Archive for December, 2011

Party On

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Happy New Year from the settlers.

The Lights of Old Santa Fe

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, kitchen, 1953

Years ago, I saw a documentary, 901: After 45 Years of Working. This documentary follows the archiving of the Eames studio, as its contents were packed for shipping to the Smithsonian, after Ray’s death. It’s incredible, of course. A lifetime of collecting is carefully organized in flat files and boxes. There are flat files filled with thimbles, another drawer of round shells, another with buttons, pieces of kimono fabric, spoons, pebbles, Victorian cards, and anything else you might consider collecting. After an hour of drawers, drawers and more drawers, and boxes of stuff, I found myself getting edgy. Yes, it’s incredible, but stop the archiving, get a Hefty bag.

I bought the new Alexander Girard book by Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee. I expected a nice comprehensive publication of Girard’s work, not another catalogue of cute Girard blocks and merchandise. And it is exactly that: smart, comprehensive, beautiful, and well printed. The book is enormous. I felt sorry for the UPS dude. It’s almost as big as the coffee table, is 672 pages, and weighs 15 pounds. It is comprehensive and spectacular.

Girard’s house in Santa Fe is overwhelming. Here, more is not enough. The colors and textures are playful and exuberant. There isn’t a detail overlooked. It gave me permission to paint a mural in the hall, or put out every Mexican and Japanese folk art item I own. Like the Eames studio, there is a lot of stuff. And when there isn’t an object, he paints the surface to invoke a landscape. I was especially interested in the mural that looks exactly like It’s a Small World. Was it zeitgeist? Did Mary Blair visit and copy him? Did he copy from Mary Blair’s drawings? Who cares? It’s extraordinary.

Images from Alexander Girard, by Todd Oldham and Keira Coffee, and the Library of Congress

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, kitchen, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, kitchen, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, kitchen, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, kitchen, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, patio, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, drawing for mural, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, mural, 1953

Alexander Girard, Santa Fe house, mural, 1953

It's a Small World, Disneyland, 1964

Alexander Girard by Todd Oldham and Keira Coffee

Going to the Dogs

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Peachy Taliaferro, 1908

I recently discovered the American Memory section of the Library of Congress. I was looking for an image of a wire-haired fox terrier and came upon an image of this ugly dog (above). I love this photo. It’s a horrible snarling little animal. As it happens, this dog Peachy, belonged to distant cousins, Mabel and Edith Taliaferro. Now, the even more shocking part; they were both actresses. Yes, I admit this. You may all recoil in horror and shame. Mabel was known as “America’s sweetheart” until Mary Pickford yanked that title from her hands. Edith was noted for her performance in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

This image was made in 1908. At that time, being an actress was one step above prostitution. I can’t imagine how this played out in my family. First, two actresses, then, they did film, not theater, and worse of all sins, they worked for a living. But the most important part of this discovery is the dog Peachy. Peachy is named after a distant grandmother, Susanna Peachey, who married Thomas Walker (father of Dr. Walker) around 1700. Since then, there have been may Peachy’s: Peachy Ridgeway Gilmer, Peachy Ridgeway Taliaferro, Peachy Walker Speed, Susan Peachy Bullitt, Susan Peachy Fry, and it goes on like that for a long time. Obviously, creative naming wasn’t a talent. This talent extended to the dog also.

For the sake of fairness, I am including other family with dog images. With names such as Count, Winston, Drusilla, Sanjay, George, Dudley, and Pie Pie, we can’t judge the past.

Mabel Taliaferro, 1905

Edith Taliaferro, 1900


Mary Kay Adams, Sylvia Flint Adams, Count, 1966

Sylvia Flint and dog, 1954

William Christian Bullitt and Pie Pie, 1940

Marion duPont and dalmation


Randolph Scott and big dogs, 1930s

our dog, Winston

Echo and one Funny Man

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Echo magazine, 1960, page

It’s a sad fact that many of us were forced to buy a record at a record store, go home, listen to the one song you liked, and then hate the rest of the album. But, tough luck. That was how the world worked pre-digital music downloads. Horrible. Today, I can create my own playlist, ignore the crap songs on the rest of an album, and even take a walk while listening.

In 1960, however, true interactive music media was invented. Echo magazine was a “magazine you play on your phonograph.” Pretty cool. You could read an article, and play a record bound into the publication. This made magazines seem stupid because they didn’t have sound, and records equally dumb, because they only had liner notes. Boring.

Unfortunately, a magazine/record didn’t catch on in 1960. In reality, the issue could have been manufacturing related. I have this issue, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to separate the record from the pages. I don’t want to put the whole magazine on the turntable and flip around. The cover may also have added to the confusion. Only today, did I realize that it’s a representation of a phonograph player. For years, I thought it was someone’s arm and hand who was very shaky.

Echo magazine, 1960, page

Echo magazine, 1960, the clear vinyl record

Echo magazine, 1960, spread and record (the right page)

Echo magazine, 1960, typography

Echo magazine, 1960, spread with Shelley Berman

Echo magazine, 1960, page with France Nuyen

Echo magazine, 1960, spread with Brigitte Bardot

Echo magazine, 1960, cover

Let’s Take an Old Fashioned Walk

Monday, December 12th, 2011

George Tscherny, JC Penney Annual Report cover, 1970

Originally, I planned to do this post about modernism done well, and modernism done badly. For example, the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe is done well. A black box office building on Ventura Boulevard is not so good. The JC Penney annual report for 1970 is a great example of beautiful and precise modernism. George Tscherny’s design is crisp and clean. The Helvetica is elegant. This is what a Swiss grid and Helvetica can be in the hands of a master. This is, obviously, the intent for the current JC Penney Helvetica style.

But, while doing research for this post, I came across the website, It’s a treasure trove of shopping catalogues. The 1970 JC Penney Christmas catalogue has nothing to do with the annual report beside the date. It’s a remarkable time capsule. The clothes are, of course, funny. It’s the odd subtext of the pages that make it such a pleasure. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did see some plaid shirts that I wanted to buy. But you cannot call 1970. Nobody answers, and there were no answering machines.

George Tscherny, JC Penney Annual Report spread, 1970

George Tscherny, JC Penney Annual Report spread, 1970

George Tscherny, JC Penney Annual Report spread, 1970

George Tscherny, JC Penney Annual Report spread, 1970


And now, from high modernism to nifty hats and big pockets on the front of pants.

JC Penney Christmas catalogue 1970

I don’t think anyone looks good in His n’ Hers styles. Couples should not match unless they are in a groovy band like Kids of the Kingdom.

JC Penney Christmas catalogue 1970

This is further proof that matching outfits are wrong. And these simply look illicit.

There is an odd prevalence of men holding women on the ground in this book. It’s quite submissive and frankly disturbing. I believe the women should be allowed to stand, especially if forced to wear department store headbands. Even I know that’s uncool.

JC Penney Christmas catalogue, 1970

Am I wrong or is this a page of “swingers”? And I don’t mean the dancing to swing music people. These are the people who live down the block and invite you to a “key” party. Don’t go. It will end badly.

JC Penney Christmas catalogue, 1970

JC Penney Christmas catalogue, 1970

JC Penney Christmas catalogue, 1970

What can be said? First, these are bathmats with holes cut for sleeves. Second, these vests scream, “beat me up! Please!” A nun would cross the street to beat up these kids.