THE STORY OF AN AESTHETIC

 

The following are some of the most loved things around here.  Stuff that shows its history is most meaningful.  Ghosts of things.  Things that have BEEN places and in others’ hands.  This little desk was in an old barn made of railroad car wood and was on the property Glenn bought in 1974.  It sat in that barn until my discovery in 2008.  I love it.  It has no drawer, but who cares?

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The little black hoof-like feet are original.  Just had to take a picture of it on the piazza we are laying.

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Some child, at some time, made stars.  We preserved them.

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Found this old aluminum lawn chair in a dumpster.  It had been painted many colors in its life.  Used a tool and dug into the last paint job, the black, and revealed other colors as I chose.  Then it was protected with a thick “varnish” for metal.  Where to put it?  The decision wasn’t difficult.  I have had this amazing ceramic piece for decades.  They were made for each other.

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The following two pictures are not very good, but they illustrate how I added color to the walls of my home when renovating, and how color is discovered in my sculptural work.  Above with the lawn chair, the same thing was done.  Scrape or sand away layers of color to reveal the color history of the thing.  This house was built in 1939 and a lot of life has taken place here.  I let it show.

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Below is the back of the house just after we moved it to our acreage.

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So, it makes sense that my aesthetic should one that celebrates the history of a thing.  The Japanese call it wabi.  Or sabi.

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BETTER BARN

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Changes are taking place in the barn.  The second floor is getting fancy.  We are going to have walls.  Glenn has his portable infinity wall when he photographs his sculptures down to a science, but as always, I struggle.  My sculptures are essentially 2-D and they hang on a wall.  The only wall currently big enough is in the bedroom.

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And although the parallel shadows add context when photographing a piece, they are probably distracting.  Smooth walls would be such a help.  This bedroom wall used to be the outside of the house.

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Looking up from the ground level, the ceiling and walls are going up.  This side of the space will remain open, as will the corresponding back, and Glenn will make custom railings for here.

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This is a view to the front of the barn from the second floor.  I have never seen gray-green sheetrock before.  It contains a moisture barrier.  Love the linear structure of the studs in building.  Often finished houses seem far less interesting to me than when they are a complex armature.  Didn’t want a ceiling in the gallery space, but Glenn covered my rock with his paper.  He’s probably right.  It would be messy without a ceiling.

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The railing that Glenn has been saving for years will switch from left to right, and of course he will modify it to be more artful.  All of our bicycles hang from the first floor ceiling and define spaces in an interesting kind of way.

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Now the sheet rock guys are moving on to the unfinished bathroom.

MAKING DO WITH LESS

But in an orderly fashion.  I did not know if this would work when first addressing this problem.  The idea calls upon good design principles, but what idea does not?

In an effort to cram more stuff into the studio, moving the custom made (for someone else) shelving unit to behind the bed seemed a good idea.

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Then Tex Beneke‘s old refrigerator and some old kitchen cabinets could be moved into the kitchen from the barn.  Want to make an old kitchen to complement the current one in the studio to further a design idea and get stuff out of the barn.

So what did we find behind the shelving unit when we moved it?  A whole lot of unpainted wall.  That original color paint is long gone.  Looking at the  big naked square shape left from the unit, and then to the unit in its new place, almost the same size,  can I work with this repetition, use another color to to fill in the square, and make the idea seem intentional?  Would the two shapes work together, even if one is a shelving unit and one is just painted?

(Something on my Facebook news feed from this morning was just brought to mind.  A delightful southern lady muses: “another day is gone where I had no need to use algebra”.  Amen.  NOT SO DESIGN PRINCIPLES!)

Below is what we found after moving the unit, and after I installed a faded-to-blue poster of one of Picasso’s “Weeping Women”.

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After taking down the old poster, the edges of the rough square had to be trued up.  Found paint from another project in a very light yellow shade.  White feels unfinished.  This yellow does not.

Think “Mark Rothko” when viewing this kitchen “vignette”.

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We viewed a Rothko exhibition at the Columbia Museum last winter.  Maybe that was where the idea of unfinished edges looking finished in my kitchen was generated (of course, there is much more to Rothko’s work than simple rough edges).

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Moved one of our dinette sets to be centered on the yellow strip between the kitchen and the door.  It also separates the two living areas.  1-dinette set

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One more piece goes into the kitchen between the little cabinet and the dinette set,  and it is now on the back porch of the big house.

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This mid century roaster will go into the new kitchen to give it the first oven it has ever had, and more storage.  Problem is, there is a nest and three eggs in the top.  Two Carolina Wrens are fighting the move.

