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Posts from the ‘muse’ Category


June 9th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Winter Portrait by Ingolv Helland © the artist

Seraph by Celia Bennett © the artist
Walter by Oliver Jeffers, 2008 © the artist
K by Craig Wylie © the artist

It happens to me often. I say something and the thing I wonder about is right next to me. I might say it has do to with the alienating phenomenological veil of LA so that I do not recognize the thing next to me. That veil created by moments like when I am sitting at my desk and someone happens by–a weird incongruity of imagination and reality–am I suppose to know you? Have we met before? Sometimes I wonder who invited me and turned on the T.V. in need of a subtle (or not so subtle) confirmation of acknowledgment; surreal but still enjoyable giving more fodder for lunch conversation. Here under the sun, or even when it is uncomfortably unsunny, one’s everyday thoughts do not seem to expand, develop, increase beyond a half witted bon mot or HEADLINES to move to some kind of a conclusion or even resoluton! –as this blog can as well attest–thoughts meander in an unstructured slothfulness.

So to point out what was next to my post PORTRAIT— The National Portrait Gallery (like Riverside Dr. being next to a river)– to The BP Portrait Awards 2009. It answers the question, Where have the portrait painters gone? The answer: apparently they never left home.

Gertrude at 27

April 25th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Gertrude and Alice at 27 in 1930.

“…she was positively, richly attractive in her grand ampleur. She always seemed to like her own fat anyway and that usually helps other people to accept it. She had none of the funny embarrassment Anglo-Saxons have about the flesh. She gloried in hers.” Mable Dodge on Gertrude Stein.

When all is tedious and nothing, beyond Susan Boyle, has sparked my imagination (although she too has begun to wane) I shall look to the great St. Gertrude.

In 1933 The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was published which made Miss. Stein famous especially in America where it was a best seller. After having spent most of her adult life in Paris, Gertrude took her first trip back to the states with Alice to go on a lecture tour having been gone for 30 years. It was 1934.

Gertrude loved the monotony of the everyday. She liked daily habits, walks around Paris, and loved her Standard Poodle, Basket. She liked Basket so much in fact that when Basket died, Basket II arrived, soon after. In this first photo we see Alice and Gertrude sitting in their salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus. A domestic scene, a photo that is my reference for when I hear the term “salon style” used as it relates to the arrangement of art.

There are a handful of Cecil Beaton photos at the National Portrait Gallery. Since they will only allow their use for a fee, you will have to see the photographs on your your own: links one and two.

In image ONE we see Gertrude and Alice and their Standard Poodle, Basket. This photo is taken in 1936. We know this is Basket because he died in 1937 after which came Basket II. We imagine Gertrude not wanting to have to switch from, “Come Basket!” on her way out the door.

The room is lofty. A fireplace off to the side. Gertrude is captured with her hand on Basket as if to get him to behave, to sit. Alice looks on slightly amused perhaps at Basket misbehaving. There are four paintings vertical in the background, a bowl in the forground, could it be called a “tiered tazza” perhaps just a scalloped bowl with handle, ready to be picked up with the offer of nuts. The room is spare, as if they have yet to unpack, as if they have just moved and Alice has just made it tidy for the photo.

In image TWO we see Gertrude looking gruff. Did they put Basket in the other room? Note that the door is now shut. Alice is gently in the background, smiling and gazing over to Gertrude. There is a fantastic lamp with a wonderfully oversized lampshade in a diamond pattern that feels like Bloomsbury, the Omega Workshop. There is another scallop motif this time a planter on the desk next to the lamp.

This is a richer home than the salon at 27. The grand rolled arm sofa–large enough to hold Ms. Stein in what looks like a strie velvet. But they both appear as if they are just borrowing the room, and a bit uncomfortable, as if it is a hotel. But the art seems like theirs although I do not know the nude in the background.

It makes me wonder if the photo was mislabeled, that this is perhaps 1937, after Basket died and after their landlord refused to renew the lease at 27 and they moved to an apartment on Germain. Perhaps it is 1937, if it is, they won’t have been here long, they will spend the Second World War, at their country house in Bilignin.

And a Chicken

April 9th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Who wouldn’t want a painting of a dead chicken? I can’t quite remember where I read that what human beings have to resolve for themselves is that to live, something has to die. Being removed from the killing is always easier and cleaner. I recall someone else, (maybe Timothy Leary) said that both cows and cabbage scream–it’s just that cows are louder. 

Hopefully this doesn’t stop you from enjoying  your food. 

Here I love the dashes of cerulean and teal, and easy simple arrangement that allows your eye to circle, the yellow of the lemon and the pink of the flowers. I must be on a particular color trip lately as my little palate is similar to those of Monterey Park. As Lady Mendl said, you could design a whole room around a painting and this could be a fantastic start. 

Bronze & Glass & Polychrome

April 3rd, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Bronze wild-boar. 20th c. France. 

Two 19th c. glass cloches. France. 
Coat of arms in wood and polychrome embossed with copper. 19c Italy. 

