art

SHAPERS / / MEG CRANSTON

Strolling through the massive Art Los Angeles Contemporary show earlier this year, we spotted (and Instagrammed) one of Meg Cranston's incredible dog portraits and we immediately knew we had to feature her in SHAPERS. Currently the chair of the Fine Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design, her sculpture, paintings, and video/performance work have earned her international accolades and she's exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, The Getty Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, The Carnegie Museum, K21 Museum, Dusseldorf, and the ICA, London, to name just a few.

Also, she has a super cute pooch named Jenkins and began a shelter dog photography project back in the mid-2000s, which ultimately helped to increase the number of dog adoptions, and we are always and forever 100% fans of that kind of altruism and creativity! 

Many,  many thanks to Meg for so intelligently and thoughtfully tackling this SHAPERS q+a! Enjoy!  

Can you tell us about your project photographing shelter dogs back in 2008? What was the experience like, what inspired the project, what was the endgame artistically or otherwise and how did it affect you/your work?

I was looking to get a dog and spending some time on the shelter websites. I decided to try to photograph all the dogs in LA shelters over a one month period. I tried to photograph them myself but quickly realized it isn't that easy to photograph a dog. So I partnered with the various shelters to get their photographs. That was a bit tricky because it involved working with the Chief of animal control. He was suspicious at first because he had to make sure I wasn't creating an expose on the shelters but then was happy to help. The most interesting thing was the quality of the photographs from different shelters varied a lot. At one shelter, the worker taking the photographs was careful to "art direct" the images. He posed the dogs in green settings even with some fake flowers arranged. He had the dogs standing in action poses so they looked lively and happy.

Compared to other shelters ,were the dogs were photographed in cages or on leashes, those animals looked highly adoptable. That shelter in fact did have higher rates of adoptions.

Because people primarily look at shelter dogs on websites, being photogenic is a life or death issue. 

The paintings I did of the shelter dogs takes that a bit further. Historically there are many dogs in paintings though typically they are high status dogs - hunting dogs or pets of wealthy people. The paintings of George Stubbs would be an example. I decided to do rather monumental portraits of ordinary dogs - shelter dogs who would not typically be painted.

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 


Meg + Jenkins. 

Meg + Jenkins. 

What's your favorite thing about living in California?
I like the attitude of people in California. Theyhave a relaxed confidence that's easy to be around. The artists in Los Angeles aren't freighted with a lot of rules. They do whatever they want. Europeans especially admire that. 

 

How does teaching art influence your own artwork?
Besides paying the bills? I love teaching because in my courses, I have to write lectures about new topics all the time. If I didn't teach I doubt I would read as much or stay as current. Also there is a part of me that's a performer. Giving lectures is a kind of performance. It's fun. Of course the students are all fantastic. I have said many times, I have never had a bad student.

Art students are the best and most interesting students one can teach.

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014


Which decade resonates most poignantly with you - 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s? I admire art of the 1960's for its clarity and optimism, art of the 1970's for its intellectual rigor, art of the 1980's for its focus on recasting artistic values as political. 
 


Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for  Made in L.A. , 2012.

Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for Made in L.A., 2012.



The scariest thing you've ever done?
I do stand up comedy. That's pretty scary especially for the audience.


Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a night owl who has to get up at 6am. It's a dilemma.


Name three of your favorite sculptors/3-dimensional artists and use a single word to describe each.

Alberto Giacometti  -  armature
Brancusi  -   base
Franz West  -  scale


What books are currently on your bedside table?
Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

 

*Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.

OUR HOLIDAY POP-UP SHOP IN VENICE, CALIFORNIA

First of all, Thank you SO MUCH for your support this holiday season and always! You likely already know that, from the inception of our burgeoning business, Deb and I have endeavored to support the work of independent makers and creators, brilliant, forward-thinkers who use both their heads and their hearts to navigate throughout the world. We hold community, generosity, and kindness in great regard and reverence.

