DESTROY ART

Destroying your art can be as important and productive as creating it.  And at any time in your career, for sure.  It is especially important as a student to pack away for later your old work, or failed work.  I have participated in many a critique where an artist feels that more talking and talking, and then more talking and talking will make her work a whole.  The work must speak for itself.  Always.  The work must ask a question in some way; it must never be simply an answer.  Simple answers are not art.

The truths in your life you will always remember.  Pay attention.  Ask any therapist about this.

(The following quote is from Teresita Fernandez, recipient of the 2005 MacArthur Genius Award, in a commencement address to her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School for the Arts.   http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/29/teresita-fernandez-commencement-address/

“This kind of amnesia is life’s built-in way of making sure you filter out what’s not very important. You graduate today after years of hard work, immersive years of learning, absorbing, processing, accumulating, cramming, finishing, focusing. There are no more reasons, really, to even make art unless you really truly want to. Of all you learned you probably don’t need to remember most of the technical or theoretical information, as that’s all easily accessible with a quick search. And what you will remember will have less to do with the past and more to do with how it triggers reactions for you in the present. Oddly enough, what we involuntarily do retain is meant to help us move forward. This forthcoming amnesia that awaits you is just another kind of graduation, another step in a lifetime of many graduations.”

When in undergraduate school, in a very early drawing class, my TA told us to get rid of our past work.  He said not to just turn it to the wall, not to pile it in a closet behind a door that you can still see:  GET TOTALLY RID OF IT.

(Again, from Fernandez)

“Not every project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected to creating. This will save you time.”

My teacher was right.  This impedes growth.  It can remind the artist what a bad one they are indeed.  The artist does not need that kind of reminder constantly.  I have said many times in the past that having your old art around, work not up to par, work that is an answer and not a question, is like living with your high school graduation picture hanging on the living room wall.  It stunts you.

That school experience is not my first memory about problems with work.  As an elementary school student, I read a story about a little boy doing homework.  This fact stuck with me:  that when he put his finished arithmetic homework into his desk drawer, the incorrect answers struggled with being on the page.  They pulled and pushed.  They were not united with the page.  It would be so simple if we had these clues.  Considering this story involved math problems, it was ever pertinent to my school experience!

The following are two pieces recently destroyed.  It felt great to do this.  It was healing.  My spirit died when I walked past them, struggling with being on the gallery wall.

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This piece looked like a bad mullet hair cut from the 1980s.

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In this case, and also in the next shown, the initial mistake was not clearly identifying the perimeter of the sculpture.  The shape breaking the lower edge is confusing and draws the viewer away from the activity of the piece.  I also should have known that the piece should die due to the difficulty of placing the lines within the  “square” of the piece.  One good idea gleaned from the work is the sanding on the zig zag lines on the right.  The one at the top has been sanded on its edges the most making it visually lighter.  The middle line has some sanding, the lower one, almost no sanding.  You can always discover a good thing even within a piece that does not work.

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Again, wonky perimeter.  Weak lines.  The hangers perhaps do not lose their identity enough.  I have had portions of a window as seen here work, as in the piece below, but they do not work in this case.

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In terms of destroying work, because of my philosophy of re-using and re-purposing almost everything, the elements of destroyed works become raw material for new works.  Sometimes there is a shape that I cannot get off the glass or the wooden frame.  I leave it, respond to it, and have an interesting detail that needs to be considered, but something in a place I wouldn’t have thought of.  The element is “found”.

So.  Two destroyed pieces plus additional windows and additional work equals:

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And:

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FEEDING THE NANDINA FANS

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Nandina (Photo credit: outdoorPDK)

So many people lately have been using the nandina pictures from this blog.  Hooray!  So as opposed to posting more simple pictures of the nandina in my gardens, here is how I think about the bushes in composition.

“Four Seasons” is the name of a work of art the late artist Marc Chagall gave to the citizens of Chicago in 1970.  It is permanently installed in the Art Institute of Chicago.  For fans of pattern, it is a masterwork.  Also for fans of Mr. Chagall.

What does “Four Seasons” have to do with Nandina?

