Studio Tour: Francis Bacon in Dublin

Francis Bacon in his studio, 1985

We had the opportunity to see Francis Bacon’s reconstructed painting studio in Dublin a couple francis-bacon-three-studies-of-george-dyerof years ago.

Francis Bacon was one of the leading figurative painters of the late twentieth century. He lived and worked in 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London, from 1961 until his death in 1992. The studio with its heaps of torn photographs, fragments, of illustration and artists’ catalogues provided many of his visual sources. It’s documented that his studio became his complete visual works. Apparently, Francis rarely painted from life.

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newspaperThe dust was deliberately mixed into his paint. The studio was cluttered, paint splattered with thick layers of debris and toxic pigments. Which apparently exacerbated his acute asthma.

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bike painting

looking into studio

Francis Bacon’s entire London studio was transplanted and reassembled – every paintbrush and speck of dust, along with the walls and floorboards – to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, Ireland. The studio took three years to reconstruct in a Dublin art gallery with every detail of the work-space faithfully re-created.

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The studio was donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in and a team of 10 archaeologists and conservators spent three years dismantling the room and its contents and transporting them across the Irish Sea.

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Bacon was born in Ireland to English parents but he left Ireland when he was a teenager. He died in Spain in 1992.  According to Brian Clarke, Francis Bacon’s executor, “Bacon once said that he’d never come back to Dublin until he was dead,”

“And I think frankly if he were here today to see what happened, I think he’d be touched but I think he’d probably roar with laughter as well.”

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Francis Bacon’s studio was the ultimate creative mess. I recommend a visit if you are in Dublin.

 

Meet Artist Ben Wilson, the Millennium Bridge Chewing Gum Man

people on bridge copy

After a trip to the Tate Modern in London, we headed over to meet a friend at Kings College. We walked over the elegant, sinuous Millennium Bridge. It’s has been a couple of years since our last visit and this time we noticed that everyone was looking down and pointing, not the sort of thing you expect to see in the middle of this busy thoroughfare. The once magnificent, pristine bridge has definitely aged.

viewersThe metal rungs of the bridge are now the repository for discarded chewing gum. It’s a bit shocking to see the how little regard people have for their city’s icons. I am always surprised that so many people do not consider discarded cigarette butts and chewing gum as destructive litter.

vististor taking a photoThe silver lining however is that Artist Ben Wilson, aka The Chewing Gum Man, apparently a regular sight on the bridge, takes these disgusting remnants of people’s chewing gum and turns them into mini works of art.

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artist at workartist close upcustomerMany of the pieces are commissioned by tourists and locals commemorating their visit or someone in their lives. The intricate paintings can take hours to make.

japaneseBen likes to create art that means something to the people who ask for it. This was a tribute to victims of the Japanese Tsunami.

larger st paulsThis image shows people on the bridge looking at Ben’s artwork and St Paul’s Cathedral at the end of the Millennium Bridge axis.

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It’s the endless possibility of patterns that seems to excite Ben’s creative mind. As Ben explains “sometimes I can look at the shape and I can see what I want to create…the gum gets stuck between the tread and takes on an echo or a form of the bridge.”( quote is from (image from Inspiring City)

art 3girl green head girl in coatThe Millennium Bridge has now become an experiential, free, outdoor art gallery. In his words, about painting onto discarded chewing gum, “it’s not criminal damage” he tells me “the chewing gum is already there I’m just transforming it into something beautiful that people would like to look at.” (Quote is from Inspiring City)).

bridge art with boots

This may be the ultimate expression of ‘taking lemons and making lemonade’. Ben Wilson has taken trash and turned it into an amazing interactive tourist attraction.  Now if he could only turn his hand to those cigarette butts. (The 3 image above are from Inspiring City)

Vancouver Evening Style

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Recently, I was at a friend’s birthday party at La Pentola Della Quercia in the OPUS Hotel Yaletown, when I looked up and saw something SPARKLE.

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At the bar was a beautiful bride and her groom having a nightcap in full wedding attire. The bride’s retro style was very evocative, and evidently she had designed the beaded, low-back gown, accentuated with jewelry and sparkly shoes.

