I am like that mother … the one who loves that face no one else does … Take the decorative garden items above. Each features at least one singular-odd-weird face, and I love them all. I know not everyone would like to be around such faces; most people like pretty. But, I like aesthetic challenges and I really like imperfect, so I had to have them and now they belong to me. From the top: A tiny coppery ‘mood’ pot from the flea market sports this fiendish pout on one side, a placid stare on the other; lower right: on its side, a cast concrete face given to me by fellow jardiniere, Dustin Gimbel, displays a death mask-like calm (the measuring tape is currently its hanger); at left and below: the square vessel is a hanging planter. It, and the cylindrical one shown in 3 panels beneath, were acquired Sunday after being spotted on craigslist. The listing titled “Bizarre Faces, Stoneware Planters”, showed pics of earthenware planters, with male faces in a kind of smooshy, uncomfortable, and forced interaction … a slightly bluish glaze added to their claustrophobic attitude. Who created them and why? I didn’t have the answers but I wanted these planters. I loved ’em!
Numerous email negotiations with the seller (over price and delivery) ensued and a tentative plan was broached for a midweek hand-off … Sunday morning, Paul surprised me and suggested we get the planters; he’d been thinking about them, too. I explained that I’d already set up a plan … but, if he wanted to travel to where the seller lived (Sunland, an hour-plus away), I was game. He was, so I sent the seller an email; nothing … Imagining that his lack of email response was due to his being mid-transaction with someone undercutting my acquisition, I suggested to Paul that we just go there and knock on his door. (Note: I didn’t have the seller’s phone number; his address, I got out of Monsieur Google, using his name and city … ) Anyway, we set out, arrived, found the seller’s house, and after calling out his name from the street (see, he still hadn’t responded to the email and we couldn’t get into the gate), he emerged, and I was invited in to see the planters. Loved them — even better than the pictures … a quick trip the ATM to settle-up, and the planters were mine!
Arriving back in Riverside, I had to find plants to fill my new planters, and succulents were the obvious choice. For the cylinder I chose colorful examples in contrasting/complementary tones: a round-leafed, yellow crassula edged with red; a dramatic echeveria atropurpurea in olive and burgundy. Both look amazingly dramatic in the pot and will only look more so, as they grow and become larger.
For the wall-hung planter I chose something with a more tree-like effect: Crassula argenta‘s coral-like shape looks terrific branching out above the compacted trio. Seeing the succulents inside the planters defuses the strangeness of the faces and, to me, makes them more beautiful. The seller told me he’d bought the planters two years previous at an estate sale in Pasadena and their owner had worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab … but, that was all he knew. He thought maybe they were the work of a known artist but didn’t have a name. I told him they reminded me of the work of the California Funk artist, Robert Arneson. In the ’60s and ’70s, Arneson was a leader in the colorfully irreverent movement in art and sculpture, and he specialized in numerous self-deprecating and humorous self-portraits (click here for Arneson’s planter self-portrait and more information) … Having done some research, I’ve decided they’re probably not Arneson pieces … but, that doesn’t detract any of their appeal for me. Like that mother who loves that face, my love for these — and all my strange faces — is unconditional.