Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Artist's Home and Art Studio

My Former "Paris Apartment in Sacramento with a Southern Folk and Vintage Twist"(2002-08)

My key chain, which says it all.

The foyer; I loved using a door knocker as a mail holder, and on top of the antique singer sewing machine, one of a few that I've collected. The sewing machines, the remaining two that I kept of the four that I had originally before making donations of them to charity, are now in my art studio. I bought that ashtray in North Carolina at an antique store for $1.50 and used to use it as a plant stand. It's now useful for burning incense. This is the foyer literally the night before I started dismantling everything to pack and move, and ship all the art off to be exhibited in Montgomery. The cross is from a great Catholic store in Sacramento that I liked to visit. It has personal meaning. But it is also my way of acknowledging how much religious art is a genre unto itself and how it has been cherished in lots of homes; mine was no exception growing up.

One of my favorite pieces is a French pie cabinet, which I use for some of my Haviland china collection. My Kitchen Aid mixer, hands down, is my favorite appliance. This is a close-up of some of the Haviland. I still need another full set and more individual plates. I love the way that a beautiful set of Haviland will always get the attention in any antique store. I once saw a vintage place setting on display at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, which helped me to recognize some of the more political implications of this lavish design. All of the serving pieces, including tiny butter dishes for individual place settings, indicated that someone must have been serving from them and doing the labor to wash them. The Grand Baroque is the flatware design set that I like best from as an artist. The flatware set "Michaelangelo" made by Oneida is what I have and use now.

I enjoy her stuff but never got Nigella's recipe for a madeira cake to work! If I could cook like anyone on earth, it would be Patti Labelle. I've used her cookbooks to at least give it a try!

This is part of my cookbook collection here, as well as various books on home making, including studies by Carol Mendelson on Laundry and keeping a home. I love studying all the work in these areas, and implementing or experimenting with different ideas. Keeping the traditional Monday wash day, as much as I can, helps a lot. I'm glad to have found that All-Clad pot at Macy's in Sacramento, for the prices for all cookware in Ithaca are astronomical. I hope to get the whole set in the near future.

I always kept a well-stocked pantry for baking when I was home afternoons, during the siesta that I always took, especially during my annual research quarter. I tend not to do academic work on days at home between 3 and 7. Grocery deliveries of the big items and bottled water always made stocking it easy. Like the pantry, I enjoyed keeping a linen closet, with a preference for all white towels and washcloths. Macy's, two blocks away, was my Kmart and I left California with far more linens, feather beds and pillows than anyone should have. It was definitely addictive and I've since downsized. The other major zone along this axis for me were the buffet drawers in the dining room, with collections ranging from antique Quaker lace table cloths to cloth napkins and various sets of crocheted napkins and place mats. Still need an oversize table cloth. I never liked the ones at Macy's because they were never cotton but were all polyester, and so bought none there. Don't like the small American ones. I kept one drawer for candles, to always have a fresh supply for dinner parties. One drawer was purely for gift wrap, tape and boxes.

My collection of French cookbooks, including many by Julia Child

The core of my collection of Southern folk art is grounded by artists such as Mose T, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Bernice Sims and others. Alabama art is the foundation and highlight of my collection. I am inspired by them, for I also very much identify as an Alabama artist. I met Mose T in 1999 and was photographed with him. I also keep photos of Southern folk artists on my refrigerator door at home and on my office door on campus. I love the remarkable quilt collections that some people I know have, but I only make quilts and have never collected them, for I don't have the means to store them properly or a lot of space to display them at this point; this is what I collect!

The dining table. As a Southerner, not having a formal dining room is unthinkable to me. It took two years in California to find the harp-back chairs, which are all hand-cross-stitched with flowers in different designs. My grandmother explained that women would work together in groups and do these projects to support one another. I also have a large rug that matches, which is also hand-made and cross-stitched. The candle holders mainly help to create the French vibe that I like. The French tend to keep tall ones so that the face is lit from above instead of below. I literally ordered off to a special company and had all of mine changed at one point, for they were low initially. In general, I really got into mastering the art of "illumination" back then from room to room and for me, this is where it reached its pinnacle. The large mirror was positioned over the buffet just at the height to reflect and double the light from the candles on the table, and it made for very elegant dinners. I believe that fine linens and textiles are the clothing for any home, candle-holders and other items function as its jewelry. My Jimmy Lee Sudduth paintings are in the background.