Pattern sets up expectations in a work of art.  We see an organization of spots, for example, in one area of a painting.  When used in another area, the viewer says, “Yeah, I get it.  This is part of the same visual world, where the pattern is part of the language.”  The two spotted areas work together, or are unified.

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Identifying the pattern on the side of this three dimensional work is easy. The yellow areas of tile organizes the work.  The yellow is repeated all over this side of the mosaic. The repeat of the yellow is part of the fantastic world that Chagall presents.  Within this patterned structure, he can include all sorts of figures, and the strong yellow pattern will hold them all in place, no matter how different they are.  And above, the blue shapes of the figures are very different in size and strength.

Pattern serves this purpose in an area as big as the one above, but also in the details.

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The association of light blue areas next to figures suggest shadows, and serve to make the figures more dominant.  And also creates a subtle blue sub-pattern.

This is where the nandina comes in.  Having many gardens here, I use the repeat pattern of dwarf nandina to create a unity in the gardens, being careful not to push it too far.   Overuse would create a boring composition.  Nandina comes in regular size too, taller, and the use of the big ones can repeat the color and texture but not the size.  A mis-matched repeat.  All the better.

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This tall variety of nandina within our walled pool area always retains more leaves in the winter.  Have no idea why.  It gets brilliant red and is topped off with even brighter red berries.

Visually, it carries on a conversation with the reddest part of my tile composition, which is about 12 feet from the bushes.

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Some of the plants at the pool are physically documented in the tile, not simply their colors.

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The same nandina as within the pool area is missing more leaves in another area of the acreage, looking more like a Dr. Seuss creation than anything else in winter.

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The dwarf nandina below is in the same garden with the tall.

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To keep the dwarf nandina in little mounds, you have to move out the new sprouts.  Then make more pattern in different places in the yard.

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The tiny red leaves above are new plants.  Use them to create more red pattern in other gardens, repeating a theme.  On the other side of the house,  a new garden was planted next to the bedroom that was added on.

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The dwarf nandina has not gotten very red at all this fall, nor has the taller nandina bush to the right.  This place is protected on two sides.  In the tree-pee to the left is a pyracantha, which gets red berries in the winter.  This one is very young, and has not yet.

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Deer eat this.  It will probably always have some sort of barrier around it.  Along the back of this garden is cotoneaster.  It has been there maybe 18 months.

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When mature, it will look like this.

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More red!

POOL DECK VS EMBROIDERIES?

About the same in terms of work.  But different in terms of impact.

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This piece was done in the late nineties, and it relates to my cancer years in that decade.  All of these figures are me, and they are adorned with surgical scars, of which I have many.  Much of the work from this time was an effort to discuss the problem, and jettison it from my reality.  Not healthy to hide it.

The picture plane is about eight inches by ten inches.  The figures are made by satin stitch mostly,  on a fabric plane pieced together by machine.  Most of the fabric has pattern on it so two systems of pattern must work together, that constructed by me with the fabrics, and the pattern of the symbols stitched onto the fabrics.

I cannot paint.  It is too direct.  My shapes have to be put together in bits.  Like in single stitches in the above case.  They cast a slight shadow, rise subtly above the fabric picture plane.  This phenomenon enriches the color and shapes.

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On the pool deck, shapes are made also of bits, and color moves along by darkening or lightening the bits (pieces of tile), or doing the same with grout.  Or both.  The language is always concerned with pattern, and along with the interlocking pattern of the tile, there is layered upon a secondary pattern of, in this case, square brown shapes which are actual tile to be used for a pool, or open curves made of glass.

As with the embroideries, I like to build in as much detail as possible without breaking up the composition and making it unreadable.  Above, within a big neutral shape, it lightens and darkens, contains screen printed tile of beige and white, creating a busier area, and white rectangles here and there and in a line add interest.

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Terra cotta grout has been used in the area of the shadows of the pots.  This picture was taken when the actual shadows and constructed shadows met.

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I like for grids, or a kind of “organization” to coalesce in places among all the frenzy.

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Another area of organization among chaos.

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This darker shape has a pattern of bigger lighter square tiles, and dark orange actual pool tile appearing in organized squares.  The grout in this area will slowly darken.  White can kill color.

