The first major artist I saw in the flesh was Louise Nevelson when she dedicated her Sky Tree at the Embarcadero Center in 1977. She had a Maria Tall Chief presence, a black shrouded swoop as she approached the podium. It was an indelible performance. I don’t think she spoke a word.
Many of her works were done entirely in black to accentuate form and texture. She applied this aesthetic to her person as well. Her signature look was to wear multiple sets of false eyelashes.
When I saw her she was in her 80’s. I thought the layered lashes were just her replaying the “did I put them on yet? I don’t think I did!” drama 18 times in her head.
Her black on black approach was the inspiration for my new bedroom: velvet, French Resistance drapes from my Mother’s decorator; chalkboard contact paper; caviar vinyl wall covering from Mark and Charley; burlap trim; and a new mystery fabric called pleather. It’s a shiny, supple faux leather. The name was probably the King’s pronunciation, as in “it’s my pleather.”
Then there was the black camouflage left over from my farewell party on Jones Street. Or maybe it was from the blind I built in Buena Vista Park. Anyway, another seemingly impractical find that intrigued me because of its uselessness. What’s its purpose? Hiding from friends when you’re down in a coal mine?
The all black scheme was broken when I also found white camouflage (for when you’re caught in a blizzard and don’t want to be rescued?) Vibrant hues like the Mediterranean blue-green wallpaper started to creep into the palate. As Louise undoubtedly knew, black can be a wonderful backdrop to give color bounce.
In my reduced circumstances it’s more poetic to say I’m on welfare than Social Security. It plays into my Ronald Regan Readers Digest fantasy. “We knew of this one queen who was on the dole but was still able to maintain outlandish residences in two of California’s most exotic cities, San Francisco and Palm Springs.”
When you also consider that some fellow tenants come from Tenderloin SRO situations, that I’m living in nicely appointed surroundings with fine collectibles in something akin to subsidized housing, the irony intensifies. One can see Nancy in the background nodding her head in indignant dismay.
Mine is a story of rags to riches to rags with riches. I’ve decorated my new bedroom with things I’ve accumulated during my life, things my friends have given me, and things I got on the cheap.
I’ve been working on a fully packed 12×12 room I was also living in. To accomplish one task I had to do six others to get to it.
For the high ceilings, Mr Sarah lent me a 10′, pre-war step ladder. Civil, I’m guessing. You feel moments from death climbing each wrung as it creaks and wobbles. It’s probably why he lent it to me.
Someone once told me they enjoyed me most on stage when things went wrong. They loved watching me work my way out of jams.
I’m afraid that’s still my working style today: 50% doing it, 50% correcting it. My apprenticeship at Rube Goldberg’s Drapery Innovations & Blinds taught me not to crucify the good on the cross of perfection. Never give up. Almost anything can be made to appear acceptable.
It has been a winter of contented discontent. A chaotic move that cost much more than I expected when I had nothing to begin with. Missing the superficial warmth of Palm Springs while being so happy with my new apartment. Experiencing the excitement of the new in a place I was intimately familiar with for 40 years. Then it rained for five months.
After weeks of hard work I realized there is no end result. It will be a perpetual work in progress. So on Easter weekend there was one last surge to get to a stopping point. Then I slept, roughly from the time he was put on the cross until they rolled away the stone.
The bedroom is not quite what I envisioned. But going over the creative cliff with Ms. Nevelson was a good starting point. I just wish somewhere in this tortured analogy there was a Brad Pitt/motel room angle