Growing up our house seemed to evolve as a living, inhabited art project. Paintings and drawings were everywhere and the few blank areas left on the walls were used for experimentation in faux finishes and illusion. For a brief period dad worked on set design at the school where he taught art and architecture. I remember him bringing home pieces of the set the theater production was no longer using. He was really excited about giving these items a second life as well as providing things that would make the house nicer. We did not have a fireplace which he really wanted so instead he put in a mantle and fire screen. We didn’t have a hall table so he installed a French bistro table and chair. This really struck me as an exotic luxury until I realized it was only half a chair and table affixed to the wall with a painted coffee cup behind it, and for some reason this installation had a very brief life, maybe because we all tried to sit in in it or mom bumped into it too many times.
In the dining room dad created the illusion of a bricks on the chimney by using modeling paste and many shades of red oil paint to make it look real. He hung a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt his favorite president, which also had a fake wall in it with ephemera painted around the portrait. He worked on the bricks for years, adding small changes, painting in faux cracks and the look of wear and tear. But at one point he was done with it and just a few weeks later decided to put wood paneling over the whole thing. He did leave some tromp l ’oil nails sticking in the walls with very realistic looking shadows. These exasperated my mother who was forever trying to make things presentable and went around trying to pull them out and discovering, ha! They were fake.
My favorite art installation would have to be the mural dad painted on the living room wall. It started out as a simple landscape and every weekend dad painted more, making it larger and larger until it filled the entire wall floor to ceiling. I was allowed to paint a few tree roots and some small bugs as long as they remained hidden behind the furniture. At one point he dragged in a telephone pole off the street and placed it in front of the painting, as if it had grown right through the carpet. This project also lasted a few years and grew to eventually having curtains and French windows painted over the top of it. Finally it was time to paint the room and now just this small section remains.
Here is a section of the brick wall with ol' Teddy.