Posts tagged ‘art’


I’m looking at a picture and article in my Sunday paper today of a very accomplished eighty-four year old woman who is an artist, among other talents. As I munch on my chocolate chip cookie and enjoy my cinnamon tea, I’m thinking about another very famous artist, Grandma Moses, who died on December 14, 1961. She was 101 years old.

On the day of her death, The New York Times ran a charming, long article about her life. They described her as being “cheerful as a cricket.” Her art was, stated the Times, “Gay color, action and humor enlivened her portrayals of such simple farm activities as maple sugaring, soap-making, candle-making, haying, berrying and making of apple butter.” I’m not sure what “berrying” was beyond the picking, but maybe that is what was meant. Anyway, her art is charming.

Grandma Moses had art training but another artist who worked in the “primitive” genre had no training at all, yet she is almost as famous. Clementine Hunter was born December 1886 in Louisiana, and died at the age of 100. When she began painting, she was living on the Melrose Plantation, bordering on the Cane river. She was a cotton picker when she first moved there but soon began as a cook in the mansion. The African and Creole cultures were strong in the area, and also it attracted many artists and writers such as William Faulkner and John Steinbeck. My husband and I were fortunate to own two of her paintings which cost about $75 each when we purchased them in the 1960’s. They now run in the many thousands. We were forced to sell ours a few years ago. We miss them.

Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe were friends and both lived in New Mexico a good part of their lives. Martin died in Taos at the age of 92 and O’Keeffe left us at the age of 98 while living in Santa Fe in a home that is about a minute away
from me. Martin was doing realistic art until her 40’s when she switched to abstract. O’Keeffe is probably best known for her lush, lovely renderings of flowers, but she did many other subjects and styles. If you come to Santa Fe, don’t miss a visit to the beautiful O’Keeffe Museum.

Even if you are not interested in art or art history, if you are interested in the history of women, these four women are very important. They lived during a time when women really struggled to overcome being in the place of second fiddle to men. And, these were people who continued to use their talents clear into their
90th year.

MOSES at the New York Times on Dec. 14, 1961archive
HUNTER showing at the Gilleys Gallery in Louisiana
MARTIN at the Washington Post Dec. 17, 2004 archive

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I can’t complain about plumbers anymore, as I did in my “Ticked Off” book, because I’ve shopped around enough to end up with reliable workmen. So since I don’t have to keep pacing the floor wondering when the plumber is going to show, if at all, I’m happily thumbing through a decorating magazine and drinking my hot tea and munching on a chocolate chip cookie. The plumber is working on a leaking shower right now.

Many years ago, I became interested in the decor in bathrooms. I think it started when my husband and I travelled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, several times a year. The bathrooms in the restaurants and hotels are unique. Most are decorated with either Mexican tile floors or colored concrete. The wall decorations range from those inspired by American Indian art to Mexican art to hippie art. Oh, yes, with a little cowboy thrown in.

I was still living in the Los Angeles area when an article was published in the local newspaper about the best bathrooms in public places. First prize was given to one that I sure would have chosen as spectacular. It is in a fancy hotel in Beverly Hills, of course.

It was during this period of time that I was thinking about writing a bathroom book about the ones in Santa Fe. My family encouraged this crazy idea so I went forward. I ended up photographing bathrooms in hotels, restaurants, and in private homes. Everyone who knew about the project thought it was great, including an editor I was working with at the time. However, once I had the book ready for submission to publish, there was no one willing to make it happen. So it sits here gathering dust.

One fancy New York publisher wrote about the book, “No one wants to see someone else’s bathroom.” I visualized her at a walnut desk on the 60th floor of a fancy high rise, and she was dressed in an Armani suit.

One of the bathrooms had walls covered in letters from interesting, well-known people along with their pictures. Another one had rows of Milagros* placed on the wall and tub the same way you would use tiles. One had several birds’ nests, complete with eggs, sitting on the tops of small tables. Another had walls of collectible beaded American Indian handbags. (The New York publisher probably threw the book across the room.)

Our bathroom was tiled in green to compliment the trees up next to the three large windows. The centerpiece is (or was) a three-foot high folk art Kachina that has a lot of green painted on it. The two huge custom mirrors have Hopi tiles embedded in the frames and other Hopi Indian tiles are scattered among the green tiles around the sinks and tub. (Heaven only knows what the Armani-clad woman thought the Kachina and Hopi tiles were all about.)

There is a book that’s been published about outhouses. (The publisher is in Arizona, not New York.) I was going to include some of the outhouses in my book as well. So many of them are no longer standing and yet they were often cleverly decorated. Do you know that Hollyhocks grew wild next to many of them?

The bathrooms in the magazine I’m looking at right now are lovely but they don’t have the uniqueness of the ones I photographed. (Probably selected by the New York editor.)  Anyway, my suggestion is that you not be worried about making your bathroom as interesting as the rest of your house. After all, most of us spend quite a lot of time in that room. Why be bored?

*A milagro in this case refers to small silver or gold votive Mexican offerings in the shape of body parts or representing other things such as animals.

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