Monday, November 29, 2010

Artist, JoAnne Russo

This is the work of JoAnne Russo, contemporary basketmaker from Maine. This is part of her "Pod" series. What attracts me to her work is her use of unexpected materials like buttons, and zippers, and eyehooks. her application creates an unusual sophisticated surface design, they transcend their use and take on a new meaning.

Ms. Russo started making baskets in 1984. She was inspired by the works and basket techniques of the basketmakers of long ago from Mount Agamenticus in York, Maine. She was able to learn their techniques and incorporate them into her work. It involved selecting the right kind of Ash tree, splitting the wood for handles and rims using tradtional tools and then finally weaving the basket. She was also inspired by basket makers from Native Americans from the north east and the southwest. She started to incorporate porcupine quills and other natural materials which gave texture and individual presence to each peice she refers to as "Animism".

Here is a close-up. These pieces are from the "zip it" series.

Above is a shot of the inside. The buttons used create a wonderful 3d textural element to the
surface. Below is a basket whose top is made using acorns.

Her use of simple acorns adds a certain quiet elegance to this piece.

The pieces also look wonderful together as a group in the "chili pepper" series.

The curves in the eye hooks look like an ornate surface design I featured in my last blog, the
surface decoration of architect Robert Adam .

I am always impressed by taking unconventional materials and using them in such a poetic way. Russo has won numerous awards. Her pieces have been purchased by several museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

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Scottish architect Robert Adam became one of the most successful and fashionable architects in the 18th century in England. He was the leader of the Neo-Classical movement, also known as Adam Style. He influenced western architecture in Europe and North America. He did not just design buildings and homes, but accessories and furniture. I am particularly fond of his surface decorations within his rooms. Above is an example of one of his ceilings. the paintings were subcontracted, painted on canvas and applied to the ceiling later. the curly foliage you see is taken from antiquity and is known as "Grotesque Design". Taken from the Italian word, "grotto" which is a subterranean garden.

Above is another example of an Adam ceiling. also, the use of unusual colors like pale greens, blues and even pinks became his signature. He would provide a set of plans to be purchased by the owner and various artists and artisans would execute the designs using elaborate mouldings.

above is an example of a wall and doorway using colored glass panels, gilding, and painted mouldings.

Here is an example of how the design of the arch of the doorway is repeated as a surface decoration on the ceiling creating continuity of design as well as the "movement" for which he is known.
Neo-Classic or Classic Revival are all terms used to describe design vernacular from the Greco/Roman culture circa 5th century. The revival came after two cities in southern Italy were discovered by accident while digging a tunnel. These cities were Pompeii and Herculaneum.
They were buried under volcanic ash and revealed all kinds of frescoes, architecture and art that were reproduced through an 18th c filter.


This is one of his most well known exterior structures in Bath, England called the Pulteney bridge.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Architect, Frank Ghery,( Canadian born Frank Owen Goldberg) is cited as one of the most important architects of our time. You are looking at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. I visited Bilbao a few years ago. Upon entry, you feel like you just want to drop to your knees. The collage like structure with its combination of glass, steel, water, stone is just unbelievable. What is unique about the exterior are the squares of titanium which is referred to as the "skin" of the structure. It sits on the water. The squares that make up the building mimic the scales of a fish. The squares are not fastened at the bottom. If the wind blows, it forces itself up under the scales and you can see the scales shift and change colors just standing there.
When Frank was a little boy, he built cities out of scraps of wood and was inspired by what he saw in his grandfather's hardware store.
During the holiday, Passover, his grandmother would bring home a large carp and put it in the bathtub before she turned it into gefilte fish, which was part of the Passover meal. Ghery was mesmerized by the shape and movement of the fish and the way the scales shimmered as it swam. Thus began his inspiration to incorporate movement, texture, curves in his work.
The buildings seem to defy gravity.
His ability to create his structures comes from his innovative architectural software.
Below are some of his other structures which are peppered around the world.