A CHANGE IN PLAN

Pushing for more windows per piece in an attempt to create in legitimate sculptural dimensions (recent works are still basically two dimensional), three old windows are at play here.

Worried about that, I called the contractor guy who gave us the windows in the first place.  Glenn has been threatening to take two walls off of our little storage shed and replace those walls with windows.  Love the idea;  worried about my window inventory.  Reminded Cecil not to put any old wooden windows in the land fill.  Meeting of the minds.

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Have been thinking about the spaces between things since the last caryatid piece.  Becoming more and more convinced that the spaces between things (old windows, ideas) is where I exist,  and,  as the dinner table conversation went last night, I cannot count the times my family coughs in a day.  Anything linear (counting, long term planning) is not my forte.

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The window that makes up the back plane of the piece has been divided into six tiled sections, where the window has only five.  The bottom section of the window is twice the size of the top four.  No matter.  The strong white tiles dominate and keep the pattern regular.  Wanted to establish a strong pattern on this plane because it will be repeated on subsequent planes.

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With two windows aligned, my attention turned to the spaces within.  Thinking about my first caryatid piece, I wanted to improve on it.  The universe did not seem so interested, however.  Notice that there are six sections now on each layer.

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The first idea for this piece was to whack off the heads of these little Italian farmers and their wives, which one can find in abundance at any flea market.  I wonder what the influence was for all these little figures that you can find in all sizes and are so similar.  Wanted the bodies to support the second and third windows, and their heads to sit on top of a window, with a side view connecting the body together.  After working a while, the idea seemed contrived.  My little Italian farmers will be used somewhere else.

Had found eleven beautiful little bottles with caps a while ago, and here are six of them serving the same compositional idea.

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There remains one farmer’s head on the bottom right of the base window, grouted in with the rest of the tile.  This head survives the original idea.  The little glass vessels cast wonderful transparent shadows.  My friend Betsy often gives me the remains of her stained glass projects, and shards have been added to the first and second windows to enliven the composition in a quiet way and refer to what the windows once were.   A snake like metal line adds variety to an otherwise fairly geometrical composition.

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Price upon request.

SHELZ

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I want to make art from what settles itself here.  With a shed full of old windows given by the friend who built our new bedroom (he KNEW they would find a home here by the rot and rust contained therein; the windows, not our house), they are evocative framing devices.  Yes, they have been used in crafty circles, but I mean to push them to sculpture.

Cannot say that sanding and painting is as calming and nurturing as my stitching used to be, but this is a different time, a different place, almost a different planet.  Eons ago when in grad school, my professor had trouble herself adding to “the crap in the world”,  she said.  Always remembered that.  My embroidered work was supported in part from the flea market—fabric and floss were often procured there, but the stretchers and frames were new.  Not good.

Windows and shadows, especially shadows are of interest.  The real and the fabricated.

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See the way this window frame casts a shadow on the cement floor of the barn when a light source is introduced?  This will be part of my imagery on the bottom frame in this composition.  I painted the brass element to the left with clear acrylic so it will stay bright.

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Dark tile creates the shadows on the lower panel, and areas of shadow on the frame itself have been drawn in with graphite.  All wood is then covered with gloss acrylic, making the shabby surfaces seem intentional.  Finished.

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Aqua tiles reflect secondary shadows. Original rope ties the two frames together front to back at the top and bottom.

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I may add another linear element across the whole image.

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Each window had a locking device on it, and I added more.

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MRS. GREEN AND OUR GREAT GOOD LUCK (chapter one)

In a life ever-pursuant of  “the deal”, some incidents stand way above the others.  We found a McCoy vase once for ten cents at the local flea market.   It took some clear eyes as it had been painted flat navy blue and was in a box of worthless planters.  It was easy to clean and well worth the effort.

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Cannot remember all we bought from Mrs. Green.  She was on the main drag in our little town and as she prospered, we followed her to two other storefronts.  Then she was just gone, although we did all we could to keep her in business.  In retrospect, it is difficult to believe that she actually prospered when she sold what she had at the prices she did.  I always say to people who know what their stuff is worth, that I want to buy from people who don’t know what their stuff is worth.  It is then that I can take a place at the table.

