Thursday, April 30, 2009

CITY HOUSES: Portland Oregon

Well, I set my task two months ago: NEW DRAWINGS for SPRING, to be revealed in Late April. Time flies when you are working hard and having fun. Today is my last chance at Late April. So I will introduce the new drawings, a little at a time over the next week or so.

Beginning with the CITY HOUSES Series.

(I think I called these "Streetscapes:5 new images" in my initial goal list. Things evolved.)
I love to find the quintessential house type that seems to characterize a city. I am so interested in drawing them to see the similar language they speak, in forms, material and detail - and the individual features that make each unique. I also appreciate the urban context which gives form to these houses; In this case, the Green Yards and abundant Large Trees in many varieties.
When I visited Portland last summer, I got pretty excited about all the Bungalows.

bottom left is Shelley + Mitch's house!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Charleston TEST Patterns

Swatches of a new Vernacular House Types + Cities Poster: I'm trying to decide which tones best characterize CHARLESTON...
Yes, somewhere between two and three. The child of Charleston Green and Antique English Blue.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LECTURE: Words + Images >>> Ideas

I attended the Michael Kimmelman lecture at SCAD's Trustees Theater tonight where the art critic spoke of his experience asking artists how they see Art, ideas and tangents from his book, The Accidental Masterpiece.

Perhaps students takes these moments for granted. I suppose I did, on occasion. The opportunity to just sit in semi-darkness and Think - not aimlessly, but about one's own ambitions, wonderings, inklings guided by the words and images of, in this case, quite a brilliant voice. To Think, to Record, and ideally, to Act on the Ideas that emerged during the Lecture. It was so indulgent, I thought.

These are some points that stuck and the images Michael Kimmelman's words and images conjured in my mind. (None of these are direct quotes nor images from Kimmelman; rather, they are the ideas conjured in my mind by his words.)

Cartier-Bresson draws at the Louvre (and lives across the street.) He shot photographs in the streets.

(I ran through the Louvre so I could take on the streets and the quays...Guilty.)

Kimmelman's college friend, Alex, a young writer lived in a small New York apartment lined with bookshelves filled with books to the max. When one book was acquired, another was thrown away. Alex's LIBRARY became his SELF-PORTRAIT. When Alex died young, his father moved the entire library in aspic to his own apartment in London.
(Self-Portrait of a City...)

The digital camera robs us of the possibility of mistakes, or accidental masterpieces, such as with double exposures.
(Accident in my darkroom: Ponte Vecchio, Firenze)

Wunderkammer: cabinets of curiosities
The artist finds beauty in ordinary objects and puts them under glass.

Children notice and find delight in ordinary things because they take the time to see them. This is also the task of the artist. The artist is, therefore, somewhat like a child.

(Beauty in the Everyday: A stranger in Paris asked me to take his photo because he was beautiful.)

Regarding the recent earthquakes in L'Aquila Italy, Kimmelman recalled a similar scene following the Umbrian earthquakes in 1998. (I was in Assissi not long after these earthquakes and witnessed the old stone chapels and cathedrals of Assissi in scaffolding. Then, it was a shock to see these iconic buildings as old as the earth were not static and were even capable of being destroyed.) Kimmelman spoke of his travel to the even smaller villages near L'Aquila whose chapels and frescoes were damaged. He was moved by the spirit of patriotism for the local village artist who was the creator of the frescoes; a spirit stronger than being Italian was this provincial pride in the Art of one's own village.

Now - to Think, Record, and Act...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beginning 10 BLOCK East Jones

Starting from zero at Bull Street, I am now in East Jones territory, Beginning with 2 - 4 East Jones Street. Built in 1853 for Alexander Smets and attributed to another Savannah-architect-household-name, John Norris, it presently houses the Illustration Department of Savannah College of Art & Design. It was one of the first buildings I ever saw in Savannah, under the warm street lamp glow in April 2003.

Here is a 1936 HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey) photo of its intricate wrought iron balcony along Bull Street which I have been able to barely gesture in my 1"=12' drawing. Perhaps I should draw it in perspective, receding.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Muscles_RAW Material

Last Fall saw the Vintage Automobiles postcards. This Spring, it's muscle cars from the late 60s, early 70s. Here are the fresh sketches, pre-postcard.

Mansion Offices

I mentioned in a 4/8/09 post the transition of Savannah mansions into civic, institutional or office buildings throughout the mid-1900s. These photos from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) compiled after 1933 show two Savannah mansions retro-fitted as offices and businesses, revealing interesting juxtapostions like the formica lunch counter latched onto the ornate 19th-century fireplace, the Coke machine and the chandelier medallion. I like to see the sleek mid-century file cabinets and typewriters housed within the Victorian-trimmed rooms. Within the past twenty years, most of these mansions became house museums or again single-family homes, though often not a primary residence.

