October 21, 2019 § Leave a comment
IN THE EARLY 1880s in San Francisco, Samuel Marsden Brookes had been hard at work, waiting patiently for better times. His paintings, of which he by now had a large number, were stacked all around the studio, with good prices affixed to them. Once Brookes put a price on a canvas, not even Satan himself could make him reduce it.
One portrayed a life-size peacock, posed on a balustrade before a palatial country house. The painting had been languishing in Brookes’ studio for quite some time, waiting for a buyer. The longer the bird remained on his hands, the higher Brookes jacked up the price. He had started at $750, a figure already pronounced much too high by his dealer. Out of sheer spite Brookes immediately raised it to $1,000. Thereafter, the price of the peacock had steadily escalated. From $1,000 it went to $1,200, then $1,500, then $1,700. By the time Timothy Hopkins, adopted son of the late Mark Hopkins, came to see the painting, the price had soared to $2,000. A few days later, when Timothy returned with Mark Hopkins’ widow for a second look, Brookes promptly raised the price to $2,500, announcing that, while he did not have any money he did have the picture, “and here it stays until I get my price.” In the face of such rapid developments, Mrs. Hopkins surrendered on the spot, adding two still lifes, one with apples, one with fish, for a total of $3,000.
The idea of the solitary artist brandishing his mahlstick on the ramparts of High Art, willing to die, yet prevailing in the end, was inspiring. However, it was merely the exception confirming the rule.
— From Artful Players: Artistic Life in Early San Francisco by Birgitta Hjalmarson
March 26, 2019 § Leave a comment
By THOMAS REYNOLDS
He’d lived in the flat on California Street for 37 years. Suddenly late one afternoon Jim Scott realized something was wrong. He called 911 and tried to answer all the dispatcher’s questions. Finally he told her: “Look, I have to get out of here. My room is full of black smoke.”
Sparks from a welder working next door had started a fire. The squadrons of firefighters soon on the scene flooded the blaze before it reached Scott’s apartment — but only after they had bashed in his ceiling and windows, leaving his home a soggy and smoky mess.
In his book, The Al Tarik, Scott, now 96, gently unfolds the story of the three years that followed and landed him in a residential hotel on Sutter Street he describes as “a century-old San Francisco pile” that is “a refuge for those like myself who in their last years have been roughed up and tossed on the rocks and shoals.”
At first his landlord assured Scott he would be back in his apartment within a few months. He moved in temporarily with a neighbor across the alley. But as the renovation of the building languished, he needed another place to stay, and found no good options. So he moved back into his charred apartment.
“There was no heat or light, but the water was still running,” he writes. “It was much better than the Tenderloin cesspool I had fled. On my first night in what had been my old bedroom, I looked up through the blackened rafters to the shingles of the roof, which roared with a great downpour and thunder while lightning lit the plastic sheets stretched over the window spaces. Oddly, it all felt elemental and reassuring and that something positive could now happen.”
January 31, 2015 § Leave a comment
FIRST PERSON | DOUGLAS G. STINSON
Like many people, I had been active in church life from childhood into early adolescence. Then, confronting what my teenaged mind saw as cowardice and hypocrisy within my church, I swore off religion.
In college I became aware of the writings of the 18th century scientist and Christian mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg and, as a scientist, was drawn to his insistence that the teachings of faith and reason must conform. But I had no interest in being part of any organized religion.
Until I walked into the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church.
I was awestruck by the building’s humble strength and simple beauty. Everything breathed a spiritual essence. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
By 2012, the condition of the stained glass windows that had graced the Swedenborgian church at the corner of Lyon and Washington Streets for more than 100 years had deteriorated. We learned that if action were not taken, the beautiful windows — an integral part of the National Historic Landmark — could be lost forever.
March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
AUDEL DAVIS is the first living crafter to be honored with an exhibit in the Great Hall of the Grove Park Inn. The exhibit [from February 21 to 23, 2014] is also the first one-person showing of his work in a non-commercial setting. It is entirely fitting that Audel Davis be honored in this way, and in this place. He has a long affiliation with the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, having attended all but three of the 26 conferences. His deep commitment to the ideals of the movement, too, both aesthetically and philosophically, make this exhibit a supremely natural manifestation of the conference’s mission to educate and inspire those who revere the Arts and Crafts movement and its contemporary renaissance.
Those who know Audel personally will understand how his self-effacing nature initially rebelled against the idea of an exhibit honoring his work. A modest man of unfailing good humor and grace, Audel is not comfortable in the spotlight. But if you are also familiar with his work, which this exhibit seeks to elucidate, you will know that Audel Davis is completely deserving of the attention this exhibit brings to him.
