From the Archives - The Found Portrait

Originally published January 12, 2009

With the barrage of social networking, virtual communities and urban densification brought on by the latter 20th century, the comfort of anonymity is developing into a romantic ideology fit for the 21st century.

French artist, Magdalena Gerber, explores anonymity in her work
Tellerstories, British creative consultant to Swarovski, Graham Hollick, exhibits his anonymous portraits in his home, American musicians Fleet Foxes, pen lyrics such as Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and New Yorker, Chris Gallagher, shares his collection of anonymous portraits with the world.
I discovered Gallagher's collection of anonymous portraits while reading the Brooklyn Flea blog.
Being a collector of anonymous pet portraits [and now all anonymous photos] I was inspired to track him down and explore the lure of anonymity further.

The interview that follows transpired over email the week of January 5th 2009. I began by asking Gallagher some background questions which developed into an exploration of stories, spirits and moods that will, no doubt, transcend time.
I sincerely thank Chris Gallagher for taking the time to explore the questions on the level that he did. Please lose yourself in a sampling of his collection.

When did you start collecting portraits?
I bought my first two in the nineties at the 26th Street Flea market in NY. It was two portraits by the same artist, a Winston Churchill and a Dwight Eisenhower. I was young and broke and probably couldn't afford them at the time but I bought them anyway.

How many do you have?
Probably around 100. In addition to the portraits I have other types of found paintings (landscapes, outsider type stuff).

Were they all acquired in the US?
All of the paintings so far were acquired in the US. I do look for them wherever I travel and have bought things in NY, Portland, LA, New Orleans etc. They make great souvenirs because they can really evoke the spirit of a place, more so than a t-shirt or coffee mug.
It was in Paris at the Cligancourt Flea Market though, that I first saw a grouping of them and it really inspired me to start a collection. I don't think I bought any there because they were out of my price range and the exchange rate wasn't great but the idea of them stayed with me. I would like to add some from outside the US in the future.

What motivates you to buy a portrait?
It's variable. Ideally I buy something because it's technically a good painting- it's just really well painted and captures a personality and mood. Sometimes I'll buy things that can be more technically crude but captures a spirit of some sort. I also have an interest in contemporary/modern art so sometimes I'll get a portrait that reminds me of another artist like Picabia or David Hockney or something like that. If a portrait can capture a past era really well but look contemporary at the same time- that will really motivate me to pursue it.

The Exploration:

The portraits capture an intimacy that provokes questions of the before and after, each with their own story. Have you become a story teller? Whose story is your favorite? Who provokes the most questions?
They can definitely tell a story and depending how you can group them, the story can change. If you group all "WWII people" together or the "robber barons" together or "the college students" together or the "families" together they tell one story but if you mix them all up the stories change. Individually, there is a portrait of a black woman that looks like it was painted in the 40s or 50s. The woman evokes a very jazz era feeling and there is a certain melancholy in the way she looks off. It's almost like listening to a Billie Holiday song (listen to Strange Fruit here)There is a painting of a not too attractive middle aged woman - she looks like a society matron from 1960's - which always elicits a comment. It kind of looks like if Goya did one of his royal portraits in the 1960's, this would would be it.

The portraits are considered anonymous, however, you've brought them together in a collection, a new family per se, giving them a new identity. Do you feel that your collection marks a single point in time or that it transcends time?
I hope it transcends time. I think that's what makes portraiture interesting- the fact that these faces endure long after their situations change or their lives end.

You're having a cocktail party and can invite only five of the anonymous sitters in your collection, who are they?
Chosen just because they all look like big personalities who've had some interesting life experiences (portraits of the invited below).

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Did you know...

The imitation punchings that decorate today's brogues were once actual holes/slashings made to let the water drain out of these early Scotish shoes that were often worn while treading across marshy land.

My Top Five Unfounded Fears

Goya - from Disasters of War
  1. getting bed bugs from a movie theatre
  2. dying from eating bad mayo
  3. plague ridden bus hands
  4. hantavirus
  5. finding an eye in an egg yolk

I thought I'd let you know since apparently we're all supposed to die tomorrow. I guess 2012 will take care of those of us who don't kick the bucket Saturday.

The Gift I Made My Mom - Easy and Inexpensive I love You Gift

I adapted this gift idea from a column by interior decorator Barb Lunter that was in the North Shore News a few weeks back.

What you need:
  • 2 vases - this isn't as easy as you think. One vase must fit inside the other with enough room around it to put some goodies yet it has to be large enough to hold a few bunches of flowers. I found both of my vases at a local thrift shop.
  • a couple bunches of flowers. I used five bunches of tulips.
  • a whole lot of goodies. Be creative. I opted for chocolate loonies* over the simpler jelly beans. I bought these from the bulk section at our local grocer but you can also find some unique stuff at sweet shops like Sugar & Co.
  • an elastic or string

  1. place the small vase inside the large one
  2. distribute your goodies around the inside of the large vase so you can no longer see the small one
  3. put a little room temperature water in the small vase
  4. hold the bunch of flowers in your right hand. With your left hand take one flower one at a time until you have formed a little bouquet of flowers. Tie the bouquet together with the string or elastic.
  5. insert the bouquet into the small vase with the water
  6. adjust the leaves and flowers accordingly

*a loonie is a Canadian dollar. plural form = loonies

Thanks for a Wonderful 3 Years!