MAKING ART IS HARD

Having lost focus on my big walk-in shower as life rolled a bowling ball towards my perfectly established pins, I have to trick  myself to get working.  If the weather is fine outside, the job is more like bribery than tricking.  True, in this life with little artificial temperature modification it is most important to do any job at the time that the weather is most suitable.

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Above is the message one has to fight.  Usually, not too hard, if the project interested you in the first place.  I had a friend who used to talk about getting through the “hateful part” of creating—that first twenty minutes (for her) of work where she was disgusted with what she was doing, until the rhythm snapped around and she figured out where in the paragraph of imagery that she had left off.

So Lady #1 is almost finished on the left wall of the shower which is about eight feet by four feet.  Her hair is made of marbles, and hopefully the rows in which they were planted will show up better with grout.  Except for the head, she is outlined with a slightly darker value of tile.  Those two white lines to the left of the head in the blue are the ends of an antler, placed at the shower to hold robes.  Even though we have no shower door, they will not get wet.

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The second figure, holding hands with the first is starting to materialize.  Color is slowly shifting as well.  She is pinker but duller than the first.

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For me, and this is true in my embroidery work and tile work, color is most beautiful when it is gradated from one value to another.  Or one color to another, in a systematic way.

Of course, the tile in this shower is waste.  That is the biggest “given” that dominates the project. Yesterday I found some small dark tiles that my sister used to cover her brick fireplace.  Cut off from the grid that one uses to apply them in the normal way, they are making great outlines for figures two and three.

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This figure has one arm that looks like Popeye from the old cartoon.  One has to look at how the shape of the arm cuts into the ground space behind it to appreciate its strange dimensions.

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IN PROGRESS

This shower of ours is cavernous,  almost  impossible to photograph well, and is eating a lot of tile.   Each of the three walls are about eight feet by four feet.  It exists within the composition of the bathroom so that getting away from it to photograph it cannot be done, unless shooting through a window could be accomplished.  Haven’t tried that yet.

With the size of these ladies, and my need to use what I have not not buy more, the plan for the shower is changing.  For one thing, the terra cotta colored tile used in this first figure was stored outside for some time.  When some of the tile is hit with a hammer to break, it does not do so cleanly.  It fractures into layers.  This tile doesn’t have integrity and cannot be used.  Therefore, the three ladies will now be different colors, but that new reality will be fun for me.  I love it when structural or material problems foster new compositional solutions.   In two areas in the shower,  two figures’ bodies melt into one another.  So the colors will too.

At the upper right in the image above, the left arm of the lady currently in progress turns into the right arm of the lady on the next panel.

In creating the areas of hair for the figures, art history is the influence.  Kouros figures are standing male youths, made by the Greeks to represent the ideal.  They can be grave markers.  Kouros figures show influence from when the ancient Greek world mixed and interacted with the Egyptians.  Many of the Kouros figures have Egyptian looking wigs, and those wigs are the influence for my ladies here.  BTW, there was a female Kore figure.  They are not near as important as the male, and they are clothed.  It was the men, then and for a long long time that were the symbol of perfection.

The wig on the shower figure’s head is going to be made of cat eye marbles.  The orange elements seen here are spacers to hold the marbles away from the line of marbles beneath.  That way, not only will the wigs have lines of rounded elements, but fairly even dark grouted lines between them.

PROGRESS ON THE SHOWER

Here is a picture of the element used to partition our shower off from the shower entry area, the one which makes having a shower door unnecessary.  The base of the structure is a couple of two by fours, and they are covered with cement board. All seams are taped and imbedded in thin set.

Likewise all seams on the walls of the shower are taped with thin set applied.  Then the application sat for a day.

Yesterday plans for the design of the shower came more firmly into view.  Of course, it has to be made out of tile and etc that is on hand, so I started pulling out possibilities.

At this point everything in the new bathroom and bedroom is very neutral,  except for the paint by numbers paintings in the water closet, but that door can be closed.

Below is part of the alcove where the urinal posing as a sink is located.

From this area which is defined by a wall of glass windows, you can access shower, sink and water closet.

The neutral setting of the bedroom.  To the left around these closets is the bathroom.

Below are candidates for the shower bottom.  I am going to use the off white porcelain and save the brown for something else.  The orange and blue will help create figures on the shower wall, in a real departure from all the neutrals.

As soon as I saw the conformation of the shower at the beginning of construction, I could not get Matisse‘s “La Danse” out of my mind.  I want to take this idea, and create a circle of simplified nudes, maybe with cubist faces.

This is so interesting.  There are two versions of Matisse’s famous work.  The one we as Westerners know the best is the less intense version.  This one came first.  The second version, with more detail and more intensity came second.

The version above was done for a Russian businessman, and it stayed in his home in Moscow until 1917.  Later it found its way into the Hermitage.  I wonder if this version is less known to us because of where it lived and the Cold War.

