Community December 16, 2008

Objects of Affection

It’s a game, and there is only one rule:

Name the one object in your home that’s more meaningful than any other. It could be the detail that defines you, the bowl that reflects your values, the artwork that illustrates your style. To the casual observer, it may not say much—but you, of course, know better. That mute memento hanging on your wall or stashed in a corner has a story:


Just looking at it makes
you remember . . .


Artist, part-time resident tribal-phile

She’s thinking about Africa and painting San Francisco. She’s working in scrupulous detail—a tire-rimmed tugboat, a dock crane reflected in the harbor—and living in an Idaho loft filled with primitive and ethnic art. Jan Lassetter is busy. Mind going, brush painting, a downtown artist with a tribal soul.

A big leather saddle greets you as you enter her industrial loft in Ketchum (the former Schoffel showroom, above Bigwood Bread.) There’s also a blue wooden hippo painted with butterflies in the bedroom, Mexican creatures and kilim-covered couches, African wood sculptures, and a highly realistic painting of a nude Claudia Schiffer lying on a hot dog bun. Well.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room . . .


A smooth, dark wooden elephant, carved perhaps fifty or so years ago in the grasslands of Cameroon and acquired at an African art auction. “I saw him in the distance as I entered this huge auction in San Francisco, and I thought, ‘That’s it! That’s my piece.’”

And oh, what a piece—this mask with swoopy Dumbo ears and an impressive proboscis worn on top of the head in ceremonial dances. According to Lassetter, authentic and unusual pieces like this are increasingly hard to come by: they’re simply not being carved for ceremonies anymore, as Africans move into cities and away from their traditional cultural roots.

The elephant from Africa watches over the artist as she works. He almost always approves. He can’t remember when it was otherwise. >>>


Figure skater, retailer, crystal gal

The curtain opens on a huge green ceramic pineapple from Oaxaca. It doesn’t move; it just sits there, next to a couch covered in leopard-print silk velvet, looking large. A small pug dog wearing, oh . . . perhaps a tuxedo, or maybe something with feathers and crystals . . . takes center stage. Over on the wall, a huge bronze sun looks on approvingly. While the fireplace, robed and entirely encrusted in amethyst crystal, waits patiently for its turn as star.

This is The House (her house), as skater Gia Guddat has choreographed it: a virtuoso performance in purple, orange, and green. In her work, directing ice shows around the country, Guddat thinks about camera angles, elements of focus, and contrasting colors and patterns. At home, she’s created the same sense of artistry, theatricality, and play.

“I like my living space bright and colorful,” says Guddat, owner of Tequila Bay in Ketchum. “It stimulates my creative energy. Colors, crystals, and artwork nurture me. When you have a hectic life and travel a lot, it’s nice to come home to a place that’s grounding.”


Cue the spotlight, quiet the music: a 100-pound, pure white quartz crystal—the “perfect crystal”—is about to perform. Om. It does nothing perceptible. (That’s the point.) Its job is to be the still point in the middle of the colorful, eclectic room. From its many facets and points, it sends out invisible vibes to cleanse the energy of the room.

“Some people can’t feel the energy from crystals, but I can. It’s very healing. I love the way this one looks in particular, like a frozen crystal of ice.”

Ice! It makes perfect sense. The object of Gia Guddat’s affection has been the subject of her life, all along. >>>


Photographer, thinker, optimist

Steve Snyder has decided to bend the rules (again). For the purpose of this exercise, he has chosen to define his home as the planet Earth.

It’s a big place. Lovely. In need of a little work.

And that is, in fact, what his object—built into a corner of his photography studio—is all about.


A bursting, mixed-media assemblage that represents the origin of the universe (what Snyder calls the “Big Beat Heart Start”) and the hearts and lives that have been synchronized ever since. He built it one inspired night from materials he’d collected or created—grape stakes from an old vineyard in California, a time-release photo of the galaxy, igneous lava from Trail Creek . . . Symbolism is layered into the scene with each rock, feather, and stick.

Earth, at center, hangs by a thread.

Nonetheless, Snyder is optimistic: “This is about the rhythms and responsibilities of being human, and the balance it takes to be part of the world—not apart from it. I believe that the more we can give to the health of the big picture, the more it comes back to us in knowledge and understanding. The universe supports us. The planet is waiting to be our Home Sweet Home.”

Part sacred altar, part social commentary. A love song, a lament, and ultimately an affirmation of the “Great Splendor of Mystery” that connects us all: If Earth is not an object of affection, what is?


Writer Pamela Mason Davey has red hair and lives in a purple house. Her current object of affection is a sculpture her husband made that looks kind of like a fox holding a squirrel doing a handstand.



This article appears in the Fall 2005 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.