A City in Winter

I like winter, I really do. No one ever seems to believe me. I think it's because I grew up in Chicago, where winter requires a heightened state of being, where to dally could mean frostbite or worse. Winter is a time of activity, hurried steps and places of warmth and deepest cold. I miss those winter days, and these photos my father took a few weeks ago really take me back.

My appreciation for austerity was born here, on the leafless, barren planes, interupted by empty parks and endlessly tall buildings that fade into the overcast sky. Even popular places become like ruins in winter:

Even silly buildings look sedate in the cold. To touch the titanium skin of Gehry's bandshell would stick your hand to the spot:

Winter is one of the few things I miss. The people of New England are proud of their winters, and by extension their endurance in surviving them, but winter in New England is but a mild Spring in the Midwest. I miss the real thing.

And I think my dad's pictures are beautiful.


The Bogalusa Story

I have absolutely no idea how I stumbled across this scanned book, Bogalusa Story by C.W. Goodyear, or why it so fascinates me, but I've been obsessed with this illustrated account of Bogalusa, Louisiana, for months. Maybe it's the epic sweep of the story presented, the melancholy throughout or my dream that Terrence Mallick would take up the trajectory of this town for his latest film.

First, there were trees:

Then modest homes with modest people. This was one of the grandest homes in town, owned by the preacher:

(Note the exemplary picket fence, with long, slender pickets arranged symmetrically. Very simple and handsome. You can also see all the way through the house -- I'm betting this was a shotgun style.)

People from outside the area come prospecting for trees, and see how good they are in Bogalusa, how fine and plentiful:

Logging operations are established, exactly like this one in Pennsylvania, and owned by the same family who cleared Bogalusa, the Goodyears:

Trains, to carry people and lumber:

(Who do you suppose this is? All things seem to revolve around him.)

And along the way, a flowering, a windfall of money that gave rise to a temporary and short-lived gentility. Horse shows at the country club:

It took a while, but in a few decades virtually everything had this appearance, of nakedness and loss. Hillsides denuded of trees:

But elsewhere, on the grounds of the Goodyear Estate, things seem to be going well. The title of this photo is "A Favourite Spot for Madam," and Mrs. Goodyear can be seen seated in the foreground of this terrace:

Who wouldn't love herringbone bricks and a row of doric columns? But my favorite is the table:

What do you supposed it is? The lion resembles column supports found in the cloisters of monasteries in Spain, but it also resembles a classical sarcophagus support. It's probably about as old as the trees that paid for it. At any rate, rest assured it was not born in Bogalusa.

And when they were done, they were nice enough to hang a plaque:

Thirty years.

But where do you think the table from the terrace is now?


Smoke, No Mirrors: the Wonderful Work of Oliver Kosta Thefaine

When I was a child I was wildly into Egyptology, and read accounts of early archeology in Egypt breathlessly, weeping over the atrocities committed by Belzoni and reading a facsimile of his Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs and Excavations in Egypt and Nubia like a fiend.

My indignation at his violent excavation techniques and treasure-hunting ways was fed by jealousy that I couldn't unwrap mummies myself. But one practice that made me livid was the signing of the ceilings of tombs and temple by European tourists with the smoke from torches. In retrospect, it's probably a lot easier to clean soot that deal with a name gouged into stone.

But anyway. A few months ago I saw these on Yatzer:

They're the work of artist Oliver Kosta Thefaine, and I adore them. It never occurred to me that this same torch-writing technique could be used to such stunning effect:

Here he riffs off some exiting Victorian plasterwork:

I would love to have Mr. Kosta Thefaine over for dinner and arm him with some smoky candles to do his thing throughout my house, and he is more than welcome to violate my future tomb whenever he likes.


My Own Folly: the 5 Sense Brand

All this talk of silly things has reminded me of one of my own projects, a proposal for a small luxury shopping mall in Boston, destined to inhabit this rather dull little building across the street from Boston Common:

The studio I was in at the time could not have been more out of step with the times, as much as I loved it; we were tasked with creating a retail space for luxury brands in the Fall of 2008, just as everything was falling through the floor in the luxury market. Each of the 5 floors was to house a different brand relating to one of the senses. I'd been spending much time looking through 19th century French decorating catalogues in the Library of Congress collection (tipped off by Steven's father, a librarian at one of Brown's libraries), and developed a scheme referencing these bizarre tables:

The notion of dragging natural beauty into an interior, pulling-up the park to fill the drawing room, informed my idea of how to better join this lackluster building to the park beyond. I wanted a visceral connection, a sensual experience in the great tradition of garden follies, meant to be smelled, touched and tasted.