Now, more than ever, we're certain that bolstering the intrepid doers, dreamers, trailblazers, designers, painters, sculptors, and brethren of small business owners is vital. We're having a holiday pop-up shop on Sunday, December 11th (324 C Sunset, next to Gjusta Bakery and 10 AM - 4 PM) and are offering a motley of one-of-a-kind creations from people all over the country and beyond. We're stoked to be able to bring together this collection of artisan-made gifts - from soaps to jewelry to linen napkins, dog beds to wood coasters to candles and much more - and offer it to our fellow lovers of original design and vision, those of you/us who prefer to shop small and think big, as it were.

Lily Spindle will be making donations to some of our favorite animal rescues this holiday season, as we do throughout the year, but we'll also be including causes and groups that we feel honor our inherent human rights, the inherent rights of our earth, and the equality we've strived for and need to preserve and build upon.

 We can't wait to see you on the 11th! And if you see something on our Facebook or Instagram pages you absolutely MUST have but it is a limited edition item for the pop-up, give us a shout and we'll create a custom listing for you. Easy breezy peasy.  

with love, 
Rebecca + Deb

Mid-Mod JT Getaway

When you've got more dogs than humans in your house, it's a massive undertaking to take them with you on a road trip. And my man and I LOVE a good road trip. A few years back, when we were 50% less dog, we traveled for days with Lucie and Fred in tow, stopping off to visit friends (and drink amazing, smoky, dangerously delicious mezcal made by Ron Cooper) in Taos and Sante Fe, taking our time on long, aimless walks with the dogs, watching them frolic in their first (and only) snowfall, running into Paul Ruscha serendipitously and having an incredible brunch with him the next morning. 

Since we've doubled our in-house rescue dog population, it's been a challenge to take our knuckleheads with us on trips in the 4-Runner. We're also fairly picky in where we'd like to stay (I cannot abide wall-to-wall carpeting, bedskirt ruffles, or pink carnation wallpaper -- and, yes, these things continue to exist in the 21st century) and we don't want to put the dogs through an epic trip wherein most of the time is spent in the truck, en route. And so, we head to JOSHUA TREE! A mere two-hour drive to arrive at the quiet, calm, and transcendent beauty of the desert. There's nothing quite like it and I've been mad for the desert since my first introduction to it eight years ago. 

In serious need of this getaway weekend, we managed to, by nothing short of a miracle, find an incredible, mid-century modern ranch house on AirBnb that accepted dogs (!!) and had fenced in acreage (!!) and could fit our three-day stay into their booking schedule (!!). We were psyched, and even more psyched upon arrival. Not only were our hosts, Colleena and Nathan, two of the nicest humans I've ever met, but they were super cool, to boot. The ranch's record collection included Love and Rockets, REM, the Rolling Stones, Donovan, the Killers, Chrissie Hynde, David Bowie, and more. We played records while making lunch, eating dinner, and pretty much every moment we weren't just sitting outside on the patio, breathing deeply, reading the paper, and watching our pups romp gleefully and safely within the sandy confines of the fenced yard.

Donut, taking a load off after many, many hours worth of sun and sand-filled fun. 

Donut, taking a load off after many, many hours worth of sun and sand-filled fun. 

The wonderfully designed, super comfortable and dog-friendly house is just a few minutes from Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum (now returned to the desert since its LACMA exhibition earlier this year) and a hop, skip, and a jump from Yucca Valley's hip shops and restaurants. We were in seventh heaven. As were the dogs, who managed to have so much damn fun that they were falling asleep sitting up (photo evidence included in this post. see below.). 

