I realize that it is just two days short of 31 years since this day and drawing in Bourges. Bourges is a city in the central part of France that is famous for it’s gothic cathedral. I’ll supplement a bit with pictures from Helen Gardner’s Art through the Ages. This will give you a little background and comparison historically between my first “le sketch du jour: Chartres” blog post and this contemporary cathedral in Bourges. That’s tomorrow.
I have had so many jobs to both occupy myself and bring in egg money, that I don’t want to get too intense and lose anyone with detail which I tend to do. For example, playing art history teacher, you can google all this. But, a bit of background about what my goals were this summer. I only see these now in my retrospective look of my sketchbook from the summer of ’80.
I began my study at KU in interior design, minoring in French. My interest in interior design was never commercial. It began with my dollhouse for which the dolls held little interest, but the furniture! It was an old thrift shop bird cage with plywood shelves and I made comforters, tiny Andy Warhol flower paintings, modeled tiny FIMO tv sets and crocheted rugs. My grandmother would supply an occasional designer piece from the miniature shop that is now a Christmas Shop in the courtyard outside of The Shed in Santa Fe on our summer trips.
So, this began my interest in residential interiors (not playing house, designing and decorating house) and my interest in the history of decorative arts. I had done an internship with Bobby Smith at Jack Rees Interiors on Belleview. Bobby was a good friend of my Grandmother Millie Ward. Bobby was old school decorator from Chicago when there was no ASID or accreditation. Decorators just “had it” (taste) and/or went to art school. Jack Rees Interiors was just up from JJ’s Steakhouse though I don’t know if it existed at that time. And yes, it is the spot that more than one time a car heading south from Westport crashed through the plate glass entry and landed in Jack’s showroom, thus requiring a remodel. He never seemed too fazed, so I wonder if he relished the opportunity to update the floor. There were never any casualties, but it would have given me pause when stopping in for a lamp or pillow.
Of course client names are confidential, but many had incredible art, antiques, and paintings; Old Master’s, Stickley before it was hip, noble, and reproduced, Tiffany candlesticks and one client with NYC lighting designer on the team. I distinctly remember the bathroom lighting and downward focus on the pedestal sinks. The interiors were a backdrop to wonderful collections of possessions.
This was a whole different scale of domestic dwelling and interiors from my world growing up. I lived in our small, well-designed contemporary house on 67th St. in Prairie Village. My family did collect modern art through their relationship with Myra Morgan of Morgan Gallery. The Morgan’s were our neighbors in our tandem designed houses and Dennis is my childhood and forever friend. Many in the 70s in KC collected art before people bought fancy cars and were diverted with other forms of consumption. Myra and Jim would take them all to Leo Castelli’s gallery in NYC.
As well, I remember my Grandmother taking me to Lillian Nassau on East 57th to buy me the few Tiffany pieces and later goblets to start my small never-to-grow collection. I really don’t even know NYC enough to know where I was in the city. But these were the small ways that I was connected to art possessions.
My grandparents had some wonderful pieces and I have a few, though much has been given to museums. They also gave joint larger gifts with the National Endowment for the Arts to the Nelson Gallery and Spencer Art Museum in Lawrence, the Cottingham Showboat and Rauschenberg Color Wheel are a few that come to mind. Their background another story, but needless to say, the wildcatter’s struck in Hays after the Depression. After teaching English and doing all the requisite women’s clubs, my grandmother gathered up reproductions of famous works of art, piled them in a van, and headed to more rural areas of Kansas. She and my Grandfather shared their love and interest in art with Kansans in the field who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to experience such things. She also had her own collection and wrote a book about Reverse Paintings on Glass. And, she served on the Kansas Arts Council, now the Kansas Arts Commission.
So, we had connections to art in my family. My mother at that time had been an art educator at the Nelson, on tv, and then Director of Art at the Johnson County Librairies. My father an architect. So, this background was more in the trenches than those for whom I worked at Jack Rees. As Bobby always said, serve the classes live with the masses. I’m sure my family’s passage was one of indentured servitude. We inherited the appreciation and desire to work around fine things of beauty and great craft without having to supply or possess the pocketmoney.
I guess I was in France this summer to learn about the European roots of all the historical interiors, secular and religious buildings, and urban planning from the Continent to put all of my background into a historical context. And I took an appreciation and history of Kansas with me to France. It is this history, enriched with the Industrial Revolution, new modes of transportation, and westward Frontier expansion that is the fabric of the wonderful aesthetic culture that is America today, warts and all.
This summer of 1980 and connections between these two worlds molded what I would later do and experience in life. The difficulty, loneliness, beauty and learning of that summer was the best preparation I could ever have for living in the Deep Rural for the next 28 years. Inner resourcefulness and appreciation of place and people served me well in truly feeling and living the culture of the windy High Plains.
So, too deep, Paula. On a lighter note, a few notes from the sketchbook:
“Ran-got lost this am so a little tense.” [how could I have been so aware of my emotions and recorded them but regressed so far…?]
“The artichokes here are HUGE! They are the size of honeydew melons.” [this was bliss for me]
“Read French Magazine Marie Claire. Very easy to understand (subject was sunbathing). [again, too much tanning…]
“Dinner was better than last night. It was a hamburger thing, tomatoes, les pommes frites, camembert & peaches. We knew it was hamburger because horsemeat here is the speciality (expensive) meat and the auberge wouldn’t serve that.”
“After dinner we talked with two girls here from London.”….”They gave us names of punk rock groups to see, theaters to go to to see what is really going on in Lond, bars to go to, what to be afraid of, what not to be afraid of. They said punks are weird but no harmful.”
[I have written] “if they ‘….stair ott ewe, tell tham to feck awk’ in her words.” “But, stay away from the skinheads-the whole purpose is to fight-can’t miss them. Bald, big boots, leather, sunglasses.” [one east coast art school student from Kansas adopted the look that summer which I witnessed upon arriving home; the cultural background of the “look” had not been researched]
“They were traveling a little differently: camping (tents), hitching for transportation, and free food via “nicking”-she said her meals were wonderful!! And then they proceeded to complain about all the “nicking” in Italy!!” [already identifying my pattern to pick up on hypocrisies in other’s while I’m sure unaware of my own].
The end, bonsoir, à demain.