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If You Can't Make Art, Study It

I took a painting class in 5th grade. It was the only after school activity I enjoyed other than a cooking class. I went to a very progressive elementary school, where we could learn how to cook lasagna instead of how to hit a home run, if we wanted to. I dabbled in sports for approximately 1 month, but quickly realized I was more of an indoor girl. I don't like sports, I'm much too passive. The idea of winning stresses me out if it's based solely on how fit I am. Then, there's the whole aspect of a team. If there were an "I" in team, I might be able to get on board, but my bossy 10 year old butt, was not down with compromising. So, I took a painting class. We would work on one painting a week, a little slow for my liking, but I was going to give it a chance.
Before this class, I had already decided that I was an amazing artist and didn't really need any guidance, but it was either this or another season of baseball. Not sure where I got the confidence from, but I would like it back please. The first week of this painting class, the topic was still lifes. We each were handed a large wooden bowl and then told to pick out the fruits we would like to use. I grabbed peaches, lemons and limes. I didn't and still don't like apples, so why would I paint them if they didn't taste good. I then carefully arranged my bowl and had a few pieces of fruit spilling out onto the table. I bunched up the table cloth around my fruit and took a step back. "A fucking masterpiece" is what I wished to say, but instead took my seat and began painting. I had been to Paris twice by this point, so I knew how to arrange a table. I also was raised by mom and grandma.
Before I knew it, the hour was up, and I realized that I was wrong, a week was not enough time to complete my painting. I had 1 more class that week and I had figured that the entire next hour would be spent perfecting the lemon's shading. I asked to take the painting home to work on it on my own time. A few months ago, for Christmas, I received an entire studio's worth of painting supplies because I had mentioned the painting class, hadn't even signed up yet. The following year I took a hip hop class and received a boom box for my birthday. 
For about a month, I worked on this still life painting. I learned that the more layers of paint were added, the more interesting the piece became. I created a background wall that was 8 layers of paint, it looked like my still life was in an abandoned chateau, the paint peeling off and all. The fruit had a shine to it, as if it were freshly washed, while still maintaining the grain. The pinks of the peaches bounced off the deep and distressed wood bowl. I really thought I had found my calling. I thought about getting an apprentice. 
Then I took a step back and realized that I didn't have any depth perception and you couldn't really tell what was going on. After that, I began to study art instead of trying to make it. Once I realize I'm not very good at something, I move on. It's both a good and bad trait of mine.
When I took up home schooling in high school (like I had a choice) I took a lot of art history classes. These classes only fueled my life long passion for art history and I then majored in it in college. After learning a little bit of everything from every decade, I always went back to the still life painting. I found that no mater what era art was in, there was always a version of a still life.
The first depictions of still life paintings went back to ancient Egypt. I love Egyptian art mainly because I think it is spooky. I might have seen The Mummy a few too many times also. The still life's from ancient Egypt give us the most detailed look of what everyday life was like for the Egyptians. And, it was largely the same as a table today. Lots of fish, fruits and pottery. 

Still lifes have also been found in Ancient Rome and Pompeii in fresco and mosaic form. The middle ages took on a different approach to the still life and began incorporating more religious and symbolic aspects to their creations. These still lifes were largely found in manuscripts rather than in large format compositions. The Renaissance is where decadent floral arrangements were created for these scenes and also where my love for still lifes emerged. I love how over the top the flowers are, how bright and vivid all the petals are. 

The still lifes during this time and onward, became almost a display and game of one upping each other with wealth. The flowers in one vase are from all different regions of the world, making the flowers in the painting sometimes more expensive than the actual painting. Later, artists began to incorporate material luxury objects into the paintings, such as lobsters and pocket watches. This is my favorite time of the still life. I love how over the top and excessive everything is, so much to look at. 

This is also where the depiction of a skull in the still life became common. This style was called Vanitas. This style of still life directly represented the inevitability and certainty of death. They often contain contrasting symbols of both wealth and mortality. It's morbid, but it makes for a lovely painting. 

Then, Cezanne came into the picture and changed everything. Well, that's what I think. His still life's made way for a more abstract version of the traditional still life, while still paying homage to the Vanitas of the past, throwing in a skull every now and then. 

What followed him, is a bit of a mess. I've never been one to enjoy a Braque still life, but I guess he's worth mentioning. Sometimes I zoom past modern art because it bores me, there's not as much to look at. I would love to hang a Cy Tombley in my house, but I don't have much to say about it other than "Wow." My main problem with modern art is the fact that nothing seems to be happening in them. Where are all the dinner parties? I wanna see people dancing and flaunting their wealth and a little magic. Maybe a stabbing after a brutal betrayal even.
But, I do love David La Chapelle's still life collection. He makes everything so over the top and extravagant, that's why Donatella loves him and I love her. Around 2011 La Chapelle did a series of still life photographs, and they are everything. 

