Friday, July 31, 2009

Franz Marc and The Yellow Cow

Once upon a time there was a Guggenheim museum at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. I was once there with my sister, visiting an exhibit called The Art of the Motorcycle. Her idea, not mine. If I took nothing else from it, I now pay attention to the Ducatis that I see now and then.

But I took more from it. Much, much more.

Not from the exhibit, but from the gift shop. It was there that I first saw this poster

and first became aware of the German Expressionist, Franz Marc.

I didn’t buy the poster at the time but the image really stuck with me. Once I saw more of his work, it really drew me in. Here was an artist who shared my cosmology. He painted a world of animals as avatar – a world that acknowledged their emotions and by painting animals represented oneness, interconnectedness, natural order. Even his later work, though less joyful and more violent, through a lens of the animal world reflected the world that was soon to be.

The Yellow Cow was painted in 1911. My house was just in its second year then so they are contemporaries. Just afterward, Marc’s work turned darker, more ominous such as in the tone of this -

The Fate of the Animals was painted in 1913. By 1914, Europe was at war. In 1916 Franz Marc was killed at the Battle of Verdun.

I realize that having a tile reproduction of a painting in my kitchen isn’t really part of a traditional Craftsman aesthetic. But my home isn’t meant to be a restoration, only a respectful rehabilitation. I think the fact that the house is contemporaneous with the original work makes it ok. I don’t remember how I found the tile mural. I was playing around online, maybe looking for references to the artwork when I found a company that makes art reproductions on tile. I think that was in 2005. I had to have it. I mean I had to have it. I ordered it right away, even though I knew that work on the kitchen wouldn't begin for years. Once the box of tiles arrived, I never opened it. I don’t know why, just never did. The box went into the basement for three years. The first time I opened the box, it was to get a match on the paint color for the kitchen wall. The big purple spot in the cow’s center would be the color of the two kitchen walls. (for years I thought the spot was blue. That’s how it looked online – good thing I checked the actual tile before buying paint!) I’ve still never seen the actual painting. It’s part of the permanent collection at the Guggenheim in New York but when I was last there it wasn’t on display.

After the walls were painted there was still a lot more work to do. Months passed. But then one Saturday I left for work knowing that when I got home, the tile would be up. I’d see the full mural at last.

Then, when the moment finally came, I hated it. I’d become accustomed to the plain, clean, purple wall behind the stove. Seeing the tile image there was a shock. It seemed too big, too garish. It was just way, way, way too much.

The next day I broke the news. “We can’t keep it,” I said. K was disappointed. I was supposed to pick out grout that afternoon but I knew that once we grouted it, that was it. We were making a commitment to keeping it.

We talked about it. I decided to let it grow on me. Live with it a few more days and see what happened. I was kicking myself for making an emotional decision in choosing the tile in the first place. I had succumbed to sentimentality. But I felt really bad about deciding to take out the tile. It seemed like such a shame. Grr! Stupid sentimentality was swaying me again! Yes, it would be some money down the drain, but not an exorbitant amount. And yes, the wall would have been totally messed up in that spot so that would have been more work, additional delays in the kitchen, but that wasn’t the biggest thing for me. The biggest thing was that I felt bad for the image. I would have felt bad about destroying The Yellow Cow. Grr! It’s just tile, not the original painting!!! Stupid sentimentality.

I’m now glad that I lived with it for a few more days. Eventually, The Yellow Cow stopped surprising me every time I rounded the corner. While it remains the room’s focal point, it stopped taking ALL the focus in the room for me.

I chose a purplish grout and then we framed it in black tile. The black framing helped a lot, helping integrate the mural into the wall.

It’s a bold choice for a small room. But I now like The Yellow Cow on her wall, dancing for all the other cows on the other walls. I’m glad I can daily enjoy a work of art that was made when my house was only two years old, when the world was a completely different place.

That’s how I became hooked on the artist Franz Marc and his painting The Yellow Cow and my own reproduction of The Yellow Cow in my kitchen tile backsplash.

See what others are hooked on at Julia’s Friday blog party at Hooked on Houses.

