Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want, 1943.
Everyone knows who Norman Rockwell is.  Icon of Americana.  Powerful title.  I hope this Thanksgiving and the holiday season finds you free from want.  If not, my wishes are that you find what you need.  We have much to be thankful for as Americans.  Let us keep the rest of the world, and especially France, in our thoughts and prayers.  

Hard to believe it's Thanksgiving, ushering in the holiday season. I'm STOKED! Much to give thanks for. A year full of much good in my life. I'm writing this post early this week because of traveling and taking some time off to be with family. By the time this posts (bet right at this very minute), I'm being an irritating smart ass, preaching sacatechism, belly-laughing with my sisters. A least once in the next couple of days I'll hear an endearing "I'm going to knock your head off." Several "DAVID." We will have moments when we will not be able to catch our breath and stomachs will hurt from laughing so hard. Then the kleenex moments. The Richardson Family 5 day Hallmark series.



Even though I'm attending holiday dinner at my niece's. I did get to have some fun in the hustle of  grocery store Thanksgiving madness. Betting there will be several "will you run and get me." In all my sixty years, I've only been in charge of preparing  Thanksgiving dinner once. I pulled it off. Four guests for an entire weekend. I was quite the host. But I'll tell ya, it's a lot more fun being the guest, even though my hostess (sister) can be quite bossy.


Grocery list stapled to paper bag, as it was given to me to fill for a food drive. I followed the list closely, complied as asked.  How unusual. Got it all home, set it on the table.  How am I supposed to get all of this in that little bag? The turkey's so heavy, it would bust through. Holy cow! Frozen turkeys could be used as weapons.  Filled the bag the best I could, dragged the turkey and delivered.

Going to the grocery store is not my idea of fun. WAY too much stuff to choose from.  Twenty different kinds of everything (sizes, brands, gluten-free, low sodium, low fat, etc. etc. etc.). Too many people. Shopping cart rage. Taking it all into the house, not that much fun either.  But if all went perfect, look how much holiday fun we would miss.

Cooking. I can do it, but I don't. But when there are ten people in a five-people kitchen, trying to cook a holiday meal, it's pretty much a blast.  No shortage of laughs, and "the look" (my sisters and niece have that down pat). I have the special finger retaliation.

Setting the Stage

I have set three different tables, using items from the house and my shop.

Since childhood, I have very much enjoyed setting the table.  Don't trap yourself into a mold, unless there are certain traditions. My mother had the pineapple salad bowl, and other dedicated serving pieces.  But the place settings could always be different.

So in making preparations for Thanksgiving, give yourself a little extra time to figure out your table. Look through all your cabinets and about the house and see what you can come up with. Be creative. Don't over crowd the table, leave room for elbows ( Redneck table manners). Use balance and proper spacing ( get out the ruler like on Downton Abby). Of course you have to keep in mind the different courses you will be serving.





Eclectic. Matching place plates, silver overlay butter plates, multi use glasses (wine or
water), cutwork napkins, and my signature Francis I.  Each place setting has its own unique candlestick, bud vase, and salt cellar.  All firmly sitting on the classic Saarinen table.





Started the base of this setting design with painted harvest table. Colorful linen tablecloth and matching napkins circa 1950's, gives the relaxed feeling of a picnic. Much less formal setting. Victorian ironstone milk pitchers with yellow roses anchor the linens. Mismatched silver candlesticks and sterling flatware make things just a little more interesting.  Wonder what the beverages are gonna be? Mugs and shot glasses. Plates are restaurant ironstone from the 1950's.



For the royal majesties. Classic Greek key place plates, Fornasetti butter dishes, Doré bronze candlesticks, Damask napkins.  Adding a twist, blue blown-glass Mexican stemware.  And of course, my signature Francis I.  Table ain't shabby.  Gold overlay bowl centerpiece ( just gifted to me) packed tight with white carnations, was broken and repaired with museum staples. Old repairs with museum staples give me goose pimples.

Hopefully I've sparked your imagination. Mix it up this year. 


I think Norman would have a heart attack. Norman Rockwell's classic reinvented.  Set your table so there's no room for phones and iPads, enjoy mouth-to-mouth communication.

Get out and enjoy the madness of Black Friday. Fight for parking places. Cuss the traffic. Wait to long for a bad lunch. People watch.

Enjoy the holiday weekend. Give thanks. Love your family a little extra. Diet next week. LAUGH!

Wishing you and yours the greatest of Thanksgivings. I'm sure having one. (Positive thinking.  Wrote this last week.)

video
John Zarra, "The Turkey Blues"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Changes



Changes (from Merriam Webster): To become different.

How am I ever going to keep this post on topic?

