Diamonds of wood spark inspiration from work of the often homeless artist Ed Lantzer

Allyson was pondering the next chapter of her life. Son Drew, 18, was at Creighton U. in Omaha playing Division 1 basketball. Daughters Molly, 16, and Maggie, 15, were busy with school, sports and volunteer babysitting at church. Allyson was a fan of the book When God Winks by SQuire Rushnell. In the religious classes Allyson was teaching, she and her teenage students talked about God Winks (I call them Godsigns) in their lives.

This March Allyson experienced a big one.

Allyson Cayce, from Libertyville, IL, and her daughters were traveling from Chicago to Sarasota to visit Allyson’s parents, our friends Renee and Jim D’Amico. The day before a Germanwings plane had crashed in France, killing 16 students. Maggie, normally a good flier, was agitated. Especially after a woman in her exit row, when asked if she’d help in an emergency, didn’t respond and was replaced with a marshal.

Allyson, sitting behind, tried to reassure her daughter. The couple beside Allyson sensed her concern. They volunteered that the unresponsive woman had been on their earlier flight from Traverse City. She wasn’t dangerous; merely drunk.

Allyson, who “never” talks to strangers on a plane, began conversing with her seatmates. The husband builds homes in Torch Lake, MI. The wife taught art to “volatile teens” (homeless, recovering addicts, ex-cons) in Kalkaska, MI. She was also an author. She handed Allyson two 3/4” diamond-shaped pieces of wood. “When you read my book, you’ll appreciate these,” she said.

The Mural Writer: The Unlikely Story of an Outcast Who Fulfilled an Extraordinary Purpose, by LaShelle VanHouten, tells the story of the late Ed Lantzer, a troubled, often homeless man.

Childhood scarlet fever damaged his brain. He couldn’t write or draw and failed math in school. At 53, he felt called to quit working as a home builder and to create panels of religious scenes. Using marquetry (wood mosaic, a craft he’d learned from his father), he dedicated the rest of his life to realizing Bible images he envisioned. He created 30 4’x8’ panels out of wood (often scavenged) that he cut and varnished.

Depicting symbols, he worked from what he called “sacred numbers” in his head. The panels are based on Sacred Geometry, or patterns sometimes used in places of worship, and involve mathematical ratios.

To have created such complex imagery, starting with one small shape in the middle and working out, with no drawings or plans, is astounding.

Allyson says, “I’m not a fast reader, but I finished 350 pages in 2 days.”

Knowing the murals were currently in storage, Allyson felt called to help bring them to public attention. The panels are supervised by a foundation Lantzer created, My Father’s Love. In recent years, they’d been displayed in Grand Rapids, Petoskey, Ludington and Marquette, MI and Evansville, IN. Allyson volunteered to help find them a permanent home.

In June, Allyson traveled to Michigan with 2 girlfriends “on a spiritual pilgrimage.” She met with the board of My Father’s Love. She visited several northern Michigan spots frequented by Lantzer, saw his decorative pieces, and took home a hope chest to drum up awareness in the Chicago area.

Allyson treasures the tiny wood diamonds she received on the plane that day in March, 2 of many thousands of similar pieces that Ed Lantzer sawed and used in his panels. Allyson keeps them in her handbag and feels they impart “special energy.” Of the challenge she has taken on, Allyson says, “I think it’s God’s way of putting my talents to use at a transition point in my life.”

(This remarkable story takes twists and turns. Enjoy the rest of this story in next week’s column.)

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2 thoughts on “Diamonds of wood spark inspiration from work of the often homeless artist Ed Lantzer

  1. Melissa Keiswetter

    Suzy, your site is so very smart, full of spirit, full of heart. I will take time to read your blog periodically in my maniacal life. It may bring me peace amidst the bustle.
    Our evening together brought uplifting camaraderie, intellectual stimulation, and much laughter.
    Your Friend,
    Doll Face II

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      We always love being with you both. Appreciate your observations about my blog. Smart and full of spirit and heart is what I aim for. (I know: a preposition is something you should never end a sentence in.)
      Thanks for your comments. I am honored you took a few moments out of your accurately described maniacal life. Stay sane!

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