Monthly Archives: January 2014


Sounding Sculpture

If you’ve ever been to the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, CA you may have passed by a tall bronze sculpture in a large grassy field along the pathway to the conservatory. I’ve always been mesmerized by this sculpture – how the higher than high bronze rods move so gracefully with any subtle breeze and with a big enough gust of wind will bang into one another creating a beautifully rich sound. The lizards seem to love it too as they sunbathe on the sculptures’ base absorbing the heat and the vibrations. The last time I was there I learned a little more about it. I found out that the artist is Harry Bertoia, whose sculpture and furniture designs I have always loved, which explains why I was drawn to it on each visit.


“The 19­-foot tall bronze Sounding Sculpture was made in the 1970s by designer and sculptor Harry Bertoia (1915-­1978). It consists of a delicate, airy tower formed by a tall cluster of 16 thin beryllium­-copper rods crowned with bronze “cat-tail” tops. When blown by the wind, the sculpture emanates mysterious, harmonic tones that combine softly with the natural sounds of birdsong and rustling leaves on The Huntington’s grounds.” Source: Huntington Gardens Website


Dandelion ca. 1965


Sunburst, ca. 1960. Welded copper and brass, diameter: 15 1/4 in. (38.7 cm)


Spray Sculpture, ca. 1960 bush

Bush, ca. 1960


Dandelion detail, ca. 1960-1965

What I’ve known to be the signature sculptures of Bertoia are works like his sunbursts, sprays, dandelions, and bushes (shown above) but with one click of a google search I now see that his sonambient sculptures were an important part of his  body of work.

From the official Harry Bertoia website:
“Bertoia recalled how, as a child, he wished there was a musical instrument that anyone could play instantly. His father and brother were musically inclined and played the accordion. Arieto would tap his foot, not owning the same talent. Later when a group of Hungarian gypsies came through his village in northern Italy, they banged on pots and pans with a rhythmical beat. These vibrations left an impression deep inside young Arieto.

As an adult, Bertoia never stopped experimenting with, playing, and enjoying his art. The tall tonal wire pieces came about when he was bending a single heavy wire and it met another piece and made a wonderful sound. It provoked wonder as to what two or three or twenty rods might sound like. Thus began the adventure down the path of “Sonambient” or the environment created by sounding sculptures. He never made the same piece twice, always seeking a different or richer sound with varying size rods. Thousands of sounding sculptures from 6” to 20’ are in high demand at auction houses.

After renovating the old estate barn, Bertoia collected about 100 sounding pieces, including gongs and “singing bars”, in the now acoustically excellent barn. He went to great lengths to set up just the right tonals in the ideal order, often substituting a new experimental sculpture for a previous selection. With technical help, he recorded eleven LP albums of “Sonambient”, which are haunting, mysterious, and at times church-like reverberations. The rods resound on each other, the bars give a Zen-like chime, and the gongs thunder in endlessly varying combinations. The barn remains intact with the sounding sculptures set up by Bertoia, where son Val gives concerts.”

Listen to Harry Bertoia’s son Val playing these sound sculptures in the video below, so stunning!

Visiting the Bertoia studio in Pennsylvania and hearing a private concert of these amazing Sounding Sculptures is now definitely on my bucket list! For more information on the life and art of Harry Bertoia, visit

My new goal is to collect all 11 LP records originally produced by Harry Bertoia as seen below but until then the audio CD version of the Sonambient albums will have to do.


bertoia1 hb_ac_3 bertoia-album1 bertoia-album2


Sources: Harry Bertoia, Huntington Library, Mutual Art1st Dibs, Wright20, i-italy

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Backdrop Beauty

Look beyond the starlet in each of the vintage publicity photos below and you will see beautifully hand painted art deco backdrops and amazingly abstract set decorations & props. Unknown and probably uncredited set decorators created these beautiful pieces of art that were used to simply enhance each photograph as opposed to using a plain white backdrop. They do seem to add a visual balance to the shots, in many creating the perfect frame for the star, but I think some of them actually outshine the actors in the foreground.

Publicity stills featuring the stars of the films of the day were standard in the first half of the 20th century. Studios used these stills to promote new films, sending them in press kits to television and magazine publishers & critics in hopes of getting free publicity. These posed portraits called “fashion stills,” were taken by studio photographers when the actors were in between takes and still in costume. The studios would paste a description of the actor, their costume, or the film to the back of the still. I have included those descriptions below each photo if I could find them.

Olive Borden for The Social Lion, (1930). Photo by Eugene Robert Richee.
“For the country club dance chiffon is the selection supreme. Olive Borden wears a frock of orange chiffon cut in graceful triangles.”

