Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Folks Who Live on the Hill

Looking over the precipice 1500' up:  Mesa Verde, Co.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's masterwork, Hill House, Helensburgh, Scotland.

Fall is always a little melancholy don’t you think? And I hadn’t really thought of it until just this moment but so are house museums because they’re not doing what they were meant to do, to be alive with people living in them. This past summer I visited where ‘The Folks Who Live on the Hill’ used to live, two house museums. One is actually called Hill House and the other, well the other was way beyond what you would think of as a house on a hill, the cliff house(s) of Mesa Verde. So in the way of a harvest for something that developed in the summer we will now take in some of what Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Anasazi of present day Colorado cooked up. Seemingly so far apart in every dimension the more I look at them and think about them the more they have in common to me. It’s a little spooky.

What you see on the wall outside Hill House.

First view of the house, the Firth of Clyde visible in the distance at right.

Asymmetry from every elevation, a hallmark of Hill House's design.

The massing of forms and shapes defy expectations, delightfully.

Inside and outside views of the main staircase.

Just inside the front door.

Two closer views of the main hall.

Margarget MacDonald's work blends with CRM most everywhere you look.

Margaret's gesso panel above the fireplace.

Detail of Margaret's work.

The Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, CO.

Balcony House, one of two cliff dwellings I visited.

The Anasazi'’s decision to leave the flat top of the mesa where they had been living, venture over the cliffs, and build in the recesses of the rock remains deeply mysterious. Why they left these dwellings in the late 1200s is also unknown so archaeologists continue to investigate this fascinating place, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I am not especially afraid of heights but climbing out of these cliff dwellings was terrifying. Satisfyingly when you’re out you get that giddy sense of having cheated certain death. Was it ever routine for the natives? Btw our guide for Balcony House kindly informed us before we descended into the dwelling that should you have a panic attack or any other kind of attack that might prevent you from getting our on your own steam a helicopter would pick you up, a $10,000. ride back to the top.

My photo taken in the Cliff Palace.
A  diorama of the the imagined life of the Ancestral Puebloan culture.

One of the ladders you ascend to get out of Balcony House.

Looking down into the canyon, something not to do when climbing up.

A section view of the mesa. The dwelling is the small notch near the top.

There's written and there's verbal too.

A earth view of Mesa Verde. It's slightly right of center.

And tell me, what did you do this summer?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Enchanted Forrest

The Enchanted Forest
Jackson Pollock 1947 
Kia..what?  It had been a while since I’d created a commission for the interior designer, Amelia Handegan, and as if to make up for lost time this was a big one, a large mural and several paintings for the River Course Country Club on Kiawah Island. 

Four panels from my Kiawah mural

19th c. Japanese folding screen

My original rough sketch ready to be faxed.

First version watercolor rendering for mural.

Second version watercolor rendering for mural.

It was a short cold winter day ending in that kind of absolute darkness you only experience far from light pollution, the night lights of city living that I’m so accustomed to.  All the roads were lonely, mostly deserted, so I had no choice but to trust the directions that sent me further into oblivion. By the time my rental car reached the Island I was practically giddy with anxiety. But a beautiful cottage, stocked with food, cozy and inviting, restored me after my transcontinental flight and ramble in the car. I was here in the low country to meet Amelia and Leonard Long, the developer, to find out what they had in mind, to pass muster, and to make a proposal on the spot. All went well and I was sent back to my California studio to create.

Above: various views of one side of my mural installed.
 “Just get it up, get it up!” If memory serves that’s what Amelia told the installers when she saw my mural unrolled. If it’s on the wall she reasoned there’d be no turning back. The developers wouldn’t be able to reject my work as she felt they might. Too radical? Not country club enough? Probably. I’m not sure. Anyway, not only am I not a landscape painter but my background is purely fine art/ art school, no special training in painting technique. The work is essential made up of abstract expressionist gestural painting mark making and washes. Who does that? Well, a lot of people, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, even traditional Japanese brush and ink painting but not the sort of thing you see in local South Carolina artist where grass always means green and the sky is sky blue. That’s exactly what they got for the additional paintings, not part of my commission as it turned out.

A professional shot looking straight down the hall,
my mural on either side.

Above: view of the mural on the opposite wall,
including details for comparison to the Ab Ex's.

Helen Frankenthaler, Barometer, 1992

Painted in 2006 by 2010 all went up in smoke. Well no, they saved the blue and green paintings but my mural and the structure: a total loss.  Looking back over the photos my work still looks good to me and it lead to a number of other commissions. The project nurtured my intuitive sense of Wabi-sabi, to trust my instincts, and let go on a big scale. The wild low country landscape is part of my DNA at this point, a metaphor for much in life, our lack of control in the grand scheme of things: Nature with a capitol N as Frank Lloyd Wright was fond of saying.

The finished clubhouse above and the beautiful disaster below.

A couple of my reference photos, the imagery that became my mural.

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

We're all gonna die

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