Monday, March 22, 2010
Have you ever noticed how when you get stuck
collage is the way out?
You know how when you upset the apple-cart you find your way to a new order?
I think this is what adding a mural to an interior does. It upsets the order of the architecture so a lot architects find this idea abhorrent. Not the great modern master, Le Corbusier, he himself a muralist/painter. Not only does it not compromise the architecture but it enhances it creating a beautiful fugue.
Such a pity most of his followers have not learned this.
Of course it's not just modernists. Post modernists, traditionalists, you name it, there is is a dearth of acceptance, a lack of celebration of the painted interior mural. You know how I feel. If you don't have one then you're just camping out.
Oh, but wait, a tent is no excuse. I've done paintings for tents. I'll share that in another post. You'll be surprised.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Was everything better in the past? No, but when you look at the rich lives of Pompeiians you may forget that. I was too young or too immature to fully appreciate excavated Pompeii and Herculaneum when I visited in 1976 but we’ve all got a lot to learn from Pompeii. It’s possible we’ll never catch up since more is being discovered from this little seaside city once buried under volcanic ash. Even the 2009 exhibit at the L.A. County Museum of Art included recent discoveries from around the Bay of Naples that have never before been exhibited in the United States.
One of my first decorative painting commissions in the early 80s was a Pompeii style mural for an entry foyer. I was tentative and it showed but the influence of 79 A.D. got a hold of me I continued to express it in many subsequent projects. My last place in Atlanta was a classic bungalow that had been abandoned for years before I moved in. I utilized the pentimento and decrepitude with glazing and bits of imagery creating my own live in excavation. It was a great place to have fun with paint and no agenda.
Later I built and entire ruin from the ground up. I was invited to create a centerpiece for a table setting at a charity function. The event was a fundraiser for the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta and concurrent with the exhibit: The Fragrant Past, Perfumes of Cleopatra and Julius Ceasar. My centerpiece was scale model of a Roman ruin. It’s not based on one particular ruin but it accurately demonstrates historic building techniques and borrows from Pompeii in the recreation of fresco and mosaic work. The base is made out a wood box topped with a weathered piece of sheet rock. The building fragments are cast plaster of Paris, hand carved and painted with acrylic. I even made tiny pottery vessels that would have held oil and wine. Are you getting a whiff of the fragrant past?
Monday, March 15, 2010
In 1982 I was marbleizing and glazing and such for a couple of restaurateurs in Atlanta. When they mentioned they were building a house and asked would I be interested in helping out I was all –oh, of course, yes, and yes again after they showed me a book brought back from London called: Omega And After, Bloomsbury And The Decorative Arts. This was really new thinking for Atlanta at that time –to reach back into near history to seek the influence of postimpressionist London. I was surprised at my clients’ Bohemianism and as it turned out they weren’t quite ready for it themselves. It didn’t matter because I took the idea and ran with it.
Some of my Bloomsbury inspired work never made it out of my sketchbook but other ideas became painted furniture, curtains, a pedestal, a folding screen, and lot’s of painting on the walls in my little Atlanta bungalow. I did start a room for the restaurateurs but they got really cold feet. They were in no way prepared to live the sort of life Duncan Grant, Venessa Bell and the rest lived at Charleston. Ironically I adapted Grant and Bell designs for a condo in Florida. It’s a little sanitized but I think it looks quite nice in Hobe Sound, a wealthy little enclave just north of the Palm Beaches.
The Bloomsbury group and their descendants have become a growth industry, cultish though it may be. I have those four titles pictured above but there are so many more books on the subject. One day I must make a pilgrimage to Charleston. Until then I live another Bloomsbury life in L.A.
YOU ARE SO BRILLIANT.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The title is a big exaggeration because the half part isn't even close. It's not half a city and I don't even think it's really a village but that's what they call it, Henderson Village. Straight off the website: Henderson Village is a collection of 19th century homes and cottages situated on 18 bucolic acres in the heart of Central Georgia and located at what was once a thriving stagecoach intersection. So there you go. If you didn't get enough bucolic in my last post I've got still more. This was actually one of my most interesting commissions, another Amelia Handegan job.
I painted three separate installations for Henderson Village. Wait, actually, I created two works while the third was not specifically created for Amelia's project. She bought a series of four canvases right out of my studio that just happened to work for what she had in mind. I think it was kind of a brilliant move on her part because it saves the village from being too cloying, too period. My canvases are abstracts but they call to mind the wrought iron farm implements found in this farm country setting. Rather than iron the images are based on fabric trims from the 19th century but in this case scaled up, way up. It's not important to know that. They're just nice pictures to look at while you're getting looped in the lounge.
Later I took this same idea and proposed it for a Bamo project, a restaurant in Santiago. So that's the first city from the title. I distinctly remember the meeting where I presented my idea to the developer in the Bamo offices. The client was an international playboy, (no joke), who had flown in with an entourage to see me. Actually it wasn't just to see me but believe me it was intimating. I didn't have a big presentation. I relied primarily on my little foam core mounted illustrations to do the talking. They looked so small that after I pinned them up Pamela Babey nervously got up and explained that these weren't it. This was just a maquette. The Playboy and his entourage chatted in French and Farsi and maybe some other language while Pamela, the Bamo gang, and I were left wondering what they thought. The verdict: they loved it and so I did an even larger scaled up version of the fabric trim for Matsuri restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Resort, Santiago.
At least ten years later and I am revisiting the same idea for city number two, Las Vegas. Actually this is sort of a city within a city called City Center. I recreated the curvaceous abstract with a little gold and silver thrown in for the residences at the Mandarin Oriental. This commission came through just before the crash. I shouldn't write crash but you know, economic slow down, or whatever. Fortunately the budget had already been set for the art which also includes Maya Lin, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, a few others and me, all represented at City Center. So from down on the farm to Las Vegas. Who would have thunk it? Not me.
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.