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. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


"The Period Room is Dead!"

Attention modernists: note the mural.

Look at those painted walls! For that matter the rug is undoubtedly painted as well.
Even though it's mostly hidden the mural in this room is integral and simply beautiful.

I wish I could attribute this quote.  "The Period Room is dead!" It's was some shelter magazine, some designer, years ago. Obviously it struck a cord with me since I remember it. The idea is that you don't really want your room, your house to be all one thing. If you're sort of shabby chic then you better have some cool contemporary lighting. That sort of idea. Most people know this or do this instinctively in their own way. Usually period rooms are only found in the homes of the ultra-wealthy who have the money to assemble such a thing or in museums where they really should be. But fittingly here in Los Angeles where iconoclasm is the order of the day we have a period room installed in a museum that breaks the mold.

This is a shot of the Eames house (living room) taken on site.
The installation process at LACMA.

View into the installed  living room at LACMA.

Naturally I would have wished for the Eames' to have a mural in their living room because to me that follows the same dictate. You have all this architecture in the usual materials and finishes and then, what, there's a mural to throw things off a bit. Having said that the Eames living room installed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a thrilling sight. And in their day the materials and finishes that make up their house were completely unusual. The period pieces (Charles and Ray's own designs), are really only period pieces because that's how we view them today. What's so brilliant is the mix. Their furniture which owes everything to the industrial design and manufacturing process is draped and strewn with the quirky, crafty, and handmade. There's so much creativity and life in this living room it's really hard to believe someone's not actually living in it.

The Eames Living installed at LACMA
A closer view of a portion of the room (see above).

So for contrast I'm including in this post some of the Thorne Miniature Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago. You'll excuse my slightly compromised shots. It's just me, my handheld camera, and viewed through glass. (Follow my link for more and better views.) The arrangements seem stilted and as lifeless as an animal preserved in formaldehyde. But just as we are transfixed by the sight of Damien Hirst's vitrines these little rooms engaged us. The craftsmanship is awesome so that brings us back to the Eames whom I've no doubt would have appreciated the rooms for that reason alone. Then there are the period murals to go with the period rooms and so I am hooked. Brilliant. Even delicately hand painted wall patterns. Just amazing. Let's get busy people.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All in the Family

All in the Family

acrylic and dry pigment on unstrectched canvas/
40" x 31" / 2002

acrylic and dry pigment on unstrectched canvas/
45" x 31" / 2002

You know BAMO because they're one of the premier interior design firms in the country/world or because you've you spent a certain amount of time perusing Corbu's Cave. They're the San Francisco interior design firm that I've known since their inception, actually even before. They assembled themselves out of the Charles Pfister company and I met the partners there in 1989.

Fast forward to this week when I learn that another one of their stunning projects has been published. It's the home of Candy Chuang in Hong Kong and I'm very pleased to be a small part of it. A few years ago I painted a dining room for her parents whose home is nearby on The Peak. I been on the Chuang family yacht, even jump off it to take dip in the South China Sea. I think there's a strong influence of water in the BAMO/Chuang projects. They're cool and refreshing anyway.

Those are my paintings over the green sofa.

Even though there's just one page showing my work I've decided to include the whole piece from Interiors Magazine since I think you might enjoy it. If you're interested I encourage you go to the online magazine to read the article which is deftly written by Zahid Sardar.  Zahid wrote and produced the cover story about my San Francisco flat back in 1993. Meanwhile the cover of this Oct/Nov Interiors Magazine is a shot by Tim Street Porter. Tim shot my place for HG in 1990. So you see it's all in the family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Say Good-bye to summer and all of that. It just sailed out to sea on a container ship. Yes? No! I don't know why you say good-bye. I say hello.

Hello blog readers. Here and now I present one of my strangest commissions: a mural of the Charleston harbor with Fort Sumter on the horizon and a cargo vessel sailing away as a Gauguin nude rings the wet out of her hair. What the.....? I don't know but maybe this looks really kind of wonderful installed. Since I don't have pictures of that I decided to inundate you with multiple studio shots.

This piece was painted for the home of an architect who's well known for his beautifully detailed classical architecture. So given that I have to assume this rather eccentric wild mural looks great in its setting. Because if you have one sort of thing, a square for instance, you'd do well to counter it with a circle. Or you know how Marc Chagall's mural looks so great on the ceiling at the Palais Garnier.

This project was painted in 2003. What were you doing in 2003?  I had forgotten I painted this piece. But I dug it out to share with you because you're special. Maybe I'll be able to update you with some installation shots. In the meantime I give you image details, odd angles, and full views with ladders and such to give some idea of scale. The figure is close to life size. Actually maybe it is life size. What do think of all of this?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Answer

The Answer My Friends is Blow'n in the Wind

The View of Palm Springs from 8,516 ft.

120˚ F and gusty winds. How does that sound for a weather report? I just spent a few days in Palm Springs and summer in Los Angeles seems so cool after that. But honestly it was a wonderful little trip to the desert in the off season. One night around sunset I got on the Palm Springs Tramway and in ten minutes ascended to 8516 ft. Up there in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument the air is cool, clear, and deliciously scented with pine. I love pines but this post is more about palms and a little project from my archives circa 2002.

Studio view of my painted palms.

Close up of one palm.

My original digital sketch for the Palm motif.

Come with me for  a walk down an allĂ©e of king palms. They're gently bent from balmy breezes and they're rendered in sepia tones. Remember I'm a painter so the subject is always about something painted. These painted palms lead to the men's locker room at the Old Collier Club. And fortunately the locker room and the club are not the so often tacky glitz one finds in South Florida.  No, this place looks like old money, reserved, slightly frumpy, and comfy. That's pretty much the style of the architects, Shope Reno Wharton and the interior designer, Amelia Handegan.

Exterior of the Old Collier Club, Naples, Florida.

Interior shots of the Old Collier Club.

More interior shots with my palms painting installed on the left.

No big story here. Just painted trees. But I can't emphasize enough what a difference it makes to have decorative architectural painting. Framed pictures on the walls? Ho hum. A nice color? Of course. Is that all? A wallpaper in this space? Please. Yes, please. Sometime, before you it's all over live in a space with some sort of mural. Your place could be a cave, a le Corbusier apartment, or anything in between and there would be a mural just perfect for your space. If you don't know what that might be just ask because I do. I do.
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