Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lucid Stead: A Transparent Cabin Built of Wood and Mirrors by Phillip K. Smith III

Just a little information about this amazing structure (which Sabrina Vourvoulias shared with me), and then I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Part architectural intervention and part optical illusion, Lucid Stead is a recently unveiled installation by artist Phillip K. Smith III in Joshua Tree, California. The artist modified an existing 70-year-old homesteader shack by introducing mirrors to create the illusion of transparency, as the structure now takes on the lighting characteristics of anything around it. LED lighting and other custom electronic components were further installed within the building’s interior to illuminate from the interior at night. Smith says of the installation, “Lucid Stead is about tapping into the quiet and the pace of change of the desert. When you slow down and align yourself with the desert, the project begins to unfold before you. It reveals that it is about light and shadow, reflected light, projected light, and change.”

All photos courtesy Royale Projects

On the weekend of October 12th in Joshua Tree, California, artist Phillip K Smith III revealed his light based project, Lucid Stead. What was expected to be a two day event for a handful of viewers, turned into over 400 people making the journey over two weekends. People as far away as New York City and Canada traveled to the California High Desert to experience it. Numerous media sources have asked to do cover stories on the work. Thousands of photos professional and amateur, were taken, posted and shared across blogs and social media sights. In just over 30 days, Lucid Stead officially became a phenomenon.

Composed of mirror, LED lighting, custom built electronic equipment and Arduino programming amalgamated with a preexisting structure, this architectural intervention, at first, seems alien in context to the bleak landscape.  Upon further viewing, Lucid Stead imposes a delirious, almost spiritual experience.  Like the enveloping vista that changes hue as time passes, Lucid Stead transforms.  In daylight the 70 year old homesteader shack, that serves as the armature of the piece, reflects and refracts the surrounding terrain like a mirage or an hallucination. As the sun tucks behind the mountains, slowly shifting, geometric color fields emerge until they hover in the desolate darkness. This transformation also adapts personal perception, realigning one’s sensory priorities. A heightened awareness of solitude and the measured pace of the environment is realized.
Smith states,
"Lucid Stead is about tapping into the quiet and the pace of change of the desert.  
When you slow down and align yourself with the desert, the project begins to unfold before you.  It reveals that it is about light and shadow, reflected light, projected light, and change."
Phillip K Smith III received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. He draws inspiration from the reductive logic of minimalism and the optic sensation of California's Light and Space movement. Smith’s innovation and exploitation of new technologies keeps these ideologies current. He was honored as the 2010 Artist in Residence at the Palm Springs Art Museum and was included in the exhibition, Smooth Operations: Substance and Surface in Southern California Art, alongside artists such as Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, DeWain Valentine, and Craig Kauffman at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster CA. He has been asked to return to the museum for a solo exhibition opening in January 2014. He has been commissioned to create over a dozen monumental art works and his light based sculptures are collected Nationwide.  Phillip will open a solo exhibition of lightworks at Royale Projects: Contemporary Art in Palm Desert on November 29 2013.  His work will be featured at UNTITLED   art fair in Miami opening December 1st.

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Amazing $5,000 Craft Room Giveaway Prize!

I swore I would not shop on Thanksgiving Day - but this isn't really shopping. It's web surfing! This amazing giveaway is being offered by Blitsy.
Now, to make the small print LARGE, you do have to make some kind of purchase to be eligible ... but Blitsy is an amazingly cheap art and crafting supply shop online, so you don't have to make a huge buy or anything.

Just click this link to check it out. They carry Graphic 45, AbScraps, Tim Holtz, Ranger ... just about everything.

And good luck!

right after you check out the amazing contest, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Spectacular Mansions from La Belle Époque

As I've been scouring the net searching for inspirational Christmas decorations and displays - I have a penchant for extravagant, romantic, nostalgic and luxurious Christmas treasures - I've come across many homes that are just magnificent - modern showplaces that are dripping with style and panache.

But, then, I remember the spectacular mansions created by the richest American in La Belle Epoche (basically from around 1870 until the beginning of World War I). These homes and their inhabitants truly personified that glorious gilded Beautiful Era.

This is Cornelius Vanderbilt II's house, 1883, designed by George B. Post, expanded in 1894 (they could hardly be expect to live in such cramped quarters!) and here is photographed circa 1908, at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Here is Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1883, dressed and photographed for a fancy dress ball. Mr. Vanderbilt is dressed at Louis XVI and Mrs. Vanderbilt wore the Electric Light Dress by Worth.

