Monday, January 7, 2013

Rescue Me!

If you are down in the doldrums and want to be rescued, my suggestion is to medicate yourself with a good dose of art and music.  I recently had the perfect sort of day...a morning visit to see an art exhibit of Federico Barocci bookended with an evening musical tribute to Fontella Bass...who could want for anything more?

Entombment of Christ, 1579-82
Federico Barocci
Oil on canvas 116 1/8" x 78 5/8"
Chiesa della Croce, Senigallia

And who is Federico Barocci and Fontella Bass, you may ask? Federico was a Renaissance artist famous in his own time, but rather forgotten otherwise. Fontella was a soul and gospel singer who had one big hit with the song "Rescue Me",  in 1965.  

Fontella Bass
July 3, 1940 -  December 26, 2012
R.I.P., Divine Diva

The St. Louis Art Museum is essentially in my own back yard and less than 5 minutes away.  But to get to the church where Fontella's memorial was to take place required Mapquest.  And interestingly enough, Mapquest chose a 30 minute route through the most gangster-ridden, dangerous neighborhoods you can imagine. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea", I thought, as I barreled past boarded up buildings in the bleak, battle-zone blocks of North St. Louis.  Funny how Mapquest doesn't take the particular property of personal peril into account. Well, perhaps the route was all part of a pilgrimage experience, so as to get a deeper understanding of the roots of black music.  You gotta show some respect to the dearly departed, so I took my chances. 

Amazing grace! The adventurous ramble ended up at a large Christian church in an outlying suburban locale.  I quickly observed that I was definitely one of a minority complexion, but was received with sincere warmth and welcome by the assembled family and friends. What then commenced were prayers, poems and musical selections of gospel, blues, and soul that righteously rocked the roof off. An after-set followed in The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, which is practically in my own front yard. It was indeed a fitting send-off to Fontella.

Studies for the Virgin's hands
Federico Barocci
Charcoal with red and pink pastel heightened with white on blue paper
10 13/16" x 15 1/2"
Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

My message today is to get off the couch and go see some good art and listen to some good music - it is out there and likely in your own front or back yard! And if you haven't yet seen the current exhibit of Barocci at the St. Louis Art Museum, you'd better run, because it runs only through January 20th. You will be awed by the intimacy of sketches and drawings that build up to the finished paintings.  You will be able to observe the creative process of a great artist. The show is composed of 134 pieces, assembled from all corners of the world, so this will save you a lot of money and time in travel expenses. Better get going and you'll feel like you're in heaven!

If you still need rescuing, listen to Fontella:

  1. Fontella Bass - Rescue Me (1965) - YouTube
    Mar 6, 2009 - Uploaded by John1948Five
    The 1965 classic "Rescue Me" is widely regarded as the greatest record Aretha Franklin never made. The song ...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Toilet Story

The week before Christmas, I was called to advise on an emergency toilet specification...not a good thing to rush into at any time of the year!  This resulted in a long conversation about the pluses and minuses of what is available in the market.  On Christmas Day I watched, and very much enjoyed the movie Toy Story 2.  Then, at a New Year's Day brunch, I found myself being privy to a toilet story and I swear I didn't bring up the subject!  This guest recounted the exciting experience of selecting and buying a dual-flush, low-flow fixture. And so, Toy Story 2  was buttressed by a toilet story on each side, pun intended!   
Basic bathroom

I grew up in a family of seven children and two parents, and we shared a single bathroom in our century old farm house. There was a toilet, a wall mounted sink, and a free standing tub. Believe it or not, one bathroom per household was commonplace. Frankly, I don't recall it being a big deal. The problem that I perceived had to do with its appearance.

Another old bathroom with a tub like the one I had as a child.

It may have been my first home decorating project, and I'm guessing I was 10.  The room was about 6 x 8 feet, with an 8 foot ceiling height. There was a dado running around the room.  My idea was to paint the wall and ceiling above the dado a glossy fire engine red. The trim would be white,  and below the dado, I would apply a realistic black and white brick pattern vinyl wallcovering. Washable red carpeting anchored the floor. My parents willingly paid for materials, and I provided the labor. The red, white, and black scheme looked quite fashionable, and my parents were always proud to show it off to friends. Hey!  It was the fifties! 

Basic bathroom with dado

I wish that I had a photograph of the before and after - perhaps the catalyst to launching my career in interior design many years later!  The toilet in my childhood home was as basic as you can get, and amazingly, it seemed to hold up to all the use that it received.  Today, however, if I had my druthers, I'd have a Toto toilet, for the ultimate toilet story of luxury.  If you have never had the experience of trying one, I recommend it highly; you will be baptized, so to speak, and born again!

Toto Neorest