To come upon a screamingly talented yet humble artist in a quiet storefront studio on Main Street in the sleepy western frontier village of Youngstown, New York is a contextual experience that dazzles the senses. The town has one flashing stop light. The emerald green Niagara river flows parallel to the Main Street and spills powerfully, yet quietly into the blue expanse of the great Lake Ontario . Surrounding farms offer fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the season while fishermen venture forth and sailors race across the waters between Canada and the United States sharing this joy of the fresh water sports. Steeped in history, this area marks significant battles between British, French and American troops trading occupancy over the land for ages.
Susan Geissler is a local artist and her outstanding larger than life sculptures have entertained, provoked and educated her public all across America far from this quiet rural pocket of western New York. Proud, loud can can dancers that have been commissioned to travel aboard cruise ships to teachers reading patiently to students atop colorful alphabet blocks, Geissler captivates her audience.
She’s funny and self-effacing – brilliantly talented and sensitive. She sees amazingly intimate detail in anything that she selects to depict. Water turtles balancing on logs, carp swimming with nymphs, cheetahs lanky and elegant bodies stalking, butlers at your service, sunbathers reclining in camaraderie, her subjects are as real and varied as her imagination and real life can provide.
We strolled along the waterfront park in Lewiston just up the road to the very compelling Freedom Crossing Monument Installation. The intention was to “honor and pay tribute to the enslaved, who against all odds, sought a new life of freedom, and to the local volunteers who protected and helped them on their journey.” A bit larger than life, this action scene filled with desperate emotion captures the plight of escaping slaves on their way to freedom via the underground.
In addition to honor and pay tribute, this important sculpture is intended to “highlight and celebrate the historical importance of the Niagara River as a gateway to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Once fugitive slaves crossed the river, they were free forever.” This multi figure passionate study of a scene depicting “ the moment in time when fugitive slaves saw Canada for the first time after traveling hundreds of treacherous miles, avoiding slave catchers who were paid to capture and return them to the South.”
The Historical Society of Lewiston, New York continues to describe “handing the baby to the fugitive mother is Josiah Tryon (1798-1886), Lewiston’s volunteer “station master” for the Underground Railroad. A man of simple means, Tryon was quiet, humble and religious. By secretly escorting the slaves to freedom in his rowboat under the cover of darkness, he gave them hope and became a champion of justice and equality. He truly had a rainbow heart, embracing people of all colors and creeds.”
“With her outstretched arm pointing to Canada, Laura Eastman is the iconic heroine in the historical fiction book, “Freedom Crossing”. Laura has become the symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over oppression.”
From that historic and incredibly important portrayal of a time in history to the sculpture of long-haired, muscular Friesian (also Frisian) horses quietly grazing in a pasture just minutes from her studio, Geissler loves her subjects. She knows her subjects and she feels what they might be feeling to the best of her ability to do so.
Never been to Niagara Falls? Take a trip and make your way another 25 minutes along the river to Youngstown and the Old Fort Niagara. On your way, stop along the short stretch of Main Street and have a latte, maybe a grilled cheese sandwich, a beer and an ice cream cone on the corner and see the art in the window at Susan Geissler’s magical studio and if you’re fortunate and she’s there – you’ll meet an extraordinary individual who will welcome you with modest enthusiasm and quietly express her limitless talents and present fascinatingly animated subjects to dazzle your senses!
When parts of the country are suffering record heat and staggering humidity, we out here in the desert southwest wonder what it would feel like to be washed with fresh rainwater rinsing everything everywhere and satiating all the parched plants and surfaces so badly in need of hydration.
Tonight we had a gully-washer by most standards…the thunder and lightning were an exhilarating sensory symphony while the rain pelted an acoustical beat against all that it hit from rooftop to skylights, car hoods to pavements. We drove upward – east toward the majestic Sandias like salmon upstream against the river’s current – in this case, rain rushing from the higher elevations down toward the mighty (we hope tonight) Rio Grande valley. Here is a shot at 2nd and Osuna as the lighting pierced the sky behind the traffic lights – quite the spectacular pyrotechnic scene – courtesy of man and Mother Nature. Looks like a color scheme of dark chocolate, amber and turquoise/greens with a purple punctuation…from where does interior design inspiration arise? Then know that the windows were cracked just enough to get that intoxicating smell of the elements and rain!
It was a beautiful natural saturation of the environment and tomorrow all will burst forth with renewed growth and promise as a result of this most welcome cleansing and thirst-quenching downpour. In fact…listen to the quiet night after the rain has passed and hear the tiny frogs that come forth from the moisture that permeates their hiding places and brings them to life with their chorus of happy chirping sounds.