His florals are larger than life, but in true La Chapelle fashion, there's an element of pop culture scattered throughout the background. He even pays his on tribute to the Vanitas of the past, but instead of skull, a maniquin head. His pieces are sort of like a "where's Waldo", every time you look deeper, you find another detail that makes you laugh a little bit. His combination of all that was great in the past with all that is wrong in the future, like redi whip and tabloids, creates a stunning and fresh take on modern still lifes. 
After studying all these different approaches to the same general daily life scene, I decided to have my own take on it. I thought about how interesting it would look to use a still life set to stage antiques. Some of the antiques very well might have actually been used for staging a still life before. In fact, if you look at the background of some of these paintings, you can actually see similar items that are in this months sale, both a marbled dish and a drinking horn. 
Usually, my eye goes to the flowers, because they're bright and pretty. I'm like a moth and attracted to the flame. But, here, I'm trying to get your eye to go right to the antiques. The way they compliment their surroundings, but also steal the show.

This sale I was very inspired by my mom's store Circa. This store was way before the Have Some Decorum days and it was much less down to earth. The 1st floor of the store was dedicated to everything French. The walls were painted black lacquer with gold trim, the simple column was turned into one of the Corinthian order and everything was delicate and aged to perfection. 

Upstairs was more of a Mediterranean and warm vibe. The walls were distressed with colors of orange, beige and red, as if when you walked up stairs, you were transported into an Italian villa. Here is where you would find cashmere throws, deep textured wood pieces and colorful paisleys.

So now whenever I'm looking for the next sale, I'm subconsciously categorizing my items into those two categories.  Sometimes I try to stray, but I always go back to these two styles. I think this next sale is a perfect mix of both floors. There are rustic wood pieces, gold gilt mirrors and a little bit in between.
So, here's the sneak peak for the sale, which by the way, starts tomorrow at 6am PST!

I'm gonna start off the sale with my favorite piece possibly ever, ever. An antique HUGE glazed tortoise shell. This shell dates back to the late 1800's. My mom used to hang her tortoise shell right over our entry way table, just high enough so I couldn't touch. It was precious and there was no need for me to pet it. Here's a few photos of just how much a tortoise shell can draw your eye in.

Now for something gold. I have an obsession with hands, beautiful delicate hands. I have never been able to draw one, but that hasn't stopped me from obsessing over them. I found this gorgeous photo holder stand, with hands!! Growing up, we always had photos and postcards displayed everywhere around the house. I think this would just look amazing on a table, front and center, to display your travels proudly.

This next item is one of those that my mom would have bought for her store Circa, loved it too much and ultimately ended up keeping. I know this because well, she actually did this.

She bought this little wood head statue to sell at her store. It was in the front window for about an hour, someone came in and wanted to buy it, but my mom couldn't part with it. She told them it was already sold (she just didn't say it was sold to herself.) That little wood head now lays on its side in my living room. No, it's not for sale, but this one is...

This wood statue of Christ's head is still so well preserved, given that it is from the 17th century from a French chapel. Typically, the statues in churches were not entirely wood. Rather, just the head and the hands were made of wood and then the rest of the body was sort of faked. Since these statues were dressed, the artist just didn't put anything underneath the clothing. Tricky tricky. The remaining head has been mounted onto a modern black wooden base to not take any attention away from the detail of the statue. Honestly, I wish I could place this statue next to my other one, but, it's time to share.
Alright, the last object that I'll ramble on about today is a set of six black and gold plates. These would have been sold on the downstairs floor of Circa so fast, so so so fast. And a set probably would have been bought for our house as well. These plates are from the company Sascha Brastoff. They remind me so much of the dishes my mom used to love from HERE but are about a 10th of the price. I can probably stop gushing about these dishes because they speak for themselves, except one more thing. I have a small pink, white and gold dish from this company and for some reason I only have one, but it still gets people talking when I casually bring it out with something sweet on it.

Ok, soooo, you know the drill. If there is anything you would like to call first dibs on before the sale goes live, email me because I play favorites.


  1. You are such a good writer, so articulate. I hear an echo of your mom, but you have your own style for sure. I really enjoy your posts!

  2. YES... what Rosie said!

  3. YES... what Rosie said!!

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  5. Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the great spirit.

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