The sofa is a gift from my grandmother from the famous Martha House furniture company in Montgomery, which she bought for me when I completed my Ph.D. at Duke. The large foldout French mirror in the background was my gift to myself when I got tenure in the UC system back in 2005. I've re-purposed it for the bedroom this time around. I just must say, also, that one night, I was sitting on that sofa watching TV, and saw the mirror start to move, and reflect the F&F collectibles on top of the cabinet in the kitchen. It was weird. I was thinking, "have I seen this before?" I looked and looked again. I wondered if the heater was causing some kind of vibration and doing it, and got up and checked. It turned out to be an earthquake, a rare occurrence in the Central Valley area in California.

I took a break from Southern folk art for about a year and started collecting ornate antique French mirrors. I have six large ones now. Too many people only get a good look at themselves in department stores, but good mirrors are helpful to have around.

One of my favorites

My study in Sacramento. This was a perfect napping sofa. This photo also shows all of my books related to art and interior design. I loved to relax in this cozy spot, look through my books, and dream, especially of Paris. In general, the spot reflected my belief that we rarely sit all over our home. We usually have special spots in different places where we spend the vast majority of the time when we are at home reading, watching TV, etc. Even if there's a whole room, most of us will probably always sit in the same places without even thinking about it. In that apartment, I had exactly seven. My bed, this spot, my dining room table, the sofa in the living room, my desk, baths, and the balcony. Everyone can probably count up their intimate home spaces in a similar way. I thought it made sense to nurture the basic and specific spaces at home where we actually spend time. Another thing about that sofa is that I got trapped in the elevator for two hours accidentally, up on the 15th floor of the building, on the day it was moved in. Assistance was called and I waited calmly until help arrived. It was kind that a few residents waited outside the elevator the whole time until I was freed. To them, I'm sure I was always thought of from that point on as "the woman who got trapped in the elevator."

Too many magazines. Recycled most before I left California

In background, poster from French Film Festival of the Alliance Francaise, which I attended annually from its inception in 2002 for six years. I also eventually joined the organization

Some of my home decor books and books on France. I just began to crave this knowledge a few years ago and read everything I could on the subject. One of my favorite subgenres is all the books on French femininity. I read them as quickly as they are published. Like, I've already finished the new followup to Entre Nous by Debra Ollivier. They are beginning to quote one another too much for me now, though, for I've also read the books being quoted and so seeing material rehashed is no fun. In general, I've read these books over and over and savor them. In my office on campus, there's the equivalent of about 10 tall book shelves of books, but those are all academic. I love them and have read a good many of them, and am a restless bibliophile and researcher. But outside of academia I also approach everything in life with the curiosity that a researcher would. My books at home are all geared toward this ongoing process of personal development and are concentrated in a few distinct, genres (spirituality and self-help, relationships, art, fashion and beauty, cooking and homemaking, interior design, travel, and whatever stacks I'm actively reading as an academic). I read and reread my personal books to the point that they are virtually memorized and especially love the how-to genre.

This is the very last version of my home art studio in Sacramento in May, 2008 before the art was taken down and shipped to Montgomery for my exhibition at the Rosa Parks Museum Gallery and Library.

As an adult and single woman, I have always preferred only white bedroom decor and never any art in that room. It took several years to find that long bolster pillow, a rare thing in the U.S., though at this point I don't use it anymore. But it was too hard to find to even think of getting rid of. The main art piece on the wall is the sepia-colored photo from my debutante program book, my version of the "lady of the house picture," which reminds me of the large one of my grandmother in the front room at home.

My fun book collection on Southern femininity. Don't use these for research, but they are fun to read and have. This is a Scarlett O'Hara music box that I bought a couple of blocks away at the Westfield Shopping Plaza's Christmas store during the time I was working on my Gone with the Wind Quilt trilogy as part of my "Hollywood Series." During that period, I also bought a street painting featuring a classic scene from the film, which also helped me to reflect on the film as an artist in a different medium.

Took two years to find this art deco vanity. I saw many, but preferred one with a mirror trimmed in wood, which was harder to find. It was also important to me to have one with glove drawers. Like the vanity, which was found separately, the chest has a waterfall front.

Found this chair at one of my favorite antique stores in Sacramento, which was dedicated to all French antiques. I bought it because I like Louis XV furniture and also because I loved the color. Now in my art studio with another chair similar in design. French chair and one of the dolls from my porcelain doll collection. The others are boxed and in a closet. Trying to save for my future daughter if I have one.