Seeing this bride, just dripping with glamour, I got a distinctly nostalgic feeling. The look is such a welcome departure from the conventional, puffy or ‘puffless’, strapless wedding dresses that seems to dominate the wedding scene.

bride in bar

This Gatsbyesque style dress by contrast is not only glamourous, it’s practical.   A bride, according to traditional wedding designer Reem Acra, “…wants the glamour, but she wants the flowy dress — so she can move — the sexiness and the embellishment,” she said. “All these elements, in my mind, are saying ’20s.”

Jenny Packham, an evening wear and bridal gown designer in London, comments, “It was a wonderfully liberating time for women, to wear modern no-fuss clothing.” There’s a “strong contemporary relevance,” she added.

You don’t want to overdo it though and risk looking like a period piece.  Instead, like this bride, update the look by focusing on the Art Deco embellishments and dress cut. The long reverse pendant necklace is playful, and accentuates the bare plunging backline of the dress.

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Back to the party……cousins with style.

 

Chateau Marmont: LA’s Notorious Icon of Hedonism

Little did I know when my daughter suggested we have a drink at the Chateau Marmont, after a day of home tours in the Canyons, that it was the quintessential Los Angeles Hotel. Apparently the Eagles’ 1977 song ‘Hotel California’ is rumoured to be about the Chateau Marmont.

I have to thank the Vancouver Art Gallery’s latest show called, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life for enlightening and informing me of the hotel’s notorious reputation for being the ultimate hedonist’s hangout. Without seeing this exhibition, I doubt I would have delved further into the seedier history of Los Angeles. Although I knew something was up when the hotel staff asked me to put my camera away. Anyone who knows me, knows, this is very hard for me to do. I did manage to sneak a few pictures, but my friends were nervous about being thrown out, so I had to limit my shots. We did see some recognizable faces in the courtyard so I assumed this request was in deference to their guest’s privacy. Evidently the Chateau’s tradition of carefully guarded guest privacy dates back to its opening in 1927.

chateau marmont reverse templateThe hotel was loosely modeled after the French Loire Valley’s Chateau d’Amboise and was purposely built and envisioned, as a place where entertainment industry talent could feel at home. The hotel was designed to allow guests to come and go discretely, resulting in the Chateau’s reputation as a place for intrigue and indiscretion.  Most importantly, guests could come and go without being observed by the press.

chateau marmont lightingThe Marmont was originally conceived as a deluxe residential apartment complex. However, with the onset of the Great Depression, changes to the business model were required, so the Chateau became a hotel instead. The new owner capitalized on the flagging economy by purchasing antique furniture from estate sales, resulting in the Chateau’s distinctive style, so loved by visitors.

revsied chateau marmount 3 courtyard

In the late 60s and 70s the Chateau Marmont was very popular with musicians and became the locus for the emerging Los Angeles music scene based in the Laurel Canyon. According to the exhibition, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life, the Marmont was a retreat for some of the most famous musicians of the folk-rock revival, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jim Morrison, The Mamas and the Papas, and the The Byrds. The Marmont emerged as the place to meet, hang out, jam and engage in a variety of shenanigans.

The exhibition further explains, “The stories are legendary: Janis Joplin wandering the halls at all hours of the night in a drug induced haze; Jim Morrison, in a fog of Jack Daniels and LSD, falling from his second-storey window and injuring his back; Led Zeppelin, in a juvenile gesture of rock ‘n’ roll tomfoolery, famously riding their motorcycles through the lobby; and Alice Cooper engaging in a spirited game of nude football. The Marmont assumed a tawdry feel in the 1970s, becoming a place to score drugs, entertain suicidal thoughts or hide from the world for a while.”  John Belushi died of a drug overdose in his room, Bungalow #3 at the Chateau Marmont. Below is a 1956 view of the Marmont bungalows.

bungalow view

old hollywood at the marmont

It wasn’t just musicians who made the Chateau Marmont their home. It also was a favourite place for old Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1950s. “Deals were made, careers established and destroyed, and relationships were forged and broken within the hallowed walls of the Marmont.” The founder of Columbia Pictures is known to have told young actors, “If you must get into trouble. Do it at the Marmont.”

wine testing

Personally, we found the service to be incredible. When we were indecisive about which wine to order, our server brought us 3 varieties to try! I want to thank my agents provocateurs, Shelina, Devon and Paisley for making our Chateau Marmont experience so memorable! When in Los Angeles, pay the Chateau Marmont a visit, and if you are in Vancouver, go see the show, Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life.