Frederick: TOO....MUCH...FUN....zzzzzzzz

Frederick: TOO....MUCH...FUN....zzzzzzzz

Heads up, all my design-loving and dog-adoring friends! Check out this magnificent spot in the magical, restorative high desert. Go. Relax. Romp. Nap. Eat. Stroll. Boogie. Breathe. Get outta the city and into the ineffable quiet of endless sands and yucca trees. It'll do your soul some good. And at the very least, you'll finish that book you've been reading. 

xx, 
Rebecca

Exploring Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum for the second time in several years. Incredible sculptures from a restless and imaginative mind...

Exploring Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum for the second time in several years. Incredible sculptures from a restless and imaginative mind...

Colleena's creating this mosaic masterpiece on the exterior wall of the recording studio, which looks onto the backside of the main house. 

Colleena's creating this mosaic masterpiece on the exterior wall of the recording studio, which looks onto the backside of the main house. 

SHAPERS /// VIVIENNE STRAUSS

Ned Evans, Rebecca Cox, Poe, Bright, Fred, and Lucie, as painted by the incomparable Vivienne Strauss.

Ned Evans, Rebecca Cox, Poe, Bright, Fred, and Lucie, as painted by the incomparable Vivienne Strauss.

I've known Vivienne Strauss for a number of years now, but we've never actually been in the same room at the same time. Or even the same city. We've never spoken on the phone or shaken hands with one another. But she's essentially become, over time, the best 21st century erudite pen pal I could ever have conjured --  I've mailed her used copies of books I've read and she promptly sent me a new copy of Melissa Bank's "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" because she was vaguely appalled I hadn't yet read it. We've discussed depression and creativity and self-publishing and Netflix shows like "Lilyhammer" (a must-see), the mutual loss of our mothers and the mutual love we have for animals. A few years ago, my husband and I commissioned Vivienne to create a painting of us, when we were two dogs lighter and one black cat heavier. We adore this piece (shown above) so damn much, it hangs over our front door, so we can see it every day upon leaving.

We're thrilled to feature the brilliant and sweet Vivienne Strauss in our SHAPERS series. (Thanks, Viv, for being game for it!)

            Sunday Night. ©Vivienne Strauss

            Sunday Night. ©Vivienne Strauss

You work in both oil + acrylic paint, watercolor, and create irreverent collages using vintage advertisements and curious images sliced from old books. How do these mediums differ in your personal experience of them?  

Over the years, my collage work has really become more and more sparse, I find that I keep cutting images down to the bare essentials and some collages are reduced to only two or three separate images. I try to include some humor in all of my work, often dark humor but collage is where I feel a bit more free to push things further. I usually get an idea and the idea itself forms in the medium with which I use to try and express it. When working in watercolor and ink, I am in a completely different mode and can't seem to stop adding more and more detail. With oil painting, it is difficult to leave alone - when I think it is finished, I generally move it out of sight when I'm no longer tempted to fix things. Flaws are what make work interesting. 

      Barbara in the Bedroom with Bobcats. ©Vivienne Strauss

      Barbara in the Bedroom with Bobcats. ©Vivienne Strauss

      Big Catch. ©Vivienne Strauss

      Big Catch. ©Vivienne Strauss

            Bath Time. ©Vivienne Strauss

            Bath Time. ©Vivienne Strauss

There is a decidedly literary bend to your artwork, a fragility and humor that reminds me of Lorrie Moore with a twist of Joan Didion’s hopelessness, using phrases like “it was as plain as a pig on a sofa,” borrowed from Flannery O’Connor, as a painting title. Do you find yourself thinking of stories, both real and imagined, while making your art? How would you say the storyteller/writer in you influences your art?  

I keep re-visiting the work of Flannery O'Connor though I think this year I read more of it all at one time than ever before and really became aware of the patterns in her work. I love when I discover a "new to me" author like Moore, read some of her work for the first time just last year and think I've read everything she's written so far. Now I have to be patient and wait for her to write something new. I try to capture in imagery, the moods I find in my reading, usually not with complete success but that is okay, I will just try again with the next piece. Often my work is a spinoff story that comes to me from something I've read, heard or seen in a movie. 

