Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cave Paintings

It's sometimes good to hearken back to the old times, ancient times, hey, even pre-historic times.  Rocks and sticks may seem trendy right now for furnishing interiors, but for me they never go out of style. There is something satisfying about what Carl Jung called "our collective unconscious". The evolution to wall paintings came 32,000 years ago,  as far as we know.  When I decided to retrieve a few of my art pieces  from the Garden Apartment project, I was disturbed by their absence.  First I was going to draw with chalk on the wall as a substitute for the original art.  Then, I thought why not do something more permanent and paint on the wall?  This thought process happened rapidly and naturally, and in some respects seemed even better than the "original" artworks themselves.  

copy of  "Copy of Nickel" in process
latex paint on drywall

Is any thought ever truly original?  Usually, someone on the other side of the globe is doing the same thing, or someone may have done it years before.  Maybe it seemed like our own idea but in fact was something that just seeped into our unconscious.  I found this little plastic nickel with the word copy stamped on it.  As if anyone would think that a plastic nickel would be mistaken for the real thing? How baffling is that?  What is real art and what isn't?  I would regard these as originals, as as part of a series.

 "Copy of Copy of Nickel" 
latex on drywall
Renee Celeste Flanders

(original below on shelf)

Perhaps I was experiencing a  throwback to the freedom felt in drawing on the wall as a child.  Do any of you recall that uninhibited impulse?  

copy of "Bouquet" on wall in process

The original "Bouquet" was never painted, but cut into the canvas a la Lucio Fontana. I had drawn numerous renditions, but never painted the lines, as they were cut with a knife.  To paint it was taking it from 3 dimensional to 2 dimensional, but with the objective to simulate the 3 dimensional original. Here I was cutting through the wall with paint.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland entering the wall through the looking glass!

copy of "Bouquet" on wall in process

 "Copy of Hand" 
latex on drywall
Renee Celeste Flanders

Up against the wall, cave art!  This was a simple but satisfying way to mark my territory.  Or, it could be seen as an appeal to the gods of aesthetics to always invoke their good graces to the occupants of the apartment.  Instead of happy hunting, may they achieve great success in their artistic endeavors on stage at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Opera Theatre of St. Louis! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Art Apartment

When designing an interior, it's best to start with the art, but in the case of The Garden Apartment G1, most of the artwork was collected and created towards the end of the installation.  As an interior designer partnering with Marcia Smith on this project, we could do whatever we wanted (which is always the beauty of showhouses). In addition to artwork loaned by Craft Alliance, a donated piece by Jim Harris, and donations from the collection of Marcia Smith, I  included ten of my own pieces.

Marcia and I considered what we would most like to see on the walls.  Ellsworth Kelly seemed a common denominator for the design of G1, and rather than purchase a poster or (dreaded) giclee print, to my studio I went, pulling things out of storage and creating a few appropriated images. 

"No 9"
latex on canvas 
Renee Flanders

The scale of this particular piece was necessary to cover a small window which previously had housed the heating and air-conditioning unit. We decided to make it go away with a large painting paying homage to Ellsworth Kelly.

"Clay Court"
latex and texture paint additive
Renee Flanders     

For the piece above the wall shelf, I again borrowed imagery from Kelly, but determined that it should be a textured surface and much larger than the original. I've always loved the game of tennis, especially playing on clay.  To paint a tentative tennis court was fun, too.

oil encaustic on canvas
Renee Flanders

We wanted a splash of color.  As the opening night play for the season was "Red" by John Logan, it seemed a no-brainer to do a red painting at the front door.  Appropriately enough, the play was about artist Mark Rothko, who loved the color red.

"Read Book"
latex on paper
Renee Flanders

Gathering steam,  I was inspired to make a book cover in red entitled "Read Book" by RCF.  It's good for a laugh in any context, I think.

asphalt and styrofoam
Renee Flanders

I actually found a piece of roof tile in the shape of a hand when walking Chewy a few years back. It beckons one to the black box galley kitchen.

oil on cardboard
Renee Flanders

This was pulled out of storage, too...never imagined that it would be in an actor's suite!  How perfect is that?!

Bedroom art

asphalt and styrofoam
Renee Flanders

Circles rule!  My favorite shape since the age of 5...

Bathroom art

"Copy of Nickel"
plastic and styrofoam
Renee Flanders

Ya gotta have good bathroom art!

porcelain, polished chrome, red lacquer
Renee Flanders

Who doesn't enjoy a good pun? I've signed many a toilet with R. Mutt in my lifetime and never tire of laughing at the same joke. 

Marcel Duchamp

Here's the original, from nearly 100 years ago.  Duchamp bought the urinal from a plumbing supply store, put it on a pedestal, and entered it in art exhibit that promised to accept all art.  He proclaimed, "Anything is art, as long as the artist says that it is." 

"Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp)"
cast bronze
Sherrie Levine

 A good idea never dies.  

latex on canvas
Rene Flanders

Originally, Marcia and I had planned to have the "Knappa" hanging light fixture from Ikea over the table.  That plan was scrapped when we decided to stay with the recessed light fixture already in place.  The idea evolved to my drawing the "Knappa" on the chalkboard wall in the dining area.  I did draw it, but was not satisfied.  Back to my art storage I went, and came up with "Bouquet", part of a series I did inspired by Lucio Fontana,  which immediately brightened the space with its blooms. 

