Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Flash Back Friday

[Liza Ryan, Exploded Moment

Here's one for the road. To be inspired by more of Los Angeles-based Ryan’s work, check out the very budget-friendly softcover book, Liza Ryan: Fragment published by the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins in conjunction with a 2012 exhibition. Fun fact: in the past few years the Museum has received many props for their outstanding art publications.


Similar Angle

Pattern within pattern: I think that's how I would sum up Lee Jofa's African-inspired, heavy-duty cotton-linen upholstery fabric, Hakan. Pictured here in indigo, it reads a bit like a stripe but each stripe is composed of geometrics and some of these angular shapes are composed of dots that, for me, suggest traditional African beadwork. The dots and spots also make me think of an animal print.

But apparently in the design of this 20th-century cloth from the Republic of Cameroon, it's the triangular patterns (more pattern within pattern) that likely relate to a leopard's coat. The resist-dyed indigo prestige piece is part of the extensive African Art collection at the Birmingham Museum of Art. If you visit this summer, you'll find a freshly renovated African Gallery housing not only the BMA's permanent treasures but also some special loans -- Moroccan jewelry and East African beadwork, for example.

[Susan Taylor as Model (detail) by Ken Ramsay, via VMFA]

BTW, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (a Blue Star Museum offering free summer admission to military families) currently has on view two exhibitions that explore African and African-American style and art: Posing Beauty and States of Change in Africa.


Earth Bound

[Photo by Mario Testino, Vogue, June 2014]

In the new Vogue there's an earth-tones-themed story with a nod to Gloria Steinem, edited by Camilla Nickerson.

[Click to enlarge]
You know, earthy golds and orange-y reds filled Steinem's real-life circa 1970 brownstone, too. And apparently she is another icon of the era who decorated with scarves, embracing all-over pattern. Remember Lee Radziwill's walls covered with lacquered Sicilian scarves? According to Barbara Plumb, author of Horst Interiors, Steinem's warm apartment alcove was swathed with Indian examples.

[Photo by Horst from Horst Interiors]

If you're only up for swathing a summer garden table with spicy-hued fabrics, these Laureline napkins and tablecloths from Les Indiennes' previously discussed artisanal Kalamkari Collection could be the answer.


Connecting Lines

[Festival Feast by Eskayel]

After the Joni experience, I started searching iTunes and Netflix for anything loosely related to those Southern California sounds of the late 60s and early 70s. Eventually, I stumbled upon the recent Eagles rockumentary.

[Shamins Smoke by Eskayel]

No, on the visual front, it's not filled with the same sort of inspiration laced throughout Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind, but some of the band's album cover art -- the examples tinged with mystery and Native American-inspired imagery, make my mind drift to contemporary Brooklyn-based Eskayel's fabrics, specifically The Frontier Collection.

[Circa 1850. Wool; tapestry weave. The Weisel Family Art Foundation. Image via the de Young.]

The lines in Eskayel's designs sort of recall the geometrics of the old textiles currently on view in the de Young's show, Lines on the Horizon: Native American Art from the Weisel Family Collection, but the New York studios' s dreamy, kaleidoscopic color bleeds also evoke Western sunsets.


Get the Picture

 [Matisse's photograph of his assistant, Lydia Delectorskaya, circa 1935.]

At the moment, there's a charcoal-and-white mitered-stripe maxi dress hanging near the entrance to J. Crew, Lexox Square. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be shown online but the dress has a cut-in neckline (albeit sans flowing tie) that makes it just the thing to channel Lydia this summer.

[Update 5.21.14: Here's the blue-and-white option in the catalog.]
So now all that's missing are the Monstera leaves from Whole Foods,  an armless provencial chaise layered with fabrics and an easel.

This one from English Country Antiques isn't pre-war, it's midcentury, but the paint splatters appeal to me.

Dick Blick has a more affordable option: this easily portable, bamboo, French sketchbox-style easel.

For more on Matisse's assistants and how they helped the artist execute his cut-outs, take a look at this BBC documentary.

And to see how William Pahlmann Associates once took inspiration from art supplies, check out Tools of the Trade.


Textile Scout™

[Detail images are from the VMFA's monumental catalogue, The Arts of India, by Joseph M. Dye III.]

Think of it as the late-18th-century equivalent of royal wedding coverage (or, looking at the crop tops, flowing maxi skirts and musical instruments, an earlier era's version of festival instagrams.)

Represented here is a rumal or square, embroidered ceremonial cloth depicting a royal Hindu wedding. Believed to have been designed by a court painter and executed by palace embroiderers, this cloth is a really exceptional example. Today you can find it at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts along with one of the most extensive collections of South Asian and Himalayan arts in the U.S.

Notice all of the striped pants worn by the musicians and other members of the entourage? There's just a terrific sense of decorative pattern repeated throughout the entire scene. Horses are spotted, flowers are abstracted and surprisingly mod in appearance, and of course the maharaja (the groom) is riding in on a completely decked out elephant.

In the VMFA's huge catalogue, The Arts of India, by curator Joseph M. Dye III., the softly-colored scenes -- rendered with dyed silk, silver metal foil and ink on cotton -- are likened to India's iconic miniature paintings with overlapping and diagonal recession. Btw: Rumals are associated with the Punjab Hills and sometimes covered the gifts exchanged between a bride and groom.