A couple of days ago in a former post (Less is Sometimes Not More) a hasty image of a framed mola was thrown in to illustrate a discussion.  Here is a better image.

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We paid $3.75 for this very complex mola which features a snake and the word “culebra”.  These originated in only one place, the San Blas Islands of Central America, and the best older ones incorporate symbols of American culture like the Coke bottle or cigarette packs.  There are lots of cheap, very elementary ones around now, and they cannot compare to these fine complex statements.

Mrs. Green had no idea what she had.  She told us that her husband went with his truck to NYC and bought “lots” somewhere (storage lots?) and brought them back here to sell.  She should have done some research, but the idea of doing that was plainly out of her world.

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In this detail you can see the stitching that allows fabrics lower in the fabric package to be revealed.  On the snake’s head there is simple running stitching to define it.  An interesting addition to this are the two frogs, one that cuts across the snake.  They are created in the reverse applique technique, with a patterned fabric in this case (molas usually feature bright clear colors) and then appliqued on top of the picture plane.

Compare this with a flea market find from a few years ago (and you can find even simpler ones in places like museum stores):

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The first image is 17″ x 13″, the second is 14″ x 11″.  The same kind of running stitching is used to define the heads in these animals too.

LOVE MY EBONETTE

Just splurged and shouldn’t have.  Could blame it on the “one click”  purchase  for which some company has the patent.  This is why they want it.   I have learned, for now.

Bought my first bunch of Knowles Ebonette in the mid-nineties at a flea market under a highway bridge around Ft. Lauderdale.  Emotional and knowing what I like when viewed, the whole box of dishes cost twenty bucks.  The coffee cups were lame, and I gave them back to the seller and she said thanks.

Already into mid-century collectibles and trying to recreate that old fuzzy time, I had much hammered aluminum, colorful aluminum tumblers, many dinette sets, old lamps that had shades like plastic with the same lines found on the Ebonette.  This discovery was just thrilling and it was a while until more Ebonette was necessary.

In the years after, I looked away.  Kind of like when the US was looking and looking at the Mideast, and wham!  China had exploded.  Well my china exploded in price too when looking at other things.

What I saw under that bridge and continue to see in Ebonette is amazing.  Each plate is a drawing.  All are different.  They are not like Jackson Pollock in imagery, but similar.  Their black and white lines are more based on a grid.  Another detail that expresses the mid-fifites is the rounded corners on each of the pieces.

I hate to think how many of these plates we have broken through use.  FYI, they are great in the dishwasher and the microwave.  Never even thought not to subject my Ebonette to it.  Could be stupid.

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When I realized how expensive these were getting, everyday use was no more.  Bought some interesting yellowy green ovals with with a granite like glaze and no mark at the flea market very inexpensively.  This is crazy, but they were too big.  We ate too much food!  That is the reason for the recent purchase.

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What to do with broken Ebonette?  What I do with broken anything.  Reuse it.

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Ebonette covering an old divided dish from the fifties, Ebonette enjoying the sun on the pool wall.

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ROSEMARY VEREY AND THE WINTER GARDEN

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Nandina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just heard of Rosemary Verey the other day.  What she said about gardening had occurred to me already.  Gardens do not take the winter months off.  They do not go to Florida.  They are out there in the world, saying something visually and should not look like “scorched earth” in the winter.  This complicates even more their compositions.  One has to think about shapes, heights, colors, amount of water needed, amount of sun needed, deer, types of soils, yadda yadda yadda, not even to mention disease, when something blooms, when something doesn’t.  So now we have to think about how something looks when it is not there.  Baaah!

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One has to be thankful for the evergreens.  They stay in winter and provide structure.   In the case of hollies, as above, the deer don’t eat them.  You can count on them.  Around here, in December, when we want them to, they express the seasonal spirit with their red berries.

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In these parts,  easy to grow and propagate, dependable in its winter showiness is Nandina, both normal in size and dwarf.  It cooperates and gets red and ruddy in December as well.  The Nandina above is looking a little worse for wear.  You are supposed to cut down one third of it each year as it gets leggy and new growth should be started near the ground level at all times.  Although it is nice to see the sculpture behind it, I wish it didn’t have that great gap in the middle.