       It Was as Plain as a Pig on a Sofa. ©Vivienne Strauss

       It Was as Plain as a Pig on a Sofa. ©Vivienne Strauss

Jean Pierre-Melville. ©Vivienne Strauss

Jean Pierre-Melville. ©Vivienne Strauss

Speaking of literary - I recently visited a farm in Derry, New Hampshire where Robert Frost lived with his wife and family for ten years. The guide said something that really resonated with me - she said that while Frost was not a successful farmer, loved to chop wood, scythe the grass and write. That made so much sense to me - I get my best ideas when I'm on a long walk rather than when I'm sitting still trying to think of something fresh and new. Action begets action. You are making me want to read some Joan Didion - sounds right up my alley!

You and your husband, the artist Matte Stephens, adopted a middle-aged mutt named Oliver several years ago and also have several cats.  Could you tell us a bit about your animals? 

Many animals have passed through our lives, I'm only going to mention those we have now. Oliver a 13 year old mix - Boston terrier/beagle/dachshund who came to live with us when he was 10. His personality is the best - super smart, rarely barks and gets along well with just about everyone though he is afraid of the wild turkeys I feed during the winter. Krasner, who was a stray kitten someone dumped off amongst a group of feral cats I used to feed in Birmingham. She appears rather innocent in this photo but she is always into something and is also very intelligent with a long attention span. She will watch a full-length movie as long as it is about birds or bears. Our other cat, Irving appears much more serious in his photo than he is in reality, he is actually one of the goofiest and lovable cats we've ever had.

Peterborough, New Hampshire may not be renowned for its mid-century modern architecture, but you happen to live in an incredible, spacious,1953-original home surrounded by acres of natural beauty and filled with George Nelson saucer pendants, Eames DCM chairs, and molded plywood tables. What do you love most about your home? Describe your home using five adjectives.

My favorite part of our home is that we live less than a mile from the center of town but have an endless parade of wild animals and birds through our back yard which backs up to both protected woodlands and marsh.  I'm drawn into my studio because it faces the backyard and woods from the creatures appear - bears, bobcats, fox, raccoons, etc. We are on a flyway as well and get a lot of migratory birds as well as our regulars. I rarely paint something that doesn't have at least one animal in it.

light
airy
serene
secluded
natural

The Strauss/Stephens house. photo credit: Matte Stephens

The Strauss/Stephens house. photo credit: Matte Stephens

Vivienne's studio. photo credit: Matte Stephens

Vivienne's studio. photo credit: Matte Stephens

If you could have breakfast with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And what would you order? 

This is a tough one. I am actually working on a graphic novel of all the famous people I've come into contact with, both directly and indirectly. Most encounters ended with me asking myself, "did I really say that?" Assuming that I wouldn't blurt out something I would regret later- After much consideration, I will go with someone recently deceased - Maggie Estep. Her death came as a great shock to me, mainly because she was such a voice of the 1990s for me. I'm not sure what Maggie would eat as her diet was much more restricted than mine is but I'll have a garlic bagel toasted with lox, cream cheese, capers, red onion and tomato with an Americano on the side.  Maggie Estep was irreverent, funny, deep and so talented.

      Withdrawn. ©Vivienne Strauss

      Withdrawn. ©Vivienne Strauss

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Most definitely a morning person. Not that I actually want to talk to anyone in the morning. I just love those hours before the rest of the world gets up and drag my coffee drinking out for as long as possible. 

What's currently on your bedside table? 

The Lunatic by Charles Simic
My Sand and Gravel by Paul Muldoon
Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami
Happily Ali After by Ali Wentworth
Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates
In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John Marzluff & Tony Angell
The Poetry of Robert Frost
The Collected Short Stories of Patricia Highsmith (re-reading)

You love old films and it’s clear this adoration influences your character depictions within your paintings. Who are three of your favorite directors and/or favorite films you’ve watched over and over again? 

