Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pink Lemonade on the Rocks

Winter in St. Louis never seemed to end; the crocuses, daffodils, and flowering trees were given a cold reception with late and persistent snowfalls.  Very pretty, I must say, and unbelievably the blooms seemed not to suffer. 

Spring snow

When is one truly grateful for a snowfall? When it helps to diagnose a beloved pet's medical condition of which you had no idea!

Pink Lemonade

Oh, this could be the composition of an abstract painting, but it's not. Thank heavens for the snow, I observed there to be pink snow cone rather than the desirable yellow variety. I took Chewy to the vet right away. Cystotomy surgery was immediately called for. He had stones in his bladder.

This stone was almost the size of a nickel  It is composed of calcium oxalate monohydrate 90% and calcium oxalate dihydrate 10%.  I think it is ferocious and interesting at the same time!  One can imagine that it might have caused Chewy some discomfort.

Vile vial

I asked the vet to save me the little culprits.  There were about 10 of these small, gravel sized pieces.

Poodle Puppy

Here is the happy boy after his operation, looking part poodle with his shaved forearm to better accommodate the IV.  He really does seem happier, and is playful with Alice as he never was since she joined the household  a year ago.  He hadn't appeared to be in pain, but if not for the tell-tale snow, a crisis of blockage was averted.  Must have felt like this...

Rene Magritte
Le monde invisible (The Invisible World)
Oil on canvas, 77 x 51 5/8 inches

Aahh...a beautiful painting about a handsome rock...or is it about something else?  Illusion or allusion?

"Bareback Mountain"

The OTHER problem with Chewy was a wretched hangover of steroids to treat his skin allergy issues. His appearance was downright embarrassing.  Chewbacca's new name became Bareback Mountain; seeming to be half orangutan and half dog.  I was ready to consult with Dr. Dogskin, the dermatologist, but his regular vet, Dr. Loehnig advised, "Let's treat one problem at a time."  So we fixed the inside and then worked on the outside.  Fortunately now the patch is all grown in with a new crop of silky fur. 

Speaking of stones, here is a home that likes to rock and roll!  The entire yard is filled with indiscriminate rubble.  There are Zen gardens and then there aren't...but I do believe the homeowner is proud of her creation.  I usually reserve making judgments about what some may call ugly, gross, or disgusting. In nature, I am  in awe of the endless variations in form, color and design. I would argue that ugliness is impossible; interesting, perhaps.  In art, too,  it is important to keep an open mind.  It's not always just a pretty picture that is determined a masterpiece!  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Panoply of Perquisites and Privileges

"I guess I should put the Mercedes in the garage." Such a statement was uttered by me only because one of my clients had generously loaned her car to me while I was between car purchases.  I usually park my car on the street, and I realized perhaps I should take extra care of the vehicle that was entrusted to me. A nice perk of being a designer is that you are privy to such luxuries.

The list of gifts received over the years is long and varied.  Certainly the use of second homes is especially appreciated, and the use of "fleet" vehicles on location, too.  Their generosity is touching.  For instance, while on project location in New Orleans recently, I had the use of the client's Prius. As I was picking up my daughter Emily to drive her to classes at Tulane one morning, she asked, "Where did that dent come from?"  I walked around to the front and was horrified to find a significant dent in the bumper.  Somebody must have backed into it the night before.  When I reported it to my client, with every intention of taking care of the repairs, she responded, "Don't give it another thought!  Those things are expected to happen in New Orleans!" 

And so it home is furnished with bits and pieces of my projects and the generosity of my clients.  Scraps of fabrics find their way onto furnishings of one sort or another. It's a good thing that I never specify anything that I wouldn't want myself! 

Instructions from my clients:  "We insist that you drink our wine, eat whatever is in the kitchen, drive our vehicles and otherwise make yourself at home!  Being in a relationship with this kind of client makes my job that much easier!  Who wouldn't want to do their very best with such trust and appreciation for my efforts on their behalf? 

Sometimes, when a client is moving, downsizing, or redecorating, I'm given things that don't fit into the new design plan.  Here you see this painting by Matt Walters that didn't fit into one of my client's new home.  She knew that I loved it, and gave it to me!

As a designer, you are also able to get first dibs on estate and tag sale items.  In this case, I got a set of four Emeco chairs at well below my original cost.  Such a deal!  A lot of times, my clients just give me whatever I want before selling to the public or putting things up for consignment.

I have been the happy recipient of all sorts of wonderful things:  bicycles, TVs, furniture and furnishings, rugs, clothing, foodstuffs, wine; just about anything that you can think of!  There are also invitations to dinner, parties, special events, and of course touching grateful client gifts at all times of the year.  My clients are THE BEST!  I am blessed to be showered with their appreciation for all that I do for them. I have to say, though I don't like a lot of frippery in my design work, this job does come with a few frills! 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just Dandy!

