After I built this website, my brother Steve in Missouri was puzzled, and I'm not sure he really believed I knew how to paint or create websites--and then there is the suspicion that he really never really knows what I do out here in California. So just for him, I painted this view of Lanes Prairie, a gorgeous area where our grandparents-(click here) spent their first few years of marriage--The Old Bowles Place. They rented the house and farmed the land until they moved to my great-grandfather's farm a few miles away. William Hearst Bowles was one of the backbones of the county at the turn of the century-(click here), and Lane's Prairie in Maries County, to me, is idyllic. It evokes the feeling of blowing grass and flowering lezpedesa , with creeks to sit by, and plenty of blackberries and cornbread for dinner. My dad's diary from high school talks about ice skating on the ponds in winter. My brothers and I visited this area, a couple of years ago...and when the world seems too crowded, I think, well, maybe Lanes Prairie will remain the same.
I finished a biography of the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and wrote a review here . The book was a good background on couture in Paris in the early 20th century. How Schiaparelli was able to accomplish so much with no training was inspirational. But I also felt a kinship with others in the book. In 1945 the fashion industry rallied after the war, and decided to create 220- 27" models to promote their clothing overseas since they had no supplies or money to put on fashion shows. More than 50 French Couture houses participated--making everything to scale. 100,000 came to see these models as they traveled throughout the U.S. and orders were made for the designs. It signaled the survival of the fashion industry in Paris, and an end to wartime clothing. How wonderful it would have been to participate in that effort back then. Eliane Bonabel coordinated the whole event and designed and helped build the models. It was called the "Theatre de la Mode."
Today it seems difficult to separate these type of models from dolls. I have no interest in creating dolls, but I do love to work with fabric and design on models-- I notice many designers, SarahBurton at McQueen for instance, keep these 1/3 sized figures for designing on a smaller scale. I've made a few of these, and will continue to make more when I find supplies. I've found upholstery ends from the SF Design Center, and Italian Talbot Tie ends in Carmel Valley. I'm always on the lookout for good Italian fabrics just like anyone else. And maybe someday I'll get up to the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington State to see what is left of the "Theatre de la Mode."
David and I heard the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Sunday at Bing Concert Hall. It was their twenty-fifth anniversary, with works by Hayden, Adams, and Beethoven. The composer John Adams was there to talk about his new composition! So prolific. See here. He said he felt like a chihuahua between two great danes on the program, but to me his composition was so much more interesting, since he totally engaged all four instruments. And of course, it was more modern. Plus he mentioned he used software for one of the small themes of the quartet to actually take parts of a Beethoven piano sonata and turn it around, manipulate it, and then have it stand as a part of the string quartet. I first visualized this as Marcel Duchamp's cubist, "Nude Descending Staircase," although I guess finding the sonata would be more like finding something you recognize in a painting that you didn't expect, not a full composition mixed up. I wish I could do this with a painting... A real journey that could be a painting in motion...When I listen to this particular Adams music, I am drawn to a landscape, and feeling the hike as I walk through that landscape. I could work hard to follow the original pattern of the Quartet (and be quite lost unless I listened to it many times) which is enjoyable, OR I can think of the path of the hike through the landscape as I listen -- to stumble or find. This mode of searching ties me to the process of painting. You listen to Adams' piece, you'll need to wait till later next year, when Adams has finished his tour. Until then you can listen to Adams first Quartet here . There are other examples of travel tied to music and painting: Hockney created music sets for his car with cameras, and then took friends for convertible rides through Southern California. Also Hiroshige's "53 Stations of the Toikaido" are another example-- see woodcuts here.
Next project (skipping over three or four that aren't finished, but I'll come back to these sometime, surely), is a sculpture, an image of someone dancing in air. I want to make it out of sawdust and linen. Barry Flanagan's rabbits inspire me to capture that motion-in-flight feeling. And I started wondering if anyone had created sculptures in sawdust and linen before. Online I found little rolled bags of sawdust and linen which were wrapped with mummies. This along with salt and resin was used for embalming (quick, get that image out of my mind). My mummy will be dancing. I also found strange little linen sculptures at Fort Mason last year, and I'm sure that had some impact on me. One way to go would be to make smooth linen-sawdust filled river rocks and spear them with a copper rod (but would that have motion?). I also thought of those blue guys, the "Mummenschanz" dance troup--helping me capture the thought. The dancer will be 4 x 2 feet, plus the wooden/copper base is 3 x 1 feet. I love the idea of making the pattern, sewing it together and then filling. I'm sure I will think of more references in this beautiful January California light.
During the holidays, I had the chance to compare fabric painted over the centuries and think about how types of fabric reflect light differently. Silk, wool, cotton and even the color of each or how they're draped make such a difference. I was surpised however, that generally, techniques didn't change that much over time. Looking at the Rembrandt painting below (1634), I can assume the fabric is cotton voile...and all the interesting folds are captured with (his equivalent of) Titanium White and Payne's Gray. Of course, Rembrandt also captures the reflection on her right cheek of the light from the collar bouncing back on her, the neck shadow shows through the voile, and even the individual eyebrow hairs are there. When you get close to this painting...I must say, it almost looks easy, and then when you back away, you think, "whoa, how did that ruff start looking so real?" Not to mention the complex feeling expressed in the woman's lips and eyes...but I digress. I love the way Rembrandt always adds a touch of white to the lower eyelid and on the nose. And how crisp that little bit of white makes the outer edges of her bonnet and edges of the ruff. Still digressing...It makes me want to ask, "and how did they wash and iron those things?"