 I will stick to French films only here purely to keep this simpler...

I have recently discovered the work of Pierre Etaix and he is just brilliant! I especially love his short films and I am sure that they will influence some of my future work (already working on just a portrait of Monsieur Etaix). His humor helps balance out all the darker genres I am drawn to.  

            The Heist. ©Vivienne Strauss

            The Heist. ©Vivienne Strauss

Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Samourai, Le Doulos, Le Deuxieme Souffle
Louis Malle - Elevator to the Gallows, The Fire Within
Agnes Varda - Le Vagabond, Cleo from 5 to 7

I found myself lost for several hours here attempting to pare down to a few favorites and the list just goes on and on.

            Girls who like stripes and orange tabbies. ©Vivienne Strauss

            Girls who like stripes and orange tabbies. ©Vivienne Strauss

*Lily Spindle's SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.

 

 



     

 

SHAPERS /// Todd Squires

Take one glance at Todd Squires' Instagram account (along with the considerable 46.5k followers already enchanted by him) and you're immediately a smitten kitten, enraptured by his urban architectural shots from any and all parts of Southern California, his irreverent and charmingly deprecatory selfies, his ingenious portraits of the beautiful humans he intimately knows or has just moments ago met for the very first time, and the magical captures of his constant and steady companion - Sonny the handsome Labrador mutt mix. He owns an independent framing shop here in Los Angeles, Fourth Corner Conservation Framing, and, as a photographer and the son of a lithographer, totally gets the artistry of framing and his now ten-year-old shop is a go-to for the heavy hitters of the art world like, ahem, Ed Ruscha. Todd also happens to be a lovely person, in addition to wildly talented, and we're honored to feature him as the first profile of many in our SHAPERS* series.

Ghost Bike, Todd Squires

Could you tell us a little bit about your framing company, Fourth Corner Conservation? How long you've been in business, who some of your favorite clients are, your most fun project you've worked on?

I’ve had my business Fourth Corner Conservation Framing, Inc. since 2003.  The idea behind starting it is to provide a nice experience for people who want to feel safe about the way have their artwork framed.  My approach is rather minimal and simple, and I make sure that the artwork will be protected from the outside elements that can cause future deterioration by using only archival materials.  A lot of people are afraid of going to the framers because they think they’ll be taken advantage of, or make the wrong decision with some sort of pretentious framing  designer.  I try to make it as easy and friendly as possible, using only the simplest explanations and making sure everyone understands the whole picture (no pun intended). I also enjoy woodworking with my hands and making a lot of the frames myself.  We hand join most of the frames, sand them down and finish them ourselves. I suppose there’s a certain pride to that.

You're pretty much an Instagram superstar and have IG meet-ups with fellow Instagrammers throughout California, yes? What makes Instagram so special in its outreach and sense of community, support, and creative energy?

I love Instagram because it has helped me rediscover my love of photography and has brought so much positivity to my life.  It started out as fun little picture sharing app, and soon turned into a creative obsession.  It has made me open my eyes to the world and see things a little clearer.  I also notice and appreciate so many more things. Soon after I started using Instagram, I noticed there were these things called instameets, where a bunch of like-minded lovers of photography (and the app in general) would get together and meet each other and explore the city together.  The fact that a social app can actually get people outside to be more creative, socialize, exercise and see more, I think is a true testament to the developers of the app.  I also love to use Instagram as a curator for my work when I have actual exhibitions.  I naturally only post photos I truly love and that resonate well with me.  Instagram helps tell me which ones resonate well with others, thereby allowing me to create a great comprehensive show.

How long have you had Sonny and has he always been such an outstanding model? Describe Sonny's personality and what makes him such an amazing companion.

From the moment I laid my eyes on my dog Sonny and stuck my hand through the bars at the Pasadena Humane Society, I knew he was the dog for us.  That was about 14 years ago when he was only 1 year old.  He is now 15 and still just as cute.  He of course has majorly slowed down over the past year, but he still maintains this playful spirit and nature that keeps me feeling alive too.  

