Thursday, May 10, 2018

... then the Burlington Rooms

















The Stewart Gallery is jammed to the brim with every imaginable item on the planet. 
And Art. 
A tired, old dropped ceiling stretches over a 1960's striped use-to-be-shag carpet, and several pieces of Goodwill furniture line the room on the main floor. 
Smells emanate from another time-weary & distant. 
Florals mix with plaids, mix with more florals with a good dose of faux leather and folding chairs. 
NPR drifts out from some piece of radio art: dozens of battered discarded boom boxes and radios of every size are creeping out of a silver trash can. 
Dave's shadow boxes are everywhere--church alter bits & pieces paired with Camel cigarette boxes, cut-outs of 40's pin-up girls and used cigars. 
Brilliant landscape photos of Nebraska are interspersed alongside bold primary oils of....
Women. 
Women on the street, women at bars & coffee shops, women mingling together.
Women in various shades of undress. 
Short black hair & blond hair mostly interspersed with a smattering of redheads. Short skirts revealing pastel panties. Nipples peak from open necklines and occasionally a small Jack Russell pokes about in them somewhere. 
Dave's speciality, Dave's love--is Women. 
The way a student loves his teachers, the way a pastor loves his congregation. It is an observant love; smooth, easy studied and directional. Strangely not creepy. His mind constantly working the medium; acrylics, pastels air-brushed, #2s, mixed media. 
Clarity is gained as we travel thru the gallery. This was my 5th time at Dave's I think. 
Not always open. 
Nor are the upstairs rooms always ready for guests, but tonight 
the red light is on. 
You angle up the building in a series of stairs and landings. The carpet underfoot well-trodden constantly changing from one color to another. 
All the while--Art.
A massive oil depicting a buxom women lounging on a black sofa with a cat crawling across her hefty thigh, across from a huge canvas upon which various symbols weave together. The walls covered. Not figuratively, literally. 
it's almost to much to take in.
On the first landing--a surprise. 
A chair of mine sits next to a table with vintage playboys. This chair was supposed to be a project of Angela's and mine, but we lost interest and I told her to find it a good home. Here it resides.
I got in trouble for carving the name "Wood" in that chair when I was 16. Funny.
Two more flights of stairs take us thru Dave's office where cigar smoke lies thick and lovely. Some of my favorite art is in this room: beautiful art boxes with windows to other worlds, tribal masks, a new large oil of a naked women in a sweeping red hat adorns an entire wall.
You walk outside--crossing a small black railed bridge to an open door, 40's jazz emanates from within & low lights welcome. 
Walking into the first room, there is small black bar on your left with tiny lights lining the top, behind which a negligee'd mannequin offers her hand. Various bottles of booze & wine litter the end of the bar. Illumination from numerous glowing art pieces pop about this diminutive room. Some quite odd & nonsensical, others bawdy. Along the right wall is this fantastic surreal canvas, 4' by 4'--a recreation Dave has done of Pieter Brugel's Dutch Proverbs: a village of naked women reside here in gold & brown. Dave painted this years ago, and somewhere in this metamorphosis of a brothel, there is list of them all. 
(if your very drunk, it is riotous fun to see how many you can find)
You step into a parlor on your right and the lights are a bit brighter here, where some 60 black & white nudes adorn the walls where a scattering of unmatched pieces of furniture stand at attention. Above the door is a small sign, 'serving those who serve those who serve'. 
Next to each sofa are dave's notebooks, where he has taken vintage penthouse & playboys reassembling them into political-comments & commercial parodies cutting & pasting--collaging volumes. 
The room is relaxing, again one smells the lingering cigar here and impatience.
An ashtray you would find in your grandpa's house sits there on the broken wooden coffee table with a cigarette lying there anticipating the unknown. 
Across the room from an old brocade sofa, is a sink, for washing prior to one's visit.  The entrance to the rooms lies straight ahead appearing as a tunnel of scarlet softly glowing like a slow beating heart.
You walk thru the narrow door-frame into a branched hallway--small & tight. You have 4 directions to explore. Then you stop, realizing the hallway itself is a room. Painted a deep red, it is shrouded portraits of women: gorgeous & enchanting--some pastel with air-brushed perfection, some in harsh detail yet winsome & bewitching. Never will I convey the sheer extent of the Art itself. Staggering. 
A sharp left takes you into the bathroom--a naked mannequin stands behind the beige & pink shower curtain, holding out her red lace panties to you. Rubber wellingtons stand at the sink, as if some soldier just vaporized back to Normandy leaving a sprig of daisies poking out the top. There are remnants of life everywhere: tooth paste, again from another time, glasses and various sundries. 
Art conceals the wall: oils & charcoals predominately. Most of the women are complacent & poised, some convey more than a hint of lingering sadness...lending an aesthetic of allure & forgotten glamour. 
Heading out of the bathroom, straight ahead is a dressing room, or the 'undressing room' as a small dangling sign reads. A clothing rack hold numerous vintage clothing options for your standard lady of the night: gowns, robes, dresses with a dresser holding powder puffs and jewelry scattered about with some small measure of design & organization. Placed exactly where Dave wants them, yet inviting play. 
Stepping out of that space further down the hall to the right are two bedrooms.
In the left one an ugly table lamp blazes red from below a street window--Edith Piaf plays from the antique record player. A small half-made twin bed cuddles into the corner, bedding turned down. Around the room lies neglected treasures from a life: purse's, cigarette cases, jewelry and makeup--lots of makeup,
open and used. That's what it smells like in this room--makeup. A past.
There is old floral wallpaper drifting from the chunks of plaster enabling the Art to rule the room. More of the same--overwhelming.
Women posed on concrete pillars, women laying on beds--the colors though all different astoundingly blend and swirl together creating a feeling of warmth and entombed desire.
The last bedroom is distinguished by the Raggedy Ann doll on the full sized bed. A clean quilt covers the bed, over which women look down from their various frames, some gilt, some bleached wood, scratched & re-used re-invented to create this life-sized shadow box of a brothel. Browns dominate this room, shades, tints and textures in the canvases. The smooth floral carpet underfoot has an almost Hollywood elegance to it, and then you notice how worn it is how thin & delicate.
It's hard to leave. Withdrawing one just keeps contemplating--observing almost expecting one of these masterly created women of pencil & oil to turn her chic expression and watch you 
... trying to entice you back
to linger & admire them once again--these goddesses from another time.
Thin, thick, bold or faded--they seem to celebrate companionship
and they take delight in your gaze. 
Anticipating the next visit to the Burlington Rooms.




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