Happy Birthday Louise Nevelson (1899-1988)

Noted as a creator of assemblages of found objects and doused in black paint, Nevelson became the darling of the New York art scene during the last several decades of her life. She was born Louise Berliawsky on September 23 in Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine). At age five moved to Rockland, Maine with her parents and three siblings where her father ran a lumber yard. As a Jewish immigrant fleeing from the Tsarist Russians, she felt out of place. Growing up in Maine, she dreamed about moving to New York City.  In 1920, she met and married Charles Nevelson, a WASP, who came from a stuffy background similar to her neighbors she fled from back in Maine. Two years later, they had a son. In 1929, she began studying at the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller. And in 1931, she separated from her husband, sent her son to stay with her parents back in Maine and left to study in Munich briefly with Hans Hofmann until he was forced to flee from the Nazis. She then studied in Paris and Italy and returned to New York City back to study with Hofmann. She worked as an assistant to Diego Rivera to work on the mural for The New Workers’ School.

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Bratislava Castle, Slovakia

Danube Bratislava CastleHigh above the Danube River is a rocky hill of the Little Carpathians. On it stands an isolated, stark rectangular structure cornered by four square turrets. Today it is called Bratislava Castle, but many still call it Pressburg — the antiquated name of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On top of the craggy hill is a panoramic view of the city below. Many events happened here.

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Happy Birthday Mary Rockwell Hook (1877-1978)

Mary Rockwell Hook once described a troubling time in her early years when she was studying at the École des Beaux-Arts. After class, she had to run as fast as she could to a taxi as she dodged buckets of water being thrown at her by disgruntled male students. She was the only girl in her class, and the second American female to attend after Julia Morgan. The year was 1906.

This hostile gender bias wasn’t anything new. Previously, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the only female in her class she experienced similar behavior. Some parents thought that young men could not learn to their full potential with a young woman present. Many parents wanted their money spent on a solid education for their sons. The fairer sex was much too distracting, it was thought. This theory still holds true today by some parents. But a more prevalent theory was that architecture was a male domain and considered no place for a lady.

 

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Happy Birthday The Blood Countess: Erzsebet Báthory (1560-1614)

Elizabeth_Bathory_Portrait

 

Countess Báthory is said to have bathed in the blood of 650 young girls, all of whom she tortured, murdered and drained their bodies of blood to retain her youth. Reputed to be a vampire, a lesbian and a witch, her story inspired the Brothers Grimm, Bram Stoker, and Gothic horror fans for the past four hundred years. Legend has it she was the most prolific serial killer in history.

On August 7th, 1560, the daughter of Baron George Báthory and Baroness Anna Báthory was born. They named her Erzsebet (anglicized name is Elizabeth). George and Anna were both Báthorys by birth and from one of the most powerful Protestant families in Hungary. Erzsebet was highly-educated — fluent in Hungarian, Latin and Greek — during a time when most Hungarians of noble birth were illiterate. Growing up, Erzsebet witnessed the brutal punishments executed by family’s officers on their estates at Ecsel. When she was six, one story reports, a gypsy who was accused of theft was sewn up in the stomach of a horse sliced open, with his head exposed and left in this position to slowly die.

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Happy Birthday Irene Rice Pereira (1902-1971)

Born on August 5th in Massachusetts, Pereira was influenced by her mother, an amateur artist and enrolled in 1927 at the Art Students League in night art classes. In 1931, she traveled to Europe and North Africa to further her painting studies. In the mid-1930s she studied with Hans Hofmann, and became one of the founders and first instructors at the Design Laboratory.

Known for her work in the Geometric abstraction, Abstract expressionist, Lyrical Abstraction genres and her use of the principles of the Bauhaus school, Pereira’s works are displayed at the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Hirshhorn Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Phillips Collection, and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

She married her first husband, Umberto Pereira, at twenty-one, her second, George Wellington Brown, an engineer, at forty, followed by her third, the Irish poet George Reavey and divorced him seven years later. She used the professional name I. Rice Pereira to avoid discrimination against female artists. Her work reflects her interest in light, space, and mysticism. She began experimenting with various nontraditional materials in the late 1930s, painting on plastic and glass, and adding such substances as marble dust to her pigments. Some critics called her work ethereal.

Happy Birthday Mildred Bryant Brooks (1901-1995)

On July 21, 1901 Mildred Bryant Brooks was born in Marysville, Missouri. Her mother was a painter, her father was a scientist. Her family moved to Long Beach, California in 1907. She studied at the University of Southern California and the Otis and Chouinard Art Institutes. Brooks worked for Chryson’s Incorporated as a Christmas card designer in the 1920s. In 1929, she began etching studying under Arthur Millier. It was also the year when she began teaching at the Stickney Art Institute in Pasadena. Her etchings were shown in numerous local and national exhibitions throughout the 1930’s until the mid 1940’s. She won many awards.

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The Driskill Hotel

Driskill Hotel NW Corner of East 6th and Brazos Streets

In the Southwest, there are many under appreciated and nearly forgotten architectural structures from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. We move in and out of their walls never really wondering what the original intent was or caring to know who walked their floors. Dry goods stores, cattle feeds and brothels repurposed today as quaint restaurants, bars and boutique shops. Someone might remind us. We need to be reminded to wonder what it was like back then to stand in a building or who we might have talked to. But one building which has remained, hanging on to its original intent, is The Driskill Hotel. There is a familiarity I can’t define. It isn’t the furnishings, the marble columns or the stained glass domes. The walls almost breathe the same air.