Rather than hiding from it and skirting between the drops – why not stand smack dab in the middle of the rain and soak in the pure pleasure of nature’s spa?
The art and song of the desert during and after a good rain. Take a deep breath!
The weather outside is shinin’,
And the warmth is so divine in
Backyards of everyone we know
Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!
A seasonal twist to a familiar tune, something to hum while you’re gardening or sitting and admiring the work of others in your garden as you sip a refreshment from the comfort of your reclining lounge. I asked the other day about where is YOUR favorite outdoor living space and here is a shot of one of mine! Morning shadows, birds chirping, cool air warming with the rising sun…and tequila as shown here – ha! “Tequila Makes My clothes Fall Off,” which is good to be advised to drink it in a warmer climate – to avoid an unwanted chill!!! The back patio of the Casita de Colores is on the 14th fairway of the Oro Valley country club Golf Course – north Tucson. The Linear Park passes by to the west with easy access to miles of hiking and biking trails! It is quite an outdoor paradise!
Last night we gathered (chillaxin’ – thank you for this fun portmanteau, Shell) with friends and enjoyed the soft evening air…sipping margaritas, munching chips with chunky, freshly made salsa and luscious guacamole with a background of latin guitar wafting from the IPod – the Catalina mountains turned pink to lavender as night descended over the desert…it was magic.
The weather is still variable across most of the country – but certainly heading for a constant that we can count on to enjoy the outdoor living spaces! But I would like to pause to praise the strength of so many whom, in this time of devastation being experienced in the recent destructive path of the tornados, are re-building lives where all they see for miles are piles of outdoor debris where homes once stood. May they find comfort in the knowledge that perseverance will restore a new definition to their lives as they reconstruct what once was…and may it be safe and beautiful.
On my computer I have the gadgets posting the weather in some of our regular haunts from St. Thomas to Puerto Vallarta, Washington D.C. to Tucson – Albuquerque usually falls in the middle of the temperature reports which today range from – ooh, ABQ is the lowest right now at 46! St. Thomas is 83 and we here in the Sonora Desert are climbing up, currently at a mild 66 expecting low to mid 80s as the day progresses! The time difference plays a role though since St. Thomas is out there to the east of our east coast time zone – Atlantic as it’s called…well into their day as we are just greeting ours out here in the west coast time zone! So perhaps you didn’t expect a weather report – but it all centers around appreciating opening the doors, letting the air in and enjoying that spilling out from inside to live outdoors for a good part of the year to the extent that your climate will allow!
So, as it warms up – chill out! Enjoy!
I love how those home improvement shows always make it look so easy. One that I came upon the other day created a flagstone patio with a stacked stone retaining wall and voila! All during the course of a half hour or maybe it was a full hour – regardless, this is an invitation to disaster.
“Be prepared” is what I must say first. As I spoke to a friend of mine who found a “great deal” on some demolition flagstone on Craig’s List, she personally hefted over 3,000 pounds into the back of a pick-up to begin her own flagstone patio! “Get OUT – three thousand pounds by yourself?!!” I exclaimed! And also offered that perhaps she might not have to go to the gym for the next 3-4 years!!!! But as she further delved into the details and mention of “anyone with high heels best remain on the paved portion of the patio” this now momentous project, I felt it worth a blog…
On TV, they clear and carve the area, level the surface, cut the stone with a wet saw…well, you can imagine – maybe. But in REAL TIME with one or two novices, it becomes more than a challenge. They WILL get finished – and barring anything unforeseen, before the summer is over so that they can actually enjoy the fruits of their labor…Patience and perseverance – one step at a time…one stone at a time…
Often on EXTERIOR design projects, it is not uncommon for the homeowners of the residential plans to want to “help” with the process. It sounds like fun. This is great. It allows for an investment of more than money when one actually participates in the work. So I never discourage this involvement. But I have rescued clients from trying to do it all themselves – when the tension is so thick that you can barely cut it with a garden spade! They say that building a house together can ruin a marriage…the stress can be tremendous – so too can be the landscaping projects and remodels that seem so manageable – until reality strikes! How heavy, how even, how flush…the exacting details…this place is a mess…how much longer is this going to take????? If you survive, it can be satisfying – but at what price this prideful satisfaction?