Surely the sign that spring is finally here is the appearance of happy yellow dandelions.  I don't know why some people don't like them and call them weeds.  They are as pretty a flower as any, and the tender young leaves are good to put in a salad.

We had a few false starts this year, with temperatures in the high 70's.  Shorts and sandals were de rigueur.  The flowering trees burst forth their blossoms, fragrance filling the air - enough to put one's head into a romantic tizzy of optimism and promise!

And then the next days would bring inches of snow deftly defining shapes and outlines. The heavy winter artillery of hats, gloves, and boots had to be at close hand; there was no telling what extremes the weather had in store.

Miraculously, the trees and flowers were not harmed and the channel was changed back to a beautiful spring. Note the famous St. Louis brick.

The cathedral of blossoms beckoned seductively, once again.

Now I fear the party's over, and like so much of yesterdays confetti, the winds and rains have claimed the petals to decorate the ground.  Show's over for tree blossoms!

A beach side of petals surrounding sidewalk puddles makes for pleasing amorphous shapes.

With the appearance of tulips, it really is spring!  I know that there is more proof to come, but the color displays are everywhere around us.  I can't hardly pass a hyacinth without kneeling down to inhale its intense aroma, but the delicate magnolia is just as fine!

Although I was fooled a few times already this year, I do think that it is safe to pack away the heavy coats, etc.  It has been one of the coldest winters we've had in years, and there were many more snowfalls than usual.  I liked our winter though, because it was what it was supposed to be: cold and snowy.  Now we are experiencing a splendid spring, and it is just as it is supposed to be, too: resort temperatures and gaudy displays of flowers perfuming the air!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another Opening, Another Show

The Cole Porter lyrics of "Another Opening, Another Show" ran through my head when I thought of this art exhibit, only because it was on the heels of "Time Wounds All Heels".  But then, as I pulled the images together, I realized it was so very appropriate, because there were in fact two openings for Christina Shmigel's, "This City, Daily Rising".

How exciting to have a show transported from Shanghai, where Christina has lived since 2004, to St. Louis!  First, opening night or not, half the show, the main part,  got stuck in customs. The lyrics go: "It couldn't be worse - will it ever be right?  Then out of the hat it's that big first night!"  Second, opening night coincided with a blizzard.  In spite of it all, there was a large group of 400 die-hards who showed up.

Christina Shmigel, artist
"On with the show!"

The following shots show the show in its entirety, at the second opening the following Friday.  Once again, a great turn-out for a great show. I've been very interested in China lately, with all of its rapid development, so this was a timely show to see a western artist's response to being immersed in its culture, both popular and classic.   

"A Foreigner's Cabinet of Chinese Curiosities"
Christina Shmigel

The most prominent piece was this old apothecary cabinet, with nearly every one of 67 drawers filled with the flotsam and jetsam of Chinese living.  It is an interactive piece, inviting viewers to climb the steps and explore what is in all of the drawers.  Drawers are left open or closed, and voila!  A utilitarian piece of furniture becomes a sculptural work of art.    

As I examined the drawer contents, I was fortunate to meet a Chinese doctoral candidate from Washington University, majoring in engineering no less!  He patiently explained the commonality of the curious items, which though rich in color and texture, were mostly ordinary and mundane, and thoroughly  inscrutable to western eyes.  He could translate for me, so I really lucked out in making a new friend.  Unlike many engineers, he was intelligently curious and open-minded about art and its importance in everyday life. 


As an aside, a couple of years ago I was pleased to find an apothecary cabinet for a client who has traveled the world several times over.  It may not be the most practical piece in the world, unless you're a hoarder or have some hobby or other that requires lots of little drawer slots. It does make a nice graphic statement, however.

Back to the show:  the artist had numerous glass cases spread out over the floor and sometimes stacked, suggesting high rise buildings.  Inside this one were little blocks of styrofoam tied up in red string.  Dang it!  And I just threw out a bunch of small blocks recently, not having had my muse visit me and tell me what to do with them!

It was a children's paradise:  all sorts of interesting shapes, materials, and colors distributed around the gallery space.  Not so good for drunken had to be nimble! I marveled at Shmigel's creative courage; even wondered about some simple cans that were in the mix with little towelettes in them and varying amounts of a brownish liquid...turns out they were catching rain drops from the ceiling; remains of the previous week's snow.  Bruno should have put a price tag on them; who knows, they might have sold! 

You can see how the pieces become part of a colorful conversation; aptly listening and involved. They created a foreign landscape of cities that never end, that are so populous but can still be intimate.  Fast-growing bamboo was a material frequently utilized in these grid structures, and are perhaps a metaphor for fast-growing China.  I've heard that bamboo is used for building scaffolding; it's lightweight, strong, and certainly plentiful!

I never tire of bundles, lattices and ladders.  I never tire of the ingenuity of artists. Christina built a bridge that spanned half the globe. Made in China by an American: now there's an interesting concept!