Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ODD BITS: Frances Gabe, Inventor of the world's only self-cleaning home, dies at 101

Frances Gabe, Inventor of the world's only self-cleaning home, 
dies at 101

Have you ever wished that your house could just clean itself, or that little
elves would come in while you sleep to do the dusting and washing up?
Well, Frances Gabe brought that fantasy into reality, and in the mid-1950s
invented the world's only self-cleaning house, seen in the photo above.

Gabe lived near Portland, OR and died recently at the age of 101, having remained a wildly creative, cantankerous and eminently quotable woman to the very end.
(By that time, I assume, she had stopped doing her yardwork in the nude,
annoying her neighbors as much as possible. )

"“Housework is a thankless, unending job,” she told The Ottawa Citizen 
in 1996. “It’s a nerve-twangling bore. Who wants it? Nobody!”

Mrs. Gabe shows off a model of her self-cleaning house, 1979.
In addition to being an inventor of numerous labor-saving devices,
she was an accomplished sculptor, ceramist, and jeweler.
She held 68 patents for her inventions, many of them related
to the famed house. 

“You can talk all you like about women’s liberation, but houses are still designed so women have to spend half their time on their knees or hanging their head in a hole,” Ms. Gabe told The Baltimore Sun in 1981. “Housework stuck in my craw even when I was a kid.” A recent NY Times remembrance referred to her
as "equal parts quixotic dreamer and accomplished visionary."

The leisurely life of "the housewife of 2000"...

Gabe's 30 by 45 foot house included: 

A closet that washed and dried clothes 
A kitchen cupboard that functioned as a dishwasher 
Dresser drawers with a “honeycomb” bottom to allow dust to fall  
to a slightly sloping floor and easily wash away. 
A fireplace that hosed its own ashes down a pipe and into the garden.

Her property was sold some years ago, though the house still stands. 
“There’s kind of a hippie guy living there and he likes the place,” a grandson
of hers commented to the NY Times.

Above: A model of Gabe’s house, which was acquired 
by the Hagley Museum in Delaware.
Photo courtesy of Hagley Museum.

A link to an amusing video of life in the self-cleaning house
can be found here.
Written and directed by Lily Benson; Music by Doron Sadja

Just after her divorce (“I didn’t like my husband anymore, so I kicked him out to 
 the backyard,”), Gabe was despondent. She "asked God to give me a big job" 
to take her mind off her troubles. "He gave me a lollapalooza."


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: Eloise takes NYC by storm, again

“Getting bored is not allowed.”

Illustration by Hilary Knight for the 
Plaza Hotel’s children’s menu (1956-1957)

The NY Historical Society is currently hosting a delightful exhibition of drawings
 from Kay Thomson's Eloise books, following its successful run at the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum in Amherst, MA. Hillary Knight's singular illustrations
for the books continue to capture people's hearts, as he follows the
adventures of everyone's favorite precocious, over-entitled, 
under-disciplined 6-year-old Manhattanite.

Eloise looks at a museum wall and sees only ... herself.
That's our girl! 

 Hilary Knight (b. 1926) Unused cover sketch, 1954
(Courtesy NY Historical Society)

 Moxie-filled Eloise lives with her nearly
invisible nanny at the Plaza Hotel. She loves to create mayhem, order beer 
from room service, slump in oversized, Baroque chairs in the lobby, and take
tea in the sumptuous Palm Court at four o'clock.

Teatime at the Plaza's Palm Court

Special menu for The Children's Eloise Tea includes
• Sandwiches and savories, as well as scrumptious: 

• Warm Scones with Double Devonshire Cream, Lemon Curd and Preserves
• Strawberry Rice Krispy Treat
• Raspberry and Milk Chocolate Éclair
• Seasonal Fruit Tart
• Dulce De Leche Cup Cake
• Raspberry Vanilla Cotton Candy (two tones)
• Graham Cracker Lemon Blueberry S’more

 A typical afternoon at the Plaza
"There is a lobby which is enormously large
and has marble pillars and ladies in it ..."