Jean-Arthur-fashion-portrait  Jean Arthur

jeanette-macdonald-fox-1930 Jeanette Macdonald, 1930
“The Basque suit has caught the fancy of the fashionable. Jeanette MacDonald, the film star, wears a three-piece suit of gray Elizabeth crepe, trimmed with platinum fox fur.”

josephine-dunn-fashion_1929 Josephine Dunn, 1929
“Crisp black taffeta fashions the frock worn by Josephine Dunn. The straight-line bodice is shirred in at the hiptop and gathered flounce is set at the fingertip length. A yoke is formed by rhinestones embroidery and a huge bow with streamers extending to the floor finishes the back.”

josephine-dunn-fur-1929 Josephine Dunn, 1929

marion-davies-silver-fox  Marion Davies
“This Jenny coat is of thin shimmering gold cloth with an interwoven design of blue and gold. Around the uneven hem is a narrow fringe of gold beads. It is collared in silver fox and worn by Miss Marion Davies.”

patritia-ellis-The-Narrow-Corner-1933  Patritia Ellis for The Narrow Corner, 1933
“Patricia Ellis features this smart ensemble in The Narrow Corner. The jacket is double breasted featuring a high collar and brass buttons. Both jacket and trousers are brown and so is the beret. The sport shoes white and brown.”

katharine-hepburn-fashion_opt  Katharine Hepburn

anne-shirley-1934  Anne Shirley, 1934

mitzi-gaynor Mitzi Gaynor

carmel-myers-flowered-silk-pajamas-1931  Carmel Myers, 1931
“Carmel Myers wears pajamas of flowered silk”

Adrienne-Dore-2 Adrienne Dore ca. 1932

Adrienne-Dore-1 Adrienne Dore ca. 1932

mary-brian-fashion-portrait  Mary Brian

Lili-damita-the-match-king-fashion-1932  Lili Damita for The Match King, 1932

natalie-wood-sex-and-the-single-girl-1964  Natalie Wood for Sex and the Single Girl, 1964

jean-arthur-gown-fashion_1929  Jean Arthur, 1929
“A shady question is settled by this hostess gown worn by Jean Arthur that starts at the shoulders with dazzling whiteness but graduates into pearly grays and dusty black, then terminates in white.”


Betty Compson, Photo by: International
“A Study in Lace! One of the most startling fashion creations of the year has just made its debute before the eve of the motion picture camera, which in turn, will enable the millions of movie fans thoughtout the world to gain first hand knowledge of beautiful Betty Compson in a new “all lace” attire.  Miss Compson is just completing her latest production, “The Noose” for the Paramount program.

carole-lombard-5 Carole Lombard

rita-johnson-fashion-1941  Rita Johnson, 1941

ruth-hall-fashion_opt  Ruth Hall
“Charming Ruth Hall wears a cleverly draped midnight blue velvet jacket wrap with very full tucked sleeves with her new fall silhouette evening gown of icy white satin.”

marian-nixon-fahion-1929  Marian Nixon, 1929

Lilyan-Tashman-2  Lilyan Tashman

Lilyan-Tashman  Lilyan Tashman

rosalind-russell-fashion-1942  Rosalind Russell, 1942

American film actress Rita Hayworth (1918 – 1987) dances against a backdrop formed by a large musical score in a publicity still from the 1944 film “Cover Girl”.


Ella Raines for The Web, 1947
“Persian brocade fashions this beautiful coat designed by Yvonne Wood for Ella Raines in The Web.The background of beige is exquisitely patterned in a wheat motif with pure gold embroidery and muted tones of red, blue and green. Wide beaver cuffs set off the sleeves and a matching blue scarf is worn at the neckline.”

ann-dvorak-fashion_opt  Ann Dvorak

anna-may-wong-fashion-1938  Anna May Wong, 1938

ellen-drew-fashion-1939  Ellen Drew, 1939

dorothy-lamour-sequin-fashion_1937  Dorothy Lamour, 1937
“Sequins are particularly suitable for this black evening gown worn by Dorothy Lamour. The slim, slinky lines of the gown plus the glittering black pailettes spell smartness and extreme sophistication. At top of the bodice an arrow of rhinestones serves as a highlight.”

jane-wyman-fashion_opt  Jane Wyman

kay-francis-1941-fashion_opt-1  Kay Francis, 1941

gloria-stuart-fashion-1934  Gloria Stuart, 1934

jean-harlow-fashion-iron-man-1931 Jean Harlow for Iron Man, 1931

jean-parker-fashion-hat_opt1933  Jean Parker, 1933

“Rumba crepe in smart wide-shoulder frock with period puff sleeves, brown taffeta tie. Worn with visor beret in stitched brown velvet by Jean Parker.”

simone-simon-josette-fashion-1938  Simone Simon, 1938
“Black and white is perenially smart says Simone Simon, who wears this suit of black wool with its accompanying blouse of white sheer cotton. Gloves of white stitched in black and a version of the popular sombrero tied under the chin complete the French star’s ensemble.”

