Summer Mix: Cool Jazz to Cool Homes

The Barbone family enjoy life in their wonderfully appointed Mackay home in the Santa Clara neighborhood of Maywood. Photo: James Fanucchi

We like to think that every issue of CA-Modern magazine provides a heady mix of inspiring, amusing, and intellectually stimulating articles about mid-century modern homes and the lifestyle that surrounds them. And we always try to provide an element that’s seasonal.

For our new summer '16 issue of CA-Modern we’re doing more than mixing – we’re creating a collage.

Our cover features a jazz collage created especially for this issue by Spanish artist Jose Lledó, which relates not just to ‘Music in the Air,’ Jeff Kaliss' history of the creation of the Monterey Jazz Festival and the festival’s early years, but to a revealing look into the world of collage, as practiced by some of the more trendsetting artists of the 20th and 21st century.

The Monterey Jazz Festival, which debuted in 1958, thanks to founders Jimmy Lyons and Ralph J. Gleason, not only pioneered the concept of laidback, outdoor jazz concerts on the West Coast, it promoted the careers of many California jazz players.

Dave Brubeck and Jimmy Lyons look over plans for the first Monterey Jazz Festival in early 1958. Photo courtesy Monterey Jazz Festival

As the author Ira Kamin wrote at the time, “Monterey was making West Coast jazz reputable.”

A great summertime event, the Monterey Jazz Festival – the 59th this year – takes place September 16 and 18.

In ‘Collage: the Ultimate Remix,’ we learn why many reputable artists, critics, and scholars believe the art of collage is more than pasting together bits of flotsam and jetsam, but rather the art form that defines our image-packed and information-packed times.

“If one of the purposes of art is to serve as an expression of its age, then collage is unquestionably the single most important medium to be developed in the 20th century,” one scholar observed.

A wonderful collage by the artist Jess.

It’s an argument backed by Val Britton, a young San Francisco artist whose work is busting the definition of just what collage can be.

“We are bombarded with all this information—24-hour newsfeeds, Facebook feeds, tweets,” she says. “You can think about collage gathering all of this information in, and using collage to sort through it and create new meanings out of it.”

Collage artists may emphasize how much information is floating around the world today – but sometimes the opposite is true.

That was the case for the editors and writers at CA-Modern, who for years have wanted to dig into the history of Mackay Homes, several neighborhoods of attractive, mid-century modern homes on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley.

The homes, which we profile in ‘Meet the Mackays,’ were designed by Anshen and Allen, Joe Eichler’s original architects, and built for a developer named John Mackay. We also knew that, despite what his biography says, Steve Jobs did not live as a boy in an Eichler – but in an equally open Mackay home.

That much we knew – but not much else. Not enough to craft an interesting tale. Then we started to dig – and what we found out may surprise you.

We learned that John Mackay was not, as is sometimes alleged, a man who simply walked off with Eichler’s plans, but rather someone who, with his equal partner, Lawrence Shurtleff, saw a future in modern homes and worked with top architects to create them.

The American Institute of Architects praised Mackay homes—along with nearby homes by Joe Eichler—for using “the most advanced theories in house planning—including the house which presents a blank wall to the street.”

The Madonna Inn on the Central Coast is a collage all on its own, with myriad rooms of every description. Photo courtesy Madonna Inn

Continuing with our summertime theme, in ‘Hit the Road’ we take you, the reader, on a mid-century road trip throughout California, stopping in the sorts of spots you either cringe when you think about or pull out a tome or two from your architectural bookshelf to read up about before visiting.

We go from the organic architecture of the Sea Ranch Chapel, ideal for a little meditating and contemplating while cruising Highway 1, to Babe the Blue Ox, an immense statue from 1961 that makes its presence felt at the Trees of Mystery in far Northern California.

We range also from the high art of the modern sculpture along Fresno’s magnificent, but endangered by 'progress,' Fulton Mall, to the absolutely kitschy Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, where each room is over the top and different, with such names as 'Time of Your Life,' 'Old Fashioned Honeymoon,' 'Oriental Fantasy' and 'Barrel of Fun.'

But wait. Is this kitsch? Or high art collage? Visit and decide.

On a more serious note, home improvement editor Tanja Kern provides useful advice about de-cluttering your home in ‘Cleaning Up Your Act.' We hear from several experts in personal organization, including Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.’

Here's a garage where clutter would be out of place -- even a broom out in the open.

“Touch everything you own and ask yourself if it sparks joy,” is Kondo’s first bit of advice. “If it doesn't, thank it for its service and get rid of it.” You may not want to try this with your husband.

In many American homes, clutter can be easy to hide – shove it in the basement or attic. But in mid-century modern homes, with clean lines and visual access from room to room, this becomes tough. How often do you cruise through your neighborhood and spot cardboard boxes and old ski boots behind clerestory windows?

One useful piece of advice – donate what you don’t use to charity. Someone else will use it. Here’s another. Pull out a glue stick and turn your unwanted materials into a collage. Read more in our sneak preview of the summer '16 CA-Modern.

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