Backstory

This website is an extrapolation (and something of a “deconstruction”) of a catalogue produced on the occasion of an exhibition by Clarke Bedford at Hillyer Art Center, Washington, DC, in 2010. That exhibition, “Wundergarten: Sa(l)vaging the Family Archive”, was curated by Laura Roulet (the words therein are hers) and designed by Eva Gonzalez for International Arts and Artists’ Design Studio. In the intervening years a lot has happened, especially the making of Vanadu Art House and several art cars (some “died”, victims of rust mostly). I have to thank Ana Pana whose skills have made this reorganization possible.

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Vanadu Art House is so called after the 1988 Ford Econoline Hi-top conversion van “Vanadu”. That name is, of course, a variant of “Xanadu”, the mythical palace of Kubla Khan as described in the poem by Samuel Coleridge, and later the name of the mansion owned by Charles Foster Kane in the film “Citizen Kane”. Alas, it also showed up as the title of a movie musical…please forget that. Previous names of this art house have been “Contempo By The Lake” from a sign found in a thrift store and “As-sem-blage Co-ttage”. The house was built in 1918. I started to transform it in 2005. CB 

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VANADU

My Vanadu, Kubic Ekonoline Kan

With auto ornament filigree:

Down the sacred interstate ran

Gainst head winds measureless to man

Burns golden gas as though for free.

And not to forget the engine rod that Threw

This moving mass, this pleasure dome,

Too poor for cantaloupe or honey-dew

And milk of Paradise must eschew

To maintain this boxy home.

A. Clarke Bedford

(With apologies to S. T. Coleridge)

All photographs are darkroom created silver-gelatin prints, that is, they are pre-digital. Some started as “fool-the-eye” collages, but most involve set-ups or models, figures in costumes or props, and depend on illusion thru printing techniques including the use of glassine in mimicry of early 20th century Photo-Secessionist style. Many are sepia toned, often used inconsistently to approximate fading and aging. 

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A note from Ana Pana:

When Clarke asked me to make this website I was hesitant to start. I don't consider myself as a confident web developer, as you could probably already notice. But once I made the home page and started digging the Internet for the initial content, the whole new world about Clarke Bedford started to open for me.

I consider meeting Clarke as a Destiny Gift (yes, I believe in existentialism). Since the very first moment I met him, I had an impression that I've known him forever. At that time I was right after divorce, trying to re-build my life from scratch. One day I decided to ride my bike around the neighborhood I recently moved to. I thought it would be a good goal to ride to the place where I was going to have marshal arts workshop next week. When I was approaching the right place I saw the car... Then I saw another one. Then I saw the house! I stopped with my mouth open. I couldn't believe that on the boring street I could see such a thing! I took out my phone to take a picture for my mom and her partner Pasha. At that moment Clarke showed up on his porch. "You can also come inside, there's more stuff", he said. I looked at him trying to figure out if he's a sexual maniac or something. I thought to myself: well, if this guy traps me in his basement, he probably won't be able to remain unnoticed. I decided to follow his advice. Oh my, inside the house was crazy! I looked around while keeping small talk with Clarke. I told him, that all I see seems like an escape from his problems. I thought he would be angry, but he said "Of course it is!" and he smiled. At that moment I realized how easy it is talking to him. I told him that next week I will have a workshop in the house in front of his and after it will be done I will visit him for some tea. It seemed that he didn't believe me, because once I showed up in a week with some tea, he was surprised. Since then he entered into my life.

He remains a very important person to me; I value his unordinary personality and spirit. He was very engaged in the process making this website and I got to know so much more about his past artistic life. I really hope that after visiting this website you'll jump in your car and drive to Hyattsville's Nicholson lane to see Clarke's work in person and say hi to him. He loves meeting people and listen to their life experiences and stories. Definitely walk around and look inside the house if he invites you to do so! That's all, I am done talking. Below you'll find a bunch of the reviews about the Vanadu Art House. Enjoy!

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