Few things open a window on people’s personality, character and soul more than the art they chose to surround themselves with. For Janice and I, it is an eclectic collection that just seems to fit here. I have included photos of our baker’s dozen, in no particular order but among our favorites not only because we just love them but because some come with a great little story. Like the Peruvian blowgun for instance…
I acquired this 7 foot long (2M 30cm) little jewel of a piece while navigating the Amazon River in a dugout in the Peruvian jungle I visited before I was happy. (The period Janice has defined as prior to having married her) The trade I made with the native included the piranha jaw necklace used to sharpen the darts as well as the coconut shell to store the cotton that centers the dart in the tube.
I questioned just how lethal the darts could be until I later loaded one and let it fly across the room into the wall. Expecting it to bounce off, it embedded itself well into the plaster, making a believer out of me. The cost of our trade? One plain white T-shirt, taken right off my back. Fearing it could be damaged while returning home, I claimed it was a religious Scepter and that I should be allowed to bring it on board the aircraft (Pre 9-11). The airline staff were on to me and refused but still got it to my destination in one piece.
"Hymn to Hathor"
The “Hymn to Hathor” was cast from a mold that was made on site in the Egyptian tomb of Queen Nofretete from a temple relief. The casting material is the rubbery product used to make dental molds and is of sufficient quality to capture detail as fine as a human hair. With the mold, the artist hand painted the hydro stone replica with a limited edition of 105 pieces.
Ganges Missionary Pot
Actually a 17th century hand beaten Ganges river copper urn (you can see thousands of little hammer blow impressions on it). It was affectionately renamed our missionary pot, because it was clearly large enough to cook one in it. Our friend Joe (who happens to be our pastor) was taken aback when he helped us move it and heard us name it. Later, when he had a real missionary visiting him, he offered to bring him over if we would empty the pot of its plantings so he could feel right at home in it. Some people just have no sense of humor.
The Console Table…
Started its life as a Red Cedar root in the muddy ground where we found it, in the woods of Northern New York. A local sawyer cleaned it up for us and we brought it back in a trailer.
The Urhli bowl is a stunning, 3 foot wide (1M), heavy cast solid Bronze bowl from India. Typically, it served as a ceremonial feeding vessel for a large group, allowing those around it to reach in and scoop a portion of its contents onto their plate. It currently serves as the world’s most expensive drip pan.
One of two art pieces we made ourselves, this one would qualify as oversized refrigerator art. At 12 feet [4M] across, it consists of 5000 pieces of hand cut leather scraps that we got from the only remaining working tannery in California. Janice did all the cutting and the design while I climbed the scaffolding and fastened them individually according to the directions of the “artist” 20 feet below [7M]. We actually had enough left over to do a partial wall in our bedroom at our island home in Canada. At one point, we realized that the piece needed serious cleaning but was not ‘removable’. Also realizing that everything around it needed repainting and the carpeting below it would be replaced with Travertine stone, I made my life easier by bringing a power washer in the house and just blasted it. It took almost a week to dry.
We drug this pair back on the roof of my in-laws motor home while on a family trip to Northern California with 5 kids in tow. The kids moved on, the seals stayed.
"Harp" Muse For The Eyes
“Harp” muse for the eyes… was a piece we picked up from a Santa Barbara sculptor who was moving to Costa Rica. At 10’ X 3’ X 2’ [3M 30cm X 1M X 60cm], it was like much of the art we need and have in this home…voluminous! Assembled primarily from salvaged French Oak wine barrel staves, it has neither glue nor hardware. Rather, it relies on an ancient Japanese structural method of hardwood pegs and counter pegs of Oak, Bubinga, Purpleheart and Ironwood.
We found this authentic used wedding Kimono in Los Angeles, complete with tea stains on the lapel. The Sachiko invisible gold and silver embroidery technique (also known as blind stitching) is no longer permitted, we are told, due to the excessive eye strain for the artists.
The Wind Chime
At 12 feet in length, it was one of only 3 made by the artist. We purchased it in the Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco; the other two are in collections in Seattle and Hong Kong. The 4 notes are true enough to tune an instrument by.
This full size stage prop was designed by Houdini. This particular one was built by our friend Barry Lebel who worked with us for many years on our stage show. He was the chief technician, general problem solver and often…the brains behind the production. This particular illusion allowed me to be handcuffed, tied inside a large fabric mailbag then locked inside this box.
A female performer would climb onto the box and hold a silk in front of her. She would then toss it in the air, allowing it to fall to the floor, revealing me standing in her place. We once performed this switch in a 1/3 of a second. You can see us perform this illusion towards the end of the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z14hkryBJt0 The prop in my office testifies that it can be examined by anyone and that real magic does happen. The bricks on the stand on the top of the prop are a foundation fragment from the Houdini Estate in Hollywood that we recovered after it burned to the ground.
This ceremonial drum was built over a year-long process by Pueblo Indians in Taos, New Mexico. The drum frame was created from a large cottonwood tree, native to Northern New Mexico.
Redwood Root and wine cask
The outdoors is a wonderful place to display appropriate sized art and we have jumped at every opportunity. Years ago we found a 6 ton (5,500 Kilos) Redwood root. Redwood trees are enormous and their roots are no slouches either. This one was a splendid architectural piece that we knew we would make a focal point. This required preparing an area in advance that could support something of that size and weight and get it right the first time, as moving it would be prohibitive.
I got a couple of buddies (one with a commercial large flatbed truck) to drive the 454 miles (900 Km) up to Northern California with me where a crane was waiting for us to load the beast on the spot. We then headed South, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back 8 more hours to the house where a second crane was waiting for us to unload it and drop it in its prepared position. We put it right next to the 3,000 gallon Cabernet Oak wine cask seen below that we will convert into a sauna.
Then there is the Araucacioxylon…(aka petrified wood). One of the larger pieces that can be legally obtained outside the Petrified Wood National Park in Arizona, it measures 2 feet in diameter and 6” thick (60cm X 15cm). Rough cut when we got it, we could see that when polished, it would be simply spectacular. We searched high and low to find a lapidary artist with a polishing table of sufficient diameter to handle our piece. The stone was placed on the table upside down with special oils with finer and finer grit, where it was shaken across the surface in an oscillating pattern. It took a full 10 days, 24 hours a day to polish the piece and reveal its myriad of colors.
The Whistle Walk Bell
This one is a little tough. We aquired it while visiting an architectual salvage yard in New orleans. The bell was used on a plantation at the entrance to the slaves kitchen which would have been located in an out building away from the masters house. When the master’s meal was ready, it was put on a tray for a slave child to carry to the main house. The bell would be rung to annouce that the meal was on its way and the child was required to whistle the whole time to prevent him or her from tasting any part of it.
Of all the art our home has, one has been hidden for 30 years. This was a Valentine message that my wife saw from a mile away on her way home from work while we were building our house. It was only recently re-discovered when we had the house re-roofed in 2015.