Thursday, June 21, 2012


A year ago, every Thursday, behind the automatic doors at the local grocery stores, on wire racks outside neighborhood take-out pizza parlors or inside the Wisconsin State Journal were stacked, piled and folded copies of 77 Square, an insert focusing on the art, cultural and entertainment scene in and around the Madison metropolitan area. Here you could find tucked on an outside column a feature they call "Mad City Stats". What the column reported on were the top five selling items at local businesses. They featured things like the top five selling beers at the Nitty Gritty, or the five most popular hamburgers at Dottie Dumpling's Dowery, the five most popular bras at Victoria's Secret or the top selling fragrances at Sephora which had included Philosophy Amazing Grace at number five, Marc Jacobs Daisy at number four, Thierry Mugler Angel at number three, Dolce Gabbana Light Blue at number two and Kim Kardashian coming in at number one. This should hint at what flies in Madison, a political hotbed of liberalism but a conservative nest of very traditional atomizer spritzers. This transcends not only the realm of fragrance but almost all cultural areas that touch the world of design. Here people will sit on the far left outer edges of political ideology but won't even put their toes in the water of individualized home design. When we first opened our store, about a year ago, I picked up a copy of 77 Square along with my Vegan Chili and gluten free dinner roll. That week's "Mad City Stats" column featured Sherwin-Williams top five paint colors. Here's what the buyers in Madison chose; at number five we had Nomadic Dessert, a color clearly in the beige range. Number four breaks a little to the right with a designer staple, Navajo White. Coming in at number three we're back to beige with Softer Tan. Moving up the color risk taking ladder is Latte, a little deeper beige but still beige. And at number one, hold your breath, it's Kilim Beige. The spectrum of color was complete, all the way from "B" to "B". This is the design mentality we're up against here on the Isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. It makes making a living here harder for us to figure out when most of the potential clients are stuck back in high school where no one wants to stand out. Everyone here seems to want to look like everyone else wrapped up in their amazing Technicolor dreamcoats made from a broad spectrum of beiges. So here we are trying to figure out a way to slip a little chartreuse into this otherwise colorless milieu. Some day the rainbow will shine over this earth-toned land and we'll find a couple of believers willing to trust two designers ready to splash a little periwinkle and tangerine over their fears of sinister aubergine or reckless lipstick red.

Now, after this little sympathy party, lets look at the bright side of beige. After I've bashed the blandness of beige it's only fair to show that beige can have some beautiful moments as well.
Here are some finds, in no particular order. Unfortunately, none of these carry a Madison credit. Maybe next year we can change that.

The Official Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 2007
Annie Leibovitz, Photographer
Represented by Sundaram Tagore Gallery

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