Library of Congress, HABS: Anderson-Leslie House, 4 West Oglethorpe

Library of Congress, HABS: Abram Minis House, 204 East Jones Street

The significant fact is that, in these cases, good buildings were preserved and made useful during the ebb and flow of economy and cultural values over the past century.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

12 West Oglethorpe BURNED

12 W Oglethorpe, front
The newspaper said, "A vacant three-story house at 12 W. Oglethorpe Ave. was extensively damaged late Monday by a blaze that fire crews battled for several hours. The brick structure, near the corner of Oglethorpe and Bull Street, caught fire shortly after 9 p.m., said Master Firefighter Wayne Ifill, with Savannah Fire & Emergency Services. The upper walls folded on top of each other in a pancake fashion, making the fire difficult to reach, Ifill said." (MICHAEL ATKINS , Savannah Morning News)photos from the lane, at the west side and rear

The ballroom at the rear of the sprawling house was ablaze, likely from a fire that began in the adjacent dumpster in the lane. The scent lingers today. The wind was whipping all day and night. The power went out for a few minutes, here. Ripe conditions for a fire. Boys are clearing out the charred historic building fragments. I glimpsed some large-print vintage wallpaper in one of the front rooms as I skulked around the property tonight.
I thought, what a tragedy - historic fabric lost and I wondered about the house's evolution. I am certainly not qualified to deduce its history, but here is what my curiousity has landed so far in facts (and myths):
It was purported to be built in 1900, according to the seller who described it this way: "Features a foyer with hardwood floors, a large ballroom with includes five fireplaces, and a central skylight overlooking a dramatic dogleg staircase with iconic pillars. Last remaining renovation project on Oglethorpe in Savannah's Historic District." SAGIS substantiates the building date as 1900 and its material as brick veneer.

12 West Oglethorpe is said to be haunted, one of many such edifices in the city. The Ghost Tour claims "The house doesn’t look very inviting. The facade is somber and gloomy. The deserted interior can be seen obliquely through grimy windows. A prominent doctor lived here when a ghastly yellow fever epidemic broke out in 1820 that would eradicate a tenth of Savannah’s population...Yellow fever eventually took the lives of his wife and son. Out of his grief, and possibly guilt, the desperate doctor bricked himself up in the house and died." An 1888 Sanborn Map shows a smaller, wood-frame building on this site which may or may not have existed in the 1820s and later covered in brick in 1900 to become the existing house.

Sanborn Map 1888 shows wood structure at the site of 12 W. Oglethorpe

It was also purported to be the childhood home of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts. Fascinating! Her birthplace at 10 East Oglethorpe, just 1/2 block from 12 East, as well as her adult home are both restored and open as house museums while this abandoned home rotted for years. Juliette Gordon was born in 1860. I found the main house with its round portico on 1898 and 1916 Sanborn Maps, but the 1888 Sanborn Map shows a smaller, wood-frame building at 12 East Oglethorpe. The website of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace explains the history of the house and inhabitants. In the 1850s, William Washington Gordon, II, and his wife, Eleanor Kinzie Gordon, Juliette's parents, moved into 10 West Oglethorpe to help Mrs. Gordon, Sr., Juliette's grandmother, with expenses. William Gordon II purchased the estate in 1882 when his mother died. Girl Scouts and encyclopedic sites call 10 East Oglethorpe the "childhood home" of Juliette Gordon Low with no mention of 12 West Oglethorpe.
Sanborn Map 1898 - 12 W. Oglethorpe
Sanborn Map 1916 - 12 W. Oglethorpe

Like many Savannah mansions that become obsolete and unsustainable to smaller, less "royal" families in the early-mid 1900s, it transitioned to a civic use. 12 W. Oglethorpe became an Elks Lodge, as evidenced by the BPOE (Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks) inscribed in the sidewalk. It is labeled as such on the 1916 Sanborn Map. Subsequent additions, including the burned ballroom, occurred after 1916.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Amused Angst, Africa, Accordion > all in Savannah

This weekend concluded the 18-day Savannah Music Festival. I was lucky to see two shows and a few of the many amazing artists that performed this year. Live Music!

Friday night was Girls Night. Neko Case and her witty sidekick, backup singer Kelly Hogan, had a subversive comedy act going between songs. Speaking of songs, what a bad*** with soul, this chick. Compelling, moving, whiplash. Oh, how I wish I was a musician and could wring and bellow my heart out.

Saturday night was Boys Night. Bela Fleck Africa Project was high on my list of must-see. Bela is one of my favorite musicians. His versatility is awesome - and who can't love a man with a banjo on his knee (though there is a competing image of Kermt the frog and his banjo slightly misplaced into this moment...) I have seen Bela Fleck in lots of different settings, but this was amazing - to take a tour through Africa and meet incredible musicians working in vernacular forms for universal appeal to the human senses and emotions. It was super-human, the feats performed with these unique instruments. The joy effused from their faces and bodies as they played was infectious. They were funny, too. Anania Ngoliga sang a song about a girlfriend who sounded like a chicken and worked wonders with the thumb-piano or marimba. Vusi Mahlesela won me with his guitar, and his voice was a veritable percussian set. All eight musicians played together at the end, after taking turns. The way Bela's banjo (and Casey Driessen's fiddle) played with the Africans was wonderful, as they "explored the tenuous connection between bluegrass and traditional [African] music." What a perfect combination, after all.
Oh, how I wish I had a musician.

Photos by Banning Eyre, AfroPop

Last but not least, I am a fast fan of friends, Rose & the Rivals (although I keep calling them Rose & the Renegades, Rose & the Rebels.) I saw them Thursday night at Blowin' Smoke and was really, really impressed. Oh, how I wish I was a musician. Rose once patiently tried to teach me to knit, but it turns out I am severely challenged in that area. I will spare her my interest in playing the accordion. Looks like they have regular gigs at Lulu's on Tuesdays, Blowin' Smoke on Thursdays. Take a listen. (and remember, it's way better live.)
[I was just recruited for the church choir tonight, to "perform" Easter Sunday. So I guess I will have a tiny piece of that dream, after all.]