By Nicole Chaput
When looking at one of those exceptional works, one begins to distill the piece.
We guess what colors were combined to get that specific shade of blue and estimate the number of layers that lie beneath the surface. We read about the piece and become aware of its context to understand the artistic intent. But this can only get us so far.
To know the swan, one must dive into the swamp and understand its relationship to pond shit, mud and flying insects. Artists are no different.
Visiting an artist’s house sheds a lot of light to the mysterious realms of their personality and their sources of inspiration. The work says a lot about the artist, but the artist’s environment unveils a large portion of the work as well.
The following artists are, in my opinion, the ones that habituated their space most poetically. What makes their house a home mirrors what makes paint on a canvas an artwork.
KAHLO: The Spirit House
I was eight the first time I went to Frida’s (1907-1954) and it was a school field trip. I swore Frida’s spirit was still there and returned home quite scared. Older, and hopefully wiser, I went to Frida’s again and was able to appreciate the beauty in her personal tragedy. The blue house, where Frida still floats, is a breath of her personality and an echo of her singular character.
In the first room, there are a few of her early portraits, quick sketches and glowing diary entries. Her kitchen will awaken your appetite. Her studio has posters that describe fetal development. A wheelchair is parked in front of an easel. When walking into her room, one cannot help but feel intrusive. Frida is still sleeping.
PS: Her wardrobe is currently on display.
Location: Londres 247, Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico.
BROWN: Decorative Schizophrenia
Roger Brown (1941-1997), former Chicago Imagist, has one of the most bizarre collections I have ever seen. His home is saturated with quirky items from various cultures that are in constant dialogue with each other. All the garage sales from all over the world unite to wallpaper his home. Brown’s house is a dissonant whole.
Collecting was an integral element in Brown’s practice and the objects collected were source material for his paintings. Brown also collected paintings by his contemporaries including Jim Nutt, Barbara Rossi, Ray Roshidand and self taught artists. Every single room in his house is densely populated with objects belonging to discrete geographical locations. All the objects are treated as museum artifacts.
Location: 1926 N. Halsted Street , Chicago, USA
ENSOR: Welcome to the Puppet Show
James Ensor (1860-1949) was one of the most influential and scandalous Belgian painters of his time. In his work, he depicts masquerades to unveil the grotesque nature of mankind. But this motif was circumstantial. Ensor could not afford models to paint and instead created puppets. Thus, Ensor was not only a great painter and printmaker but a puppet maker as well.
In his home, many of his original puppets sit in his furniture mocking the visitor. There are very few of his paintings, but visiting the spaces where the artist lived and worked is like walking into one of his pieces. Ensor invites you to sit with the subjects in his paintings.
Location: Vlaanderenstraat 27 8400 Oostende, Belgium.