Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Blogger: Lisa on Art Intervention

Lisa is one of those summer residents we look forward to seeing every June.  She's witty and fun, and her philosophical, political and religious views are right in line with ours, meaning that conversations never have to veer away from potentially dangerous topics.  Christine and I spent an evening at Lisa's home a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to help her "like" her living room more.  It bears mention that I would trade Lisa's house for mine, unedited, in a moment, were the opportunity to arise, and Christine has actually threatened to become a squatter in the winter months when Lisa and family return to the Bay Area.  Suffice it to say that there's nothing wrong with the place, short of a sense on Lisa's part that not everything was...right.  We moved a few things, made some suggestions for a bathroom design about which Lisa was at her wits end, offered some suggestions for lighting.  The result was delight on her part, and an invitation from us to write about it!  Here it is: Lisa's guest spot on our blog...

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When I arrived at my Ferndale cabin in early June, I was met with many things to excite my cheer. The copious rains had brought delicious fruit: my perennial beds sang with the promise of glorious summer blossoms and the spruce trees all wore new fringe, as bright and tender as a freshly picked pea pod. The lake was glittering, full and brimming with summertime dreams. To be sure, as with every year, there were abundant tasks: gutters to be cleaned, decks to be sanded, flies to be swept away. These annual duties consume one's emotional time every bit as much as the long days ensure one's physical exhaustion. But after the cleaning is finished, phone calls are made, maintenance visits scheduled, consultations through, I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I wandered the rooms of my cabin and stared with melancholy at my tired walls. Every nook and corner, lovingly organized the year before, now looked uninspired, dumpy . . . perhaps even a little cluttered.

I don't have a "decorated" home; I have an acquired home. Some of the furniture simply came with the house, left behind by the original owners. Keen to transfer more than the property's deed, they purposely let a few things remain -- part of the cabin's legacy: a pine dining table, witness to 30 years of marriage; six mismatched oak chairs, sentinels to a life in progress; a red plaid sofa with bun feet legs, waiting to absorb the winter weary after a long day in the snow.

Other things made their way to Montana from long stored boxes and crates, items too beloved to discard, yet betrayed by a growing family and relegated to deep closets and garage shelves. The old bed, hauled up from a youthful foray in New Orleans, mirrors picked up at a second hand shop during a sweep through Chicago's funky design district, the renovated doll house from my daughter's 5th birthday, made over from the days when my husband was a new professor and penny pinching was the necessary order of things. As the years progressed, we added what we needed, procuring pieces from local merchants -- barnwood side tables and lamps from Montana Expressions, dishes and crystal wine goblets from The Barn.

And Art. We definitely added art. A faithful attendee of Frame of Reference's gallery shows, a glass of wine and a few tidbits to nibble is quite possibly the most direct route to my aesthetic sensibility; I have never left their shows without a gem.

So my summer cabin is a patchwork. Does it all fit together? To my heart, absolutely. To my eyes . . . well, not so much.

And this year, as I walked about my little log home and surveyed the eclectica, the visual scrapbook that has become my second life, I felt daunted. "Is this the best I can do?" I don't expect my home to look like a Pottery Barn catalog with rows of monochromatic photos set over seagrass baskets full of plump purple pillows, coffee table vases full of tumbling and twisted branches that would prevent the casual conversations the room implies . . . move the bowl of baubles six inches to the left and crack . . . the picture shatters.

No, my home is not portrait of a life no one leads . . . . and I wouldn't want that. Seductive as it appears in print, such a home would be a facade, a staged walk-through, where the personal significance of any individual piece could be traced no further than the price tag on its underbelly. My home's decor needs a beating heart, which comes from the memory of each item and the knowledge of why it is there. Still, there is a restlessness in wanting, and I couldn't reconcile my desire for cohesion with my bohemian zeal. While I want to believe I am above cliches, sometimes shopping really does make me feel better. Holding as an article of faith that something new would provide the requisite salve, I headed out to Frame of Reference for some decidedly upscale retail therapy.

It doesn't take long to find something fascinating at Frame of Reference. In about five minutes I fixated on a Carol Wade painting I had admired for several months. My mind spinning with possible locations, I validated myself: "This will make all the difference. Surely, my little art shack will be complete if I take this home." My heart swelled with the certainty and rightness of my decision.

Only one small difficulty: where was it going to go? Already, other "certain" acquisitions were leaning against window frames and tucked into corners, little piles of preciousness sat in cabinets just waiting for wall space, circling in my mind like a car at the mall on the last saturday before christmas, touring up and down parking lot rows looking for a "spot." God, I thought: am I becoming a hoarder? Hmm. An art hoarder has a bit of chic to it, but it's a pathology nonetheless.

I think Derek and Christine sensed the trouble and discreetly worried that I might be getting out of control. "We'll bring it over," they declared, "and help you find the right place to hang it."

Thus, Art Intervention was born.

They arrived at the cabin and set to work. The new piece needed its own wall, and after clearing away a few things sentimental they found the vista for its proper appreciation. A part of the therapeutic method, Derek was necessarily stealthy. He would tell me to leave the room, then rearrange things before I could edit him, thereby forcing an unhindered perspective. A design duo, they were able to bring new breath to things I would have ritually shelved. It's not that my pieces were unappealing -- not at all; it's that my eyes could no longer see the palate with freshness. So habituated to a particular item's location, I lost the ability to imagine its happiness (and mine) elsewhere. As Art Interventionists, Derek and Christine were able to simply rearrange pieces to produce a more harmonious effect. With a tilt and a tap of the hammer, a square mirror became a diamond. A vintage tray on the mantle found its brethren in the kitchen. In the end, nothing was eliminated. Hurrah, I am not a hoarder! I have only been eager to create a home that tells a story through meaningful artifacts that whisper who we are. In my passion to build a psychic respite where one's possessions reveal the story of love, connection and shared history, I unwittingly lost the ability to "see" a creative result. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but an harmonious aesthetic, where balance, shape, form and color assemble to create spaces that please -- that effort is actually pretty objective. It's often hard to grasp this when you are in the midst of your own play, as it were, when every thing you see and touch is imbued with more than its contours. Some people are able to do this with ease, but for most of us, and certainly for me, a little help was a welcome thing. Derek and Christine were able to return each wall to a place of balance, and I no longer felt that something needed to be added to make it "right."

Life out of Balance can find many expressions. For me, the simple effort of trying to appreciate my home nearly led me to the belief that I needed to start from scratch and race to the nearest Crate and Barrel. Shudder! I couldn't see the beauty and value of my own life unfolding, visually represented by the imperfect significant, the Wabi-Sabi at work in my own life. I needed fresh eyes to point out what I couldn't see. So, while each thing I own or hang on a string may not be utterly valuable or exquisite, it's a reflection of my life, that which I find dear, the objects that tell my story.

Cost of a painting: $2700
Art Intervention: Priceless

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