The Cremastered Home
WORDS BY J. CLAIBORNE BOWDON
Inspiration can come from anywhere, but who could have guessed that some of the most significant design trends of today would be presaged in an epic and difficult work of art? “The Cremaster Cycle,” a series of five separate, distinct vignettes created by the artist Matthew Barney, is a combination of disciplines and ideas that’s almost beyond description. Pastels, flower arrangements, Baroque design, deformities, Vaseline, and blood mix with a repulsive appeal in a celebratory satire of the figuratively castrated modern man. The ram, a potent symbol of male virility from depictions of Dionysus/Bacchus to Robert Rauschenberg’s “Monogram,” is played by Barney as a dandyish fop with its distinctive horns, used as weapons to establish dominance, reduced to small ringlets in his obsessively combed hair. Futile displays of masculine energy are a hallmark of Barney’s work, so it comes as no surprise that several focal points have found their way to the forefront of interior design as quick additions that can instantly give your place more nuance.
• Lucite: Useful in its dual purpose of being absent and drawing attention to that absence, it can extend a lightness and contemporary feel to any decor as it simultaneously anchors an area. It allows a freedom of choice that you can’t find with other materials: like the chunky proportions and decorative lines of Louis XIV furniture? But you’re worried that it’ll ruin the vibe of the ascetic, minimalist thing you were going for? You can have it all with its ghostly twin.
• Animal remains: Whether it’s cowhide or sheepskin rugs, the dried out vestiges of sea life, or the skulls of horned animals these are the accent pieces that have most preoccupied the decorator set. No home seems to be complete without some form of faunal memento mori. In fact, there was a young couple that took part in a redecorating on a budget project with the New York Times that loved everything that had been done, except the cattle skull that had appeared above the TV. They felt it had nothing to do with everything else, and they were right. It had everything to do with it being a go-to accessory of right now. The almost-as-ubiquitous rugs are probably the best option to go with to satisfy this category without being as in your, or your guest’s, face. They add a lot of character, texture, and just enough of a sinister whiff to give your place some swagger.
• Flowers: If you’ve adopted option two, then why not balance out something dead with something living? “Because they’ll end up dead.” Fair enough, but no reason to deny yourself such an attractive and affordable option. Plants, flowering or non-flowering, add freshness and color to the most drab or cold interiors. Most can survive and even thrive if you simply fill your sink with an inch of water (provided the pot has a holes in the bottom) for thirty minutes twice a week. Otherwise just water from the top. The rest of the time you can leave it on the sink in the bathroom when you take a shower so it can get some humidity, and then set it by a window so it can get some sun. Get something sculptural like an orchid or a bromeliad to really raise the bar.
What does embracing these things look like? Et voila.