The skeletal story behind our arts season preview photo shoot
It was through a bit of GRACE and a few bony limbs and ribs that longtime Straight photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward was able to shoot his portraits of our "Ones to Watch" in this week's Fall Arts Preview.
GRACE, on Maple Street, is the artfully appointed studio run by Wendy Williams-Watt, perhaps best known for her one-time store Liberty and these days a sought-after interior designer and collector of oddities and all things eye-pleasing. As Wendy put it in a note to the Straight: "GRACE is the equivalent to a painters studio, only, I do not paint. I collect old things, new things, things from Japan, things that people abandoned for a modern upgrade…I stack trunks to the ceiling, inflate six foot white balls that read LOVE only to let them roll freely in and out of rustic urban adirondacks, mondo sculptures of naked ample ladies and life-sized skeletons."
Those skeletons, as it turns out, are where she and Waterhouse-Hayward shared a fascination. Williams-Watt describes them as an "attachment to life"; for the photographer, who spent many years in Mexico City as a teacher, they evoke a kind of Day of the Dead symbolism and attitude toward death.
Whatever the reason, you'll see the bony collection show up in each of his artists profile shots this week, from the full-bodied one who appears behind the actors to the painting that lurks with the dancers. What you can't see is the skull tattoo that emblazons the upper right arm of guitarist Adrian Verdejo.
You'll also see some of Williams-Watt's collection that she's acquired at GRACE over the past 10 years, from the stacks of trunks to old typewriters.
As a bittersweet footnote, the charismatic studio is closing in October after a decade. "Our neighbours are devastated.. we are also melancholic, but this story has been told. I have learned the meaning of, and witnessed grace over and over again during the past ten years," Williams-Watt says.
We think Waterhouse-Hayward's artists' photos are a fitting footnote.