both herself and Chuck as “intellectual artists.” Yet Chuck’s work is also very intuitive and very much about feeling and meaning. Her own work often reflects her interest in whimsy, but she insists that it also be organized and structural. Chuck found intellectual stimulation in the university from colleagues and students, but nothing seemed more crucial to him than his intellectual relationship with Shirley. Opportunities to relocate came to Chuck and Shirley from time to time.
They rejected a chance to move to New York where their friend, Roy Lichtenstein, was well established, in large part because of the difficulties Stephen, their son, would have faced. Financially such a move would also have been difficult. Fortunately the decision to remain at Ohio State enabled Chuck to explore and pursue his very successful venture into computer graphic art. This could only have happened in a university, and never in New York.
As younger members of the faculty, both Chuck and Roy Lichtenstein were very supportive of the controversial Chairman, Hoyt Sherman, even after fissures emerged within the Department of Art. Sherman and Csuri clashed over the decision to deny Lichtenstein tenure and later over Csuri’s interest in computer art. Nonetheless both Shirley and Chuck admired Sherman’s artistic talents. He was also very good at self-promotion. Chuck, according to Shirley, never sacrificed his principles in order to get ahead, but still was able to use his growing power and national reputation to achieve desired ends. He was not a passive man, and was not pleased with what he saw as the growing passiveness of the university and its undue devotion to the status quo. In his own career, as he pioneered an entirely new and creative computer art form, the university was tardy in its support.
As students flocked to Chuck’s classes and as his national reputation and influence blossomed, some of his colleagues felt eclipsed and threatened. There was a split right down the middle in the Art Department. As tempers flared within the Art Department, Manny Barkin, head of Art Education, invited Chuck to join his Department, an “incredibly generous” thing to do. At times Chuck felt that he had not been treated fairly by the University, although there were always certain individuals who helped him significantly. The leading problem seemed to be that the university didn’t understand him or where he was going with his evolving interest in computer graphics. Shirley recalled one painful incident in 1985 when the university appointed another who was a supposed expert in computer graphics, as a “Distinguished Scholar,” thus bypassing and slighting Csuri.
At a conference in London, he showed films that were made by Chuck Csuri but claimed them were his own. He took much of Chuck’s work, and in Europe published it as his own. He was formally charged with plagiarism and left the university suddenly. Nevertheless, his appointment at Ohio State was an affront to Chuck and Shirley blames another person in the Computer Graphics Research Group who wanted Chuck’s position for himself. More recently, Chuck was interviewed by Jim Tressell and indicated that all things considered he had had a “sensational” career at Ohio State in which the positives far outweighed the negatives.
biographical information provided by the following link: http://hdl.handle.net/1811/5936