Follow Up Finds

[Screengrab from Spy Game]

The character is an enigma. Elizabeth Hadley is a nurse with a very dark past and a murky present. But, as I commented three years ago, she's got a great apartment. Set decorators Anne Seibel and Jille Azis fill the place -- a dreamy respite from strife-torn surroundings -- with objects that appear to have been collected by Hadley.

Pieces like the gorgeous blue mirror hanging over Hadley's bathroom sink and the bordered blue-and-white paisley fabric behind her bed.

If I'm ever assigned to source a bunch of things inspired by this movie set, I've got the mirror covered. Literally. My "inspired by" suggestion is this mirrored glass with a blue, patterned silk-velvet-covered border from Irving and Morrison. Still hunting for the right fabric.


Possessive Nature

[Click for full-screen view. Unless credited otherwise, all images in this post ©Carter Berg from Never Stop to Think...Do I Have a Place for This? by Mary Randolph Carter, 
 Rizzoli New York, 2014.]

Children are natural collectors. When photographer Carter Berg was six, he cleaned around a dozen club soda bottles until they glistened like crystal and arranged them on his dresser along with assorted personal treasures including a Pac-Man hat.

But adults aren't always encouraged to be as free -- to gather and curate just for the joy of it. There's a belief, held by some, that those who love lots of things are just a little less evolved than those who live stuff-free. Pop psychology even tells us that collectors might be filling an emotional void. In her latest book,  Never Stop to Think...Do I Have a Place for This?, writer, photographer, long-time creative director for Ralph Lauren (and Carter Berg's mom), Mary Randolph Carter, shares a different point of view: a counterpoint to the anti-materialist philosophy.

[Mary Randolph Carter, right, visiting Minnie Mortimer at home in California. Mortimer's house also pictured in images one and two.]

Acknowledging that it's healthy to be rooted in the present, Carter (the author) feels it's also okay to meander from time to time. She writes, "Without the sweetness of our memories of the Past and our dreams of the Future, living in the Now could not be tolerable." Saved objects can connect us to the Past -- maybe just those parts of the Past we choose to remember -- and to our dreams, she maintains.

For her book, Carter sat down with disparate collecting couples and individuals, 19 in all, ranging from the "American Nomad," Doug Bihlmaier, who collects for personal pleasure as well as professionally for Ralph Lauren Corporation, to artist Tom Judd to fashion designer Minnie Mortimer.

[Mary Randolph Carter's own green desk is a three-dimensional scrapbook.] 

They live with their possessions very differently: Mortimer and husband Stephen Gaghan's ever-expanding assemblage of paintings, photographs, books and mementos is mainly corralled on walls and on shelves and is balanced by clean-lined decor while the Bihlmaier family lives surrounded by layers of Native American trade blankets, indigo patchwork, Indian beads, American flags and vintage posters.

[Just my own iPhone snap of the book.]

Above, here's a tiny peek at some hanging beads and an old June Carter and Johnny Cash poster on the Bihlmaier's scrapbooked bedroom wall. Long before he was a Ralph Lauren veteran, Bihlmaier had a passion for textiles, specifically trade blankets. As a junior high student in Kansas, he requested one for Christmas. The blanket arrived from L.L. Bean and further sparked an interest that still hasn't waned. Today, he is drawn to imperfect examples -- the sort often passed over by serious connoisseurs -- and he has a self-imposed $200 limit.

Many of the objects collected by Carter's interviewees are quite humble, by the way. Some of the pieces are simply found on the roadside or in the attic. If you're already acquainted with the author, you know she's drawn to things that others dismiss as junk.

[Doug DeLuca's creative approach to displaying his large assemblage of sailboat models.]

In others' cast-offs, she sees the potential to create a three-dimensional still life or visual poem with elements that rhyme and components that don't. So try not to stifle that childlike curiosity and desire to pick stuff up, Carter says, because at the very least what you gather will likely keep your rooms from looking just like your neighbor's.  


Mughal Suites

[Images via Rikshaw Design]

Pinks, decked out elephants, paisley: India's visual vocabulary has always inspired Rikshaw Design and this spring Mughal-esque arches appear in one of the company's denser new hand-blocked prints, Palace, part of the 2014 crib collection.

Although originally designed for babies, girls of all ages may be drawn to the 20-inch square quilted voile Palace pillow. (Be sure to check out the lavender and blue colorways, too.)

[Click to enlarge. Photo ©Tim Street-Porter from Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in Paradise, Skira Rizzoli, 2012. Image published here with written permission from the photographer and book publisher.] 

Since we're talking about Mughal-inspired cribs, this seems like a good time to mention that the storied suite at Shangri La is at long last scheduled to re-open in the fall. If you don't already know the history of Doris Duke's airy bedroom and its handcrafted contents, find the backstory here.

[Image via Assouline. Including it here because The Met's fall catalogue will pull from Amin Jaffer's research, published last year by Assouline.]

Also coming in the fall: Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection. Opening at The Met in October, this exhibition will include 60 jeweled objects encompassing the Mughal period through the early 20th century. And, yes, there will be a new book.