DETAIL WORK

When my tile guru was here installing the base of the new shower, we looked at a mistake in the shower area.  I laid the tile too close to the wood floor, was in too much of a hurry as always.  What makes a great artisan/craftsperson is attention to detail.  I am too busy creating things and justifying my existence to worry about the small stuff.  It is a  significant personality flaw.

Above is the line in consideration:  the tile is the slightest bit taller than the wood flooring, and if one hits the edge just right coming out of the shower area, the 4″ x 4″ could break.  There are elements that one can install while laying the tile that fit under it and lap over so the tile is protected.  Of course, we could not use that solution here as the work is done.  He said also that the big box stores carry wooden strips that can be installed in this case.  Glenn wants to make his own.  It will be much better, much finer.  And maybe make the mistake not so bad.

We had a similar problem during the construction of the bedroom.  Two of the old doors we saved for the clothes closet were a bit smaller than standard.  If the workers had not cut into the supports on the edge of the closet and sunk the hardware, the doors would have closed nicely.  They did not consider this, dug them in, and our doors lacked about an inch in making a nice closure.  Glenn added a sleek line of contrasting hardwood to one door, and it looks and feels like marquetry.  Good solution.

In my art work, I rarely rip anything out.  Making a mistake, and then altering the plan to integrate the mistake can foster unique solutions that would have never been planned.  I love working this way.

Above is the shower floor waiting for tile and below the walls which need to be taped with grid immersed in thin set.  Then the real fun can begin, although you can see we have already installed antlers on which to hang robes.  They are on each side of the shower opening, and btw, no door is necessary with this shower.

Above is the first shower in this house created with no shower door.  It makes no mess.  I have no idea how shower doors came to be so important.  It may have been a capitalist plot.  All they create is a wonderful environment in which creepy stuff grows.

Above is the second bathroom with no shower door.  All three of these bathrooms have a tile covered four inch by four inch boundary between the shower proper and the floor outside.  Easy.

EXTERIOR DOOR

Less work is required if you do two things at once.  As always, new gliders have to be integrated into the landscape both natural and architectural.  This activity is ongoing as there is always more lawn furniture to be had.  Concurrently,  I am making new gardens around the new addition to our old farmhouse.

For years I used an old door native to this house but unused in the house, as a dining room table.  Then that dining room turned into a bedroom for about a year.  The door was shuffled out to the barn.

The other day when sitting and gliding and sensing the new garden space, it occurred to me that that door could be used as a spot of interest in the new garden, which is adjacent to our front porch.  It happens to be red on one side, and I want to include lots of red in the new garden to highlight a red line which resides at the base of our front porch.

Here is the situation of the new garden.  Very blank canvas.  A satellite dish that will be a small pond has been put up on cinder blocks which are hidden by fallen tree trunks.  Cotoneaster has been planted to the left of this image, down the side of the new addition.

The ones here are babies that were pulled from another garden.  A goal for this garden is to use only stuff that has been propagated here.

In the space behind the single lawn chairs will be a pattern of dwarf nandina which gets very red in the winter, and a pyracantha that was propagated this past summer.  I am amazed as it started getting new leaves this fall, and continues now.  This stuff I will plant today.

Second job accomplished?  With the new door in red, and the red line under the porch, we found the perfect place for Ruth’s glider, which at this point isn’t going to be changed, paintwise.  Ruth and my niece gave it its happy paint job.  Since we used the red side of the door on the porch side, we probably will paint the other side for the garden.

USING OLD DOORS

The new master bedroom was designed around many accessories we already had:  the urinal which became a sink, old tile, old windows, and finally sets of old doors.  The whole house has a sense of age to it.  It is not shabby chic (hate that term), but the house retains and shows its history.  Good thing this aesthetic is fine with me, one who wants to use only things that have  already been used before, whether for their original purpose or not.


The cracks and peeling paint will be saved with application of a thick coat of something.  In its current position, the old paint is fairly fixed.  The darker doors will also receive a coat to shine them up and protect them.  The minute my husband drug out these doors last year, it was my intention to put the glider below in the new room because of the simpatico texture.  I am not at this point sure there will be room for the glider.  It would be beautiful.

These doors have been in the big house all their lives.  They retain their original colors and open to a big closet in the dressing room.  The bedrooms they protected no longer exist.

Going around the corner from the sets of closet doors, there is a door made by us for the private commode.  Glenn made it from wood he used and acquired for his former homestead.

See those lights on the ceiling?  We bought seven for a dollar apiece at our local flea.  Used all of them in this addition.

Above is the inside of the door with its beautiful patterning.  The old door knob works, and locks!