We hear change is good. How often do we hear this? Most of us hate change. It effects our comfort levels, securities, routines, expectations. It challenges our understanding of the world, how we live in it.

Change is difficult.  ALWAYS  happening around us.  France has just been changed! Heart broken. 9/11 changed America.  Both tragedies changed the WORLD forever, as have many historical events over the centuries.


Continual changes we accept. 60 seconds in a minute. 60 minutes in an hour. 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week. 4 weeks in a month. 12 months in a year. 10 years in a decade.  100 years in a century.  Unchanging formula of keeping time. Time does not stand still. Always propelling forward.

We change presidents every 4 years. Going to hear plenty about this in the next year! Also will be interesting to hear how they CHANGE their platforms and lies in seconds.

The century thing is a big deal in my antique business. Difference in price, condition, availability.  I've changed the subject. Said this was going to be a tough one.

Change is also a huge part of my interior design business. Another change in directions.  Trends (hate those, love ranting about them). Colors (throw all caution to the wind).  People's lifestyles (always striving for better awareness). Codes (hard as hell to keep up). Art (always on the prowl). Product demands (ties into all previous mentioned). Innovative ideals (always dreaming).

Pop culture is probably the fastest changing thing in our lives. Fashion, food, entertainment, celebrities, music, are the most fun changes. Until the decades start changing faster than you like. Then it's harder to roll and grasp.

A bitch of a change: the back and forth of daylight savings time. Twice a year we are thrown out of socket for about a week. Those of us with dogs get a harder bite.

Easiest changes: Clean underwear. Clean socks. New car! New book!

Hardest changes: Job, hairdo, home, divorce (most of the time).


Mostest hardest changes of all for folks my age: Technology. Just as soon as we get something down, they change that shit on us, or come out with a new model. So we have to hire newborns to keep us up to date.

My favorite change: Fresh, ironed, crisp, luxurious sheets. Wish for a change of income so I could afford to have a maid change the bed daily.

Changes we never get over: Losing someone we love.

I've experienced a lot of changes over the last 6 decades. Many of joy. Some of sadness. Plenty of embarrassments and disappointments. Love interests have come and gone. I've had several professional revivals and set backs. My weight has gone up and down, up and down. Size of my feet have not changed, but shoe styles do. Have to keep up. Shoe obsessed! Not telling how many pairs I own. Hopefully drugs and alcohol are a permanent part of my past. Gladly, time has kept me changing.

Clementine Hunter, "Baptizing with Lady in Orange Dress" c.Late 1950s -- Early 1960s. Oil on rigid pasteboard. 
Big change.

Yesterday I made a commitment to God and Jesus Christ. The last 2 years have been a spiritual journey. I finally understand. Beautiful and hard change it will be. I fall short all the time. Will need help. God's love and grace will make it easier. The changes I hope to see: Less hating. Less greed. Less bigotry. Less judgment of others. Less anger. Less jealousy. I would hope to delete those, but I'm human. Will strive very hard. Other changes: More love. More charity. More forgiveness. More prayer. More kindness. More faith. Many additional less and more could be added. Oh yeah: Apologies. These are my hopes and goals. All changes for a better me and easier life for those around me. A better world for all. Will be a struggle. But those two dudes forgive.

I hope the acquisition of shoes is not a sin. If so I'm in for some spiritual calluses.

My blog will not change much. There will be no preaching or forcing my beliefs on others. No evangelism. I plan on keeping my sharp tongue, wicked wit and sarcatechism. There will always be something to rant about.  Less unnecessary inappropriateness and cussing. The latter will be hard with this sailor's mouth I've perfected. As said, those 2 dudes forgive.

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David Bowie, "Changes"

Saturday, November 7, 2015

There Ain't Nothing Like a Dame

Last week's post, "It's Raining Men," was the first of a two-part series on portraiture. Today's title says it all.  As I stated last week, portraits are my favorite form of art, and my largest collection.  My dames are just as dear to me as my men. They have also been selected for their volume of personality and expression, not just their beauty.

I do have a tendency not to hang the men and dames side-by-side.  Do not want procreation.

Out of the gate with a genre of art important to me: "Outsider Art."

Outsider art was coined in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut ("raw art" or "rough art"),  which describes art created outside the boundaries of official culture; particularly art by those on the outside of the established art scene, such as psychiatric hospital patients and children.  The English term "outsider art" is often applied more broadly, to include self-taught or naïve art makers who were never institutionalized. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

It is no wonder that I collect and love Outsider Art. I relate. Connection.