Some years ago I was the very happy recipient of a pair of Audel’s candlesticks. They have become like members of our family, such is the warm and personal character that they express over years of closeness and familiarity, not unlike the people who are dear to me. The attributes of family and warmth are naturally a part of Audel’s work, and as you contemplate the objects in this exhibit you may also sense the traits that make his way of working copper to be so very much more than merely raised, planished, hammered and patinated sheets of metal.
— TED BOSLEY, Director
The Gamble House
Foreword to Audel Davis Coppersmith
Copyright 2014 by Roger Moss
Read more: “A coppersmith of skill and maturity”
February 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
Q & A | ROBERT PICCUS
Before they returned to San Francisco in 2000, Pacific Heights residents Robert and Alice Piccus lived in Hong Kong for three decades. Both were inveterate travelers and knowledgeable collectors who had the interest and proximity to seek out Vietnamese ceramics, Southeast Asian sculpture and Tibetan silver, among other treasures. They also built an important collection of traditional Chinese furniture.
In the mid-1980s they became interested in Tibetan rugs, which were beginning to appear in Hong Kong. During the next decade they assembled a notable collection of almost 200 Tibetan rugs, now celebrated in a lavish new book, Sacred & Secular: The Piccus Collection of Tibetan Rugs, published by Serindia Publications in Chicago.
How did you begin your collection? Alice and I had the good fortune to live in Hong Kong from 1968 to 2000, a 32-year period that saw Hong Kong grow from a relatively sleepy colonial backwater to its present status as the dynamic business, financial and art-collecting center of Asia.
The Asian art that surrounded us in Hong Kong and that we found during our extensive travels throughout the region led us to collect in a number of areas. During the 1970s and early 1980s we collected early Chinese rugs made for use in temples in the Tibetan religious and cultural areas of western China and Mongolia. But the Tibetan rugs available then were never of interest to us, and we assumed that would always be the case.
So what changed? Westerners were not able to visit Tibet until the mid-1980s, but some Hong Kong Chinese dealers did, and so did certain Tibetans living in Nepal. Some of the leading Katmandu dealers were accumulating huge piles of rugs. The condition of these seemingly never-washed rugs was horrible. It was clear that Tibetans did not put much care into their rugs, which in the absence of furniture and fixed accommodations were functional objects on which to sit, sleep and give some protection from the cold. The mid-1980s became a dynamic time for collecting Tibetan art, including the previously ignored rugs. We were concentrating on putting together our collection of classical Chinese furniture while continuing our interest in Chinese rugs and Tibetan silver and manuscript covers. We were aware of developments in Tibet, and we began to pay attention to the Tibetan rug market.
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November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
SAN FRANCISCO was a hotbed of artisans and crafters in the early 20th century during the height of the Arts & Crafts movement, and hand-hammered copperwork was among the most prized of the crafts elevated to artwork.
Dirk van Erp, arguably the greatest coppersmith of the era, created a uniquely beautiful body of art copper. He also had a profound effect on many other art coppersmiths. A new book offers a windfall of new research about these artists, including more than 200 examples of their work and dozens of vintage photographs, many not previously exhibited or published.
Included in addition to Dirk van Erp are:
• Harry St John Dixon, brother of artist Maynard Dixon and van Erp’s first apprentice, who became the Bay Area’s other most celebrated coppersmith.
• D’Arcy Gaw, Dirk van Erp’s first partner in San Francisco.
• August Tiesselinck, Dirk van Erp’s nephew, whose technical skills and creative designs were especially admired.
• Dirk van Erp’s children, William and Agatha van Erp, both of whom became accomplished coppersmiths.
• Lillian Palmer, who moved from San Jose to San Francisco to found the Palmer Shop Cooperative, an early woman-run studio.
• Plus: Fred Brosi, Hans Jauchen & Old Mission Kopper Kraft, Armenac Hairenian and the other Harry Dixon, Harry L Dixon, among others.
REVIEW: “This book has class”
February 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
According to artist Wally Hedrick, the Funk art movement got its definition from the peculiar practice of his eccentric former wife, artist Jay DeFeo — with whom he lived at 2322 Fillmore Street — of storing her dirty underwear in the refrigerator.
“When I first got to know Jay DeFeo,” Hedrick said, “I’d go over to her house and talk. One day when she’s gone to the john or someplace, I began looking for something to eat. I went to the refrigerator and opened it up — and all of her old underwear was in it. It was a couple years’ supply. The refrigerator was off, probably hadn’t run in 10 years, and she never washed her clothes. And so — instead of putting it somewhere else or throwing it away when she finally took off her underwear — she’d just stick it in the refrigerator. . . . Funky.”
— from Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art © 2012 by Paul J. Karlstrom with Ann Heath Karlstrom, published by the University of California Press.