 

When he was a lot more flexible, could hear, and was more athletic, it was easy to get him to run or sit or pose in all the ways I needed him to so I could take pictures of him.  He was always happy to do it too because of the attention it brought him.  There were also a lot of treats nearby too.  He has always been such a good listener and loved having the camera on him.  He especially loved it when I would set the camera up so I could be in the shot with him doing whatever silly or serious thing we needed to do to make a great shot.


Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I’m both a morning person and a night owl.  It all depends on when my creative juices are flowing.  I’ve been known to stay up late continuously working on my own personal writing, editing photographs, or editing my video art that I used to do. Mornings are when my mind and body are freshest, so I like to use that time to run or hike or exercise.  I’d try to trick my body before it totally woke up into doing active things, and it’s been pretty successful so far.

Name your top three favorite contemporary photographers and describe their work using one word.

Nan Goldin  — intimate
Catherine Opie — epic
Todd Hido — mysterious

IMG_2813.JPG

What are some of the things that influence you/your work and your aesthetic?

My influences change and stretch all over the place.  I am generally influenced by great philosophers who encourage people to think for themselves. Creatively, I can’t deny that Ed Ruscha has had a profound effect on my work.  His style, with light or object invading entire spaces from a corner, or his effective angles in his photographic documentations of his time in our city of angels. I think I’ve been influenced a lot by Rothko and his blends of color, and the way he might change perceptions of solid blocks of those colors by simply having them intrude into each other.  There are a myriad of filmmakers (Kurosawa, Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Orson Welles, the list goes on and on) and their cinematographer counterparts who have all shaped my vision of the world and the different ways you can present it through a lens.

What is your favorite room in the house and what surprises would we find there?

My favorite room in the house is the living room because it’s the place where all our friends mostly sit and talk and have a good time.  I also love the little office that is my mancave. It’s where all my technical creativity comes through.  The only surprise about the office is that it looks extremely cluttered regardless of the fact my mind is very structured.

If you could have lunch with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And where would you dine?

I’d love to have lunch with Paul Rudd or Louis CK. If Hal’s were still around, I’d love to have lunch with them there.  One factor of my personality is deeply rooted in humor.  I think it’s actually one of my driving characteristics.  Both of these actor/comedians have brought so much joy to my life with their dry wit and hilarity.  I always wonder what it’d be like to just sit down with either one of them and see where our conversations would take us.


*Lily Spindle's SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.

 

You and me and everydog we know

“A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can’t get it by breeding for it, and you can’t buy it with money. It just happens along.”
- E.B. White

And that’s how all seven beloved Lily Spindle dogs came into our lives . . . they just happened along.  They crossed our paths at that perfect moment when our hearts wrestled brief control from our rational minds (always questioning if we really need another dog – UM, OF COURSE!) and in they came. Every stinky, silly, frustratingly perfect one of them!

So when this little painting happened along we immediately fell in love with it, too!  We delighted in the way the artist’s adept brushwork captured the sturdy alertness of a terrier (of which we each have many), while the solitary vulnerability of the wee pooch grabbed our heartstrings and tugged hard! The artist’s undeniable sensitivity to dogs brings a quiet emotion to her painting that we don’t often see in canine portraits.  And although a contemporary work of art, the beautiful luminosity of the color palette and the abstract approach to landscape recalls some of our favorite mid-century Bay Area Figurative painters like Bischoff and Diebenkorn.

Tiny terrier painting
Tiny Terrier detail

 

Fortunately, there need not be a struggle in your heart or mind about bringing this petite dog painting into your life and home. The framed 5” x 7” oil on canvas gem can be yours for $250 by emailing me at debra@lilyspindle.com.  Hurry before this pup painting goes up on our website!

And remember, ALWAYS ADOPT!

