DECO DETROIT

If a younger age, I would be in the thick of Detroit looking at the bargains on older homes and set out to renovate one.  They can be had for almost nothing, and the city is coming back with gusto.  Would love to rely on “De-troit City” as my center.

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Above is the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, where we stayed last week, built in 1924.  The downtown is full of fine architecture, but dotted with unruly vacant lots, due to Detroit’s recent history.

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This fine community garden is across the street from the Westin, enlivened by saturated colors of doors and painted over windows.  This is kind of a microcosm of what is happening here now.

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Behind and above the community garden rises The Guardian Building, an extraordinary statement of the Art Deco style.  The inside is a marvel.

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Repetition of colors, the arches, both Roman and composite, hold the overall design together.  Everything is intellectually heroic.

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How much serious fun is this building?  Wonder if this mind-set will ever loop around another time.

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It was a Saturday when we visited the Guardian Building, and only two floors were available to see on a weekend.  Not a half a block away was the Penobscot Building, asserting another fine deco design.  In front of the building technicians were packing up sound and lights, and police were moving barricades from either side of the block.  A television commercial had just finished filming when we walked by.  No entry on Saturday.

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I kept expecting Howard Roark to walk out these doors.  Look at the heroic faces with arrows just above the doors.  They look like hood ornaments on old cars.

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1937 Pontiac Deluxe Eight Convertible hood ornament.

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So.  Here is the lobby of the Pnobscot Building we could not see on a Saturday.

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What a shame.

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INCESTUOUS WINDOWS

Where should we start?  The very big ideas?  OK.

Artists do not only make art, they live it and in it.  Serious art reflects the ideas, attitudes, experiences and style of the artist.  These things are interwoven and inseparable.  And changeable, but usually the change is slow.  At least that is how it works for me.

Premise 1 in the creating of a style:  Being an artist(s) we don’t have the money that more traditionally employed people do.  We habit the thrift shops and flea markets, looking for shapes and textures and things to repurpose to live in our home.  We sniff out free things in the wind.  We develop friendships with like people and fund each other’s eccentricities.  Old things look good to us.

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To me, the base of this enamel table in our kitchen is awesome.  The lines and shapes scream the 1930s.  This table base helped me solve a financial problem in buying the tile for the kitchen, if you will notice the floor.  I bought the majority of the tile at a sidewalk sale at Lowe’s, but there was not enough for the big space of kitchen and great room.  So I laid tile “rugs” in each room, one under this table.  The tile under the table is lighter than the surrounding, and at each corner of the rug is a corresponding black tile (you can only see two black tiles in this image).  The rug tile was free, and the problem was solved.  The four black squares used in the corners integrate the tile rug with the table base.  The rug under the table is much more interesting than had the floor simply been one broad ecru plane.  So my finances dictate another way to create, and push a style forward with lifestyle needs.

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We needed a shed to house our pool equipment, pool pump, and machinery related to our sprinkler system.  My love of cheap metal (notice the lamp on the stucco column) led us to buying a used grain bin to satisfy these needs, and it was very inexpensive.  We love the little silo that has an apex that looks like the top of a Coke bottle.

Premise 2:  We live in a world that is using up all its natural resources.  This disposable society cannot thrive.  Many, many artists choose to make their work out of waste materials because they are available, are beautiful and otherwise would be in the landfill.  These artists additionally are making visual statements that describe our recent decades.

We built a barn.  Before this time, some restlessness inside of me accepted a whole group of wooden windows from a contractor friend who was doing odd jobs here.  I put them under a roof.  His work often was replacing old wooden windows with vinyl ones, and he kept bringing me the rejects.  He would have been charged to put them in the dump, so the solution was good for everybody.


1-IMG_0011We used 33 old windows for this barn, and saved a lot of money.  Their glass is wavy and beautiful, and since this is studio and storage space and not living space, they do the job here just fine.  And of course, this is South Carolina and we live in a moderate part of the world.  Glenn later added the cool awning above the entry door.

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I hope the case is made for the using of old stuff.  Here is where the incest starts.

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My daughter Brady, (who blogs for Lexington County, South Carolina at Everywomanblog.com and has a cooking blog at brannyboilsover.com) influenced by my love of old things, found this door of windows at the dump and brought it home.  Neither one of us are beyond “diving”.  She often donates at the Goodwill at the same time she goes in to buy.  She installed this on the wall,  and of course there it was for me to see.  A window on a wall as art.  Hmmm.

Some years later, here is my sculptural work.  Before now, the windows had many other incarnations as I tried to use them.  I was getting too fancy.  For me, for now, it is mostly about the interplay of the windows, and bringing these sculptures way out from the wall.  It takes some time to feel one’s way.

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Isn’t experience and influence wonderful?

OLD GHOSTS OF MOTION

A new evocative collection for Glenn and me, we bought our second “ghost” last weekend.  The vendor is a friend and wanted to simply give the thing to us, but that would have diminished its value.  We had to pay him something.

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We value what others do not.  Perfection?  No.  Complete, complex?  No.  Less is more.  Does it express a time period?  Has it been used, loved?  More a simple mass than anything else, this piece expresses the 1930s, with speed, and the art deco aesthetic very simply.

We have been talking for a year about this topic and how and why “the oval” was used in automobile and truck design in the thirties and the forties.  It makes one think of Eadweard Muybridge and time/motion photography.  And the Futurists in painting and sculpture.

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Muybridge did his work first.  In the 1880s he photographed animals and humans in motion, and described movement that could not be isolated by the human eye.  He composed movement as a series of “parts” of a movement, something that could not have been understood without photography.  A whole new idea.  And when there is a new technology, artists want to use it or define it.  The Futurists wanted to capture this motion somehow and place it on a picture plane (which today to us seems odd).

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Futurism emerged in Italy early in the twentieth century, although Malevich, above, was Russian.  It dealt with contemporary ideas of the future, and emphasized speed and motion with the new ideas of the automobile and the airplane.  In their images, one can see the influence of a movement in parts, or cells, kind of layered, one cell upon another.

This leads us into the discussion between Glenn and me.  Is an oval meant to be a moving circle?  The Art Deco Society of Palm Beach states that “technology allowed for construction to be built with rounded corners.  In the 30s and 40s, the design of trains, airplanes, ships and automobiles influenced architecture.  Rounded corners made buildings look sleek and fast”.  That was their goal, the new modern “fast”, made up by images of isolated movement.

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Look at this truck and the fenders housing the circle of the wheels.  Were these housings for the tires expanded into ovals, in other words, a repeated circle to express speed?  The fenders could certainly have been concentric circles over the wheels, and have been in other years of truck design.  Was the circle repeated in metal the way the Futurists would do, only not in separate cells, yielding the oval shape?

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Look at this old German photo found in Wikimedia!  I rest my case.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, but my research is not deep.  Harry?