Wake the Day

One of the men in my neighbourhood heard I studied fine arts. He’s in a band that was doing a fundraiser for cancer. He asked, if he provided the supplies, could I create a painting of the album’s title song that could be auctioned off at the CD release party? As he was very persistent, I eventually agreed. Then I tinkered around on Facebook, as one is wont to do when the clock is ticking, while listening to the song, by After Autumn, which is sort of sweet and sad and ultimately about not giving up.

I had no idea what to put on that blank canvas staring at me. I thought of a tree with the lyrics branching out of it. Then I realized that I’d rather do a portrait, which made me imagine a face that was open, strong, determined, and neither smiling nor frowning. Something Mona Lisa-esque. I remembered a profile picture of a Facebook friend, which I downloaded and began replicating. While staring at the tiny digital image on my screen, I gave the wonderfully expansive, egg-shell white canvas some of the broad strokes of my friend Silvia’s distinctive features: her resolute jaw and cheekbones; Jackie O wide eyes; generous, enigmatic mouth; and broad swish of eyebrows. The photo of Silvia I had chosen pleased me greatly as it had high contrasts of light and shadow, just like Silvia’s personality. She’s a tough kitten with a big heart and wicked sense of humour — a feisty, dark, cerebral beauty.

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Please excuse the thumb I rely on it for proportioning.

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Yes, the midcentury glass bowl was full of paint by the end.

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Ah, red.

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I finished the painting on stage with the band at their CD release party, as they played “Wake the Day.” The lyrics are painted in her hair. I hope you like it, dear reader.

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Poetry fettered, fetters the human race. Nations are destroyed or flourish in proportion as their poetry, painting, and music are destroyed or flourish.”

—William Blake, born today in 1757, London (d.  1827.)

William Blake, ‘Jacob’s Ladder,’ 1800, Watercolour. British Museum, London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Beings: Arthur

Many years ago, when Pete Sampras still ruled centre court, Madonna sang that we were Frozen, Tom Hanks was Saving Private Ryan, Microsoft was the biggest company in the world, and Apple Computers was urging us to “Think Different,” I sat in front of an iMac G3 in The Hollywood Reporter’s design studio on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, focusing intently on the arms, I mean, on the detailed instructions of the Henry Rollins-esque designer charged with my training, who spared only his beatific face from being inked. When I spoke, across another desk, a neatly put together boy in black-rimmed, retro Lemtosh spectacles wheeled around and leaned over his pile of copy instructions, smiling quietly victorious.

“You’re South African.”

Buddy Holly Frames continued: “I have a dear friend who is also South African, Deirdre.”

Deirdre, it was quickly revealed, had been Head Girl at my school (for reference, my school was akin to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts in ideology and structure, so Deirdre would have been the Percy Weasley of all houses). So a couple Guardian Angels must have bumped fists, mission collision accomplished, and Arthur and I have been close friends ever since.

As the days became weeks and the months became seasons, Arthur and I fell happily into an affectionate and enduring companionship that consisted of notorious party-throwing, superb introductions, exciting travel, gallery hops, laughs (mostly at my expense), his diligent friendship maintenance (and detailed city itineraries), immersion in each other’s families, keeping imp of perverse in check (mine), his trust in my fashion sense, and a shared love of art, design and culture.

 

Apart from Arthur’s astounding ear for sourcing the next big music phenomenon, snarky sense of humour, mastering the “basta” face, and knack for living in neighbourhoods in major cities that are on the cusp of becoming the next hipster desirable zip code, his dedication to acquiring art was so steadfast that it often meant not being able to buy new clothes or drinking only Château de Plonk d’Plonk for a while.

This post is one in a continuing series Mixarella’s Earth Beings® introducing interesting people (Arthur was briefly introduced to you in Heart for Art) and offering a tour of their creative spaces and inspiring acquisitions. This is Arthur’s bedroom, which looks over wide palm trees and grand old Victorians in San Francisco’s Dolores and Valencia Corridor. On the bed is a South African fabric design company product, Shine-Shine‘s “Hooray for the President” pillowcase, a gift from Pippa Hetherington, which Arthur acquired during his last trip to Cape Town, South Africa. The recessed wall he had the brain-wave to paint in the marvelously named colour, Obstinate Orange, adds an exciting depth to the room. Let’s take a walk-through, shall we? Though as Arthur has an MFA in creative writing, I’ll allow his words to explain.

 

“I’m lucky to have several pieces from this Brighton-based artist. I met him at Camden Market and fell in love with his work. The boys above the bed are actually made from one matte board with different colors painted on separate panels that then are glued to the stenciled matte.”

“That’s a wood block print from my friend Tan Huynh. It was one of his MFA final projects. He destroyed the wood blocks after making about two and what I like about it is the two colors and the fact that he was from Vietnam and a little of the war is told in that image.”

 

“My love of art began in college when I took humanities classes. That’s when I started visiting museums in every city I visited. I really didn’t begin collecting until the early ’90s when I fell in love with a piece at a gallery and spent $600, which back then was loads of money. This Morrissey/Bergama piece is one of my favorites. My friend Rob also was a huge influence on my aesthetic. He now owns an art gallery, but back in the late eighties he was collecting original art and he instilled in me a sense that art doesn’t have to be mass produced reproductions but can be something that is unique and represents your tastes. He would frame antique monographs (which were reproductions, obviously) but they were so individual that they became originals.”

“This probably is the best $425 I have ever spent. Also bought from Rob’s gallery. What I love most about this painting is the linear symmetry on display. We learned about linear symmetry in humanities and everything points to the center of the painting, much like in ‘The Last Supper’ where all the lines radiate outward from Jesus. Hold a ruler to the tops of the window frames in ‘The Last Supper’ and you’ll see how it’s a straight line to Jesus. Brilliant. My painting does something similar, where everything is lined up even if it doesn’t look that way.”

“The Drexel chair(s) belonged to my grandparents. The credenza has stereo equipment [Ed note: Arthur’s life is always accompanied by a soundtrack.] and objets d’art that I’ve picked up in my travels to Italy (sculpture), Israel (triangular bowl), Santa Fe (round bowl), Laos (narrow box), South Africa (carved head).”

“The chandelier cutlery is from my cousin’s friend who used to own a knife shop. They’re pre-WWII fruit and cheese knives and forks. They’re silver and eventually will tarnish. My cousin knew I entertained and thought I’d get more use out of them. Since I’ve never served a cheese/fruit course and I didn’t want them stuck in a drawer, I came up with this solution. All but one from the set is on display.” [Ed note: I love this very much, it reminds me of Ingo Maurer’s Chandelier.]

As we come to the end of this tour and approach the holiday season, I’ll leave you with this: Arthur shares my love for quotes, often citing his grandmother, who used to say this wonderful line, attributed to James M. Barry:

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

 

Picasso photographed by Gjon Mili for Time Life Pictures.

 

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

—Pablo Picasso,  born today in 1881, Málaga, Spain (d. April 8, 1973.)

Robert Rauschenberg, photographed, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, in 1968, at his studio on Lafayette Street, NYC.

“I don’t think of myself as making art. I do what I do because I want to, because painting is the best way I’ve found to get along with myself.”

—Robert Rauschenberg, American painter and graphic artist born today, in 1925 (d. May 12, 2008.)

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