Monday, August 04, 2008

August Unleashed: Heat Bound Decorating

I hate to admit it, but we just had another weekend where next to nothing got done outside in the garden (very guilt inducing of course), but for a very good reason ... The last few days we have had positively dangerous heat indices due to the actual temperatures and insanely high dew points brought on by the first August blast (furnace) of heat. It's State Fair time for sure, when the weather goes nearly beyond the limits of insufferable and into dangerous territory. Yesterday and today were the worst we've had yet this year, and at one point this afternoon, the actual temperature was 97, with a dew point of 80, thus combining into a "feels like temperature" of 118! And even as I write now, the temperature is 84, with a heat index of 99 (at 11:30 p.m.), so now you know why neither man nor beast ventured out much this weekend ....
So finally, we took stock of the seemingly never-ending cluttered flux of our living room and decided to bring some re-order to it, and sneak in a little decorating at the same time ... all of which was fueled by the need to hang one of my recently framed art pieces -- a Toulouse Lautrec limited numbered edition museum lithograph which was given to me several months ago when our company's physical office was closed. This required reshuffling all the framed art in our living room around to accommodate a long planned shake up to the look of the room. This job was achieved in two days and working in (literally) the four corners of the room, so I may have another post or two that detail the other aspects of the overall design. Tonight I thought I'd just focus on one corner of the room that has undergone what we think is a very nice transformation. Besides, there are some fun stories about certain items you see pictured here.

This first shot shows the overall look of this corner, which is based around an antique oak dresser that served as my first real dresser from my youngest memories up into my teens when I got a new one. I always liked this one best, with its rough hewn construction and just plain interesting design. There are two obvious focal points here ... the very old oil painting of Mount Shasta in Oregon, and the framed Edward Gorey print at the right ... I guess they represent a melding of both our tastes for the old and strange, as the oil painting is mine and the Gorey print was a gift Fernymoss
once received from his brother. I guess you could call the rest whimsy items? But they too have their own stories ... the Dragonfly lamp I stumbled upon years ago (at Lowe's of all places!), sconce shelves (which we had for years and never quite knew how to use them just right), a small carved bone chest of jewels and of course, one of my ubiquitous gargoyles. Throw in a faux antique clock and a framed reproduction of a movie poster, and there you have have it. The French have a word for this kind of decorating: hétéroclite, which translates roughly as eclectic....

Here's a closer shot of the painting, by one Eliza R. Barchus (1857-1959), who was a regional artist known as "The Oregon Painter." This painting is signed by the artist on both the front and back, which also includes the address of her studio at the time, but alas, no date. I did some research online last night about her and found out some key points: she was extremely prolific and painted "dozens if not hundreds of painting of Mt. Shasta, many of which poorly resembled the actual mountain." Barchus' trade was providing souvenir paintings of Oregon nature sights for tourists and apparently was pretty successful at it. I even found a few of her paintings at a couple of online art auctions, where the prices ranged from a low of $800 all the way up to $1800. That was a real surprise for me, because this painting (which originally hung in my grandmother's house, also the origin of the dresser) got handed down in the family, and categorically no one except me liked it. So while I was growing up, this painting was always somewhere in my room. So when I went off to graduate school, I got permission to take it with me, and it has been everywhere I've lived since then. I really was astonished to see that it had some potential monetary value, because for me, it's always just been a comforting piece of family nostalgia that has moved around with me over the years. For that reason, I'll probably never want to try to sell it, and just let it remain a family heirloom, albeit the ugly duckling for most of my family, hehe.

Ok, Fernymoss should be the one to recount the story of this Edward Gorey print, but he did a lot of moving and pounding this weekend, and is now dozing downstairs on the couch in the comfy new look of the living room. I can say that we're both fans of Gorey's work, and though neither of us knows the name of this piece, we love its clearly Gorey-esque style and typical phantasmagorically dark subject matter. (If any readers recognize this one and know the name, please let us know!) I had the wild idea of moving this from the dining room (where it has been displayed temporarily since Fernymoss framed it) to try it on this wall, and we are really liking the pairing with the Barchus painting and other elements here.
I've been wanting a nice, discreet place to display one of my favorite gargoyles (affectionately known as "The Constipated Gargoyle") who's been just hanging out unseen on a curio shelf in the hall upstairs for quite some time. And as of today, he has a nice Indian carved sconce shelf to hang out on, along with one of the home theatre system speakers. Probably about 6 or 7 years ago, we found four of these shelves in the clearance area at World Market (a great store, btw!), but never really came up with a good way to use them, until we installed the theatre system and needed places for five strategically placed speakers. Now that we have them all up, I can't believe we didn't do this sooner, because it really is the best solution for the speaker placement, and they were sitting right under our noses gathering dust all these years. And each one now has a different kind of gargoyle sitting on it around the room ... now if we can just find little nooks and crannies for the rest to come back downstairs...!
This last shot is a detail of the top of the dresser, complete with the whimsical (blame it on Fernymoss) placement of a tiny carved bone treasure chest I bought back in 2000, when we were in Fernyoss' brother's wedding down in St. Louis. One day we were there, we found a fascinating yet small import shop downtown and this was one of my purchases, and now it has been festooned with quartz, pearls, Swarovski crystal and who knows what else Fernymoss put in there from his jewelry supplies. (Yes, he does jewelry on the side, and I've been bugging him about starting a blog with some of the examples of his work, but he's not ready to be a blogger yet, so he says....)

