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.