Art meets design for a walk on the wild side

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• January 24, 2015

It's whimsical and exotic with a touch of eclectic.  

The collection contains vibrant and varied species of birds, butterflies, rabbits, tropical leaves and orchids all utilized in creating dynamic patterns in this art-meets-design collection.  In Lee Jofa's  first artist collaboration with Groundworks, they have introduced vibrantly colored and stunning fabrics, wallpapers, and carpets designed by Hunt Slonem, a world-renowned artist best known for his Neo-Expressionist paintings of exotic animals and tropical plant life.

And it's exciting because it puts some fun into interior design. It almost says, "yes I am gorgeous, but I don't take myself too seriously."

The result: Spectacular

Slonem's paintings are layered with thick brushstrokes of vivid color, and are often cut into in a cross-hatched pattern, adding texture to the overall surface of the painting. This technique has been replicated in the fabric collection through intricate jacquard weaving and digital printing techniques, resulting in a look that is graphically stunning.  For the Groundworks' collection, several of his most popular themes and iconic works have been translated into decor for the home.

Fritillery, the butterfly motif based upon specimens Slonem studied as a boy. Photo: Kravet/Lee Jofa.

As a celebrated painter, sculptor and printmaker with more than 350 exhibitions at prestigious galleries and museums internationally,  Slonem has traveled all over the world but it was his childhood spent in Hawaii, and a year studying in Nicaragua, that have had the most profound impact on his life’s work. The vivid color combinations and exotic wildlife he encountered there inspire him to this day.

The motifs he explored in his early works, tropical birds, butterflies, bunnies and portraits, have been reduced to their essence and have become recurring themes in his extraordinary art. His spiritual connection to the concept of metamorphosis led him to include the butterfly as one of the recurring themes in his work.

And there are those iconic bunnies.

Fascination with the rabbit occurred when he realized was born in the year of the rabbit, according to the Chinese calendar. In his New York City studio,  the bunny wall consists of   salon-style groupings of his small bunny paintings, some hung while wet. These signature paintings are now collector's items.  And Bunny Wall is a wallpaper that mimics the effect of the framed paintings against different colored backgrounds.

Slonem's spiritual connection to his recurring themes elevates the simple paintings to something more significant. To Slonem, repetition is divinity. Just like the act of repeating a phrase creates a mantra, the object is elevated and the act of repeating these forms becomes an act of worship. The process of painting is sacred to Slonem, and as a result, his body of work represents so much more than what's painted on the canvas.

And just how do we incorporate some of this exotic whimsy into our southwest homes? My suggestions:

A seamless series of bunnies, unframed and multiplied, on solid and metallic backgrounds. The repetition represents luck, abundance and the gentle traits represented by the rabbit. Photo: Kravet/Lee Jofa.

A seamless series of bunnies, unframed and multiplied, on solid and metallic backgrounds. The repetition represents luck, abundance and the gentle traits represented by the rabbit. Photo: Kravet/Lee Jofa.

•    The beautiful fabric is an elegant touch for upholstery and draperies.  My favorite is to take a chair or sofa piece that has become dated or an antique and reupholster  to give it a totally new look.  And the fabric makes beautiful window panels.

•    Who can resist the Bunny Wall as an accent wall covering in an office or dining room and for the entire powder room?

•    Pillows for accents add a bright, eclectic  touch to a solid color, traditional sofa.

•    The bunny wall coverings, Hutch, are available in pink or yellow and would be a great touch for a nursery.

•    Want just a touch of these fabulous creations in your home?  Stretch a piece of the fabric on canvas for a wall or frame a section of one of the wallpapers.

To see the entire collection, visit the Kravet/Lee Jofa showroom at the Miromar Design Center in Estero or visit www.leejofa.com/groundworks_wallcoverings.htm.

Hunt Slonem will sign his new book, When Art Meets Design from 4-6:30 p.m., January 26 at Harmon-Meek in Naples. Details: 239-262-2699.