 

One of my favorite pieces. Pencil and watercolor on paper.  Gerald "Creative" Deprie (1935-1999) was an outsider artist from Kentucky. The themes of his drawings are diverse: flowers, nudes or architectures. He worked fast. When he drew a human figure, he represented it first naked, then added clothes. He was fascinated with nursery rhymes and ancient places, particularly Egypt. A navy veteran, plagued by heart problems, he lived with his dog in a small apartment in West Virginia.  In his handwritten autobiography, he writes (in a very personal style), "When I do drawing I don't know this or if it's sheer fantasy on my part but I am in a polar position when I draw a picture.  I try to perceive myself in somewhat or somehow in a positive-alignment or perfect balance of myself in positioning of my art or in fact anything I do, I try to do in a positive manner."





Another Outsider piece, by Kit Keith, isn't actually part of my collection, it is for sale in my shop. Kit used oil on an old mattress. Would love to have this piece in my home, but don't have the space. It is rather large, and as you can tell, she would not play well with others.  Kit calls her "Ice Queen."  She does look a bit frigid. Much unlike Kit.

From Kit's own press release: “Kit Keith grew up the daughter of a father who was a sign painter and a mother who had a deep appreciation of antiques. Her parents’ influence is clearly evident in her work as she paints over thrift store paintings, old magazines, advertisements and other ephemera from the past. She is inspired by 'beautiful illustrations' and a time when 'everything was done by hand' when the convenience of a computer font was unimaginable. Her iconic portraits of elegant, wistful, figures carefully placed on old maps, ledgers and discarded papers are stoic yet emotive with a story behind each one.”


What personality this face shows. Oil on board, dating to the early 1960's. What a sense of fashion, and determined look, this woman has.  Artist unknown, found locally in St. Louis. A must have, keeper. Such heart in this work.  Bold composition.  What a proud statement by the artist in such turbulent times.
 

This is by a St. Louis artist, Zale Stratmeyer. 1920-1981. A member of the St. Louis Artist's Guild.  Not a lot of information available on her.  Do see her work around. Oil on canvas, mixed wax using a palette knife, building heavy texture, then scratched off.  Circa 1940's. Such strong features and expression.  A young woman with the maturity of an older soul. Really makes you wonder about her life. She is one of my pet pieces. 


Woodblock print, titled "Bali,"  by David Franklin Leavitt; born in St. Louis in 1897.  Pencil signed, number 10 of 50, dated 1937. David Franklin Leavitt was an artist and muralist of some note in St. Louis and Chicago. He painted the mural "History of Medicine" which was in the A.S. Aloe building in St. Louis, and several other large murals in Chicago. In the mid-1930's he traveled around the world and spent several years in Bali painting. He had shows of his paintings in St. Louis and Chicago in the late 30's. During WWII he developed the dye used to find downed pilots in the water, and several other air/sea rescue aids. He also designed the aircraft insignia (star and bar) which is still in use today on all military aircraft. He died in a US Navy aircraft incident in 1945 when he bailed out over the Chesapeake Bay, and was recovered several days later wrapped in his parachute. At the time he was a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  One of my favorite pieces.

When a collector is speaking about a certain piece, it is generally our "Favorite" at that moment. As the conversation moves, "Favorite" moves also. They have a tendency to all be our "Favorite."


Last dame on the list, Miss Anne Hutton. Painted by English artist Gladys Savie, member of The Society of Portrait Painters. Oil on canvas, beautiful, a tad aristocratic. Available in my shop.

Not Quite Pertinent

Cheesecake/Pinup photo (from Merriam-Webster): a photographic display of shapely and scantily clothed female figures (compare: beefcake). 


In 1943, Betty Grable collaborated with photographer Frank Powolny for a regular studio photo session. During the shoot, she took several photos in a tight, one-piece bathing suit. One particular pose consisted of Grable's back being to the camera as she playfully smiled looking over her left shoulder. The picture was released as a poster and became the most requested photo for G.I.s stationed overseas. Grable's photograph sold millions of copies, eventually surpassing the popularity of Rita Hayworth's famous 1941 photo. Grable's success as a pin-up girl furthered her career as a mainstream movie star.


video

"There Ain't Nothing Like a Dame," South Pacific

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's Raining Men


First of a two-part series on portraits.  Portraits are my favorite kind of art, and the largest part of my collection.

Portraits are paintings, photography, sculptures, or other artistic representations of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. The very reason I'm so in love with them.  Generally my selections are made more for their oddness or extreme portrayal of personality than for beauty. 

Today, "It's Raining Men."

Next week, "There Ain't Nothing Like a Dame."

Most of today's art is by St. Louis-connected artists.  Above, 18th century Italian, oil on board, is not a St. Louis artist, but it is a Cardinal (of a different type). It was purchased here in St. Louis, relatively recently, and immediately became my favorite portrait.  Unsigned, not much information available, but a fucking fabulous frame. Guess I shouldn't use that word when talking about a holy man.  Sure he's passing judgment at this very moment.  Such a pious look.

