August 7, 2009

The Gwathmey connectioin

This studio and the house in the background were designed by architect Charles Gwathmey who died August 4. He was 71.

Built for his parents in Amagansett, Long Island, in 1965 for $35,000, this project signalled a new wave in American architecture. And it catapulted Gwathmey, still in his 20s, into the forefront of his trade.

This project along with houses by other up and coming architects of the period ended my love affair with Colonial architecture. I was a convert to modern design.

Babbie and I scrapped the plans for a Colonial addition an architect had designed for our house and drew our own. The result is shown in the next two photos. In each case the addition is in the foreground.

It was built in 1971 for $13,000. I did the shingling, installed the wide-board flooring and did the painting..

When our addition was framed I remember walking up the street with Babbie to take a look at its profile.

"What have I done?" I asked her. I thought it looked like hell.

But after the initial shock, it grew on me. It didn't take long until I was proud of it.

Getting back to Gwathmey's brilliant early work, here's his restoration of Whig Hall at Princeton. The building had been damaged by a major fire.

His blend of the classic and modern in this building was astonishing.

But Gwathmey was not always so successful. The large addition he and his partner Robert Siegel designed for Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in 1992 was blah.

But at least it is so unassuming that it doesn't compete with the Wright landmark.

The photo of his parents' house was taken by the New York Times. If you'd like to see pictures of more of his work, here's a slide show from the New York Times.


August 6, 2009

Dressed to kill

Runway No. 6 is almost done. (Click photo to enlarge it.) I like it. It's been difficult for me because the outfit by the designer Missoni has subtle coloring. I don't usually do subtle.

Speaking of subtle, the photo makes me think I have to tone down the burning Army vehicle behind her. Maybe I also want to knock out the smoke rising above the windshield.

I'll have to consult my California art guru, F.X.

To see the painting in an earlier stage, go to my August 1 post.

The painting is 6' x 4', acrylic on canvas, as all of the works in the series.

August 3, 2009

A dream house

In the late 1960s I dreamed about buying this building, now the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts. It was for sale for $14,000.

As a young reporter at The Berkshire Eagle I passed it every day going from the paper to City Hall. Pittsfield government was my beat.

The gallery space (top photo) would have been our living room. Babbie could have gardens up on the roof, which has a view of Mount Greylock.

The price seemed reasonable - if you didn't think about fixing it up and heating it.

The location was a stumbling block. It was in a business and institutional section off the main drag. There were no residential neighbors.

And we had three little kids. They wouldn't have anyone to play with. And who would we borrow a cup of sugar from?

Eventually it was bought by Kitty Lichtenstein, who spent a bundle restoring it. Later she turned it over to the city where it is the domain of Megan Whilden, the city's cultural director and a driving force in the revitalization of Pittsfield's moribund downtown.