In September of 2015, The literary magazine A Public Space commissioned a small project on the work of architect Natalie de Boise. Working under the Skidmore Owens and Merrill’s infamous design partner Gordon Bunshaft, Du Boise contribution to a major body of iconic 20 century buildings has been overlooked. This small sketch project, essentially a walk down Park Avenue looking for the buildings she had a hand in, is a homage to the intensity and rigor of her architectural mind. Natalie De Bloise work on Manhattan’s Park Avenue is a series of meticulously calibrated techtonic experiences that people inhabit. Looking at the three buildings together,Pepsi Building, 1960, Lever House 1959, and the Union Carbide Building, 1961 in New York City, is a study in the precision of the architectural column, and the nuance of glass. Each building is an essay in measure and mathematics resulting in the glorious celebration of the abstraction of space.
2013, ink on paper, 11”x 17”
This drawing was commissioned by literary magazine A Public Space for an Eric Benet short story. The writer requested a drawing of an 19th Century day dress and provided an image from the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. The drawing has since become a stitched image along with other dresses and may become another decorative object.
ink on paper, 2011, 8 ½” x 11”
Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich elegantly describes the domestic domain in her book Good Wives. Her ability to narratively "map" the domestic sites she discusses and chart the time and place of her research is of particular interest to me. These drawings are an interpretation of an 18th Century woman's world using Ulrich’s narrative, and begins to visualize the imagination of the woman’s landscape inside a Maine homestead.
A series of sketchbook explorations asking the question "What makes a Good Room?"
ink and watercolor on paper, 2010,
8 1/2” x 11”
This project was commissioned by A Public Space literary magazine and the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the Between the Line culture series.
Mrs. Julia Grant's opera shawl, according to entries in the Ulysses S. Grant Letters, was purchased in 1878 in Paris. This was after General Grant's presidency but before they set up housekeeping at number 3 East 66th Street in New York City. The shawl was part of the General Grant Archival Collection but not cataloged until after it arrived at its current home at Mississippi State University. This is ironic in light of Mr. Grant's military career. He basically stripped the state of Mississippi of all goods and food in order to suppress the Confederate rebels– but nobody talks about that there. The shawl was found by Dr. Marszalek's wife who helps out at the Collection. Dr. Marszalek is an authority on General Grant as well as General Sherman, yet he still lives in Mississippi- more irony I suppose.
The shawl is special and pricey– it is a black vest with extensive glass beading on the front and back. Evidently there were two, since Mrs. Grant bought one as a gift. The shawl is one of the only artifacts that is traceable to the Grant family in the Collection, the rest are knickknacks and ephemera commemorating Grant, but not the real thing. Mr. Semmes, the chief archivist, suspects that Julia really went on a buying spree in Paris after her visit with the Queen of England. It did not go well and she might have needed a little pick me up. She also went to the House of Worth for ball gowns; the Queen must have been quite rude.
“I had a splendid time shopping. Mr. Worth Personally directed the fitting of my costumes, and Madam Virot attended me in person for any millinery I wished, and there were no small attentions, I assure you.” -Julia Grant
The story also goes that General Grant adored Julia and gave her most of what she desired when the money allowed. Mrs. Grant adored the General.
On drawings: After proclaiming that I would never draw again since stitching was my way of drawing, I still felt the need to draw while doing historical research in order to find a physical way of documenting the information that I was processing. Therefore, I have developed a method of drawing either over historic photographs or images from my visits to historic places, which develops the story of the space on top of the original space. This method creates a density that implies an immersion in the story.
ink and watercolor on paper, 2010,
8 1/2” x 11”
These drawings explore Arlington House, the antebellum mansion that was willed to Mary Custis Lee and was never really the property of Robert E. Lee. Research was generated from visits to the existing historic house. The subsequent drawings of interiors map Mary’s existence in her beloved home and illustrate pinnacle points in the house’s history. They represent extreme interiors that are designed into the existing rooms: a view of Mary Custis’s bedroom where her rose garden becomes the drapery and the drapery becomes the floor, and a chair that mimics Mary Custis’s immobility due to arthritis. By harnessing the surrealist potential of the room, Arlington House is activated to a more speculative experience. These drawings are a mechanism to investigate history by manipulating decorative arts elements and rituals and therefore capture the stories that surround the history of a home. These drawings are the activity of a designer understanding history.