“I don’t want more choices, I just want nicer things.” Here at Bibelots we are all about trading up. That said, having no chair at all is better than an unloved chair; a stack of books is far better than an ugly cocktail table; a cushion on the floor is much nicer than an uncomfortable sofa. 
The images above are some of the things that (I like to imagine) I would get to replace some of the things that I do own. Those things that I would not like as much, if I owned these. A new motto might be: Buy one & give two away.  
All objects in Belgium at Teijink Antiques.

Monterey Park

March 19th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

The color swatches are my tinkering with the colors from a recent outing. We can call it a color narrative. From left to right: Peri-Blue, Lino Green, Samarkand Rose, Cash Register Gray & Froggy Yellow.

These go far into the dusty muted colors of the Omega & Bloomsbury which I have been loving recently as opposed to the bright not unlike Easter colors of the Shanghaiese restaurant (I’m told if you are in the know it is referred to as Wu Cuisine which is the regional name in the classic tradition) It was last Friday evening and I was in Monterey Park. The restaurant was painted two colors that although at odds with each other somehow worked. The space felt soft, relaxed and fresh even with all the tables full and staff running about.

The industrial works at the lofty ceiling had been painted out a periwinkle blue which wrapped down the walls about three feet. Below the walls were soft lavender. The floors had an industrial dark gray green carpet and the benches in the waiting area were upholstered in mint green vinyl. White commercially laundered tablecloths were on round tables that were packed comfortably together. The colors help to set off the colors of our food like the orange of the pumpkin and glutinous rice cakes the pink of the shrimp and the bright green of the loofa.

On the walls, decoration, the tiered red and gold printed Chun Lian were hanging from the ceiling welcoming the Spring and there was an appropriate amount of beaded screens made out of some kind of faux raffia in bright orange and hot pink at the door openings, as if someone might have said about their placement, “They will visually screen the dining room but not make the space feel heavy.”

The standard-light-bulb-shaped-pendant fixtures were spaced out evenly on a grid pattern and the bright whiteness of the glow matched the rice cakes. The whole place had a delightfully non existent approach to “art” and in the toilet there was a surprising lack of granite of juxtaposed colors that seem to be favored in many of the restaurants that I have visited in Monterey Park.

I PR Them

March 14th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

So I did that rock and roll thing for about 18 years. Then I took a welding course.

This is from Marsia Hozer in the New York Social Diary. Marsia is chic. Her apartment is big, and it overlooks Central Park. And, she’s English having arrived to the States in the 196o’s because here is where she says, if you have the energy to do something, you’re doing it a week later.

I love the jumps that people make in the narratives of their life. We leave out the middle ground, boredom, impatience, the time it takes for momentum to accumulate. You read some designers biographies and it sounds like they arrived in –pick a city– and the next day they were being discovered at the counter at Schraft’s. At least Madonna worked at Dunkin’ Donuts for a couple days. But, I still love the leaving out the middle part and the rewriting of one’s history. As Edwina Monsoon said: PR. PR. I PR things; people…places…concerts…Lulu! I PR them. I am and if you’ve heard of me, I have PR. I make the fab. I make the crap into credible. I make the dull into delicious.

Speaking of public relations, there is a a BBC documentary called The Century of Self that starts with Edward Bernays and the development of the Public Relations industry which makes one very much question why we believe anything that we hear on TV–or the internet. That said, it’s the little summing up that I find interesting because it’s always the important details that are left out about how I got from here to there (did you walk? Take a cab? Wait for the bus?)

It’s like reading a short story. Joan Didion said something about short stories. It was something like that the reason she didn’t write short stories, is because she didn’t believe in that epiphany the protagonist has in a short story. She says that it doesn’t happen that way in real life. Life is not just one way–something happens– and we are forever another way.

Further, I love the odd reminiscences we have on our lives. Things can get so condenscend and thick with just a phrase. One of my favorite is from a woman I knew in London who worked in a shop and once apropos of nothing, she looked down at me (she was very tall) and in her ponderous rhythmic voice. Her black sunglasses reflecting the track lighting:

…When I had an orange grove in Spain…I made marmalade…

She had been a model, before there were Models she would generally arrive late, and seemingly a little tipsy after lunch. But that was London. Everyone is a little tipsy in London after lunch.

Back to Marsia Hozer. She also is quoted as saying one of the most brilliant things I’ve heard in a very long time.

“Don’t think too much. Keep your mind quiet and if something pops into your mind just do it.”

Which is how this got written. I really do love this apartment.

**All photos from David Patrick Columbia’s New York Social Diary.

Pretty Pretty Hats

March 13th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Cy Twombly, Quattro Stagioni, Autunno

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies, is the last line of Keats’ To Autumn.
These very autumnal colors are pretty, and I’m in the mood for pretty– especially if it were a hat from Lanvin. I seem to be stuck in autumn today when Spring is only 7 days away. Maybe I’ll snap out of it when I go out to look for fabric. 

No Names

February 19th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Inspiration is as easy as action is difficult. Action takes effort. Just as it is easy to talk about how our new president inspires us, it is an entirely different thing–a momentous individual leap forward with no guarantees–to take action out of that inspiration.

