Sunday, April 1, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

One of my favorite past times as a child was walking around with a mirror, held horizontally, and imagining that I was walking on the ceiling.  This gave me an entirely new perspective on the space in which I lived, and guaranteed endless entertainment. Grasping everything from a hand mirror to a picture size mirror so as to increase the effect, I would carefully step over door headers and ceiling beams, skirt around light fixtures and plunge into the abyss above a staircase. The magic of the mirror has never ceased to fascinate me.

Photograph by Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The New Museum in New York recently hosted "Carsten Holler: Experience",  where you could don a pair of "upside-down-goggles" so that your eyes would do a back flip. The show was hailed as an art world amusement park and included corkscrew slides, a sensory deprivation tank, and light shows that would leave you hallucinating. Just my kind of show!  For those of you who missed it, I recommend the my old-fashioned method of walking around your home with as big a mirror as you can manage, an epsom salt bath, and some psychedelic drugs (Steve Jobs would approve). 

I was amazed to find this unique clothing boutique image in my files. I believe it may be in Paris, showing a room completely upside down. Just imagine how discombobulating but fun it must be! Just imagine the designer selling the concept to the client: "Let's make the showroom upside down"! The herringbone parquet installers might not have been so enthralled, but obviously the client took the bait.

Christie's auction of The Collection of Will Fisher, founder of Jamb

Otherwise, a safe, tamer and more affordable way of delving into the "other-world" of the mirror is simply to see what your wall mirrors are reflecting.  We can get "turned on" by how artfully the reflection is arranged.  It's a simple way for you to "make art".

Vicente Wolf

Vicente Wolf has been using large mirrors for years to tell a different story of what is typically reflected.  In this case, he calls attention to the interesting table legs and echoes the beckoning hand sculpture. The mirror is actually a three-dimensional piece of stainless steel, polished and framed with a satin finish bevel. He likes that there is a bit of distortion; that is when the fun begins!


New mirrors are like children and teenagers. They are lucky to survive a generation, given the throw-away society that we now live in. Funny that Ikea included dinosaurs as props. These mirrors will be extinct, too, in no time flat.  But instead of being frozen, they'll be melted!

design by Philippe Starck
Fiam Italia

Until that day of extinction comes, the more expensive and better quality new mirrors, as this one, will surely endure and be handed down by the generations, the equivalent of the computer age external hard drive, storing 21st century memories.

17th c. Italian giltwood mirror
Interior Design by Michael S. Smith

I am captivated by the souls and the history that antique mirrors contain.  What stories could they tell of the countless scenes that have unfolded in their presence?  How have they witnessed the aging of persons gazing into their never-ending depths?  I view mirrors with the greatest respect for the history that they hold within.  These old mirrors, with beautiful frames, silvered backing on thick glass, are a treasure, and perhaps someday their code of silence will be cracked and their secrets will spill forth. Perhaps someday the technology will allow them to be as a television History Channel. Just touch the mirror and be transported to another world!  


  1. MIRROR! mirror! Renee, you're so right! I did try the walk around when I was a kid. You are inspiring me to do again 60 years later! While in Ste. Genevieve last week stopped in at a restaurant with an old mirror behind the bar--in very good shape.

    1. Arturo - I LOVE the mental flip-flop; keeps us young, huh?

  2. What about when you read Picture of Dorian Gray as a teenager and avoided looking in mirrors for the next few weeks?

    1. Yeah, after reading that book, I got completely freaked out about looking in mirrors for sheer vanity; I scared myself silly!