-- Debra

Funky Cold Fontana Medina. OR, meet me near the Fountain of Neptune.

When walking through Italy, it's easy to get lost in the resplendence of its centuries' old architecture and romantic, sinuous alleyways, occasionally leaping out of harm's way as taxis and scooters roar through the streets and honk at you with impassioned fury. We got lost a few times. A bit turned around. Somewhat befuddled, a twinge fuzzy as to where we'd been and where we were going. But it was a glorious kind of being astray. And there was never a place or moment where we couldn't find a delicious cafe or restaurant to pop into for food and drink unlike any other we've enjoyed.

*By the way, here are a few "on the house" (pun intended) "dining in Italy" tips:
#1 - Avoid any place with a host out front inviting you in.
#2 - Avoid any place with an enormous menu depicting the dishes in large, unappealing imagery.
#3 - Don't sit your butt down at an Italian cafe when you're sipping that cappuccino. A "standing cappuccino" has a set price, but sitting a table can double, sometimes triple the cost. Italians call cafes "bars" for a reason. It's guzzle and go, baby.

One of the many sunny afternoons of our Italy meandering found us eating cacio e pepe and drinking Peroni at a restaurant around the corner from the Castel Nuovo (also known in Naples as Maschio Angioino). Next door to the restaurant was a tiny artist's studio, with hundreds of paintings stacked atop one another, some of them copies of famous Renaissance paintings, others copies of erotic Pompeiian paintings labeled "obscene" and relegated to the Gabinetto Segreto. But many, many others were her own. Tiny landscapes and seascapes, with a smoking Vesuvius in the background, and miniature people toiling away in the foreground. Something about her enormous, generous smile, her incredibly prolific creative output, her inability to speak any English, her enabling of our collective desire to dig through the layers of leaning paintings, all combined, made us incapable of leaving without snatching up a handful of her tiny oil works of art. They're currently being framed and will be up on the Lily Spindle site very soon for you to purchase. By the way, they retail for less than $60 each. How's that for a super steal? Email me at rebecca@lilyspindle.com if you'd like to lay claim before anyone else!

Love,
the Lily Spindle ladies

 

MANA at the Villa Di Donato

On the night of May 28th, “The Artists of the Film MANA” took over a 17th century villa in Naples, otherwise known as the Villa Di Donato. This MANA exhibition, a collaborative effort between ART1307 (AKA Cynthia and Renato Penna) and Lancaster Museum of Art and History (AKA Andi Campognone), with the ingenuity and aid of Naples’ Chiara Reale and Rome-based curator Roberta Serpolli, featured the works of the following MANA film artists: Craig Skibs Barker, Casper Brindle, Ben Brough, Alex Couwenberg, Ned Evans, Steve Fuchs, Eric Johnson, David Lloyd, and Ken Pagliaro -- the last seven listed were in attendance at the villa’s opening reception and were hit up for multiple on-the-spot interviews with Italian reporters and had individual tete-a-tetes with the Consulate of U.S. Consul of Politics and Economic Affairs.

The Lily Spindle ladies (and our dashing husbands) got a private tour of the spectacular villa by its owner, a man of few words, in part because his prowess in communicating in English is pretty comparable to ours in speaking Italian. He proudly informed us that 40 guests had enjoyed Christmas dinner there last year and I immediately imagined how glorious this place would look adorned with holiday trimmings, aglow with strings of twinkling lights and candles flickering on a massive dining table. It’s an absolutely gorgeous space. And an ingenious, fun, and unusual environment in which to see bright, contemporary, California-forged art made by the MANA men.

Our apologies for the excessive photos of the opening reception but there were too many shots to choose from! Photo credit goes to Ken Pagliaro, Eric Johnson, Ben Brough, Andi Campognone, and more than a few snaps by Lily Spindle.

*Here’s one of several stories in the Naples papers covering the MANA night in Naples . . .