I shot this beautiful stone path at the Acropolis in Athens a couple of weeks ago. It was so perfectly casual. Stone against plantings is so welcoming – especially meandering through a garden. It provides texture, color, contrast and all with the harmonious sense that it’s a natural occurrence…with a little help from patient and capable hands.
We’ve heard about streets paved with gold – and this is as close as I’ve seen. In Istanbul, we encountered streets paved with what we know it as Porphyry – a granite-like stone quarried in Mexico – billed as a European paving material – we saw it all over Greece and Turkey. Like brick from the standpoint that it is durable, conceals dirt and street soil, these square chunks of non-slip stone give a mottled coloration of reds, grays and dark charcoal tones resulting in a practical, timeless and extremely attractive surface. Not only the pavers, but great tiles of honed granite for sidewalks and shown here, drain channels along the curbs. And we primarily have asphalt and concrete!!!
Milestone in Santa Fe brings tons of it in from Mexico to create luxurious driveways, patios, pathways and anything that might require, deserve and be budgeted for this style and quality of material. It’s unfortunate that the cost inhibits many (including the public municipalities) from using it. Not only the material cost (which might be better valued with more competition) but the labor to install.
This comes back to the lost art of many of the trades and the lost interest of recent generations to continue the trades of the generations that preceded them. We have to import stone masons to restore our historic churches and other edifices fabricated from and adorned with the fine craftsmanship of generations past.
Let’s get the AGC (Association of General Contractors) for example to establish, fund, and promote summer camps for kids to pursue the trades. These 2 to 12 week camps could be located all across the country, supported by the many businesses connected to the construction industry – machine, tool, cable, wire, cement, stone, brick, lumber, adhesive, steel, electric, plumbing, and other companies related to the trades. We have cut so many programs in the public school systems that it’s time for the private sector to step-up and contribute to the betterment of our labor forces. To have a leader like the AGC orchestrate a nationwide program that gathers participation from all manner of associated businesses both national companies and local concerns in each region would be a tremendous asset to our students, labor force, and economy. Whether imported workers or home-grown we need the trades – the fine craftsmanship and the sense of pride and recognition that should be instilled and go along with such good work.
The construction industry has taken a large hit with this down-turn in the economy. Yet the unions and non-union alike could and should be more vocal about constructive measures to improve the morale, growth and development of our labor scene. Not everyone is cut-out for college and the intellectual pursuits of higher education. Yet their talent and aptitude is no less important and should be encouraged and honed – and who better than the industry leaders of this great nation? BUILD IT AMERICA!
Purple is the color exploding in my garden today – well, this week…I blew around the yard this afternoon to discover all that was happening. In the blustery wind as the aqua tips of the new growth on the branches of our mammoth blue spruce trembled and the young leaves of the peach tree (we sadly missed the cheerful pink blooms that came and went over the last two weeks while we raced around NYC and flew over the pond to Greece) shook with the gusts, I marveled at Spring’s exhilarating progress.
The redbud tree’s branches are bursting with those red-purple blossoms while the lilac is choked with new green leaves and spires of blue-purple clusters. What an incredible contrast against all that new green growth!
Albuquerque actually looked green from the plane as we landed yesterday – compared with New York and Chicago that are just beginning their long-awaited spring transformation – their vast wooded areas are still brown/gray from the plane window. Yet Albuquerque is quite green from the sky! What usually looks like another planet devoid of foliage by comparison to other more lush and densely forested areas this time of year it sings its song of spring’s seasonal change with bold pride.
I was content to leave the flowers on their bushes today but tomorrow I will clip several bouquets of lilacs and trim some branches off the red bud to bring inside and cheer up the interior in celebration of this wonderful time of year! The fragrance of the lilac is enchanting and promises to waft through the house with the soft breeze that I’ll invite inside on what is forecast to be a wonderfully warm spring day.
The Color Purple is rich, garish, and outrageous when worn by ladies sporting red hats. Purple is royalty, has liturgical significance and makes tongues brand the color after sucking down a cold glass of grape juice or room temperature bouquet of good – or not-so-good red wine (what a waste).
Alice Walker expressed great symbolism of pain and beauty when writing her novel. It is certainly a complex color which for our purposes of interior design would want to focus on the positive attributes and not the less attractive. Purple continually surfaces in interior design and it’s probably due to be an upcoming trend. Whether eggplant or lavender, it is a wonderful, classic, good color (aren’t they all in some context?), – yes, purple can be quite fun!