You can see more Franz Marc art here, including a chronological lineup.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Saw a Man Shooting Pool in his Front Yard

It was while I was out on a walk tonight. It was about 8:30. I was doing my usual thing as I walked; looking into lit windows; judging choices; thinking about taste and class and the plight of the bobo.

This man had a pool table in his front yard and he was playing by himself. There was a Stones song coming from whatever music making device he had at his side.

The yard was a mess of old outdoor furniture. Much of it was overturned and the cushions were dirty and disarrayed.

I thought to myself, "Dude, why don't you clean up that yard; get rid of some of that junk; do a little landscaping?"

Then the answer came to me - he's shooting pool in his front yard, all alone and listening to the Stones. The last thing he needs is the voice in my head.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

and now . . . our Dining Room

Because it had been turned into a duplex, our house came with two living rooms (and two kitchens). The original 1909 dining room became a living room.
And because neither of the two bedrooms was big enough to accommodate our queen size bed, and all its attendant furniture, we spent the first two years of our residency here sleeping in the original living room. (if you zoom in on this picture, through the doorway you can see the unmade bed and one hemp slipper.)

We blocked the hideous fireplace to keep out the cat – and because there was no place else for that Ikea piece that was providing much needed storage, since the kitchen was pretty much a disaster.

K had to cut a doorway into the wall so we wouldn’t have to go outside and across the porch to get to the kitchen. Friends gave us that beaded curtain.

Do not fail to take note of the horrible faux parquet peel n’ stick vinyl floor tiles. There was more than one layer of this in some parts. And, please notice the white. How could you not notice the white? Blazing, unforgiving White beating down from every wall, every ceiling, every piece of trim. The whole house was whiter than globs of mayonaisse and Cool Whip smeared onto a meeting of the Dick Cheney Fan Club. (yes, there actually is such a thing.)

In November of ’07, the white was carted off to a dumpster –

In January of '08, the hideous fireplace was condemned.

In June of '08, the kitten finally seemed confident that it would all be all right -

I believe she is sitting on the delivery of kitchen cabinets. Notice that she has her tape measure at the ready. She is truly her daddy's kitten.

Now finally, the house has its dining room back –

You may not have noticed, but in the pictures of our kitchen, there was no refrigerator. It literally did not fit in the kitchen, at least not without sticking into the hall doorway or without blocking something else when the door was opened. There was no getting around it. The fridge had to straddle the kitchen/dining room. And in my bizarre mind, covering the top half with art magnets hides it a little. That, and the fact that the fridge is black, like the cabinets and the dishwasher.

It’s almost like you don’t even notice it’s there. It’s practically disappeared. One could starve to death looking for the refrigerator.

The upside is that it’s handy for when you’re sitting at the table and you’re too lazy to get out of your chair for another glass of tea. You just reach over, open the fridge door and there it is.

Speaking of table, this one seats 8 at its minimum length and up to 12 with both leaves. We haven’t put in both leaves yet. Once we put in one leaf to seat 10. Ten was ok. I imagine 12 would be cozy but it would be doable. That’s what I love about this room, just the idea of dinner parties for 10 or 12.

It’s stark though, isn’t it? We still have to hang some art over the buffet. Maybe add some things to the mantle. I don’t want to clutter it, though. There’s always that danger with us.

The spare quality strikes me as a bit Scandinavian. It makes me think of a Swedish farmhouse (as if I knew what such a thing looked like). Maybe it’s the ladderback wooden chairs against the massive table. Maybe it’s the weathered old Adirondack.

Maybe it’s the plow yoke.

If you can ignore the Warhol magnets, to me, it looks like a room where people with callused hands give thanks to a harsh Protestant god before enjoying a simple meal of root vegetables and freshly made bread.

Well, that’s not going to happen here.

Instead, I will lift my tiny manicured hand and drink a toast to Hestia, Goddess of Hearth and Home and of course, to Dionysus, God of Wine and Theatre.