This is the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion Grand Salon, 1894, designed by Jules Allard et Fils. This was just after the expansion was built.

This was known as Vanderbilt Row, which includes William H. Vanderbilt's homes (two similar side-by-side houses, and the William K. Vanderbilt Mansion (right uptown house).

Drawing room, William H. Vanderbilt house, at 51st and Fifth Avenue.

Dining room, William H. Vanderbilt house, at 51st and Fifth Avenue.

A. T. Stewart house, designed by John Kellum, 1869, at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, photographed by H. N. Tiemann & Co. circa 1880.
Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. and John Jacob Astor IV house, 1895, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. Ultimately, to consolidate their hold on high society, the Astors commissioned a new house farther uptown.

Ballroom in Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. and John Jacob Astor IV house, 1895, at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street.

Ballroom and art gallery in William Backhouse Jr. and Caroline Astor’s house at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, photographed by Pach Brothers circa 1887. In 1875, in order to support her social ambitions, Caroline Astor had this ballroom added to her 1856 house.
 William K. Vanderbilt house, 1882, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at 52nd and Fifth Avenue; photographed by Robert Bracklow circa 1900.

Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt (Alva) at home in 1883. It would seem she was quite at home with birds. Thank heavens they were wealthy and had lots of help to clean up.

William K. Vanderbilt in 1910. There is no history of how he felt about his wife's affection for birds flying around the manse.

Drawing room, William K. Vanderbilt house, 1882, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, at 52nd and Fifth Avenue.

These are only a small sampling of the astounding palaces built during The Gilded Age in America. So, next time you hear that American doesn't have royalty, remember we may not have people who are Kings and Queens and rule the nation - but we have certainly had those who live like them!, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan

The Vanderbilt Nasheville, NC Estate, completed in 1895.
Motto: "One Palace Is Never Enough" 

Have a grand Thanksgiving holiday!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Great Crusade Against Kissing


New York Lady Doctor says it is Barbarous.

Great amusement has been caused in New York by a crusade against kissing started by the local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Dr. Anna Hatfield, lady physician, the leader of the new movement, in the course of an interview, said that kissing is a barbarous, insanitary custom, worse than drinking, and should be rigidly abolished. No person should kiss another without first using an antiseptic wash on the mouth to destroy bacteria.

‘As for the moral bacteria,’ she said, ‘that is even more dangerous. Girls are not taught to view a kiss with awe, as they once were. Engaged persons should be allowed only one kiss at the time of betrothal. Mothers of to-day are to blame for imbuing their children with the kissing vice. Many children are literally kissed to death.

‘Kissing between women is quite as unwholesome. It is time to make war on kissing and I am willing to go on record as firing the first gun.’

The progress of the anti-kissing crusade is being watched with great interest, but its failure is generally predicted.

The Northants Evening Telegraph, 29 December 1900
This wonderful article discovered at
Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan

Monday, November 11, 2013

Where Did You Shop for a Watch in 1880?

If you were in the market for a watch in 1880, would you know where to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit better than most of the store watches, you went to the train station! Sound a bit funny? Well, for about 500 towns across the northern United States, that's where the best watches were found.
Why were the best watches found at the train station? The railroad company wasn't selling the watches, not at all The telegraph operator was. Most of the time the telegraph operator was located in the railroad station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks from town to town. It was usually the shortest distance and the right-of-ways had already been secured for the rail line.
Most of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators and that was the primary way that they communicated with the railroad. They would know when trains left the previous station and when they were due at their next station. And it was the telegraph operator who had the watches. As a matter of fact they sold more of them than almost all the stores combined for a period of about 9 years.
This was all arranged by "Richard", who was a telegraph operator himself. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one day when a load of watches arrived from the East. It was a huge crate of pocket watches.

No one ever came to claim them.
So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn't want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them. So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the system asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome profit.
That started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all the travelers. It worked! It didn't take long for the word to spread and, before long, people other than travelers came to the train station to buy watches.
Richard became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch maker to help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest is history as they say.
The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods.
Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago -- and it's still there.

YES, IT'S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the 1880's, the biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train station. It all started with a telegraph operator: Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck!

Now, go make something beautiful! ....

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan

Saturday, November 9, 2013

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED The 1930′s 40′s, 50′s, 60′s and 70′s

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.
And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?!

Now, go make something beautiful ... !

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan

The above post was not written by me. It was found
at Troublemakers and I couldn't resist sharing it with you!