Listen to Lana Del Rey’s interview on youtube where she talks about why she uses the Chateau Marmont in her videos.

Photo credit: All black and white photos are from the Vancouver Art Gallery and all others are taken by me.

What Makes a City Vibrant?

Vibrancy is People.

“A city is about having a center, or an intersection people tend to associate with culture, gatherings, and activities. A vibrant city has a core and a pulse that is always beating and when you visit that core place your spirit is lifted and you leave having experienced something new and different.” (from CEOs for Cities)

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Keeping our cities vibrant: Vancouver’s example:

Citizens of Strathcona rejected a freeway through Chinatown in 1967  “Immediately, protest came from every part of the city, and a crowd of 800 people gathered in City Hall to shout down the consultants’ proposals. The Chairman of the city’s planning commission resigned on the spot, and a year later, the plan was scrapped. Apparently, the spirited editorializing of the local papers in favor of cutting out civic blight with a concrete knife had influenced no one but a handful of architects.” read more

save kensingston poster

Keeping our cities vibrant: Toronto’s Kensington Market’s example:

Having just spent a few wonderful days in the Annex and Kensington Market, I am so happy to see a neighbourhood pull together to voice their concerns over the negative impact of big box retail.

“People don’t walk to stores in a walkable city, they walk through neighbourhoods with stores,” said Vaughan (a Toronto City Councillor) while at the podium. “Big box is the antithesis of a walkable city.” read more.

Have a look at Toronto’s Annex and Kensington Market through the eyes’ of a traveler (me).

IMG_5567IMG_5436IMG_5469IMG_5437In the lanes of the Annex, graffiti artists show their work. Every garage was the canvas and the lanes became the gallery.  IMG_5571 IMG_5577 IMG_5572 IMG_6001 IMG_5608 IMG_5685 IMG_5700 IMG_5740 IMG_5798 IMG_5780 IMG_3829 IMG_3846 IMG_5690 IMG_5519  IMG_5449 IMG_3790 IMG_5339 IMG_5318 IMG_5344 IMG_6004 IMG_5477 IMG_5498 IMG_5587 IMG_5475 IMG_5443For some, their work is political.

People are at the center of vibrant, livable cities.

 

 

Ray Kappe: Architect, Urban Planner and Educator, California

Photo - Ray KA TRIBUTE + RESOURCE

An internationally recognized architect, urban planner, and educator since 1953, Ray Kappe‘s much awarded and published work is considered to be an extension of the early Southern California master architects: Wright, Schindler, Neutra, and Harwell Hamilton Harris.

Some good advice In the words of Ray Kappe:
“I’ve always sought out the edges, the views, and a feeling
of expansiveness.”

“I was once asked what I think are the ten most important principles that helped make me a successful architect, planner, and educator…

(1)  Think positively, not negatively.
(2)  Accept structure but know that it is to be questioned and broken when necessary.
(3)  Always be willing to explore, experiment and invent.  Do not accept the status quo.
(4)  Know yourself and keep your work consistent with who you are and how you think.
(5)  Maintain good moral and social values.
(6)  Be humble, honest, compassionate, and egalitarian.
(7)  Have conviction about your work.
(8)  Be open and say yes to most ideas and requests. The good ones will be valuable, the bad ones will cease to exist.
(9)  Allow employees and fellow workers freedom and the ability to work to their strengths. Avoid hierarchy.
(10) Money should be the residual of work, not the goal.  But do not compromise your worth.”

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Meet Artist and Designer Patricia Larsen

Ever have one those serendipitous moments where everything aligns beautifully? It was Mother’s Day and the thought of going to a busy café, standing in line, was too much pressure for me. G and I only had one child home to celebrate with me so we decided to do something different. Well truthfully, I, wanted to do something different. A small disagreement ensued as to where we should eat. A new place on the waterfront just opened and G was keen to try it. For some reason I didn’t want to go. I yearned for something simpler, low key and easier to access. My friend Ann, a major foodie, had told us about a little coffee place called Le Marché St. George, just off trendy, hipster Main Street, so I suggested we go there.  Good Call. The place was a former corner grocery store converted into a delightful rustic French café. When we arrived, there were people sitting on the curb in mismatched chairs and more inside standing or sitting on benches. At first we were confused, as it appeared everyone might be waiting in line. But no, it was just a casual sprinkling of friends enjoying each other’s company, and sitting any place they could find.

