Friday, April 20, 2012

…an embarrassment of riches: artfully gifted friends, part 2: Design on a Dime 2012

Art makes a room. It’s the color, the grace note, the personal expression. Art, if well-chosen and nicely hung (oh my!) can make up for lack of architectural interest, balance an odd floorplan, and tell a story about a home’s inhabitants like no other detail. It can keep a traditional room from feeling like a dusty museum, and it can take the edge off of new construction.

But art is also highly personal, and as someone with art school training and as an interior designer, I understand that the “right” art for a space to me is not always something about which a homeowner will share my unbridled enthusiasm.

So art is one of the most fun parts of Design on a Dime, since the room is pure folly: no client cues to shape the space… just my own choices, and then (and more importantly!) the generosity of the donors who make the 50 or so designers chosen for this event look so good.

Last year, I was artfully well-represented, with painting and photography (always my favorite mix)… a large piece by Babette Herschberger, and some amazing (and remarkably modern) photography of birds in flight by the talented photographer Marty Maynard.

This year, I am building on the lovely work both Babette and Marty used to set the stage, and set the bar so high, for. I'm OUTRAGEOUSLY excited about this year's art that has been soooo generously donated to my Sophomore venture into this fundraising event to benefit Housing Works. And boy, did I SCORE this year, art-wise! Babette Herscberger. Dan Romer. Victor-Raul Garcia. Margaret Petttee-Olsen. My own little gallery! And little in square footage only. This is GOOD stuff.
Last year, Babette Herschberger, a long-time friend and one of the most visually acute people I have ever met (we share past lives as Graphic Designers) got the ball rolling for me in a big way, and her piece was the anchor for the vignette. I love Babette’s work for its two-stage discovery… her paintings seem like brightly colored blocks of color (which alone, delight and have room-making potential). But a second glance, and the surface woos you… with its flecks of color, linear underpinnings, areas of gloss and chalk. Babette has a reason for everything she does, and yet her pieces never lose their buoyancy. The story is there in each piece, but the success of her work is not contingent on knowing every line of the play. She also donated last year one of her “Tidbit” collages, favorites of mine.

I did not want to overtax, so this year I worked with Babette to secure a small piece instead of a large one. Well, her generosity overrode my request, and I ended up with a pair from her “Drawing” series… small, blocky canvasses best shown in multiples. These two golden squares will command far greater presence than their diminutive size would suggest, as they zing off the deep brown alligator-clad walls (courtesy Koroseal). Any wise visitors to the booth will scoop up the set.

I’ve admired Dan’s work (well, admired is probably too tame a word…) since seeing it on the Walls… of Facebook. His exuberant drawings, mostly figure studies and portraits, seem ridiculously casual. But like Babette’s work, there are serious and studied underpinnings. I’ve said before that to me, Dan’s work is a combination of David Hockney and (the good parts of) Leroy Neiman. Dan’s color palette is remarkable, with pairings that shouldn’t work but do. His slashes of oil stick and smudges of charcoal capture anatomy, sensuality, gesture and mood, and he makes it all look as casual as a wave.

I responded so strongly to Dan’s work that I must admit: I pursued him for Design on a Dime like a crazed and stealthy stalker… er, suitor: A series of Likes on his posted work, introductory conversation, then outright request. Well, then, comedy of errors: Even at the moment of selection, there was some sorting out to do about whether these would be donations or loan (This is no showhouse: nothing donated to Housing Works for this event comes back to the donors.) I’d like to think it was my charm that won out, but it was actually Dan’s generosity and belief in the cause… TWO pieces “Young Man,” a nude in repose, and the heroic and muscular “Big Carlos,” a head-only portrait that validates my theory that sexiness comes, more often than not, from the face before the first belt is unbuckled. 

Dan’s two pieces also gave me and my space the ability to bring in a whole range of new colors, and the creative license to work with colors I don’t get to work with much: a spring-y splash of clays, terra cottas, and… PINK! The perfect colors to take the edge off a room I didn’t want to be too bachelor pad cliché, for all its dark walls and concrete and cerused wood furnishings.

I did not have to stalk Victor-Raul Garcia (although you can see why I might!), but he did cross my path in the virtual hallways of Facebook, one of the many social media tools Victor-Raul uses to great marketing effect. What started as a gallery visit to his Chelsea garret ended with one of his works earmarked for my Design on a Dime space. And it was my very first and favorite choice. This charming gent’s generosity did not stop with me… he donated to another designer for the event as well.

Another of Victor-Raul's pieces, in his residentially-styled Chelsea display space.

This top piece, shown in Victor-Raul's studio (and heading up the post, above), as the seagulls say in Finding Nemo: "Mine! Mine!" Well, at least for a day!

Victor-Raul is an energetic self-marketer (another reason I admire him!) and he works hard to get his work shown around town, like nearby Nest Interiors. Victor-Raul also helped broker a deal with his friends there to get me two gorgeous horn boxes for Design on Dime, too. Like last year, that kind of item is sure to fly out of the booth before anyone finishes their first cocktail.

And last but not least, in scale or generosity, Margaret Pettee Olsen, with whom I attended RISD. I’ve admired (and written about) Margaret’s work here before, but I dared not ask for one of her lush, heroically-scaled pieces. Well, I didn’t have to: Margaret stepped up without prodding (well, unless you count my incessant posts about Design on a Dime to be prodding!) And not only was it a donation… it was a CUSTOM COMMISSION. The yellows, golds, reds and raspberries that had emerged as my palette are a little outside of Margaret’s paintbox, but she created a stunning work that is very much Margaret, even if the colors were, for her, a departure.

I also have my friend and framer Steven Amedee to thank... he's generously underwriting the framing of Dan's pieces, and a donated self-portrait by architect-friend John Spencer.

I’m almost a TINY bit guilty using these gallery-caliber (and gallery shown) pieces in such a “decorative” setting… but I would gladly use these pieces the same way in a home interior project. And for those bristling at my references to the art driving the room’s palette, I may not be a fan of “art matching your sofa.” But I’ve never been opposed to your sofa matching your art.

Even more delightful to me is how this roster of art stars is almost a marker of my own personal timeline… from college, to a first career, to a New York life, and an awakening to activism and social media: every chapter is perfectly marked. I will be, as I stand in that completed booth, among friends. And that is the best, and most beautiful place to be.

Which piece would you build a room around? How do you use art in your space? I want to hear from you!

This year's Design on a Dime opens to the public during preview and party night, April 26th, 2012 at Manhattan's Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea; It remains open to the public Friday through Sunday. If tickets are still available, you can purchase them here.

Read about the many other talented and "Artfully Gifted" friends I have here. And see which rug this art will be hanging above here.

Get social! Find Victor-Raul Garcia, Babette Herschberger and Marty Maynard on Facebook! And follow me on Pinterest!

1 comment:

  1. I am crazy for those two portraits by Dan Romer that are shown above. That is exactly the type of work I would build a room around. (not that I am a talented designer like you but let's pretend for a moment). I really, really like the first one in particular, "Young Man".

    I have a drawing in my home of a man holding a dog called "The Hug" and it has a similar feel and mood about it. I have it in a room we use for music (piano etc) and have kind of built this room of black and white with touches of light yellow, (my homage to Albert Hadley) around this drawing. Some drawings or photographs or paintings I just never get tired of looking at. Some I will take down only to bring them out years later and they seem fresh again.

    I loved this post. Thanks for doing it!!!
    Suzanne in CT.