Friday, November 1, 2013

1960's Artistic Passion Meets 21st Century Aesthetics: A Review of "The Devil Plays Poker"

When I first moved to NYC in the 1960's, Greenwich Village was hardly the trendy, gentrified playground of the wealthy it has become. It was full of hippies, artists, actors, musicians, playwrights, painters, sculptors - all trying to create whatever-it-was they created - and trying to make a living at it - but, unlike today, not trying to get rich on it.

During that time, every derelict and unrented storefront or backroom or garage was turned into a theatre or concert hall. Makeshift and MakeDo were the bywords. Many of the actors and writers were graduates of fine universities and schools - and some were  high school drop-outs, living their dreams, or just hanging out on the fringes of the groovy people. Nobody cared - all were welcome - and if you were had no talent, you were welcomed to sell tickets and clean the bathroom (usually there was one for both - or however many - sexes there were there on a given evening) - there was no Off-Off-Broadway - there were no unions - and if you didn't wash your costume, well, it stunk - because there was nobody to do your laundry for you, that was for sure!

So what's all that about and what is the point of curbside reminiscing in a review?

This evening I just returned from that same excitement, energy, talent, enthusiasm, and heart-on-its-sleeve passion that I remember from my high school and early college years. But it had collided smack head-on into the aesthetics of the 21st century.

The location - historic Lyric Hall in Westville, New Haven, CT.  Once a theatre, for years it was a
well preserved building serving as spiffy antique store. But is in the process of being restored as a theatre and concert hall. I can't give much information - though I live (literally) three minutes away, I really don't know the background of what's going on. But, I can say after my time there tonight, whoever is working on it is doing a bang up job. It's small - no - it's tiny - maybe 200? 150? seats, with a small (perhaps 20'x20') stage. But with beautiful architectural details, all loving being preserved and/or restored - even re-leafed in places - and they're a knock out. So. That's the space. On Facebook, you can read more about it at

After getting tickets, we found out that we were to be treated to a before show preview of a new short film made by local filmmakers Adam J. Berlingeri (Director) and Mike Merli and Chris Pearsall (Producers). The film was titled "M is for Maestro: A Tale of Music...and Madness." It was short, clever and set the evening off with a fine professional quality artistry. The Maestro was played by New Haven actor Reno Venturi - and he was spot on perfect for this assignment. A more demented and demanding conductor would be hard to find. It's a spoof of a genre I'm not really a fan of...the teenage slasher movie - but I had a fun time watching this well executed short (very short) film. You can watch it yourself here (it's three minutes long) - -and then if you like (or if you're kind, and don't like it) hit "like" and vote for it. It's part of a contest which I don't really understand - but they're all film artists trying to make their way in THAT miasmatic field.

So, what does that have to do with my opening statements about the underground art world in the 1960's meeting the aesthetics of the 21st century. Well, seeing a new piece of film which is meant to grab your attention and shake you up is nothing new. We were seeing that in the 60's, too. Often, with amateurish light shows being filmed with painted dancers doing interpretive dance, conveying - well - something. Made with real feeling and dedication - but, on whole, usually incomprehensible. "M is for Maestro" was made with that same feeling and dedication - but is polished and skillfully edited and tells a straightforward story which is engaging and easy to follow. And, I thought, the acting was quite quite good. And it wasn't shown on a wall draped with a sheet - it had a full theatre movie screen and rather plush surroundings. 1965 meet 2013!

Which brings us to the highlight of the evening.
The audience enters to see a stage filled with electric guitars, a bass, a drum set, various microphones around the stage, light cannnisters, a half hidden baby grand piano, all sitting on a rather gorgeous - and enormous - antique carpet which almost completely covers the stage floor. It doesn't feel thrown together or haphazard - it looks elegant and well-thought out. Hmmmm. I think to myself. This has been put together with more than just love and passion - this has been put together with an eye towards what is visually stimulating and lovely - and in this vintage theatre - intriguing and urges you to look forward to what's next.

There is a short introductory welcome by the composer, guitarist, actor - and, it doesn't say in the playbill, but I suspect director, Christoph Whitbech. Personally, I could have done without the opening welcome - but it's difficult to complain about the charm and personable Whitbeck thanking those who helped his rock opera dream come to life. With his handsome face (and its multiple piercings) framed by his shocking (dyed) red hair, shaven on the sides and black shirt, tie, pants and CEO-shiny shoes, it's interesting putting the image of the man together with the friendly, dignified and (obviously) tremendously excited Whitbeck.

Then he strides to his place in the band, along with Jake Habegger on Drums (CT) and D'Andre Fontanelle on bass guitar (NYC). The lights to to black, a chord is struck, an image is projected on the backdrop - and we're off and running.

