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When decor is up for debate

In early January, my guest room got repainted with a cream ceiling and palest ashes-of-roses walls. But at my house, the post-repaint luminosity and the new gate latch goes unnoticed. People are too busy reliably flipping out about three or four decor elements.

At the end of the day, the details of our homes are there for us, not for our visitors. The things we love give us daily pleasure when we live amongst them, just as the spin of a Tibetan prayer wheel generates good energy. “Your apartment, it’s like your skin,” a friend of mine once said. And just as we are encouraged to care for yet reclaim our own bodies, we should feel equally comfortable doing whatever we want with the spaces we live in. Whether that’s the right wall color, a coffee table balanced on an engine, or the Victorian taxidermy turtle dish placed just so.

Taxidermy

Taxidermy is one of my long-term fascinations. In my living room, there are two pieces of taxidermy: an assemblage of birds and a red deer fawn, known as the “Fawn of Satan” due to its evil, knowing expression. Small children go right up to the fawn, begging to pet it. Adults get stuck examining the birds. Revulsion, fascination, and questions of legality come up. A tastemaker I know declared, “Two pieces of taxidermy is all right. Any more is creepy.” If I ever find one of those Victorian turtle dishes at the right time, I’m afraid the room will officially become creepy. You may find it so already…

If you put flowers next to the taxidermy, it's less evil

The birds are all, I was told, Australian interlopers to NZPoignantly, people didn’t pay half as much attention to the taxidermy when my cat was alive. Living nature trumps the dead. But when it comes to human attention, even dead, preserved nature trumps the 8 pictures and two shelves of bizarre objects that are also in this room. Evolutionary psychology in action.

After a visit to my house, if somebody likes me, they forward me taxidermy links forevermore. Keep ’em coming, my lovelies, especially to sites like Ravishing Beasts. And just as Bon Bon Rocher receives boudoir-themed gifts, I get “mad naturalist” ones. Stingray spines, boxes of shells, souvenirs from the La Brea Tar Pits museum, Neil Pardington’s Vault exhibit catalog for my birthday, to my delight. Last year a friend of mine gave me this carefully preserved weta, which I have placed temporarily in this bell jar, like the treasure it is.

The bell jar used to have a clock in it. I'm working on the base.

Nude Photos

Are nude or pin-up photos ever tasteful? Are they tasteful when they’re nudes of yourself, of your lover, or of a stranger or friend? What about full-color baroque-frame pin-ups compared to artsy black and white? There’s a huge discussion on the topic here at Metafilter. For the time being, I’ve applied the “Rule of Two” to the nude photos…even though a third one is framed up.

Do you notice the subtle warmth imparted by the slightly rose-hued wall? Or are you all OMG NAKED PHOTOS?

If you are worried about children seeing your nude/pin-up photos, there’s an easy solution. Just put some taxidermy in the same room, closer to a child’s eye level. Your nude photos are now invisible to anyone who hasn’t reached puberty!

Dan McCarthy Print

Poster art and screenprints are another of my long-term loves, and lots of my visitors share the love for this Dan McCarthy print. Which surprises and delights me. I never knew so many people shared my taste for skeletons, bees, and dinosaur skeletons, combined into a gracious statement on environmental decay and extinction. I got this for $30 online when it first came out.

Dan McCarthy print, "Shared Memory: Pollinators", 2008

There are two testaments to this print’s power: the many discussions about bee colony collapse we’ve had at my dining table, and the fact that nobody has ever commented on the fact that the room that has this print is missing its skirting boards/baseboards.

Since Dan McCarthy made this print, his art has gone in a completely different direction – his web site is here, but a lot of his earlier prints can be found through third-party sellers.

Some day I’ll do a post on my retro kitchen, but that’s another story…

4 Comments

  1. If any more than two is creepy, they’d better not come to my place! One on every surface (and plenty of extra surfaces created to accommodate even more).
    I find people’s revulsion very confusing.

    Reply

  2. I still love the Dan McCarthy.

    I rather wonder now, though, whether people ever worry about their children seeing the paintings in my living room. If they worry about tasteful nude photos, what does a headless woman’s body dripping with blood, a man’s torso that turns into a cave, and a weta hiding in the cave do to them?

    Or the lovely ink sketches of the old naked guy?

    I’ve never had a child comment on either, or even thought about this as an issue before.

    Reply

    • Now I really, truly want to come over to your house! Go, you! If I was a child visiting your house, I’d be all “That’s SO COOL!” Ahem.

      I was raised in a house with strange art. Roald Searle prints of gunfights, a gloomy Dali, several abstract pieces, an angular 80s modernist wall mural, and, just to cap it all off, three Victorian ancestor portraits. Being raised with such pieces, I grew up with an appreciation of them, and of more unusual forms of art and beauty in general. I was also a little proud of being able to freak my friends out.

      So I’m persistently surprised and delighted by the love for my Dan McCarthy – it shows our ideas of art and beauty are wider than the standard canon of “shabby chic”, Cute Owl Prints, and dull abstracts would have it be.

      Reply

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