The J.B. Blunk Residency

by angeliska on October 26, 2010

pink flowers
Back in September, when I was visiting San Francisco, I had the opportunity to experience
a very magical place, high up in the green hills of Inverness: The J.B. Blunk Residency, which
is sort of a secluded zen fairy cabin-haven for craftsfolk and artists, and all sorts of interesting
people. We had the luck to be there for a delightful evening barbeque, and a tour of the house
and grounds from J.B. Blunk’s lovely and charming daughter, Miss Mariah Nielsen.
She is deer-like and top-knotted, and has that “effortlessly elegant” thing down pat in sandals
and a abstract print silk shift. She grew up there, wild and rambling among the pines and white
breakers of Inverness, in that magical house filled with good reading, and the coziest nooks.
She has made it her mission to preserve her father’s legacy, and honor his wish to share his
home with artists, so that it might serve as muse. Just visiting there flooded me with inspiration,
so I imagine a two-month residency would be an incredible opportunity to make new work,
undisturbed by noise or distraction. Any of you artists who have or are pursuing an MA or MFA,
might want to look into applying – it’s a magical place, that engenders magical work.
J.B. Blunk Residency
“The J.B. Blunk Residency offers a home, studio and outdoor clearings for work.
The home and studio, built by J.B. Blunk in 1959, with salvaged materials, suggest
a certain lifestyle that is independent, sustainable and closely connected to the landscape.
Because of J.B.’s profound connection to the surrounding environment the hope
is that the residency program will foster work inspired by the site.”

Bishop Pine Nature Preserve in Inverness, California
The view of Bishop Pine Nature Preserve in Inverness, California.
This is what you see from the bedroom window. Can you imagine
waking up to that every morning? It is just unbelievably perfect.
Sculpture by J.B. Blunk
J.B. (James Blain) Blunk, 1926 – 2002
“I began making wood sculpture in 1962.
I knew how to use a chain saw and it was
one of those things. One day you just start.”

J.B. Blunk
Detail of sculpture by J.B. Blunk
“Since he had no training in joinery and owned few tools, Blunk carved his furniture from oversized
pieces of redwood and cypress with a chainsaw, finishing them with an angular grinder and chisel.
His interest in texturing the wood, rather than polishing it to a high sheen, may have had it’s roots
in the rough, complex stoneware surfaces typical of the Bizen ware Blunk made in Japan.”

– Glenn Adamson
J.B. Blunk Residency
There are stone collections and cairns everywhere you look. Rocks with power, natural sculptures.
Sculpture by J.B. Blunk
“It is hard to know where to place Blunk as a craftsman. Though he has achieved his primary success
as a woodworker, he has also created an extensive body of work in clay, carved stone and cast bronze
and has even made jewelry and weavings. Furthermore, he tends to blur the categories of furniture and
non-functional sculpture as if they weren’t there.”

– Glenn Adamson
Sculpture by J.B. Blunk
The light pulls are all these clever little sculptures that you tug on to turn on or off. Form and function,
and art as everyday useful objects. He infused his aesthetic and sense of humor into everything around him.
J.B. Blunk Residency
It’s there in the bathroom sink, in every aspect of the architecture of his home. Seamless, and somehow – holy.
Sculpture by J.B. Blunk
It’s that tongue-in-cheek playfulness that peeks out at you from shadowy corners. Woodcarving is rough – an earth art,
and it’s no surprise that you see raw sexuality there. It reminds me of African carvings, sacred renditions of genitalia,
our origin points. Also, of the fun Shinto emblems of giant phalluses and other parts – those aspects of life that are
everyday, but mysterious. It’s a good juxtaposition to find next to the somber zen stillness, those earthy curved forms.
Mark & Mariah
Mark Dion and Mariah, contemplating the view.
Mariah + Dana
Mariah, Dana and a blue ghost.
Naked Ladies
Everywhere on the sides of the road up there, you see these slim pink lilies called “Naked Ladies”.
house elf
A house-elf sea-goblin hanging around in the workshop.
Rilke
J.B. Blunk exhibition at Blum + Poe
Fecal Face – N&P: Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
Full set of my photos are up on Flickr here: J.B. Blunk Residency

One comment

Oh, lovely. I can only imagine..the work that must come out of there! When I am old I want to do something like that in Vermont. And I know you’ve mentioned Mark Dion before..as in *Mark Dion*?? He is one of my heroes.

by Annie on October 28, 2010 at 10:42 am. Reply #

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