When in college, I lived in an apartment in Chicago near the Polish Triangle in the neighborhood about which Nelson Algren wrote books. It was 1991 and it was a grey house and I had the first floor front apartment. I never saw the people in back but upstairs there was a mustachioed man who played the saxophone. I felt a kinship with him because at one time I too had learned proper embouchure.

The apartment’s theme towards decoration was a pale minty green that went from room to room in the color of the curtains. It started in the living room with thrift store finds of heavy brocade panels. There was a linen table cloth converted for the door to my bedroom and in the kitchen the sheers were purchased at a local shop. The dining table had been my Grandmothers. I painted it a glossy black and I would sit in the kitchen smoking and drinking coffee and scribbling out poetry, writing and rewriting the lines.

There was a cat named Loki and a preoccupation with a guy named Thomas. I was casting a lot of runes. When I found Loki on my front step, he had a slight limp and for the first month or so he hobbled around and it seemed like I had a mechanical wind up toy for a pet. Later as he healed, Loki would try to escape to join the other three or four neighborhood cats that lined up on the sidewalk to meow at him. Loki would run circles around the living room, ending and starting on the back of the futon to meow back down at them. Loki had a name change to Carlyle Cat in the hopes of mellowing him out. We moved to a studio apartment to the Northside, a block from the beach. At first Loki made failed attempts at escape via the third floor balcony which would end with him on a ledge meowing loudly and then he eventually escaped to a farm downstate.

This wonderful exhibition at the at the David Sallow Gallery was a fantastic sight as a friend and I drove down Hill Street in Chinatown on Tuesday. I was getting ready to do a U turn as I saw them shouting, “What was that?” As I parked in need of food. We had been several hours at the Edison to watch a cocktail mixing competition where my own timing of drink had been essential. These strange and wonderful creatures somehow reminded me of Loki when he first arrived to me unnamed. Hesitant and still and ready to slump into a pile.
“No Names” new sculptures by Elizabeth Higgins O’Connor.

One Way or Another

November 25th, 2008

Daniel Pontius

My father liked to say that it might be worth something some day–you better keep it! Now, Christie’s is showing you that some of it is. The first Punk/Rock auction of memorabilia was held on November 24, 2008 in New York.  

A trenchant view of nostalgia’s power. It is the 30 year rule that the punks & rockers should be able to afford to buy the things they wish they would have kept. 
It makes me feel like when “How Soon is Now” is playing at the Trader Joe’s. I wonder what my 1985 self would think of me today as I debate about buying the organic corn chips. It also makes me wish I would have kept all of my Smith’s 12 inch singles.  
The above are some of the big sellers. See rest of the results at Christie’s
Click on the image to enlarge. 


November 21st, 2008

Daniel Pontius

If you are anything like me, you like to move, and you are happy when the move is complete and you are unwrapping the bit of 1920’s Japanese print silk you had forgotten about and you get to have a fond memory of where you bought it–somewhere between Hillsdale and Great Barrington–an antique’s shop that you used to go to with Kadilac where you bought many different things, a rug, a box, a lamp, and many things you didn’t buy–the black leather Victorian shelf–Damn that would have hot. And, it will continue to be a surprise when you unpack these other things, since you’ve been thinking about different things like what fabric to use for which curtains and do I really need a stove–does he think I will cook? So the after pics are months away but I am hopeful for a holiday party.
Being very excited about my most recent apartment, that I dreamt about for a year, I suddenly am longing for something new. In fact suddenly it seems quite small, my 830 square feet even after my previously 220 plus in Brooklyn. Not enough, I think, after seeing in Nov-Dec Veranda the above pic, A 20 foot tall Christmas tree, I mean really, can you imagine?

Veranda was the host of a show house at Greystone mansion and I attended the closing party. But only briefly, having gotten lost on the way as there is more than one right turn off Sunset onto a street with a sign reading Doheny.
After finding my way I was immediately told the house was closing. This being LA I had a 4pm invitation and no ending time, so 4:55 didn’t seem too unseemly to me. I inched my way by the pedantic lady at the door asking, “Why is the house closing?” “Because it’s over!” She said, “The presentation is starting in several minutes.” She being as exasperated as she was determined, “Do you want in too? Okay, quickly.” I passed.
The word presentation glazes my mind with more yellow than walls done by Nancy Lancaster.
“Check–yes– yellow walls room off den.”
I continued on noting the nice enough rooms. And there were some exceptional moments, the textiles, but I can’t remember the rest, I had a fearful presentiment: the Determined Lady would suddenly appear in my face, “The presentation has started in the courtyard!”
So I scurried around Greystone missing a complete wing yet as I turned to walk up some steps I thought, “This is space!” It’s no Chatsworth; it’s no Biltmore; nor Hearst Castle, but definitely room for a 20 foot Christmas Tree.
I will not be having even a 20 foot christmas tree this year. No space not to mention all the help the tinsel would command, and a stepladder that I would need to climb to be photographed placing the last ornament just so.