Friday, October 12, 2012


Hundreds of participating artists throw open their doors to the public during the Open Studios Art Tour. Beth Allison Gripenstraw throws a party—and you're invited!

This copiously creative ceramicist, watercolor painter and jewelry-maker doesn't just spruce up her workspace for OS; she creates an entire alternative universe that visitors are happy to get lost in.  Every year at OS, her Westside house on Towne Terrace (off Mission) gets a makeover into some fantastic new environment.  Two years ago, it was Alice's Wonderland. Last year, Beth staged an African safari, a trip she never took in real life, but imagined and recreated in a series of bold, fanciful paintings and animal print ceramic vessels and tableware.

 This year, we're off to Paris to commune with the Bohemian art scene, ca 1920. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview this week, and if you loved Midnight In Paris, you'll want to put Beth at the top of your OS to-do list this weekend.

The centerpiece is the transformation of her dining room into the Lapin Agile, the Montmartre cabaret where Picasso and his buddies hung out to smoke, drink, and argue about the meaning of art. And guess what—they're all still here!
Enlarging black-and-white photos on the computer, and with incredible attention to the details of vintage clothing and accessories, Beth recreates a dinner party for eight renowned artists. You'll see Frida Kahlo in her embroidered Mexican blouse, beads, and coronet of flowers, and Picasso peering out dubiously from beneath his beret.
Paul Gauguin arrives straight from the islands, in tropical whites, and sporting a lei, while Diego Rivera unbuttons his tailored waistcoat over his impressive girth.
Vincent Van Gogh wears his straw painting hat and a faraway look in his eyes. And I love Salvador Dali's dashing white silk aviator's scarf and old school tie.

Modigliani and Claude Monet are also in attendance, along with famed artist's model Kiki lounging on the banquette in back. Sure, not all these artists were alive at the same time in real life, but that's what artistic license is all about!

In addition to the period glassware, vintage cigarette packs, ashtrays, and cutlery with which Beth festoons the table, she's created plates, bowls, and saucers inspired by each artist's work. (Here's a dinner plate featuring her take on a Frida self-portrait.) I also love Beth's version of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

To get you more in the mood, old black-and-white silent films will play on a nearby screen while an old record player will spin Edith Piaf and other French cabaret music. Oh, and did I mention there will be an absinthe bar in the corner?

And this is just one room. Beth promises a French bistro with wine and cheese on the balcony, a French farm market in the driveway, and an artist's atelier adjoining the dining room, complete with easel and model's couch, where various ceramic wares and jewelry will be on sale.

Meanwhile, her living room gallery space will display Beth's big, fun, colorful paintings of travels real and imagined: to Mexico, Hawaii, France, and Africa.

Beth is # 228 in your OS Guide. She'll only be open this weekend, so don't you dare miss her! Check out her website to see what she's been up to lately, and I'll see you there.

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