Ghery is also responsible for creating innovations in architectural software

Below we are looking at a close -up of one of his building at MIT in Massachusetts.

This is a full shot of the same building.

Now we are looking at the dancing house in Prague, also referred to as "Fred and Ginger".

The type of architecture we are looking at is called "Deconstructivism", or "Decon". It is called Decon because it goes beyond current modalities of structural definition and departs from "Modernism" whose belief is "form follows function". Decon is not required to reflect specific social or universal ideas. Because of this the buildings have a sculptural stand alone quality .
This philosophy is somewhat controversial to some modernist architects.

Ghery was also inspired by fruit crates and has also created a line of furniture. below is an example of one of h is bent wood chairs, I think you'll see the similarity.

Below, see the table.....

Lastly, here is one of his most playful pieces made of cardboard, called the Wiggle Chair. I have used this in a few interiors.

Here is the Wiggle chair in one of my interiors. If you wish to see more of my portfolio as well as older posts, please go to

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


This month we are going to take a look at the art and living space of artist, Susan Ludwig. Susan specializes in mixed media collage. above is a collaged self portrait. We are going to look at how this talented artist creatively mixes color and texture in her collage work as well as in her furnishings. Susan's home is a symphony of color. Her possessions are mostly thrifted and gifted.

First, we begin with a glimpse of her workspace. Simple pencils and markers create a little sculpture.

There are pockets of "theater" all around Susan's home. Here in the dining room, we see a ceramic dish framed by an oval tray. The two look connected. It is important to layer your accessories. Unusual colors are placed together to form an interesting grouping.

Also in the dining room are a collection of cigar boxes when stacked become sculptural. What a great idea to place these next to a buffet, usually dead space in a room. The repetitive nature of the boxes work well with the stained Popsicle stick lamp beside it, also in repetition. Repetition can also be found in her use of mirrors even though the frames are different, just like all the different boxes. Repetition in an interior creates a balance and acts as a kind of anchor to support all the one of a kind things that surround the space.

Below we are looking at a close up of the kitchen cabinets.

Susan has taken a checkerboard pattern and applied it to white metal cabinets. The overlays are old National Geographic magazine covers. The checkerboard is repeated in the back splash. The bursts of color are layered over the squares like the oval tray which is layered are with the ceramic dish. The high contrast of color and the high contrast of black and white are quite dramatic in an otherwise small kitchen.

Susan's living room has little treasures wherever you look. Below we see a collaged screen made of folding doors.

There are scraps of sheet music that are introduced to you by a bust of Beethoven himself! The screen becomes textured and performs as a backdrop for a variety of collected illustrations.

Below, the mantle becomes a stage for collectibles positioned in an interesting way. It is important to visually connect the wall and mantle (or a table) when you are accessorizing so that your eye moves around.

To help make this connection, the mantle items intersect the pictures above.

Let's take a peek at the powder room.

If you need privacy, forget draperies, why not obscure the window view with art? In a small space, decorate with small accessories. The collection of shoes in graduated size make an ordinary windowsill and unlikely stage.

The bedroom is full of surprises.

This flea market chest has a painted surface and is decorated with buttons.

The nightstand illustrates the repetitive design of the cigar boxes, only this time, old suitcases have been used.

One of the most innovative ideas can be found in the bed area. Here, Susan paints found spindles of wood in different colors and uses them as a headboard AND they double as picture frames. Also, notice the variety of colors and textures on the bed's landscape of pillows.

We've seen wonderful vignettes of objects places all around the home. Let's take a look at some of Susan's art! Here are a series of collages that she enjoys creating and has been exhibiting for many, many years.

The last photo before we get to my interview with the artist, is an example of a french tile technique called Pique Assiate, a special type of mosaic. Susan has covered her brick walls and surrounding windows as well as bowls, tables and picture frames with her unique tile work.

Here are a few questions I love to ask artists to find out what makes them tick.....

How would you describe your style?