And then I guess I'll have something delivered.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Before and After '09 - Supporting Habitat for Humanity

Whatever you do, don't forget about One Project Closer's Summer Before and After Contest. Send in your recent home improvement Before and After pictures and stories and the sweet taste of victory could be yours.

They'll have a winner each week until Sept. 20th and a grand prize winner at the end. You can win gift cards to Lowe's, Home Depot or Amazon but the best part is that OPC will make a donation on your behalf to Habitat for Humanity (and you get to flaunt your accomplishment).

So get your entries in. Don't dally. Take pictures. Tell your tale. Shake your DIY tail feathers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kitschy Kitchen (At Last!)

We were off our deadline by exactly one year. I wanted the public rooms to be done by June 20, 2008. It wasn’t until June 20, 2009, that they were ready for their debut.

When we started, just before the demolition in Nov. 2007, the window corner of the kitchen looked like this:

One year ago, with the deadline days away, it looked like this:

Today it looks like this:

And when we started, the view from my dining room fireplace, facing the kitchen, looked like this:

And today it looks like this:


and later, this:

became this:

And this:

became this:

And now I have a handy place for my cookbooks:

And even the tiniest cows have a safe home:

The kitchen’s been mostly done for a few months, but there were dozens of little details that kept it from being really done. Well now it’s really done.
Maybe at some point I'll go into some details, like about the drama with the cow mural - why I wanted it but then why I didn't, but for now there's just a slide show -

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Goofed

I missed my own two year blogoversary. While I was busy obsessing about Joyce DeWitt the day came and went.

Good thing I'm not married to me.

The bubbly's probably flat by now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who Used to Look Like You?

I hope this is the last post unrelated to the house while I procrastinate organizing pictures of the house's progress. Too many house pictures, too much disarray, too little time to organize the house pictures.

In the meantime, here's a picture completely unrelated to the house.

It's a mug shot of Joyce DeWitt who was just arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Back in my early twenties, when Three's Company was at its height and Joyce and I were both a whole lot younger, people often told me how much I resembled her.
This was her then:

Neither she nor I look much like that now. I never thought I looked that much like her then. It surprised me the first time a stranger mentioned it. Joyce wore much more eye makeup than I did. Although, it was around that time that my sister kindly told me that I wore too much eye makeup. Mmm.

During the last four seasons of Three's Company, I used to pal around with a friend who resembled John Ritter, so I guess the two of us together was kind of funny. But we had no one who resembled Suzanne Somers to tag along.

So anyway, the Best Man called me at work today to tell me about the mug shot and to kindly remind me of what I would look like if I were to be popped for DUI. Did he remember that tonight is Margarita Wednesday at Barragans? (I obviously made it home safe and un-incarcerated.)

Why do people always look so startled in their booking photos? I think they tell you not to smile (as if you would: but I think I would try to look a little pleasant and not so wild-eyed, especially if I were a celebrity.

K had a mug shot taken once. It's a long story involving a fix-it ticket. He says he never saw the photo. I couldn't believe he didn't ask to see it, just to see if he didn't need a second take. He said he didn't ask. I bet Joyce wishes she had asked. I bet Mel Gibson and Nick Nolte and all the rest wish they has asked too. I would ask. I asked for a second take at the DMV and I often get compliments on my driver's license photo. It didn't work so much for the passport photo. It still looks bad. But not wild-eyed, at least.

Question: Have you ever been told you look like a celebrity? Do you still look like that person? Or does that person still look like you?

Better question: Have you ever had a mug shot taken?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You Think You Can What?

I finally caught up with my DVR'd So You Think You Can Dance episodes. Tonight we saw this guest performance by Complexions Contemporary Ballet .

If you have any affection for dance and you haven't seen this yet, you must watch (and I dare you to keep your jaw up):

Friday, July 3, 2009

Life, Liberty and . . .

. . . the Pursuit of Happiness

I have an ongoing debate with a friend over whether or not Happiness is the proper subject of a pursuit. I contend it is a uniquely American concept that we should pursue Happiness. Is it possible that thanks to Mr. Jefferson we pursue that which other cultures take to be the collateral byproduct of the achievement of other goals? Is it unique that while the rest of the world is worrying about whether the crops will come in or the rain will come or the British will invade, we Americans are out there pursuing, of all things, Happiness?