Let's get details out of the way. Set pieces, props, microphone stands, anything used on stage, is deftly and quickly dealt with by the cast of four who, with the addition of Mr. Whitbeck, comprise the cast. The stage manager/prop master/lighting tech, Alex Dancho handles his duties with authority and professionalism. The playbill doesn't give credit to the various projections used through the show - and a couple of them are real knock-outs (the devil's clock and inn are especially effective). The set invades part of the audience with banners by M. Erdman and Keelin O'Reilly which are effective touches which helps the audience become part of the ensuing activities. I want to mention the costumer, but there is none listed, so I'm going to assume the cast came up with their own. Each and every one was spot on target. They fit the characters perfectly, they were interesting to look at - and they placed the opera in another world somehow. There was no real period - but there was no attempt for there NOT to be "no period" either. It came together marvelously.

Mr. Whitbeck makes a stellar Devil ... with his sly smile and glinting eyes, it's easy to imagine how he could coerce somebody into just about anything. I'm sure there's at least a baker's dozen of ladies in the audience who fell totally under his spell! Whether he's doing a sultry talk-sing verse, or full out belting a chorus in an untrained but pleasant voice, he has the ability to put an audience under his spell...and you're not all surprised at the end when he wins the Poker game, long after the final card is thrown down.

He is most ably supported with his cast, led by Michael Walker (NYC). This handsome fellow has a voice which starts at a rich, luscious tenor depth and can glide effortlessly into a better-than-Stephen-Tyler scream. Better, because Mr. Walker's scream is actually still singing and not just screaming. More than one time I found myself in awe of this slick, professional rock and roll voice - which would probably also sound like honey in more standard fare music. One of the most plaintive things I've heard in a long time is the end of the opera, which, unusual for a rock opera, does not end with a huge crescendo chord of musicians, but with the quiet, heartbreaking sobbing of Mr. Walker. I was also most appreciative of all this vocal pyrotechnics happening with no sacrificing of articulation (a particular peeve of mine in rock music, heh heh).

Jackie Meeker (All American Valley, CT)  played Mr. Walker's fiancée with a haunted, hip, urban, gentle quality. With a low velvety purr she sang with a vulnerability that belied the strength and power that was in the voice. She seemed much more at home with some of the more bluesier sounding tunes, and I am hoping to run into her somewhere I can hear her sing "Black Velvet." She moved gracefully from sitting with a short mic to standing with a taller one, never breaking stride or beat. There were times when I wish she had kept a bit more focus during musical breaks, using her time as an actress, rather than a concert singer waiting for the next verse to roll around - but I am really nitpicking and quibbling.

The two lesser roles - but no less invested in their roles or singing chops) - were adeptly performed by Mysti Keller (CT) and Peter Cunningham (CT).  Ms. Keller played Michael Walker's mother with a slinky bravura. A long haired blond Rubenesque lovely, Ms. Keller displayed a sophisticated soprano with silk dark notes at the bottom. Teaching her young son about poker and winning she was the nurturing mother and temptress rolled into one. With her crystal voice and sensual movements, she was an eye-catcher from the beginning of the piece. Mr. Cunningham played a homeless vagrant, bearded and disheveled who is taken in by Ms. Meeker and given warm clothes and a much needed make-over. Cunningham did an excellent job transforming from a member of the dregs of society to what looked like a fresh-from-the-shower yuppie. He wasn't given a lot of singing to do, but his face conveyed all the vulnerability and despair given way to appreciation and relief at his good fortune.

I'm not going into the plot - just let it be know that the Devil wins his poker hand with three-of-a-kind! The music pulsed, shivered, beat, cajoled and breathed life into the story. Each song was unique and original - yet never became a pastiche of styles, always staying within the genre chosen. I would love to have a recording of this show to listen to - especially in the car when I could sing out along with the "real" singerss!

The slick polish and professional delivery of this outstanding cast, as well as the limited but right-on-the-money technical aspects of the show, makes this so different from the hastily thrown together let's-put-on-a-show-kids! spontaneity of the 60's and early '70's.

Hopefully, this show will be performed again - and with luck the same cast and band. If you see it near you, get tickets. If your kids like rock music, take them - nothing inappropriate here. Even a cautionary tale to be learned about gambling - and what can happen when you bargain to make a success! Probably not the best for little kids - rock music is loud! Heh heh.

Okay, that's my take on the new rock opera, "The Devil Plays Poker" by Christoph Whitbeck. Remember the name.

Until you get a chance to see it, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan