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The Exhibitionists! San Diego’s hottest art talent flaunts it all at home with color, cult objects and cutting-edge installations. The result? Über-cool, out-of-the-box digs | By AnnaMaria Stephens | Photography by Ryan Allan |

Kim MacConnel and Jean Lowe Napoleonic complex? Not at the secluded Encinitas pad designed by local architect Ted Smith for artists Kim MacConnel and Jean Lowe. At six feet one inch tall, Lowe towers over her more diminutive man, even in flats. But you won’t hear MacConnel complaining. Everything the duo does is supersized. Take the custom wooden armoires that stretch to the bedroom ceiling—their hand-painted faux-bois finish looks lifted from a giant’s forest. The couple’s beyondroyal bed sits on bulbous turquoise legs ...

ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE Jean Lowe, left, and Kim MacConnel at their Encinitas creative compound, which boasts two studios and a main house.

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GARDEN STATE! The grounds feature a vast organic garden (MacConnel has been growing his own food for decades), steel troughs filled with water lilies, and this wooden statue of St. Francis from a little roadside artist met on their way to Ensenada.

MacConnel’s painted chair was part of a NYC exhibit at Holly Solomon Gallery in 1989, which also featured a bed whose bedspread was made with Tijuana velvet paintings.

“It can get cold when you have to run naked for a glass of water!” says Lowe of the peekaboo breezeway connecting the bedroom and the kitchen. LIGHT READING Libraries of Lowe’s papier-mâché “books,” like Solution’s Series (2006), have been exhibited for 15 years from N.Y. to L.A.

PAPER ACE Militant Feminist Veganism for All (enamel on papier-mâché, 2007) is classic Lowe.

Infatuated with Ted Smith’s pioneering S.D. lofts, the duo tapped the visionary architect for a “small but spacious,” perfectly proportioned home in Encinitas. Neighboring the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, the house touts Smith’s trademark industrial aesthetic and delivers whimsy with its use of scale.

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set against Pepto-painted walls. And then there’s the loo, a metal silo which spirals skyward in the shape of a Magic Marker. “It came as one unit,” says MacConnel. “It was actually approved as an outdoor bathroom.” That explains the crescent moon carved into the bright blue door. “It’s like being in a pioneer outhouse,” adds Lowe. The property butts against the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, replete with an open-air breezeway that connects the bedroom with the kitchen. Its latticed concrete walls give way to views of verdant coastaldesert landscape, interrupted only by a lacquered, red front door with a tongue-in-cheek peephole. “So we can see who’s coming,” quips Lowe. “You can see so many stars. But it can get cold when you have to run naked from the bedroom for a glass of water!” The couple, together for 20 years, “used to live in a really nice shack by the airport,” according to MacConnel. They became smitten by Ted Smith’s popular Go Homes, across from Downtown’s El Cortez. Smith applied the same dimensions to the MacConnel-Lowe house, which he built in 1994. In the bedroom and barrel-vaulted living room, the ceilings slope from 12 to 14 feet in opposite directions, giving both spaces a much larger feel. The architect also used similar economical building materials, including his trademark multicolored, concrete blocks. The house’s neutral design stands in striking contrast to its contents, from the four Murano crystal chandeliers in glittering oranges, pinks and greens, to the oh-solively living room, featured on the cover of design tome Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement. Colors and textures wig out with wondrous results. Antique silk-upholstered sofas and chairs, painted with bold polka dots and stripes, sit atop a carpet that MacConnel sewed together using dozens of rugs with campy, dated motifs. All this against French blue walls and a silver cartouche border? To call this place artful is an understatement. A few steps from the house is MacConnel’s narrow studio. The canvases of zigzagging, banded patterns and brazen colors are rivaled only by his attire, which on one afternoon is pure yellow—from hat to kicks. Across the way in an airy metal barn, Lowe creates her trademark papier-mâché books (big and bright, of course). Her “conceptual-decorative” paintings— satirical mash-ups of bygone-era aesthetics and consumer culture—loom large on warehouse walls. A vignette of vases resemble classic French ormolu until a closer look reveals the commercial logos for Arrowhead water and Coors beer. The compound can barely contain the couple’s behemoth sense of humor, evident in every nook and cranny. But one has to ask: Why does Lowe get the scaled-up space? “Because I’m bigger,” she offers with a smile. ...

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A fittingly tall portrait, Jean (oil and enamel on canvas, 2008), by local artist Alida Cervantes, hangs above a retooled sofa—plucked from Country Friends in Rancho Santa Fe, reupholstered in silk and embellished by MacConnel in polka dots. The painting You’re Great (right) uses mirror, papiermâché and enamel. “The joke with this piece, which references late 18th-century design, is that the self-congratulatory phrase makes it difficult to actually see oneself,” says Lowe.

The house’s neutral design stands in striking contrast to its contents. Textures wig out with wondrous results, like the carpet MacConnel sewed together using dozens of rugs with campy, dated motifs. Right: An effigy of Indian god Rama from a Kerala trip.


SKIP TO MY LOO The exterior of the bathroom may resemble a grain silo, but it is modeled after an actual Magic Marker. There is also an outdoor shower.

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Lowe, Jean Master Reviews