[Photo by Francois Halard from Kelly Wearstler's Hue published by AMMO 2009.]
Kids don't pull crayons from the box because a certain color is in good or bad taste, worry about whether or not colors clash, or collect rocks for their provenance. Sheer visual pleasure seems to be what guides children.
[Photo by Annie Schlechter from Kelly Wearstler's Hue published by AMMO 2009.]
When it comes to creating a home, I think adults often get so caught up in trying to define their style and in analyzing what kind of statement they're making -- i.e., modern, bohemian, classic, smart, sophisticated, edgy, different from their parents or just like their parents -- that they loose the joy.
[Shards collected on the beach in Naples by artist Zuzka Vaclavik.]
Furniture, landscaping, renovations -- it's all incredibly expensive. So of course it's important to read, collect the tear sheets, and educate one's eye before making an investment. But at the same time it can be helpful to step back and save pictures of more abstract things: textures and colors that you've loved since age three, maybe even favorite plants or animals. Many professional decorators talk about keeping an inspiration box or drawer filled with found objects including ticket stubs, pebbles, seashells, bottles of nail polish, museum postcards and so on.
[Photography by Paul Costello, design by Miles Redd, art direction by Sara Ruffin Costello as seen in Domino, April 2008.]
One of the more popular concepts of the past decade was "home should make you happy," credited to Jonathan Adler.
[I love the playful touch of the striped modern hard hat on the classical bust in Chicago-based historian Bart Swindall's apartment as seen in O at Home, fall 2008. Photography by Roland Bello.]
Maybe the reason many of us can't stop talking about Miles Redd is because he infuses his elegant projects with such a sense of adventure. And he doesn't need a vast estate to create a feeling of wonder. While he keeps the furniture timeless, the rooms are always fun. (Betsy Burnham does this too.) Often the magic comes in with accessories, dynamic art, or an unusual wall treatment. Last year when I interviewed gallerist Emily Amy, we talked about a new frontier for many people -- sculpture.
[Image above is from Paris Rooms by Stephen Mudge, Rockport 1999.]
She said, "Many people think that sculpture can be difficult to place, but it adds so much drama to an interior. You don't have to think of sculpture as large scale bronze statues though...there are many great smaller sculptures that could fit on bookshelves or a console table to add great interest to a room."
[Photo by Grey Crawford from Kelly Wearstler's Hue published by AMMO 2009.]
To let go and simply look at shape, texture, and color, movies are a good place to start on a cold, wet January day.
[Photo via Anthropologie.]
Redd uses history as a jumping off point in his work and Janet Blyberg just mentioned how refreshing she finds pastels after Christmas, so that, along with all the pretty macaroons I've been noticing in Hue and Anthropologie's January catalog, made me think of Sofia Coppola's candy-colored Marie Antoinette.
(Also Whole Foods did not receive their usual shipment of New Year's Eve peonies, thus a Marie Antoinette viewing will probably have to serve as my flower fix this week.)
[Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette from IMDB.]
It may seem contradictory in a post about the joy of looking to introduce serious analysis, but I've been very curious to know what scholar Craig Hanson thinks of 2006's Marie Antoinette. Coppola wanted to avoid what she has described as the sepia toned look of many period films, and, for better or worse, she adventurously used vibrant imagery and 1980s music to draw parallels between the 18th century and our own era. Hanson generously took time to share a link that represents typical criticism of the film, then he explained why he, to some people's surprise, liked it.
"Whether she succeeds or not, Coppola was, I think, trying to find a cinematic equivalent of an 18th-century aesthetic. In other words, faulting her for not being historical enough is misleading since the whole project was apparently about finding a diachronic visual response. What happens when the 18th century collides with the late 20th century? I think the collision was all about trying to see if there might be some common connection (however loose in terms of a sensibility).
Again, I'm not sure how successful that project was, but I do think she should get more credit for the experiment than she did in many quarters...telling history wasn't exactly the goal. Yes, it may ultimately be eye-candy, but only if you think eye-candy was actually quite important philosophically for the 18th century (as well as our own)."
If you want to have a private weekend film fest of visually compelling movies that relate to the 18th century, Hanson suggests The Madness of King George, Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, The Duchess, and Amadeus.
[Screen grabs from Bright Star directed by Jane Campion.]
Interestingly, though, Hanson says he isn't sure if the films noted above offer anything quite like Bright Star, which takes place during the early 19th century.
"Obviously, different aesthetics are at work in the 1760s and 1820, but that's not quite what I mean. I think what's so striking to me about the Campion film even now is the degree to which it evokes a period when things were made by hand. My hunch is that it's difficult for lots of people to appreciate the Rococo (or even Neoclassicism) because they fail to see this ornament as the direct result of artisanal skill. Rather than seeing wood, bronze, silver, and gold transformed into something fantastic, they just see 'gaudy' as a category that they associate with bad machine imitations."
[Click here for the YouTube video.]
He adds, "An 18th-century film that slowed down a bit and juxtaposed exquisite beauty with the ordinariness of life (the strange juxtaposition of extraordinary dresses and [chamber pots] being emptied in the streets) is one that I could get excited about."
Dr. Hanson also recommends: liming.org and costumes.org.
More thanks to Dr. Hanson for sharing a link to a fascinating article by Suzanne Ferris and Mallory Young: Marie Antoinette, Fashion, Third-Wave Feminism, and Chick Culture, Literature Film Quarterly (April 2010).