To that end, I focused all attention on the park and hid the first floor from the busy streetscape with a system of canted walls that collected light from above, while filling the windows of the upper story with espalier that follows and reinforces the lines of the mullions:

Entering off the main road, the first floor houses Other Music, a NY-based music shop featuring primarily indie music; they have a tradition of in-store performances, and to that end roll away carts hold CDs, while listening and downloading stations fill the niches created by the canted walls:

Now up the stairs, in a natural rust, with walls of mercury glass, topped with a glass-bottomed reservoir. Light filters through the water and bounces off the irregular glass on each floor:

The second floor houses a Boston chapter of C.B. I Hate Perfume, Brooklyn-based purveyor of exquisite scent. Many of the fragrances are based on the memories of the creator, Christian Brosius (quite a character, but a brilliant nose). Something very special was necessary. To that end, I developed hedges that you could reach into to find the various scent bottles, combining the joy of discovery with remembrance of times past through scent (thank you, Proust):

The hedges, visible as diagonal forms in the plans, were formed from macrame writ large, in a pattern I developed:

Other floors received similar treatment, with different patterns of macrame:

But I must admit, my favorite element is the mercury glass and rust stair:


In the Interest of Folly and Absurdity: Portmeirion

Why is it that the English are so good at building things so wholly devoid of use other than pleasure? When we try we end up with something like Las Vegas or Atlantic City; I'd rather spent my time on the saccharine shores of Portmeirion, in Wales:

A bright toy begun in 1925 by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion developed over the course of over 50 years, growing in size and complexity as bits of buildings destroyed elsewhere were added to the mix. Cottages take on the trappings of a Mannerist grotto:

Pools fill with weeds, and are incongruously surrounded by palms, while brightly colored building are seemingly roofed entirely by lichen:

Care to shop? I'd buy anything from these stores, but would most like to take home their signage; I love those crimped horns, not to mention the iron tassle:

I'll stay in this little white cottage ...

and you can stay here, if you like:

When it rains, or is too bright, we can take shelter under an awning:

But I fear I'd have trouble not trying to make off with one, or ideally two, of these. Very Tony Duquette, no?

Can it possibly look this verdant always?

When I've had enough of the town, you could likely find me here:


What a Good Boyfriend I Am

So a month and a half ago ago, Steven and I were at a junk shop a few towns over and discovered the strangest thing: a detailed painting of the harbor in Seal Cove, our favorite town on the tiny island of Grand Manan. I mean, this is a tiny town on an even tinier island -- it simply is not known unless you've been there. And Steven was overjoyed.

But the painting is huge. And ugly, I argued. Where was it going to go? We left empty-handed, except I had a grumpy Steven on my hands. So then, how is it that we find it now on the wall of his office?

Well, my soon to be sister-in-law Danielle was kind enough to take me back to the junk store, and we searched the whole place, up and down, but no Seal Cove painting. Dejected, we decided to shop anyway, and then entirely by chance, wedged behind a dresser, there it was:

This is such a pretty little town, and I've even started half not-hating the painting. It was worth suffering through a bad painting to see how pleased Steven was. And besides, I miss the real place, and the painting has a certain Rousseau-charm.

The buildings at water's edge used to be canneries for scallops and mackerel. Today they are empty and rusting away, and look like this:

Almost Shaker, no? So foursquare. A utilitarian Venice:

And the levels of water are similarly variable. The same buildings, a few hours later:

The idea of canned seafood has never appealed, but I would buy anything packaged like this:

These are antique labels from Seal Cove, found stuffed in the walls of an abandoned cannery:

But mostly I will remember Seal cove from the water, getting smaller every moment as we pulled out to sea ...

to visit these fellows:

Related Posts with Thumbnails