The coffee was great, the pastries came on old vintage silver pieces and the whole experience felt just right.  One would think this was enough – a great Mother’s day with my husband and daughter. But it gets better.

As we are sitting outside I notice this beautifully dressed woman. I introduce myself and we talked about her outfit and she mentioned that she and her daughters make the silk top, like the one she’s wearing and she then invited us to the exhibition upstairs. As it turnsout her daughters own and run Le Marché St. George and the three of them are all artists in their own right and upstairs was their gallery.

This is where it gets interesting. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Follow me on a tour of what was upstairs. Enjoy the designs of Patricia Larsen and her daughters.

Patricia Larsen is presently living and painting in the southern tip of the Baja, in Pascadero Mexico, In her words: “Beauty is in the juxtaposition of things, its energies working together in harmony and disharmony. Sometimes beauty is in the resistance and the tension, and sometimes it’s in complete surrender.” PL

Fabulous Friends

We all want and need them. One’s openness to friends goes through a kind of complete exclusivity cycle.  When we are little we’re open to a wide range of friends with few to chose from – but by the teen years we’ve become more selective and our definition of friend is very small. We long to be part of the ‘in crowd’ but more importantly we long to not be left out. In adulthood we’re almost back to our childhood ways because we’re more inclusive, and with a wide range to choose from, our lives become rich through a diversity of friendships.

The best friends of our youth may not be the ones we call best friends as adults. To evolve together as best buddies is a rare achievement. As parents, our friends tend to be parents of our children’s friends often met on the soccer sidelines with obvious common interests. That is, if you even have time to have friends.  Parenthood is an all-encompassing activity.

An interesting thing happens when you hit a certain age. Your friends become the people you share something with and these friends come from all aspects of your life.  Friends no longer reflect how you’d like to seen but rather provide definition to who you are. As I get older I find I have a new found appreciation for friends, both old and new, and I find myself reaching out to have them in my life.

I feel fortunate to have friends from many different areas. I have friends from high school and University, friends I have met through my children and friends from work. However, with the advent of the internet, something very unexpected has happened.  I now have a big group of friends I have never met and may never meet. We provide advice and support to one another, we have a lot in common and a lot to talk about. We are ‘getting in the conversation’ as we pursue our dreams of creative living. These are my blogging friends.  We met through an on-line blogging course and connected through our blogs. Through this course I have become part of extraordinary community. Let me introduce you to a few of my new friends: Leah, Laetitia, Silke, Santa, Natalie, Marit, Coco, Teri, Deepa, Heidi, Mary, and another Tina.  Have a look at their blogs and get to know them too.

Many people would question whether these are true friends. How do you define true friends?  Perhaps because they are virtual, and you can represent yourself in any way you wish, they are conceived of as artificial or inauthentic.  I would argue that precisely the opposite is true.  I don’t like these people because they look good or have cool clothes or cars.  I like them in the simplest possible way – because of what they have to share and what they have to say.  These are my idea friends.

So, blogging does lead to friends. Meet Jo Ann from Chicago, who I met through my blog when she left me a post about her Hermes Scarves. Jo Ann found out, from my blog, that I am a scarf collector and asked me if I would be interested in purchasing her vintage Hermes scarves. I was intrigued which led to some back and forth discussions about Jo Ann’s scarves. In the end, I was not able to buy these lovely scarves but I offered to post them on my blog to let my readers know about this opportunity to own some well cared for vintage Hermes scarves.

Jo Ann's Hermes Scarves

Over the course of the last month JoAnn and I have corresponded the old fashion way, via snail mail. JoAnn sent me an article she thought I would enjoy about Hermes’ attempts to recycle leather into large $100K pandas, and photos of her scarves.  Jo Ann’s scarves above in her words “are in fresh new pristine condition, but my photo skills are lacking!” So, leave me a comment if you are interested in my new friend Jo Ann’s scarves and I will let her know.

Oddly enough my experience of my blogging friends has some of the mutually supportive pioneer spirit my parents used to talk about.  For me this has sparked the realization that it is one’s attitude and openness  to friendship, regardless of how it is conveyed, that defines our ability to connect and stay connected with others.