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Home Inspirations appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at spectacularspaces.com. Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail wrenda@spectacularspaces.com. For more decorating tips and photos, visit spectacularspaces.com/blog

Mendocino: Forgotten in time

It‘s a steamy, hot day in southwest Florida and my thoughts have turned to my recent adventure to cool and blissful Mendocino. 

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The haunting beauty of that area of the California coast is breathtaking and stays with you long after you leave.

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The most amazing quality of Mendocino is the peaceful and stunning quiet of the area. The first few times I was here, I thought that time had forgotten about Mendocino. But during this stay, I realized that the magic of the place is that it has forgotten time. And therein lies its rare, uncomplicated beauty.

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You can walk the blustery Headlands State Park (always reminds me of the Cliffs of Dover in England). Pick up colorful bits of this and that in nearby Glass Beach. Find some courage and go cave kayaking in the Pacific. Have a drink in front of the fireplace at the old Mendocino Hotel, a historic landmark, and let time transport you back to the 1850’s when the town was a booming port for logging trade. You can pick up beautiful pieces of driftwood on the beach or as I like to do, sit on a bench and take it all in. That is the pure joy of Mendocino, taking it all in.

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Since for me, it is always about the houses, I love to walk the streets and explore the Victorian and saltbox homes. Some have been forgotten and are overgrown with beautiful flowers. The rolling meadows and redwood trees and just the quiet of the village of Mendocino, make me think of the movies shot there, East of Eden with James Dean and Summer of 42

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But mostly I love the fact that what happens in the rest of the world really doesn’t matter here. You can leave some cash in a jar after hours for the artist who leaves a few of her pieces for those who might visit after her studio closes. Or take a break and sit for a while on a mosaic sofa that nature has taken over.

                                                                       

                                                                       

And one night I was taking a walk on the Headlands and stumbled into the playhouse where the Mendocino Theatre Company was presenting Master Class.  I asked at the box office and they told me the show started in 10 minutes and since I did not have my purse with me, I could come back and leave my money in the mail box the next day. I did. I think life should always be this way but it only seems to happen in the quaint town that forgot about time. 

                                                      

                                                      

And there is my favorite bookstore, Gallery Bookshop, where you have a view of the Pacific and peruse all kinds of great books. And it is fun to stop in The Birdhouse(a studio that was converted from a water tower) where artist  Monika Maluche makes her beautiful little ceramic birds. You can pick one up for $20.

                                                                

                                                                

But my best find in Mendocino this visit was free. My husband, in the early morning hours, found a gorgeous intact, abalone shell that washed on the beach. Perfect to hold jewelry on my dressing table, it brings back all the perfect memories every day.

I'll be back soon. It would be impossible for me to stay away.

                                                       

                                                       

Thanks Mr. Chihuly: You made my day in Seattle!

Photo of glass flowers at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle

I knew this was going to be a great day.

The kind that people who live in Seattle never talk about. The skies were blue and the sun was shining.  l almost skipped to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition that’s located at the base of the Space Needle.

Photo of Dale Chihuly and Wrenda Goodwyn at Chihuly Art and Glass in Seattle With Dale Chihuly at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle.This was a day that I had looked forward to since the exhibition opened a year ago.  Stained glass has always been one of my passions and I have dabbled in it for years.  Dale Chihuly pushes the envelope with his dreamlike pieces. You want to stare at them for hours and that’s what I did.

The centerpiece is the Glasshouse. A 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space, the Glasshouse is the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories. The design draws inspiration from two of his favorite buildings: Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London.

 

The installation is an expansive 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. Made of many individual elements, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures. The perception of the artwork varies greatly with natural light and as the day fades into night. It is inspiring and captivating.

So after going through the exhibition(45,000-square feet of colorful bliss) twice to take it all in, I entered the Glasshouse and there he was: Dale Chihuly. It was my lucky day.  He was talking about how he did the installation. I met him and we talked for a few minutes.  He was gracious and had his photographer take a photo of us. He made my day in Seattle.