Still on the topic of the uneven, you can see in these pictures that there are four hollies that make up this “tunnel” at the gate to the pool.  The two inside the wall are quite a bit shorter than the two outside.  I used to square off the inside bushes, and then got the idea for the tunnel.  It was then that I let them grow as the outside-the-gate hollies.

My tunnel is uneven and the two sides bulge with entasis like a Greek column.  I will meditate on whether to get up on a ladder and solve these problems.

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In another garden, see how leggy the regular Nandina has gotten?  I must go out there and implement the one third policy.  The dwarf Nandina in the foreground however is low and bushy and the only problem it has is that it is propagating all the time, and I have to remove the new plants interfering with the pattern that was set up.  Because of this phenomenon I have this pattern growing in two more gardens, but not nearly this mature.  It is like repeating a pattern in various parts of a painting.  The palm in the center here is good in the winter, and even the remainders of some tall lilies are still showy.  What is missing here to the back left is a massive group of ginger lilies that had to be cut down.  My garden is like a mouth with several teeth missing.

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See how the Nandina gets red in the winter?  New growth which is red covers the older leaves from earlier in the year.

MORE FROM THE ARMSTRONG LINOLEUM SCRAPBOOK

My husband figured out why the photos in my Armstrong Linoleum scrapbook are so difficult to re-photograph for here.  They are colorized.  Therefore, there is no perfect concurrency between the contour of the object and its local color.  Nicely done, they cannot be near perfect.

Every time the book is opened, new pages appear.  Now I know a little bit about them.  They are from the back of the front cover of Ladies Home Journal; the paper is very thick.  As far as dating them, here is a paragraph that is repeated often in the captions: “Your linoleum merchant will help you plan an equally smart floor, even though his (only HIS?) selection is limited these days. “.  So these were the war years, WWII, when these ideas emerged in magazines.

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The  marks on the linoleum and the red handles on the cabinets are having so much fun together!  This is an energetic composition led by the use of the color red which always gets our passions moving.  Love the Venetian blinds.  They always make me feel so comfortable.  I have an early early memory of slits of sun across a floor.

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Another kitchen/laundry room with a great pattern of glass blocks under the cabinets on either side. Look at the ironing system!  Rollers, or is that simply a water extractor?  My grandmother had one in no way this grand in her basement.  Although I love the idea of a “constructed” linoleum rug within another pattern of linoleum, it feels odd to me not to see all four edges, especially with that tri color border.  Look how it blazes!  It makes one wonder if color shots of these rooms would look at all like this.  The colorizing makes the environment all feel so surreal.  Out the back door window feels like a landscape from Oz.  During the war, maybe this kind of escapism was necessary.

I own this red chair.  Below is the difference in reproduction.  Other details are not true in the above rendering.  Look at the seat of the blue and yellow chairs and their depth.  Now the red.  It has been played with for some reason.  My chair is like the blue and yellow ones.

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So now I have a better approximation of the date of the pair of red chairs here.  Wartime.  Paid five dollars for the two of them years ago.  Don’t ever stand on a chair like this to reach something; you have been warned.  This one has been photographed in front of a hand painted wall in my studio.

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Another kitchen with huge doors to store tools, utensils, as the first kitchen.  A similar pattern to the previous two, but with at least one more shape added within the repeat, makes it much busier.  This room seemed pretty ordinary to me until the detail shot with the doors closed was inserted.  See on the right side of the open door?  A farmer’s field has been furrowed and new plantings are starting to create line.  A sky represented by the edges of clouds is included at the top.

OK, so the above image with the doors closed is really hard to see.  But as ART, it is so important for the time period.  First we see the agricultural environment, and then we see, with the doors closed, a neighborhood forming!

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Boomer heaven! Happy, happy, joy, joy the war is over and we are all going to be so blessed in our little spaces where as far as one can see, there are little happy houses just like ours!  Who wouldn’t feel that way after cruising through bombed out Europe for several years?  And who wouldn’t like to have a fabulous reminder like this in their kitchen?  It is the physical embodiment of what the government promised to all the GIs.