In nature, our Sandias at sunset – although said to be “watermelon” red, by their very Spanish name, transition from many shades of pastel colors including pinks, blues, lavenders and rosy reds. Lavender fields, lavender bouquets, periwinkle blossoms, red bud trees…the list goes on… Currently, I am designing a purple scheme in a home that will be all of fun and stunning, whimsical and elegant. It seems that the brighter colors of purple often bring a smile. Extracted from a charming oil painting, of a northern New Mexico calle with brilliant white and purple lilac bushes blooming along a dirt road accented by a royal blue picket fence, that we have selected as a focal point – the colors are enchanting. These will be more robust than pastels but softer than the royals – delineated with crisp white against a neutral backdrop of sage/stone.
I often reference colors in nature influencing interiors – and here captured in the artist’s painting is a scene from nature setting the stage as the focal element of the space.
Meanwhile, take a look around. See the earth and sky, new blossoms and colors in the built environment – and consider the possibilities for building a color scheme or punctuating with accents in your interiors.
The Color, GREEN – we associate it with nature’s renewal, growth, promise…it’s fresh, clean and a signature of the environmentally conscientious. In the design world the Eco-style is connecting the inside with the out-of-doors…bringing the green inside with fabulous decorative accessories to refresh your interiors. As we leave January and move through February looking toward March and the promise of springtime’s rejuvenation we long for the sight of green. So to incorporate it into your interior environment here are some ideas.
These delicate hand-blown glass vessels come in a variety of shapes and sizes and make wonderful clusters of color empty or with the added boost using flower stems – only one per each for the lighter, simpler look or bunches of baby’s breath perhaps – delicately drooping tulips or little sticks of near-budding branches from your yard. You decide – they are pocked with bubbles that signify the blown glass method and are translucent with shades of dark to chartreuse green shades – simply wonderful!
As bulbs begin to sprout and trees hint of buds…inside our homes we have the opportunity to push it along a bit. Bring home a pot of tulips or daffodils. Fresh is best – like bowls of artichokes as a centerpiece or feature on your countertop, maybe green apples or pears in a bowl made from renewable bamboo, but if that is not practical we have remarkably real-looking faux fruit to use for the suggested effect – that have an indefinite shelf life! Our faux branches are a hit too as a bouquet for your entryway or table dressing.
Like a groupie at rock concert I stood in front of this towering man of a man as I was being introduced to the artist who made the whales!!! Trying to be cool, I shook his hand and marveled at the reality of this moment. As I previously wrote, this magical scene of a waterfront art exhibit every Saturday at the marina in Nuevo Vallarta in front of the Estudio Café, the setting was already not to be believed. Then, to realize that the very first person to whom we were being introduced was that of Octavio Gonzales the sculptor of magnificent mega-scaled masterpieces, I was star struck. Yes, I’m one of those who have ogled and continue to marvel at the stupendous scale of the elegant hump-backed whales that gracefully swim through the sky at the entrance of the marina in Puerto Vallarta. This encounter was a pleasant surprise!
Anyone visiting Vallarta has seen Octavio’s whales, dolphin, musical mermaids, orcas and other incredible renditions magnificently presented in bronze many of which are located on the main malacon downtown. Highland Park outside Chicago even has one of his incredible whale sculptures -shown unlikely but proudly in Octavio’s portfolio in a snowy scene as winter descends on the humpbacks. Arnold Schwarzenegger owns a desk-top miniature of the whales that he references with fond memories of time spent in Vallarta as evidenced in a personal letter in the artist’s portfolio.
And this was just the beginning…several other fine talents were present exhibiting their work and meeting the people who had come to see the art, have breakfast or just were fortunate enough to happen upon this wonderful waterfront scene. Estella Herrera’s work, with her lively glass mobiles, fanciful hearts, jewelry and architectural panels, was elegant, translucent, colorful and creative.
Gonzalo Espinosa crafts whimsical hearts, fish, clouds and other images from found wood that he shapes, colors with dyes and colored wax pencils posting them on iron stands that suspend them in the air above their surface. We enjoyed an interesting conversation as he told me about his techniques and also about exhibiting his work in Tucson – where I hope to discover his work on our next trip.
Meg Munro paints incredible watercolors with the eye of a camera and the soul of an artist. She captures the details but dilutes with shapes and differing levels of clarity for both perspective and emphasis of composition. Her colors are crisp and bold, real and softened to a pleasing interpretation of the reality that she sees.
I didn’t meet all of them – that is left for another visit. But I encourage anyone interested in beautiful Saturday mornings, magical marina settings, quiet music and delightful fresh food to visit this enchanting art exhibit along the malacon in Nuevo Vallarta. www.estudiocafe.net