Debutante and other formal photos of women in my family. Over time, I framed all of these, including my own, at Grebitus and Sons (a fine jewelry store two blocks away) in silver frames, where Macy's suggested I go to find the frames I wanted after what they had did not seem to satisfy me. G&S packaged everything beautifully and would call and update me on their store regularly in light of this project. The photos are another very different kind of art collection. I need to do a similar thing for my main family photos. The debutante pictures of Megan and me and the debutante quilt of Keri were all featured in spring 2009 in an exhibition on black debutantes at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery. This vanity recasts and revises a basic design that I saw in Claudia Strasser's gorgeous book "The Paris Apartment." She's a wonderful person and we had several exchanges when I was in California and I look forward to meeting her at some point when I visit her store, which will be easier to do now since I'm so much closer to the city. Loved Child perfume, which smells great and is so beloved by Madonna and others. I went through vial after vial; they are all filled and packaged by hand. I enjoyed ordering it and wearing it; by then, I had bought the bath gel to reinforce the scent. The rose flower pin collection has been removed now and is stored in a closet. I am slowly redoing the rose pin collection with handmade roses at this point. I also have a display of Mac makeup brushes and the makeups I use. Flesh stuff like powders and concealers are in one container and colors like blushes, lipsticks and nail polishes are on the other. Indeed, I regard the makeup brushes and cosmetics on this vanity as a kind of art studio for fashioning myself as a woman.

Master bathroom. Had large gilded (and very heavy) mirror here. Takes a lot of strength and time just to push it, which I learned that it was delivered and left in my hallway and I needed to get it in here. Used milk maid statue theme here. The large one is inscribed and looks like it may be one by one of the famed brothers Mareaux.

Had many great parties in this apartment over the years, including an event in honor of the scholar Houston A. Baker, Jr., when I worked with the Davis Humanities Institute to bring him to campus in May of 2003. This final party was held in May of 2008 for my graduate students at the culmination of my course on the "Global South." I had it catered by Raja's, my favorite Indian restaurant in Davis, but designed all the fruit, vegetable and dessert trays on the table myself.

The spread from Raja's. The food was delicious. The samosas were a big hit. No leftovers.

I could see horses and carriages plodding by on N street daily coming through from Old Sacramento. I always intended to go one one of these rides someday while living downtown in Sacramento but never did. School children would sometimes be taken on tours in large horse-drawn wagons, and they would always wave to me if I was downstairs. It was just sweet. Another charming thing was hearing the light rail and church bells, or the train a few blocks away. This street was taken over by cyclists or protesters periodically, too.

A segment of my balcony, which was a long as a bowling lane, maybe longer. I also maintained a potted garden of pink miniature roses. They are not in bloom in this picture. The table and chair set took a long time to find in Sacramento, and I found them when I moved to Capitol Towers. I refused to ever put a plastic set on my balcony, like most people in my building, but left it empty, until I found the right vintage one. One incentive was that my cousins, Keri and Megan, then 11 and 14, were scheduled to visit me for two weeks. I wanted them to be able to have an outlet during the day and to be able to sit on the balcony instead of being holed up inside all day. They spent hours out there on the visit. They had the best instincts for great photos and in the final days, we took some pictures. I'd been keeping the bone china in the dish washer. Before I took the picture, they asked me to wait, ran to the dishwasher and got the tea cups and saucers, and then took them out on the balcony, sat in the chairs and posed with them. Once on the way out for an excursion with my aunt, who came to take them back to Montgomery, they waved up at the security camera downstairs because they knew I would be watching to see them out. At both Capitol Towers and Bridgeway, I regret that I never lit up the balcony at night. Some neighbors would burn lights nightly, which felt like Christmas. Enjoyed seeing it, especially looking up from the street at the balconies on the way in, but could not bring myself to use energy in that way.

The view from my bedroom and balcony by day. Wells Fargo towered in the other direction. My mom asked me about what the new building looked like from my balcony and I said, "Like the Iceberg from Titanic." I was like, "It's time for me to go!" For years, my building, Bridgeway Towers, like Capitol Towers where I also lived for two years, set the standard in downtown Sacramento for luxury living; its penthouse apartments were the top rent ceiling in the Sacramento region and we had a doorman and other amenities, like free cable with many channels. Months before the ground broke on this new building, which went up on the site of the parking lot I used to cross when living at Capitol Towers, all of the condos were guaranteed through $60,000 downpayments.