Artist and interior designer,
yours truly, on opening night. 

I hold 3 degrees: a BFA and MFA , both with majors in Painting and an AAS degree in Interior Design. In graduate school we joked that the acronym MFA stood for Mighty Fine Artist.  I think of my background in fine arts and art history as the foundation of what I do as an interior designer.  

For more exciting details about The Garden Apartment project, see  At Home magazine Nov./Dec. 2011 on newstands now!  Here is the link:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Guts No Glory

Core of the Crew
Marcia, Rosemary, Herb, et moi

This is the second installment of the Garden Apartment project that I worked on this summer with Marcia Smith. It is featured in the current Nov./Dec. issue of At Home magazine on stands now! Check it out at:  

Dining Area before

Dining Area after

latex on canvas
Renee Flanders

Kitchen before

Kitchen during

Kitchen after

What actor wouldn't feel comfortable in this "Black Box Theatre"?

I'm a hands-on designer who's not shy with a mop, broom or vacuum!
Whether it's walls or canvases that need painting; I can do!

Bathroom before...

Bathroom during surgery

This is the part about the guts...

Bathroom after

The coil wire mesh shower curtain (aluminum) was donated by one of my clients who is converting to a shower only project.  It is a show stopper that looks like chain mail and is very sexy.

Bathroom after

Quelle difference!

Bedroom before

 Hazards of the profession: I bonked my head on the bed while flipping it...

Bedroom after 

Time to put on your costume - it's show time!

Bedroom after

Our friend Crista Carr Shatz painted silver dots on an Ikea chair to liven things up.

Showhouses of any sort are great for knocking off a few pounds.  When is there any time to eat?

Bedroom after

We painted the wall with chalk board paint and chalked on the "Z's" to lull the actors to sleep.

Job well done; it's time to go home. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stop 'n' Sniff

Am I the only one bending over to inhale a flower's fragrance?  I'm not too proud to kneel on the ground to inhale the seductive scent of a late rose bloom. Yet, I have to say, I rarely, if ever see other pedestrians bending over. Do you engage in this simple pleasure? In the balmy 75% autumn weather that we have been enjoying lately, the intoxicating essence is as intense as on a hot summer day. I relish this last vestige of  spring, summer and now fall. Every season has its own allure, but for now, here is an autumn sampling that provides very special treats for sensory delights of every kind.  All that is required is a nose, skin, eyes and ears.

Stop 'n' Sniff

Watch out, its scent is addictive!


With my eyes closed, this frond felt like the soft tail of a kitten.


The bark of a sycamore tree  always displays amazing patterns, bursting from the trunk in a final spurt of growth.


 As I trudge through the crunchy piles of dried leaves, some as big as dinner plates, the decibels are nearly deafening...but I like it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bates Motel Revisited

It was a seedy little apartment complex that I recall walking by as a youngster. Next to the train tracks, it always seemed an oddity in the old suburban environs of Webster Groves where I grew up. Little did I know that many years later as an interior designer, I would attempt to rescue it from its ignominy on the theatre circuit.  It was known as the Bates Motel, so odious and sinister were the accommodations, or lack thereof.

The Garden Apartments
Built 1960

Very obviously 1960's architecture, it was constructed of cheap cinder block, designed with the arrogance that modern style superseded all others, never mind that your neighbors were wood-sided 100 year old homes with wrap-around porches.

Scene of the Crime that Was, Unit G1

Christy Marshall, editor of At Home magazine, took on the Garden Apartments as a community project with passion.  Designers, sub-contractors, and vendors were invited to share their time, talent, and wealth.  Each unit consisted of a living/dining area, galley kitchen, bedroom and bath.  These units, now owned by Webster University, were occupied most of the year by actors and musicians with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Marcia Smith, of Marcia Smith Design Group, and I decided to team up to tackle the project.  Here we are at our initial site survey in the depths of winter last February.  We would not be able to return until July.

This became my life for the next couple of months:  keys to my car, my office, my home, and The Garden Apartments.

Yeah, it was nasty and a big mess.  I will say, though, the a.c. worked beautifully on 100 degree days.

July 2011: Here Marcia and I in the space about to be reborn, if it ever really was alive!  In any event, we were prepared to put it out of its misery.

Get ready,

 get set, 


Aaaahhhh, much better don't you think?  Our design concept was in keeping with the '60's architecture.  We relied on generous donations for purchases to supplement our own donated funds, and made liberal use of the Ikea catalogue to keep costs down.

Draperies by Nicky Berry of FabricWorks

Our drapery maker's daughter had on the right dress for opening night!

 Home Suite Home

It was all for a good cause.  Deborah Sharn, company manager for the Rep, was indefatigable in grappling with a myriad of details, budgets, contractors and designers.  An excellent musician as well, she sang for her supper for sure!  Marcia and I hope that the likes of opera great Christine Brewer will vie for the opportunity to reserve Apartment G1.  Instead of the Bates Motel, it is now Home Sweet Home!  On newsstands now you can see the project in At Home magazine November/December.  Check it out at: