Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Years ago, my father introduced me to Modern Art. As a little girl, I remember the impression seeing Mondrian at the Art Institute of Chicago made on me. I also remember being bored to tears when he dragged me around exhibitions of modern furniture. I may have, if I had any reaction at all, wondered why anyone would care who designed what chair. I didn’t get it.

But suddenly the idea found purchase, when at forty years of age, I found myself sitting in front of a furniture store looking at what I somehow knew was known as the Barcelona chair—in red leather no less!

That chair simply had to come home with me and then little memories from the past emerged and I began to read about the designers and to discover that so much of what I had seen in stores and homes had been, in fact, classics of the modern variety. The mind twisting part was that I found that so much of the distinctive furniture in the trendy high end stores today were designed back in 1925.

TANGENT: This led me to wonder about the word modern. I have to admit—to not do so would be dishonest—that my perspective on the subject had been formed when reading Tom Wolfe’s fabulous send up of the art world in 1975. At the time, the New York Times called Tom Wolfe’s book "The Painted Word" his “…most successful piece of social journalism to date". What fascinated me in the book—which I fixated on from that point forth—was that the word modern, wasn’t modern! I really enjoyed his discussion of the post-modern, etc. and the art worlds struggle to find the right word to describe what was actually current. How could modern be old-fashioned? We are certainly in a fix.

As usual, I am taking forever to get to my point, which is this: my house was finally shaping up, clean and flowing, punctuated by the “metro” coffee table and “Barcelona" chair. One evening I walked out into my living room and was startled by the starkness. It gave me a cold frightening feeling. Instead of the peace of openness and the calm of nature, I had a feeling like cold steel, like hospital. Now what in the world does temperature have to do with feelings? All I know is that it was opposite of that cozy warmth you get when you come into a friends tiny living room and plop onto the tweed sofa. This is NOT what I was aiming for. I wanted beauty; I wanted something free of clutter, a perfect simplicity. But what did I have? I was scared to be in my own living room. Hmmmm.