From the bottom of my heart - I couldn't have done it without you. Who knows what will happen over the next three.

Here's Bijou Living's very first post, May 17, 2008.

'Raccoons and cats become a little bit boring...'

About a year ago I came across Grey Gardens. A beautiful film that gave me nightmares. The Cult's song Ciao Baby is about Edie Sedgwick not Little Edie. It would be nice if Little Edie had a song.

There's a great fan site dedicated to Grey Gardens and you can view it here.

Mens Sandals

The only way I can interpret men's sandals as being sexy is by imagining it's a hot August afternoon in the 70s and I'm on the beach at Osoyoos Lake spying on my older cousins as they hit on long haired, tanned, shirtless skinny rocker guys in tight worn out frayed Levi's and hurache sandals. Oh, and it smells like Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil.

These might work:

1. Ann Demeulemeester although these somewhat remind me of Tevas and I'm not a fan of any item of clothing or footwear that uses Velcro.
2. Lanvin a little dressier
3. Dolce & Gabbana second choice
4. Pachuco Huarache my favourite

The Scent of Spring

It would be wonderful if I could send this smell to you.

From the Archives - How to Transform a Boring Room - Wallpaper with Newspaper

Originally published April 2, 2009

Ace Hotel - Portland
using player piano paper

The Ace has drawn attention to boring walls by using a material not usually associated with wallcoverings. The look is achieved by using common papers such as comics, sheet music, maps, blueprints, magazines cuttings, newspaper, paper doilies, or heavy foil. The more creative the better.

How to wallpaper with newspaper and other stuff.

* glossy polymer medium
* sponge brush
* scissors
* your selection of magazines, newspapers, or other ephemera
* (optional) glossy water based polyurethane (clear or tinted)
* paintbrush

The polyurethane can be omitted. However, it gives a protective glossy coating. **If you do decide to use polyurethane make sure it's water based or it will smear and run the print. Also, the picture from the other side will show through.

The polymer medium can be used as an under coat and as a final coat.

magazine pages
1. Cut the strips of paper you want to use and turn them face down on a work surface.
2. Apply polymer medium with a sponge brush to the surface. Do only a small section because it dries quickly.
3. Place the strips of paper on the wet surface and press down.
4. Coat it lightly with the medium; if foam forms on the paper it will not dry clear.
5. Continue to cover the surface this way, overlap the edges and corners as you continue to make the collage.


6. Rinse the sponge brush thoroughly so you can reuse it at another time.
7. Once both sides have a coating of the polymer medium applied to them they are sealed and regular water based polyurethane varnish can be applied on top. The polymer medium is used as a gluing agent as well as a sealer for the paper.
8. (optional) With a paint brush, coat all surfaces with glossy water based polyurethane. This gives the paper a hard protective finish. It takes 24 hours to dry and must be painted on evenly in one direction.


9. If you decided to omit the polyurethane finish the surface will require several coats of polymer medium to give it a final finish. This dries within fifteen to twenty minutes. The finish will not be as smooth as the polyurethane and will turn white if anything wet touches it for a prolonged period of time. Other than that the finish is extremely durable.

Here is a dresser I did using the same technique:

Tilley making sure the table is sturdy.

We grabbed this trashed side table, raided the free newspapers, picked up some sponge brushes at the dollar store and invested in some polymer medium at our favourite art store. Total cost $14.50.

stacy reynaud

Good things come to those who wait

Remember my outing to the junkyard a few weekends ago? I'd mentioned a little number we picked up that was much cooler to use as a table top than an old door. Well yes, Mr. Junkyard Dog I will take that old lucite and alabaster countertop off your hands.

After a trip to Rona for some concrete blocks and jaunt to Opus for some Montana Gold chrome spray paint, voilà - new patio table!

Home Sense still might have a chance with me if they have these Morrocan lanternsleft.

The most irritating thing I read last weekend,

"Our culture has become obsessed with everything being available in one place, but carrying my straw basket around to neighborhood specialty shops is essential to entertaining." says Morrell, who is known to work the kitchen in a vintage Yves Saint Laurent top and polka-dot apron.

LaCava, S. 2011. Dinner at 8. The New York Times Style Magazine. May 1, 2011

Quote of the Week - Confidence

Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself.
Michel de Montaigne

check check one

Please come visit me on  Instagram , Facebook and  Etsy .  April 2016 - In French they say, 'Je suis fatigué'. Fatigué is a ...