Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that I am fascinated by the homes of artists in general, and those of New Orleans artists in particular. To me, artists are a very special breed of people: they are visually motivated, driven to express their often unique, but always sensitive inner motivations, and and all have distinct personal styles.
Artists tend to create surroundings for themselves which nurture their artistic souls as well as their highly tuned sense of the form ,color, composition and light; and this is very much the case with the studio and sanctuary of the very gifted artist, my friend, Raine Bedsole.
Located in the French Quarter, this Creole townhouse is truly a retreat where Raine goes to escape the day-to-day and to create her very personal works of art. It is a place that she finds at once peaceful and energizing. Filled with her own art as well as pieces by a wide array of other talented artists, this place is an architectural expression of the artist who created it and is inspired by it.(Notice the female figure between the two sets of french doors.)
Since it serves primarily as a studio and getaway, the Bedsole family actually lives in another house uptown, it is truly a distillation of those inspirations which live in this artist's soul. It is a place that honors both art and history, personal and universal.
Raine's father, Palmer Bedsole originally purchased the property as a vacation home to stay in when visiting New Orleans, and Raine used part of the downstairs as her studio. The house was very dear to both Raine and her father, and since he passed away two years ago, it has become even more important to her, since she feels that it is her connection to him.
On the mantle in her bedroom, Raine has created a memorial to her father where she has lovingly placed articles which remind her of him and keep him close. Old photos, things from his pockets, his college class ring, and most importantly his boots are composed by the artist's loving hands.
One central image which frequently occurs in Raine's work is an abstract female figure, sometimes on canvas or wood, and sometimes as a free-standing cut-out, as seen in the picture above.
This figure, sometimes autobiographic, always iconic, appears frequently throughout this house. I love this because it says, in a very subtle but inviting way that the artist, her soul and her personality really inhabit this space on both a real and spiritual level.
In the picture below, Raine addresses the blue and white tiles surrounding the fireplace with a collection of blue and white china and uses some white bowls to accentuate the her white boat sculpture in the center of the bottom shelf. Notice the female figure on the stairway, blue and white stripes on top, yellow and white on bottom which draws it into the composition of the room and simultaneously gives an invitation to go up the stairs.
The beautiful french chair with the handpainted seat is from my shop, and in my opinion, looks wonderful in this room.
In the article in Louisiana Homes and Gardens from which these pictures were taken, Raine describes her approach to decorating this space, "There is more artwork than furniture. The art is more important to me. I have the absolute necessities, but I like them to reflect the time frame of the house." The above photo shows Raine's gift for composition: a piece by New Orleans artist Jeff Cook is accompanied by a framed piece and one of Raine's own boat sculptures.
This house and its tropical ancient setting are evocative of the themes prevalent in Raine's artwork: the passage of time and one's journey through it, the relics of history which survive the procession of time, the force and serenity of nature. Raine's words, "It's such an oasis, here in the middle of this crazy French Quarter. It is peaceful and quiet. The courtyard is so serene and secluded. I like the energy in the French Quarter, the unexpected nature of every day there. It's like living in a hallucination, the way history lives in the texture of the buildings."
Raine's artwork, in my opinion, is most always about a journey. Her female figures always seem like they are passing through something, either time or space or both.
Though the composition of these paintings are deceptively simple, their execution is exquisitely complex. In most cases, the artist layers or collages old photos, documents, antique letters and natural materials such as twigs or leaves onto her paintings.
This recurring female figure is to me, the definition of woman. The figure is at once strong and delicate. Timeless and in the now. Created from and a creature of nature. Mysterious and specific. On life's journey.
Approaching and approachable. A stoic creature of delicate beauty.
In many ways, Raine's paintings of the female figure seem like depictions of "living in a hallucination," much as she describes life in the French Quarter. Each piece is layered with color, texture and historical reference, and in most cases she uses colors and elements from nature.
I love this piece, simply entitled "Twig Figure," in its expression of the mother. The female, constructed of twigs, superimposed over a composition of children's drawings and schoolwork speaks volumes on the progression of time that every mother feels as her children grow up.
The boat is another form Raine utilizes to express the passage of time and the delicate nature of life. Here she is with some of her amazing boats.
For Raine, her boats are symbols of transcendence. She says they reflect personal journeys.
Made of delicate materials such as twigs, paper, fragments of nature or found objects; they are meant to hover in the air rather than float on the water.
These boats are the opposite of what a boat is known to be. Delicate, ethereal,consisting of layers of materials: old text, netting, paper, they are unmistakably made for journeys of the soul, the mind, the spirit, and not through the water. These boats many of them the size of actual boats, are intended to fly through time, through history, through experiences.
These boats are symbols for transformation, and like boats of Egyptian myth, they are meant to bring the soul from this world into the next.
And now, in a life in which we have experienced Hurricane Katrina, the symbolic boat is even more powerful. Boats hanging in the air are now reminiscent of boats left hanging in trees following the flood waters' recession. Literally, we have been transformed from one way of life to the next.
For the first Prospect 1 citywide celebration of art addressing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Raine Bedsole created a piece called "Remembering Boat."
Conceived of by Raine and fabricated by Jack Kelleher, this boat is an open steel frame which floats above the water. The words of a poem by Tony Fitzpatrick have been cut into the steel slats. The poem reads:
water has nothing to do with luck
and everything to do with chance
water is the music of consequence
the water is hungry… the water wants
Though Raine has used the boat form in her work long before the storm, her themes of the delicate nature of life and transcendence were almost prescient of things to come. Her boats, powerful at their conception, speak volumes about the ephemeral quality of life in a city where the forces of nature make even the strongest structures seem flimsy and where the water is apt to come rushing in at any time.
We are now a city living a life on the other side. Like spiritual passengers these delicate boats, we are trancendent. We are now and forever will be "since the storm."
In addition to the Prospect 1 installation, Raine's also exhibits her work at Gallery Bienvenu, and she has an upcoming show this May, and if I were you, I wouldn't miss it.
I am the owner of Julie Neill Designs in New Orleans where we create beautiful custom lighting. This blog is my love letter to the unique people, places and happenings which make New Orleans the amazing place it is.
Please visit my website to learn more about my lighting and our fabulous shop on Magazine Street.
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