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Happy Birthday The Silver Lady: Belle Kogan (1902-2000)

Belle-Kogan-1955Born on June 26th in Ilyashevka, Russia, Belle Kogan emigrated to the US with her family in 1906. She studied mechanical drawing, then taught it soon after graduating high school. She saved money to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but had to drop out in 1920 to work in her father’s jewelry store. He wanted her to get married, but she told him: “Well, I’m going to have a career, goodbye . . . I am never going to get married and I’m never going to have children. I had a family all my life I helped raise. I helped you in business. I want a life of my own.” *

And she did. In 1929, Quaker Silver Company in Attleboro, Massachusetts, hired her to design pewter and silver items. They even paid her tuition to take a course at New York University in the summer of that year.

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Happy Birthday Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)

An American photographer and documentary photojournalist, she was one of the first original staff photographers at TimeLife and Fortune magazines. Noted for her coverage of WWII with ferocious visual intensity. 

Bourke-White was the first female photographer to serve with the US armed forces. And the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union in 1930.

But it was her photographs of the the rural South during the Depression that we seem to remember the most.

She died of Parkinson’s disease — more people are diagnosed each year in alarming numbers.

The Driskill Hotel

NW Corner of East 6th and Brazos Streets
In the Southwest, there are many under appreciated and nearly forgotten architectural structures from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. We move in and out of their walls never really wondering what the original intent was or caring to know who walked their floors. Dry goods stores, cattle feeds and brothels repurposed today as quaint restaurants, bars and boutique shops. Someone might remind us. We need to be reminded to wonder what it was like back then to stand in a building or who we might have talked to. But one building which has remained, hanging on to its original intent, is The Driskill Hotel. There is a familiarity I can’t define. It isn’t the furnishings, the marble columns or the stained glass domes. The walls almost breathe the same air.
In 1884, a wealthy cattle baron named Jesse Driskill purchased a plot of land for $7,500 in Austin, Texas. He was successful before, an honorary Confederate Colonel during the Civil War now rich from trading livestock, he tried his luck as a hotelier. He hired the architect Jasper Preston to build a high-style Richard Romanesque hotel. Many people thought he was mad. His plans were lavish and extravagant. But no one could deter him. The hotel on Sixth Street opened to the public on December 20, 1886. The structure cost Driskill $400,000, an enormous sum in those days. Christened The Driskill Hotel, it was called one of the finest hotels in the country. Merely a year later, Colonel Driskill began to have trouble. His livelihood was threatened by a nation-wide drought. At the turn of 1888, an exceptionally cold winter settled in and killed over 3,000 of his cattle. Driskill watched his fortune disappear. Desperate, he played his hand at a high-stakes poker game and placed the hotel on the table.
Driskill lost.
Three years later, he passed away.
It is said that since he was not able to enjoy his hotel in life, he does so in death. He makes his presence known. Cigar smoke fills guests’ rooms and bathroom lights flicker. The doors to the elevators open and no one steps out.
Colonel Driskill isn’t the only one to roam within the walls of the hotel. There have been several suicide deaths in the rooms by jilted brides. One can be seen wandering the halls in her wedding gown. A four-year old girl who tragically died skips down the steps bouncing her ball, and a resident of the hotel from 1886-1916 checks his pocket watch.

 

Though I didn’t see anything the night I was there, I couldn’t help but think of Jesse Driskill. The concierge told me that some guests have called the front desk to say they awoke in the middle of the night. Something was trying to push them out of bed.

A Victorian Essential: The Spoon Warmer

A buoy complete with an anchoring chair fastening it to the rocky base. 

A Victorian invention, of course, considered to be one of the essential “fancies” in every well-run household, the spoon warmer was very popular. One of a variety of articles created for the demanding and expanding middle class. Silver was seen as a measure of social status and the status conscious were eager to display their new found wealth. There could never be too many objects as dining rooms were meant to impress. So many glistening objects piled up on sideboards and dining tables, their legs must have quivered under the weight of it all.

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A Victorian Essential, The Spoon Warmer

This is the most typical spoon warmer. Christies (NYC) sold this Edwardian version by William Hutton & Sons, London, made 1904 in July 2002.

A Victorian invention and considered one of the essential “fancies” to every well-run household, the spoon warmer was once very popular.  One of a variety of articles created for the demanding and expanding middle class. The amount of silver fancies one posessed was seen as a measure of social status and the status conscious were eager to display their new found wealth. There could never be too many objects as dining rooms were meant to impress. So many glistening objects piled up on sideboards and dining tables, their legs must have quivered under the weight of it all.
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Ahoy, Sailor… Will You Be My Valentine?

It has been said that nineteenth-century sailors made wooden boxes displaying an intricate array of beautiful little sea shells they collected from remote parts of the globe while on their travels. The boxes were octagonally shaped and built of Spanish cedar or sometimes mahogany, with a hinged glass lid. Sometimes they were two boxes hinged together. Many of these valentines incorporated some sentimental message written out in tiny shells. They could be shut and locked with a key in case a love note needed to be tucked away inside.

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