 

This piece, by Charles Allen Winter, has been in my collection for about 20 years.  Oil on porcelain. First piece I invested in after starting to recover from the financial disaster of being a drunk. A reward to myself for being a good boy. My senses were coming back to me.  Such a handsome fella, with a sense of serenity.  A good emotional investment.

An illustrator and landscape and marine painter who used bright colors and impressionist style, Charles Winter studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy and in Paris. He painted at Gloucester, Massachusetts and St. Louis and exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Art Institute of Chicago, and was an instructor of drawing and painting at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts from 1898-1901. He was married to Alice Beach Winter, also a successful artist. Born 1869, died 1942.


 LOVE the look on this fellow's face.  Pencil and watercolor by the artist Sheila Ellsworth Burlingame.  This was a gift from a very dear friend.

Sheila Ellsworth (1894-1969), born in Kansas, married Harry Priest Burlingame and lived in St. Louis for many years.  In 1929 she went London to study.  Harry died in in 1930.  In 1933 she lived in Clayton. When her second husband was killed in WWII, she moved to New York City.  She was a member of the St. Louis Artists' Guild, and her work is still floating around St. Louis.  I'm lucky enough to own several pieces, this is my favorite.


One of two pieces I kept from a series of male dancers.  There's something about this pose, the connection between eyes and hand, that conveys such a strong sense of his contemplation: "where is my craft going?"

Belle Cramer (1883–1978) was born in New York City; in 1906, she moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where she began her studies at the Edinburgh College of Art. In the early 1920’s, she continued her studies at the Massy Art School in London, and began to show her work with other groups, as well as six solo shows during her time in London. In 1939, Cramer’s husband took a job in St. Louis, MO, where she was to spend the rest of her life. Of the move to St. Louis, Cramer remembered thinking, “‘this is the end of my art.’ (But) I was completely mistaken; it was the beginning of a Renaissance for me.” In 1941, she joined the St. Louis Artists’ Guild as well as Group 15, an artists’ collective with regular exhibitions. That same year, Cramer had her first solo show in St. Louis at the Eleanor Smith Galleries.

Over the course of her long and productive career, Belle Cramer exhibited her work in London, New York, and St. Louis. However, it was in St. Louis that she found her home and her place as an artist. As publisher and friend, Joseph Pullitzer, Jr. described: “the freshness and apparent spontaneity of {her} work do not parade, but rather conceal a virtuosity directed by knowledge and commitment accrued over five decades.”

On her work: “I aim at a strong impact of meaning whether or not realistically stated. Pretty isn’t important, Strong is! I aim at an emotional expression. I aim at complete authenticity. And lastly, I let the color serve as a rich sensuous vehicle. Color is, to me, the great mysterious instrument of painting.”


 

I purchased this piece, part of a collection, from a personal friend of the artist. It is a self-portrait, pen and ink on paper, by Edward Boccia.  Titled "Double Portrait, Amsterdam, '87."  Very interesting how the main image is done in blue ink, the reflection in black.

Boccia was born in Newark, N.J (1921-2012), and studied art at the Pratt Institute in New York.  He became an internationally known painter and a longtime teacher at Washington University whose career took off after he met an arts patron of national renown named Morton D. "Buster" May, head of the May Department Stores Co., which owned the Famous-Barr chain. In so doing, May became the Johnny Appleseed who spread Boccia's work across the country.

Boccia was best known for his large triptychs — three-panel paintings — and polyptychs, many with themes related to Catholic mysticism, and described his work as dealing with "love, lust and life."
Living in St. Louis and working at the Washington University, he said, gave him the security "to paint what I want to paint. I don't paint things that look well over the sofa."



This piece, by Julie Heller, is one of my more recent purchases, titled "Trouble." You'll have to talk to Julie about the name. I thought it looked like trouble. Think it's pretty obvious why I was attracted to it.  Julie is a talented artist with a studio in St. Louis, whose personality is just as colorful as her art. Check out www.julieheller.com


"Ben." Watercolor on paper, by St. Louis artist Belinda Lee. Another recent purchase. Was drawn to this piece because of his strong features. Belinda's work has been shown in St. Louis' most prestigious galleries.  Known for her portraits in several different media and series, she has also taught painting at Washington University.

Not Quite Pertinent

Beefcake (from Merriam Webster): a usually photographic display of muscular male physiques.


From my collection.  1942, "Nude Study #3," by Jane Edwards.  This photograph was hung in a special exhibition at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, department of photography, Academy of Music building, Brooklyn, New York.  Great, artistic example of beefcake photography. Pieces like this are just not that easy to find. Pretty obvious as to why it's in my collection. 

video
The Weather Girls, "It's Raining Men"