The view from my bedroom and balcony by night, including the gorgeous weekly fireworks display. I could see fireworks from my balcony in Sacramento every Saturday night from April to August when I lived here. I could also see them when I lived at Capitol Towers. They were great, especially when family and my girl friends from high school were there. This was a way to entertain the Sacramento Ravens baseball crowds, for whom there would be special buses. Neighbors and I always applauded after the show, and they really bring it. Loved this. Just the best entertainment in Sacramento. Also, I must say, that my favorite spot of all in Sacramento was the huge, beautiful and colorful "Peace Garden" when it was in bloom at the edge of the Capitol Building grounds. I'd go there many Saturdays and sit for a bit. The trees that cover the capitol grounds in Sacramento are labeled with a range of varieties, like a tree library. Many Saturdays, brides and grooms and their wedding parties would go to the garden to be photographed, and on the days that they were there, I'd pass on. But otherwise, it was almost vacant and one could spend time there alone. When I visited Paris, I went to the Luxembourg Gardens, which was covered with chairs and full of people of many generations, and felt as crowded as the mall. Once I was back at home and so often found myself alone on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon after walking from midtown toward home and soaking up the beauty of this gorgeous rose garden on our capitol grounds, I'd think, this would never happen in Paris.

"The Peace Garden," Gorgeous Rose Garden on Capitol Grounds in Sacramento, CA

Images of the Sacramento apartment at Bridgeway Towers are also featured in Geraldine Chouard and Anne Cremieux's short film "A Portrait of the Artist." I posted the comment below about Bridgeway Towers, for a long time, the premier luxury highrise building in downtown Sacramento and the only one with a doorman, at Apartmentratings.com about my Sacramento apartments on a review blog in July 2007 and updated it in August 2008 and thought it would be useful to share. Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner share valuable insights in their study of the studio, the primary space for artists. As always, as an artist, it is necessary to find the best possible climates for art production and studio space. I was tremedously blessed in that respect in California where I lived in two popular and very different high rise condominiums downtown in Sacramento and developed my first art studios. Artistic expression permeates the lives of artists above and beyond the art that they make, and gives their environments (and sometimes the artists themselves) a profound and natural sensuality. Commercial items bought simply for practicality just won't do for me; even my bathroom garbage can is hand-painted. One thing that I loved about Paris when I first visited was that even sponges and regular house-hold items that I saw looked interesting and beautiful. For many artists, everything is done with a special flair, care and precision, and home is one of the places, beyond the art itself, where all of this is most evident. For the artist, even the body is a canvas for fashion, makeup, and expressing style and creativity. The images below in the photoalbum, for which there is a link from Facebook, shows how this kind of expression comes out for me. The review follows.

I moved out of this building in June 2008 after having lived in it for 6 years as a renter. It is a good environment with many nice longterm residents. The building is conveniently located, which was good for me because I didn't own a car. I was comfortable living there and loved that I could see the downtown firework shows from my balcony every Saturday in the spring and summer. I loved seeing the horses and carriages plod by from Old Sacramento; when I'd have parties for my graduate students, guests thought it was interesting to have a "New York apartment" in Sacramento, though I always gave mine a Paris and Southern touch. This building has a rich history and Jerry Brown once lived in it (when he was Governor). I appreciated the building's commitment to keeping a doorman or concierge on staff, which makes things more convenient. I ordered groceries sometimes from Safeway.com. I had a two-bedroom with two baths and it was far more space than I needed, as big as a house, with closets for days! The feel was luxurious with the views and the sliding doors in every room that led out onto the balcony, which was longer than a bowling lane. Because of this, I saw it as an urban beach house; but instead of looking out on the ocean, one looked out on the city. I am also an artist, and photo sessions were frequently taped on my balcony or in the living room; some footage is visible in the film about my art entitled "A Portrait of the Artist," which was shown at the Ambassador's Residence in Paris when I visited under the auspices of the U.S. Embassy as a "Cultural Envoy" in 2009. They had just started showing the lights on top of a new condominium building nearby and I had the perfect view of it, especially from my bedroom (photo included). I never had a washer and dryer and would use the laundry room downstairs; but even some residents who had them did that in the summer, too, b/c dryer blowback made their apartments too hot. I savored day to day living there. I have so much missed my apartment since leaving California, and even finally moved into one that reminded me of it in New York, at least in terms of the floorplan. I urge residents to never take Bridgeway Towers for granted, for such spaces can be hard to come by in some areas. My experience was good at Capitol Towers, too, where I lived for two years. I had regular housekeeping since the building made it available for a fee. The staff back then was phenomenal and took lots of pride in the apartments. Like, when I filled out the forms on the condition of the apartment, which had been newly renovated, after moving in in 1999, I noted a little rust on the racks in the refrigerator. A day later, I thought something was different when I looked at the food inside. I was shocked that they had literally put another one in there while I was at work. It's under new management now, so I can't speak to how it is there now. Overall, I loved downtown Sacramento living and did it for nine years, which gave me good access to the downtown plaza, free park concerts, farmer's markets, etc. I highly recommend it.

Some Views of Current Art Studio in New York, which is highlighted in Lauren Cross's film "The Skin Quilt Project"

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