Unpublished drawing by Hilary Knight for Eloise 
[Simon & Schuster, 1955]

"This first major retrospective of Knight’s work showcases more than 90 objects, from numerous Eloise illustrations to art from the rest of his prodigious career as a children’s book artist, poster designer, magazine illustrator, and painter. Among the many treasures on display are Knight’s 1954 trial drawings for the first Eloise book, two Eloise in Paris sketchbooks, a magnificent suite of final art from Eloise In Moscow, and the 1993 Eloise watercolor for New York Is Book Country. There’s a kicker, too: for the first time since its infamous disappearance from the Plaza Hotel in 1960, Knight’s original 1956 Eloise portrait is also on view.” 

                           — Curatorial note from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

To listen to a National Public Radio story about the exhibition, 
as well as the mysterious disappearance of the famed Eloise painting 
from The Plaza's lobby, link here.

 Some extras:
Above: Eloise emergency care kit in a hatbox
Comes complete with sunglasses, "vintage Jujubees" (one would hate to be 
without Jujubees in an emergency) and a little box of Pepsodent toothpaste

Below: the mid-Mod "Eloise chair"
No slumping here, young lady!

Eloise at the Museum continues in NYC through October 9, 2017
For more information, link here.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: (Part 3 of 3) : The Southwest: where nature and art intersect

 If you're heading to the Pacific Northwest or west coast in general
 this summer, you'll find plenty of Modernist art and design to sink 
your teeth into in cities like 
Phoenix, Portland and Los Angeles.

At the Phoenix Art Museum this summer:
Longer Ways to Go: Photographs of the American Road
Roger Minick, Airstream at Monument Valley, Arizona, 1979

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again;
we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life.”
                                      — Jack Kerouac,  On the Road

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

Jim Stone, Watson Lake, Yukon, 1975 

°     °     °     °     °     °     °

From July 31, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018 , LACMA, (the Los Angeles County Museum)
will be presenting a cheerful exhibition entitled Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. The show spotlights Marc Chagall's designwork for the theater, a less well-known but important part of his revered artistic legacy.

Highlighting four theatrical productions created over a quarter century (Aleko, The Firebird, Daphnis and Chloe, and The Magic Flute), the show comprises 145 objects, including 41 colorful costumes; nearly 100 preliminary sketches; rare 1942 film footage of the original performance of Aleko; musical accompaniments for each section; and a selection of paintings depicting musicians and 
theatrical scenes.

Above: Chagall costumes for The Magic Flute

According to a curatorial note:

"Artists have long been inspired to expand their practices by engaging in 
compelling collaborations with the ballet, theater, and opera, and Chagall was 
at the forefront of such interdisciplinary efforts among modern artists 
in creating inventive visual environments for the stage."

 Below: Chagall ceiling at the Paris National Opera House

"Working with theatrical companies and opera houses in Russia,
Mexico, New York, and Paris, Chagall created fantastical and cutting-edge
designs. He collaborated on sets for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as early as 1911, and his deep and far-reaching engagement with music and dance continued throughout his long career." 

°     °      °     °     °     °     °     °     °

at The Portland Museum, through Sept.3, 2017

Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and 

Collections of John Yeon

John Yeon's Aubrey Watzek House, Portland, Oregon, 1937
The house drew an international spotlight to regional 
Modernism in the Pacific Northwest.

John Yeon was a prominent architect living and working in the Pacific Northwest. He "had equal vision and influence as a planner, conservationist, historic preservationist, urban activist, and, perhaps most of all, connoisseur of elegance and craft." (from curator's note) Yeon designed distinctive buildings, created fantastical gardens, and fought to preserve some of the Northwest’s most treasured vistas—the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon Coast, 
and Olympic National Park.

 Yeon’s inventive plywood houses of the late ‘30s and the 1950 Shaw House  anticipated the stylistic eclecticism of Postmodernism. This exhibition features original models and drawings, along with images by a trio of the midcentury’s greatest architectural photographers: Ezra Stoller, Maynard Parker, and Roger Sturtevant. Newly developed models and axonometric drawings "invite a greater understanding of Yeon’s careful siting of buildings and his cutting edge construction and sustainable design techniques." 

Yeon's Shaw House was featured as the cover image for
House Beautiful in April 1953.
Featured in the show is a high-definition time-lapse video depicting 
the changing seasons at The Shire, the 78- acre preserve 
in the Columbia Gorge that Yeon saved from development.
(see below)
°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °

And don't forget: Denver's newly reconstructed Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts will, at long last, reopen in early 2018 after its 8-block move !

 A cozy modernist living room at the Kirkland Museum in Denver
See my posting about the Kirkland's dramatic move (in one piece) here.