Eclectic.....My motto is "Let no surface remained unadorned."

What is the one thing you could not live without?
Laughter, ice tea with lemon no sugar.

What is your most prized possession?

My stash of "stuff".... old, new, frivolous and unique.

What inspires your creativity?

Anyone or anything i see that engages me... particularly something I can re purpose in an unusual manner. Art materials such as Sharpie's new Poster Paint pens and Caran d'Ache 11.

If you could collaborate with someone on a project, who would it be and why?

Henri Matisse without question. I would like to have been an apprentice to this master of color and pattern.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010


After a summer break I decided to do a design feature on personal style. Who we are is not just defined by our lived in spaces. I read about artist, photographer Ari Seth Cohen and his blog entitled ADVANCED STYLE. He roams around New York City and abroad photographing silver haired men and women with a little something extra. He believes they can teach us a thing or two about the way we present ourselves, and I think I agree with him!

Designing yourself and designing a room are very similar. There are focal points, accessories, colors, sizes. There are times due to certain situations, you have to redecorate in a creative way.

I am so impressed by the creativity and originality captured by the young Mr.Cohen, that I just had to share.
Here are a series of photos taken by Cohen of the baby boomer and plus crowd. This photo is actress Marilyn Sokol who lives in NYC. I hope you enjoy. All these people made me think of one question I'd like you to ponder.........
If you ever have a time that you think you need to "redecorate", do you want to be an older version of your younger self or a new version of your older self?

This is Ari Seth Cohen and one of his favorite photographic subjects, Mimi, a former model and actress.

Love the fedora! Look at the hat on this lovely woman.....

Her look is very minimal, you can say so much with very little. She is not overly accessorized and has a great presence about her. Now, let's not forget about the men....

Kinda bohemian like Marilyn Sokol.... The pop of orange and the structure of the jacket work with all the hair.... The woman below modeled with this Herman Miller sofa years ago, she likes to buy her accessories at Target.

Here is another view with the sofa!

Just as Hilda coordinates with her sofa. the woman below is really connected to her surroundings as well. Who says sneakers can't be cool.

This woman uses her long legs as a blank canvas for large geometric shapes.

Using a pin in the middle of your hat is a creative focal point.............

Here is a couple that compliment each other in every way.....a real silver set.

I really like the simplicity and drama of the sunglasses and the boldness of the well placed fluffy flower in contrast to her pulled back hairstyle. very chic.

I decided to take a 180 on the next photo. As I was collecting info for this piece, I spotted Snooki on the front page of the STYLE section of the New York Times. She is the latest pop icon from the reality show, "The Jersey Shore". Many runway models are rocking her pouf. She's been called a turnip, a spray painted Chihuahua and more. Her appeal? One fan attributes it to her "delicious artlessness". Here she is standing in a pile of debris...
Personally, she reminds me of all the "guidettes" I went to high school with in Long Island, NY in the 60's. The only thing missing is the white lipstick. She's got a tough , sexy aura.
I included her because I feel her personal style has shades of similarity to our group. They all have an unprocessed quality. what do you think she'll look like at 65?

She is not the only woman on the prowl at the Jersey shore, this would have been considered a Snooki in the 1920's, this gal must have been a blast.

The artist below creates her own style by placing herself in her own photograph.

On of my favorite men of style is author, Tom Wolf, dapper and sophisticated.

I am saving the best for last. Below is my dear friend, Susan. She is one of a kind. She has the creative spirit of a child and style up the wazoo. She is a mixed media artist and will be my next blog feature.

Sometimes we look at our world through a distorted prism. Our visual media tries to tell us what is pretty, what is hot, what is cool. If we don't look like Barbie and Ken and our homes don't resemble one of the latest design magazines, we are out of the loop.
I wanted to create design features in my blog that look in different places and inspire. Style is not about conventional beauty or money, it is simply about imagination and your courage to express it. If this is your first feature, make sure to check out my full blog with past features and design ideas at