Saturday, March 6, 2010
Years ago I set out to plan a European trip that would involve a house exchange. The idea was partly thrift and partly the chance to have a home away from home, at least temporarily. The deal was arranged through a company called Intervac. At the time (before wide spread Internet availability) the process involved listings in catalogs and exchanging letters with strangers in foreign countries. What eventually happened was that I opened a letter from Amsterdam on heavy weight stationery (most people used the cheap, thin airmail type) that had a beautiful embossed letterhead and I was instantly charmed. I hadn't even considered Amsterdam but this letter sold me. I checked time zones differences then phoned this Dutch letter writer to see about trading places. In exchanged for my San Francisco flat I got a 17th century Dutch canal house on Oudezijds Voorburgwal across from the Oude Kerk . It couldn't have been finer.
It's sort of great to be plopped down in a strange yet inviting place with no real pressing agenda. As it happened I discovered quite a lot including an old fashion Panorama in the Hague. Surely this was the invention that anticipated the all encompassing movie experience. And of course the panorama or diorama is still widely used today in museum settings. Fast forward five or six years I am creating my own panorama.
My commission to paint a mural for a rotunda foyer for a home in Scarsdale, New York was one of those flying by the seat of one's pants experiences. Amelia Handegan is a designer who does not micromanage. She delegates and expects the best. I do love that, although, every step of the way was a learning experience for me. Fortunately I had a lot good luck. The luck was mostly in the way of finding just the right people or sources that I needed in a timely way. I met the mural installers John Nalewaja and Jim Francis by phone before I even began the project and they told me about Rosebrand, my supplier for heavy weight muslin that comes in widths of 26 feet. I found a studio to paint the mural in that included a carpenter to create the enormous stretcher for my painting. And all along the way there seemed to be helping hands that appeared just when I needed them.
Panorama translates into: see all. See all my pictures? They're all about the production of the mural except for the top two which are from the Netherlands,the conceptual home of the project. The second picture shows the viewing platform and a section of Hendrik Willem Mesdag's panorama installed in The Hague. “My house” in Amsterdam had a garret style studio on the top floor with a big picture window that looked out onto the city including the old church across the street. The mural in Scarsdale is composed as if you're perched in the middle of the West Point section of the Hudson River Valley. I was influenced by the style of the Hudson River Valley painters and I wanted to give my client a visual respite from the work a day world of high finance New York. The foyer has a small anteroom with a low ceiling where it's more densely wooded. You walk through this into the large space where for a moment you might imagine your in the bucolic country side.