Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Day in Court

Marie Antoinette. Did she ever get her day in court?
A print I found in Linda's office.

Last week I drove up to Santa Barbara and ended up in court. But I'm innocent I tell you! I had an appointment to meet Linda Chase, an interior designer who's in Summerland just a bit south of Santa Barbara. Arriving early for our date I had a little lunch, explored the Santa Barbara Museum: very nice, then walked around the corner where I discovered the extraordinary courthouse building. OK I confess. I knew it was there. I'd been to it many years ago. It's one of those beautifully designed buildings that beckons you: come closer, come inside. So I did.

Santa Barbara Courthouse
Come closer to the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
What a court room!
Not your typical ceiling unless you are in the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
Looking  down the spiral staircase.
Looking up the spiral staircase.
Same spiral staircase. The stencil colors appear different to my camera due to the lantern.
Obviously the style is inspired by the Spanish Missions that predate the history of California as a state. Mission buildings usually have somewhat plain exteriors, smooth and white, stark against the often brilliant blue California skies. And like most missions the interior of the courthouse is dim but ornately decorated. Beautiful painted decorations. The motifs owe something to the Renaissance but this is the new world so the influence of native Americans is strongly in evidence. I really think it's the new world people who give the work it's exuberant punch.

The Ponce, Atlanta circa 1950
The exterior of The Ponce in Atlanta.
You enter under a low slung canopy and make your way to the back of the lobby which opens into tall grand space.
Tiffany ceiling of The Ponce lobby.
Panning down from the stained glass ceiling.
Stenciling in the cove. Lot's of gilding and glazing here too.
Stenciling, gilding, polychroming and glazing in the mezzanine.
I still have some of the stencils used at The Ponce!
Marbleizing painted to match some existing scagliola.
Kristen Marooney and Shane Robuck of Robuck and Company in The Ponce!

I would say the closest I've ever come to a project like the Santa Barbara Courthouse where architecture and decorative painting seem so dependant on one another is The Ponce in Atlanta,GA. That was 1981. A restoration? Perhaps it's more accurate to call it a recreation project because most every surface was primed white when I began. It was months of stenciling, gilding, glazing, and marbleizing. Coincidentally I recently met (online) an Antique dealer, Kristen Marooney, whose partner lives in the Ponce. Their company portrait uses my work as a backdrop. I love seeing that because it gives life to the place. When I was working in it there were no residents.  Kristen's choice of brilliant raspberry couldn't be more wonderful, just what the Ponce needs, a little jolt to it's Edwardian pedigree. 

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