Thursday, March 22, 2012

moments that change a life

The sweet man in my life who asked me to marry him twenty years ago was the catalyst for one of those life changing moments.   That single event set off waves of change that would effect every aspect of who I was and who I would become.  I now live in Portland with a family of my own and am surrounded by a whole new set of friends and colleagues.  And while my interest in design has never wavered, it has been altered by these changes.
In my twenties I was working on the East Coast and was obsessed with commercial design, large scale projects, understanding how things went together, the details of making it work, and convincing others my ideas were great.  In my thirties, my husband and I moved to the West Coast to begin a new adventure. (Intimate and nostalgic, Portland has a unique culture which translates into every facet of living and working here.) My architectural projects were mid-sized commercial and included some smaller scale interiors and residential.  I started a family and it grew and grew.  I guess there is something in the water here....there is a lot of water here.  Finally, I outgrew my full time career and grew into raising a family along side design.  My projects shifted towards residential work exclusively now that I am in my forties.  Lately I am thinking about design again more and more.  It is such a pleasure to dream of beautiful create something or to turn something old into something new - that is so rewarding. 
I am currently working on a remodel for a home that was built in the 40’s.   It is a ranch with a low-hipped Japanese style roof line.   It has a very typical northwestern flavor that was developed here by Pietro Belluschi (son of an Italian immigrant) who lived and worked in Portland.  Belluschi later became the Dean of MIT, Boston.   When I first moved here all of the the other young designers were very taken with Belluschi’s designs.  I did not quite understand the love affair when I arrived but now I am smitten. The homes are simple, with low roof lines and overhanging eaves.  There are large windows that run floor to ceiling.  Walls and ceilings are sometimes covered with clear cedar siding to add warmth to a room that looks out to the cold but beautiful pacific ocean with it’s rocky coastline.  The exterior may have a vertical board and batten siding that is left unpainted so it’s color fades with time like the shingle homes that you see along Cape Cod.  Sometimes there are porches and or walkways that reach out to the landscape and nestle into the old growth forests that are everywhere here.

This home above is the Kerr House that is located in Gearhart, Oregon by the sea.  It was commissioned in the 40’s by a retired wealthy business man in his 80’s.  The side of the home that faced the ocean had a long band of vertical windows. The vertical windows are in contrast to the long horizontal flow of the roof line and the deep overhanging eaves. Belluschi’s work will be exhibited this May at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.
I ran across this image below, the other day, of an exhibit that is currently in Portland featuring the work of William Wurster. 

Wurster was a famous West Coast architect and teacher at the University of California, Berkeley and at MIT, that practiced in and around San Francisco. His work has this unassuming quality that just feels right in its environment. There are huge window walls of glass that open out to the garden, pulling your attention to the outdoors in a thoughtful and serene manner.  You can see more of his work exhibited by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon 2012 event ‘Frames for Living’ March 22 through April 28th at the White Stag Building on Couch Street.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

rothko comes to town

“Regarded as one of the leading American artists of the 20th century, Mark Rothko (1903-1970) began his life in art as Marcus Rothkowitz in Portland Oregon. “ portland art museum ...I went to visit his 45-painting exhibition two weeks ago with my youngest daughter, Anna, who is interested in painting.  From a 10 year old's view point - these paintings seemed like something she could do and she was inspired.   I have highlighted the word ‘seemed’ because if you have ever tried to mimic one of Rothko’s paintings you would know that it is not as easy as it looks.  The forms are simple, yes, but the depth of color is magical. They are studies in color with titles like BLACK IN DEEP RED or No. 14/ No. 10 (Yellow Greens).

Some of them are untitled. You may wonder how he became so famous with seemingly little deep thought involved? These are not simply tubes of paint squirted onto the canvas.  There are layers of color, one on top of the other, that fade out and overlap with no apparent logic.  For me the effect is a cold splash in the face on a hot summer day... your first kiss...seeing your children after a long departure.  Rothko was an Abstract Expressionist painter, interested in the emotional force of pure color.  He was an intellectual, and loved to argue endlessly about the problems of 'art'. This brought him fame in the New York art scene of the 40's, 50's, and 60's. 

Color field painting is a type of ‘color blocking’ and can be used to depict a real object or scene as well.   I did this painting below over a year ago using this method.  Rothko used oils and you can tell. Oils produce a much richer, thicker, depth of color.  After seeing his works up close I am re-inspired.  Anna and I are ready to throw some paint!

 Untitled, 2011 acrylic on canvas 9x12"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

a chicken in every yard

a chicken in every yard
Last weekend I dropped my daughter off at a sleepover with a family that had a huge chicken coop in their backyard.  I fell in love with these cute little chickens and the bossy colorful rooster.  How wonderful to wake up to fresh eggs every morning!  Now I am dreaming of building one in my own back yard this summer.  
This certainly wasn’t the first time I have seen a chicken coup but when I was growing up in Nebraska, coups were always on farms.  They were huge, dirty,  and noisy.  There has been a surge in urban farming over the last couple of years here in Portland.  Along with that - chicken coop design has gone high style.  

The design for this coop can be purchased on line at The Garden Coop dot com
If you want to design and build your own there are plenty of places to go for inspiration.  There are books, videos, and real life working models available for you to see.  You can take a garden tour of coop designs around Portland in the summertime.  

Inexpensive classes are offered at ‘the urban farm store’ on Belmont where you can learn how to keep chickens. You can even buy your chickens here.  I am going to take my children with me.....what a great thing to learn!

The architecture firm I worked for when I first arrived in Portland, called SERA Architects,  hosted a chicken coop competition a few years ago to benefit PICA - the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art.  There were some amazing entries...the winning entry is shown below.  This week I begin my Architects in Schools program and will be teaching a 5th grade class all about architecture for a quarter.  I may have them design chicken coops!

Winning Design: Hen Hedge (by Gary Gola + Jeanie Lai)
The modern box offers elegant housing for the chickens, along with a style that blends into the discerning homeowner's exterior decor. The green roof and green wall provide shading along with blending into the landscape, and the design featured the option of either tractor or fixed coop, depending on the needs of the owners.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snow falling on Cedars

Early morning light on new snow outside my window...

Arghhh....another week of not getting to work much on my painting.  Lots of snow this week has created chaos at my house, late openings, delays, and missed instead all I have time for is my usual list of to do and must do and have to do
One bonus is snuggling beside the fire place in the evenings with a glass of wine after all the work is put away for one day (because it is never completely finished) :) Even during busy times I need to remind myself to slow and reflect on what is important in life and how to make a life meaning-ful instead of just full.

It is too easy to just look backward into memory instead of imprinting purposefully that which is important to one's spirit. I am not the same person I was as a child.  There are however, some core feelings that I try to recapture and nurture as an adult that somehow get squeezed out of us in the rush of business.

“Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth.  But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success.  It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.”  Marcel Proust, In search of Lost Time, a french novel.

In this case, Proust was in search of time not just "lost" but, more forcefully "wasted".  I am trying to avoid this but it is so hard to do.  

One of my favorite painters that I like to keep an eye on is David Lloyd.  He has an amazing way of adding a poetic, time-less, sense of place-ness, to his interior spaces. That seem restful and untouched by the craziness of life.  Places where you want to sit and reflect on what is important.

DRAWING ROOM,  acrylic on canvas