The film poster in the frame is the Spanish version of Pedro Almodóvar's Law of Desire, and yes, it's kind of a racy film, but I love it, and it was one of Antonio Banderas' first films before he sold out, moved to the US and married that Melanie Griffith creature. Long time readers know my near obsession with Almodóvar's work, and this reproduction came with a selection of other posters in the Viva Pedro boxed set of his films which just became available in this country earlier this year. If you're at all interested in Almodóvar's work, this is a must own boxed set that's really reasonably priced given there are 9 (some previously unavailable) films in the set, plus an extra disc with features about Pedro himself. That breaks down to about $6 per film, so if you're into Almodóvar (or even just curious to see his work) this is cheaper than going out, and provides hours of thought provoking full bore entertainment from probably the best Spanish film maker of this generation. To have this set just for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, alone is worth having (and that's the movie where Queen Pepa's namesake was the main character). Plus you get several other Oscar nominated (and two winners) films, namely All About My Mother and Talk to Her. Pedro really has evolved and matured magnificently over the years, and in my opinion is at the height of his film making career of late with his recent masterpieces Bad Education and Volver, which has finally convinced me what a great actress Penélope Cruz can be ... with her virtual incarnation of a young Sophia Loren which is positively breathtaking in this film.

So ... if you're not averse to subtitles, European cinema or film making that often pushes the boundaries of narrative and "accepted" good taste, then perhaps Almodóvar might captivate you as much as he has us and many others who mostly eschew the Hollywood fare for the more adventurous realms of world cinema....

Photos by Fernymoss, taken August 3, 2008.


Daisy said...

I like that Gorey print and your before and after pictures on the last post are fantastic!

My pumpkins and tomatoes wish it were hot and humid here in Montana, but the cooler summer this year is pretty nice for the humans.

Gail said...


You've had a busy time! I wander about the house and look at all that must be done and do nothing! We had homemade peach ice cream at a friends....then home for me to wander around and then write a post!

It's not the heat, it's the biting bugs that are too much to's way past planting time but there is still weeding and watering and all manner of chores to complete. We do have a big hardscape plan in the works. I will post when it's completed.

In the meantime I am going to order the Women on the Verge DVD from amazon!

A new word to add to the vocabulary... hétéroclite! I'm going to need a pronunciation guide!


ps Gorey is good...I did like the opening to Mystery! on PBS.

boran2 said...

I like the look of the assemblage. You must have been highly motivated to get all of this done given the current temperatures. You have made some very interesting choices.

Conspicuous by its absence in a closeup is that clock. ;-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Daisy, and thanks for stopping by! Always nice to see a new gardener pop in (have to check out your site soon, I took a peak and it looks great).

I wish we had more framed Gorey stuff, but we have so many others to contend with the shrinking wall space.

When I can go out again after this heat blast I need to get more pictures of our "Punkinstein Patch" again ... it's starting to engulf everything in the back garden! They, basil, herbs and tomatoes are loving this heat and humidity. The peppers, not so much. They're pathetic this year.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey Gail,
I know that feeling oh too well, and I can justify it when I'm actually getting things done in the garden, but when I can't go out there in the heat we've had lately, we just had to get some of the clutter dealt with and start seriously putting that room together (finally!) We've had such a furniture flux the past year or so (getting and getting rid of stuff) and the most recent was the nice couch my sister gave us. It's looking good now and less crowded and as spacious as our small living room can be!

That peach ice cream sounds great! I hardly ever (maybe once or twice a year) eat ice cream, but Peach is one of my faves. In fact, there's a little old fashioned pharmacy at the end of the block that still has a lunch counter/fountain and they are well known for their hand churned ice cream. I should go down there and ask if they have peach ... they did last summer when I had my yearly bowl, lol.

I'm excited you're going to give Women on the Verge a try! I hope it's available as a single disc now, because previously it was out of print for a long time and only reappeared on that box set I got, which is totally worth it, btw. Maybe you can get just the single film from Netflix?

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey B2,
Thanks for the props ... it kept us in the cool house, and we figured it was now or never to get all this stuff changed around. I'll show off some of the other aspects sometime soon.

Ah, that clock. We liked the look when we got it, but discovered that the face was slightly off with relation to the hands ... and then it ticked so loudly it drove us crazy. It's cool to look at as long as it has no battery and you're not too close. hehe, you figured that out didn't you?

What did you think of that oil painting? I thought that might pique the interest of the architectural painter of the NE, lol.

Roses and Lilacs said...

You have a very eclectic art collection. I agree, there is never enough wall space to hang all the interesting artwork. I really like Gorey, haven't seen that print before.

It's really great you were able to keep an old chest from your childhood. I'm really attached to a few handed down pieces. I have a chest from my teenage years.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Eclectic defines our tastes, that's for sure! My sister always says that our style is "not what I'd do, but..." which is her way of acknowledging what we do in that regard. But it works for us, and we like it, and that's good enough for me!

I should really get a full shot of that dresser, because it really does show the home made aspect of construction that has always fascinated me. That's great that you have some hand me downs that you love too!

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