In this debate, I argued that as an actor, one plays a character by defining the character’s moment to moment goals in terms of actions. One would not list “happiness” as the goal of any character. Well, one could - but how boring would that be? Happiness is not an action therefore it cannot be played. Only goals can be played; therefore happiness is not a goal to be pursued. Happiness, like good acting, is simply the consequence of good choices.

ModerneMama at The Beach House has tagged me in a challenge to list 6 uninteresting things that make me happy. Does my pursuit of any the following mean that I pursue Happiness?

One – In thinking of the least interesting thing I could think of, I thought “Diet Peach Snapple.” How silly. It’s cool and refreshing and refreshingly tasty, but happiness inducing? Nah. Then I thought, maybe it’s the convenience of just being able to run around the corner and pick up a delicious Diet Peach Snapple at any hour, day or night that makes me happy. So, is it the proximity of a 7-11 that makes me happy? Nah.

Living in the City makes me happy - being close to the things that I need. I’m one walking minute from a convenience store. I’m seven (street, not freeway) driving minutes from The Music Center and Disney Concert Hall and MOCA. I’m 20-ish street driving minutes through moderate traffic from LACMA. I can walk to a city library and to an indie bookstore and to an abundance of antique stores. On weekends I can walk to chilaquiles for breakfast and pizza for lunch and to three or more vegan restaurants for dinner. Before or after dinner, I can walk around the corner to a wine bar.

I would as soon move to Siberia as ever again live in the suburbs. Living in a city makes me happy. Los Angeles has its critics and those who even challenge its status as a real city. LA is not shaped like other cities, but it is still a city.

Two – Staying Up Late. Maybe I’m still rebelling against my childhood bedtime hour (which I’ve since learned was quite liberal in comparison to other families) but I love to stay up late - really late. When I win the lottery there will be travel and charities and all the cliché stuff, but what I most look forward to is never again going to bed before 3 or 4 am. Being up really late when the air is cool, talking and drinking and listening to ‘possums poking around in the yard makes me happy.

Three – Twilight. Not the teen vampire movie but the opposite of late night, the early night time makes me happy. I love the twilight hours when the air is just starting to cool and everything shifts just a little into relax mode. Whatever happened in the day you can put behind you at twilight. Have a drink; sit in the yard; watch the dog walkers parade.

Four – Flowers that Grow in my Yard Without any Help from Me. Every year they come, they go and then they come back again and all without any help from me other than paying the water bill.

Five – The Junk Mail that Flows in Announcing the New Season of Cultural Events.

This Culture Vulture is on mailing lists for organizations far and wide. San Francisco Opera wants me to include them in my next trip to their city. I haven’t been to New Mexico since I was a kid, yet the Santa Fe Opera Company thinks I might pay a visit this year. LA Opera is doing a Barber of Seville this year and I must see a decent Barber of Seville. Near or far, I love seeing what they’re all up to. And I love planning my season. UCLA Performing Arts Series? What delights have you lined up for me this year? Angry, politicized dance theatre? Or edgy, politicized European experimental theatre? Hollywood Bowl? Count me in for Liza Minelli and maybe Pink Martini or even Koyaanisqatsi. Then there’s more 99-seat theatres than I can count or ever possibly attend and I think I'm on the mailing list for all of them.

Six – Pedicures. What could be more uninteresting than cleaning your feet and trimming your toenails? But having someone who does it well is a true indulgence. A fresh pedicure always makes me a small “h” happy.

I now challenge the six bloggers listed below to list six uninteresting things that make them happy. Just link back to me in your post and then tag six others to blog their lists. Just make a list. You don't have to be as blabby as I've been.

Do it. It’ll make you happy to think about the little things that make you happy.

The Conjurer

Just a Girl and Her 1911 Craftsman

Babas Farm Life

Shaker Heights Restoration


Heidi Rodeo

And thank you Mr. Jefferson and the other Founders who gave us the right to pursue Happiness.