Saturday, October 31, 2009

How I found Alexander Calder's Roxbury Home

I've always been fascinated about Alexander Calder's home and studio in Roxbury Connecticut.

It's been a curiosity largely fueled by books such as "Calder's Universe", "Calder in Connecticut" and "Calder at Home" that show amazing photographs of the huge studio cluttered with wire, sheet metal, tools, and hundreds of mobiles and stabiles in various stages of completion; not to mention the collection of sculptures scattered across the property, and the old farmhouse (which Calder renovated and painted flat black) decorated with cozy hooked rugs made by Louisa and a plethora of Calder's art and handiwork in every nook and cranny.

I'd love to see it.

Unfortunately, although the property is still owned by the Calder Family, it is not open to the public, and I can only speculate about what is left there and what kind of condition it is in. But I'd be happy to just drive by it, if I ever had the chance.

Well I had that chance last year when my wife and I drove from our home in northeast Ohio to Old Saybrook, Connecticut to visit relatives. Our route led east on interstate 84, where we would be passing about 10 miles south of Roxbury. Perhaps we could make a quick detour and see if we could spot the old place!

The only problem was that I had no idea where it was. ..none of my Calder books listed an address or even a street name. I called the Roxbury Chamber of Commerce to inquire, and the person I spoke to confirmed that the house was privately owned and not available for a tour. She wasn't sure exactly where it was located. I even sent a couple emails to a few places , but received no response. So I gave up on the idea. Maybe someday I would have another chance and would know where to find the house. Better yet, maybe the Calder Foundation would turn it into a museum. I must admit that I felt a bit sad as we drove past that exit on I-84.

I pretty much forgot about trying to find the house until I spotted this item on the internet today.

It's a map to the house. I'm pretty sure it's accurate... it was drawn by Calder himself!

Using this drawing as my guide, I went to Google Maps and found the area where Painter Hill Road intersects with Rt. 47.

Calder noted that the house was about 1.5 miles west of the intersection. I measured this off and put a red dot at the approximate location.  You can see that the bend in the road wasn't quite as sharp as Calder drew it.

Then I noticed that the "Street View" feature on Google Maps was available for Painter Hill Rd.
That was really fortunate. "Street View" allows you to see 360 degree panoramic views taken from street level - essentially the same thing you would see if you were driving down the road.  If I was lucky, the house might be visible from the street!

I went back to my books and found this great picture of the Roxbury House in "Calder's Universe". All I had to do was turn on the Street View in Google Maps and make my way down Painter Hill Road until I found it.

Here it is!

Here's a closer look. The hedge is a bit overgrown, but I'm so glad to see that it looks the same as it did when Calder lived there.

Here's a view to the left of the house. Notice the three windows on the large building.

Compare them to the room in the photo below. It's the old studio! I wonder what is inside of it now?

Google Street View has low resolution pictures. I wish I could read these signs...

Here's a view to the right of the house. You can see a black stabile there.

Going further to the west, you can clearly see Calder's "Southern Cross" .
Hey, the gate is open - let's go check it out!

I guess it might seem a bit silly, but I really enjoyed discovering this on Google Maps.
It's the next best thing to actually being there.  I don't know if I'll ever get the chance again, but if I do, this time I will know exactly where to find it.

If you'd like to check this out for yourself, go to Google Maps and search for:
"306 Painter Hill Road Roxbury Connecticut"

Find the yellow man icon by the zoom bar and drag him over to the highway next to the "A" balloon. Then click on the arrow buttons to move down the road and control your viewpoint.

Have fun exploring, but please keep in mind if you actually visit the area, this is a PRIVATE RESIDENCE.  Be respectful of the privacy of it's occupants, and do not under any circumstances enter the property.

PS: If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy this post

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is a stick up...hand over your Warhol!

The LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) has an impressive web site that contains many useful and informative features such as a blog, crime maps, community information, special bulletins, and crime reporting tools.

It also features something that is rather unique: a sub-section that is devoted to their “Art Theft Detail”; a unit of two detectives that are responsible for the investigation of all thefts and burglaries where Fine Art is the primary object of attack. The detail also investigates fakes, frauds, and forgeries involving art. It is the only full-time municipal law enforcement unit in the United States devoted to the investigation of art crimes.

The website boasts that the detail has recovered $77,563,992 in stolen art properties since 1993.

Here you will find crime alerts, a list of all current investigations, tips on fakes that are in circulation, and summaries of some really fascinating cases that are well worth reading. I really enjoyed It’s a Sad Day, Charlie Brown, a gripping tale of stolen animation art.

The list of stolen items includes ancient artifacts, fine art, collectibles, and even movie props! Virtually every major artist is represented.

I noticed this posting for a stolen Alexander Calder stabile, “Little Roxbury”:

Also this piece by Brad Howe, one of my favorite artists:

How does someone sneak off with a 96 inch tall sculpture mounted on a stainless steel pedestal?

I'll admit that I looked, but I didn’t see any of my mobiles listed there. I guess that you know you’ve made it as an artist when one of your works is listed on the LAPD’s Art Theft Detail. It's probably more likely that I'll be listed as a suspect on one of their crime bulletins someday...

It would be really cool if somehow all of these items could be recovered and then displayed together in a special museum collection!

link to: LAPD Art Theft Detail

I wonder what Sgt. Joe Friday would have thought about all this? Somehow, I don't think he would have been much of a Warhol fan...

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Carter - pop-up artist

Photo by Manny Crisostomo - The Sacramento Bee

Here's an interesting article that appeared in The Sacramento Bee about the Pop-Up book artist David Carter, probably most famous for his book "The 12 Bugs of Christmas".

I refer to him as an artist, because having watched the video (be sure to also look him up on YouTube) of his latest creations, it is evident that he is taking Pop-Up books into the realm of abstract art.

He describes being influenced by Alexander Calder in the interview.