Sources: Most of these fabulous images came from the collection found at A Certain Cinema by Sergio Leemann. Also, Salon of the Dames, Cinemactor,

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Giveaway / Pre-Launch Raffle

Have you entered our Pre-Launch Giveaway yet? We’re giving away jewelry from our debut collection to three randomly selected people to celebrate the launch of our new jewelry company! Simply go to our homepage at for details. It’s easy to enter…We’re not gonna make you write an essay or anything, that would be annoying. Just “like us” on our various social media platforms – the more you do, the more entries in the raffle you get; up to 7 entries per person. We’ll announce the winners the week of our launch (we’re aiming for mid February!) Also, if you join our mailing list, we will send you an exclusive discount code to use the week of our launch (It’s gonna be a good one!) Go, now, Q U I C K >>


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Inspired By: Monir

I have a bit of an obsession with mirrors. It’s not that I love to look at myself or anything, I just find that when there is a mirror in a room or in a photograph it adds another dimension. I guess reflections in general are quite magical, but there is something special about mirrors and the tricks they can play on your eye, especially if they have a unique shape and surface pattern or texture.

I recently stumbled upon the work of the amazing artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Born in 1924, Monir has had quite an amazing life. She was born in Iran and came to the United States in her early 20’s to study art at Cornell and then fashion illustration at Parsons in New York City. She was friends with the crème de la crème of the art scene of the time including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Andy Warhol.

She began as a painter and fashion illustrator but in 1957, upon return to Iran, she began experimenting with mosaics and painted mirrored glass reinventing the traditional Iranian craft of “Aneyneh Kari” in a contemporary way. Her aesthetic interweaves ancient Sufi geometric aesthetics and centuries-old Safavid- and Qajar-era decorative traditions with her western experiences. She has had exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Venice Biennale three times, 1958, 1966 and 2009. These abstract geometric mirrored works of art are simply stunning. Below are some of my favorite pieces from more current collections as well as some fabulous shots of her at work in her studio in the 1960’s & 1970’s.



Group I (Convertible Series), 2010, mirror, reverse-glass painting, and plaster on wood, dimensions variable according to a set variation of patterns (one shown)


Qazvin, 2006, mirror and plaster on wood, 43 1/3 in. x 43 1/3 in. x 1 1/5 in.


Hexagon (Waves), Mirror mosaic, h: 82 x w: 100 cm / h: 32.3 x w: 39.4 in


The Red Star, 2004 – Photo courtesy of the Artist and The Third Line


From Monir’s “Convertibles and Polygons” Collection


Convertable Series, 2010, Mosaic mirrors and plaster on wood, V10


Convertable Series, 2010, Mosaic mirrors and plaster on wood, V4


Convertable Series, 2010, Mosaic mirrors and plaster on wood, V4


The Two Circles, Mirror mosaic and reverse glass painting,
h: 100 x w: 160 cm / h: 39.4 x w: 63 in


Triangle, 2008, Mirror mosaic, diam: 100 cm


Installation View


Installation view. “Lightning for Neda” 2009


Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Lightening for Neda, 2009, Opening Crowds 10


Monir with her work, Tehran 1970s (Photos courtesy of The Third Line)


Monir Farmanfarmaian with her relief work, 1970s.
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist and The Third Line


At work creating ca. 1960s


on the left: Disco Ball, 2013 / on the right: ca. 1960s


Monir at Niavaran Cultural Center ca. 2006


2011 Art Book on Monir Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry, available via Amazon

Sources: Vogue, The Paris Review, ArtNet, 002mag, ArtTattler, Majalla, ArtSlant, Agenda Magazine, 21cblog

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Huh? Blaunched? You know, a la Brunch / Linner – Blaunch: Blog Launch. We have finally launched our (this!) blog! Are you with us? Did we lose you?

It’s been a long time coming and we aren’t hiding anymore! We are so excited (and terrified) to start blogging and sharing our inspiration with you. Welcome and we hope you’ll stay, read, and discuss with us and most of all be inspired!


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Strike A Pose

Wrapping up the week with some inspirational Glamour Girls from my Vintage Photography Pinterest board. Each of these stunners sure knows how to work the camera. Wow, simply, Wow. Enjoy.


carol-lombard Carole Lombard with Amazing Triangle Mirror

sophialoren Sophia Loren – 1950s

joancrawford Joan Crawford

Julie-Newmar-1962-by-Bert-Stern Julie Newmar 1962 by Bert Stern

Greta-Garbo-for-MATA-HARI-1931 Greta Garbo in Mata Hari 1931

theda-bara-cleopatra Theda Bara as Cleopatra

60s 1960s

Harpers-Bazaar-1956-Lillian-Bassman From Harper’s Bazaar, 1956. Photo by: Lillian Bassman

Jean-Jacques-Bugat-1960 Photo by: Jean Jacques Bugat, 1960

raquel-welsh-1973 Raquel Welsh, 1973

Jean-Seberg-1959 Jean Seberg, 1959

tippi-hedren Tippi Hedren, The Birds 1963

Myrna-Loy-THE-MASK-OF-FU-MANCHU-1932 Myrna Loy in The Mask of Fu Manchu, 1932

mask Masquerade

Louise-Dahl-Wolfe-Harpers-Bazaar-1949 Harper’s Bazaar, 1949. Photo by: Louise Dahl Wolfe

miriam-hopkins Miriam Hopkins

I mean, come on. Amazing right? If I HAD to pick one favorite, it would be the Carole Lombard photo, with the Joan Crawford pic following real close behind. Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below. And if you are on Pinterest, follow Primitive Modernism here!

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