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These houses are for the birds!

Photo of artist's creative birdhouseLong before I was an interior decorator I loved houses.
 
It was always so interesting to me to see how they were decorated, how the furniture was arranged and how the owner lived. I have collected small houses for years and have them displayed on a antique post office where I can study them with all of their little details.
 
And I have been collecting birdhouses for the past few years.  I find them to be very sweet and the perfect accessory for almost any style home or outdoor space. I find them at flea markets and I even journeyed to North Carolina where I found a birdhouse builder with acres and acres of these miniature homes.  I returned home with a car full.
 
But as a believer in using what you have whenever possible, and in repurposing when it makes sense, I especially love birdhouses that use local materials that mean something. And as a southwest Florida interior decorator, I am surrounded by beautiful driftwood, shells, treasures that wash up on the beaches and  more.

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Travels: Indulgence in the City of New Orleans

Having some fun in New Orleans this week at a design conference.

I have been touring the amazing homes of art collectors, architects, artists and have met some of New Orleans' most interesting characters.

Writer and designer Wrenda Goodwyn in New OrleansNew Orleans gets into your soul. I always think of Harry Connick Jr. singing  "Missing New Orleans."

Moonlight on the bayous
Creole tunes fill the air
I dream about magnolias in June
And I'm wishing I was there

This week, I am indulging in everything that the city offers...the French quarter, architecture, historic neighborhoods that are being rescued, mansions, cottages, shotgun houses, steamboat houses. A visit to the lower 9th ward. Walking on the levee with great views of the river and city. Amazing food. Jazz. New green-based architecture and design. Brad Pitt's neighborhood of almost 100 cutting-edge homes built since Katrina. Traditional mansions. An eclectic artist's residence on the Esplanade Ridge. Antiques. Jackson Square. Julia Street galleries. I met a voodoo priestess and toured her beautiful home. 

Masks in Jackson Square in New Orleans.New Orleans has a ghostly allure. The winding alleyways lead to the past and when you follow them, you never know what you will find.

The light is glorious and the sensory pleasures are almost overwhelming. I am still here and I already miss New Orleans.

And did I mention that the city is totally immersed in Halloween? Perfect.

 

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Travels: Gardens, wine, artists and a peek inside the lives (and homes) of friends made along the way

The best part of traveling (for me) is having a chance to see where people live and what their daily lives are like. And along the way, meeting folks who give you a unique perspective about where you are.  And I am always looking for ideas that I can  bring back home.

Photo by Elise Hoogsteden-Roberts.So, when I took a train from the Wellington Railway station on a warm, sunny New Zealand morning, I knew that my day of visiting gardens and studios of local artists (and lunch at a winery) in the beautiful Wairarapa region, would be another adventure. A chance to peak into the lives of some talented artists and to take in the regions's beautiful gardens.

Elise Hoogsteden-Roberts, a photographer and artist from the Wairarapa area, shot this photo (above) that summed up my thoughts about that day.  Like this porch with New Zealand summer fruits, it was just a place that you wanted to be. 

Photo by Elise Hoogsteden-Roberts.As an artist, Elise makes fun and fantastic jewelry that reflect the region. Fruit Salad Gal is the perfect name for her business because...well, click here and you will see what makes her craft so unique.  Her work is fun and popular and she ships to many Americans who return home and decide that they must have one of these yummy treats as a reminder of their visit.  Fortunately, she has realized that she has something that visitors want and if you go to her Facebook page, you will see a great selection of photos of her work.   Photo by Elise Hoogsteden-Roberts.

After gallery tours with resident and perfect guide, Julie Kidd, meeting artists at their studios and seeing their homes, walking through beautiful gardens,  the day ended with a fabulous lunch and tour of Gladstone Vineyard. Salmon caught that morning, asparagus picked from the garden and wine from the Vineyard. I could have stayed there forever. 

New Zealand just gets better and better.

 

Sweet memories of a day in the Wairarapa...

Beautiful gardens.

 

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