Tag Archives: Victorian

Cacophony of Curios

February 16, 2018 by
Photography by Jeremy Allen Wieczorek

In design, the “rule of thirds” posits that objects grouped in twos or fours render an ungainly sight—that three is the magic number in creating eye-pleasing arrays.

In Scott Shoemaker’s Victorian home, a few doors north of Hanscom Park, the design principle is amplified exponentially. Minimalist, his residence is not. 

Things sit on top of things that, in turn, sit on top of other things. A cacophony of curios dominates the 1891 home built by noted architect John McDonald, the man behind such local treasures as Joslyn Castle and—along with his son, Alan—the Joslyn Art Museum.

Shoemaker’s love for all things Victorian began quite by accident almost 30 years ago.

“I was in an antique store,” the longtime Omaha Symphony violinist explains, “and I found a wax cylinder record. I wasn’t exactly sure how it worked, but I knew that it was how people once listened to music. That led to the need to find a period Edison cylinder player, which led to an antique piano, which led to…well, all of this,” he says with a panoramic sweep of a hand. “It all stems from my love for music.”

Unlike the “less is more” aesthetic of the Bauhaus-inspired midcentury modern movement, where line and form are reduced to bare essentials, Shoemaker’s sitting room hosts a densely packed, dizzying collection of tchotchkes and furniture in such materials as oak, mahogany, ebonized wood, glass, porcelain, silk, metals, and velvet.

Upon entering, one’s eye is immediately drawn to a stout, beefy, Empire desk anchoring one corner of the room. In the other corner, a 19th-century portrait of an Austrian soldier stands guard above a silk Empire sofa upholstered in a traditional Napoleonic bee pattern. In yet another corner, a bust of Shakespeare fixes its gaze on the homeowner’s extensive library of century-old books on music and music theory.

“It’s been years and years of moving this object here and that object there to get everything just right,” Shoemaker says of the intricate symphony he has composed in the once-dilapidated fixer-upper bought for a pittance in the early ’90s. “But I’m finally to the point where I can sit back and enjoy it all,” he says, before quickly adding a wry qualifier of “at least for now.”

While the color palette is decidedly dark, the space is anything but foreboding as no fewer than 15 light sources—including electrical wall sconce lamp fixtures converted from the original gas—bathe the space in a cozy, inviting glow.

Shoemaker has had the opportunity to visit many of the city’s historic homes. At a little under 2,000 square feet, the footprint of his residence is dwarfed by the comparatively cavernous edifices lining 38th Street’s Gold Coast neighborhood and elsewhere. But size is not everything.

“Those places are great,” Shoemaker explains, “But they can have an almost museum-like quality to them where I’m afraid to even breathe, let alone touch anything. I don’t want to live in a museum, and I’m happy that my friends describe my place as warm, intimate, and charming.”

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

The Play’s the Thing

October 2, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Laci Neal needs several commas to answer the question, “What do you do?”

“I’m a cosplay enthusiast, performer, and historical costumer,” says the artist, actor, burlesque performer, lecturer/presenter, inaugural Miss World Steampunk, and self-described “big nerd.”

Neal’s various ventures come down to one simple fact: “I just love to play dress-up,” she says.

Growing up in the under-350-person town of Kimballton, Iowa, Neal lacked outlets for her burgeoning creativity and often felt stifled.

“I didn’t have many friends,” she says. “I read a lot and stayed up late watching Turner Classic Movies.”

Yearning for more possibility, diversity, and connections with like-minded people, 18-year-old Neal moved to Omaha in 2002 to study theater at Iowa Western Community College—where she says she learned not only the art of theater, but also the art of self-confidence.

“Confidence is huge,” she says. “I think of myself in high school—bullied and never speaking up—and I would never let that fly now.”

Sitting tall, with bright eyes, a kind smile, and a pretty yellow flower tucked behind her ear, Neal explains what drew her to performing.

“Well, I like attention,” she says with a sweet, yet sly, laugh. “But it’s not just that. I had dreams when I was young of being a movie star, but when I started performing theater my perspective on the entire thing changed. I love how all these individuals come together to create one beautiful thing—spending months on a project for just a few moments of being onstage and presenting the work.”

As for burlesque, Neal says that while it takes bravery, it lets her display all aspects of her costumes.

“With a Victorian dress there are layers upon layers upon layers, and how else can I show off all those layers unless I show off all those layers,” she says.

Cosplay, a combination of the words “costume” and “play,” is a performance art typically centered around pop culture characters common in the sci-fi/comic/geek convention culture. Think Star Wars, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings…it’s all-ages dress-up at venues like O Comic Con and others nationwide.

“I’ve always played dress-up and kind of been in my own little world, but didn’t discover there were others who did it until 2004 while researching a costume,” she says of stumbling onto the cosplay and steampunk communities.

“I’ve always loved the Victorian aesthetic—corsetry, making historical gowns and garments—so it was fun to discover that there are thousands of people who do this, it has a name, and I’m not just weird in liking to wear full Victorian garb every now and then,” she says.

As for her many loves and commas, Neal says, “They all kind of go together.”

“It’s all performance,” she says. “Ways of having some kind of role to play—whether it’s a role in a play or burlesque or a badass superhero. I can be whoever I want, any day of the week.”

LaciNeal1

Kat Moser’s Photographs

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kat Moser “fell in love with photography” while watching a cousin develop pictures in a home darkroom, and although she was only 6, her heart was won. It would be more than 50 years before she acknowledged herself as an artist, but there was no hesitation in her choice of medium. Watching figures emerge onto the paper floating in emulsion had seemed magical to the child. Today, she still attests, “It’s all about the alchemy.”

There does seem to be a spirit of the ancient mystical pursuit of transformation in Moser’s photographs. Women’s gleaming bodies float effortlessly in sun-sparkled bodies of water; branches reflected in streams write runic formulae in the sky; rough buttes are recast in silver and shadow. “Ethereal, mystical, spiritual—these are just some of the words I use to describe my work,” she says in her artist statement. “All three represent the primal connections we have with Mother Earth and her female qualities. I am deeply moved by the powerful yet often unseen worlds that surround and link us to life’s profound mysteries.”

"Morning at Fontenelle"

“Morning at Fontenelle”

Moser’s direction is intuitive, sensitive. She is attuned to myths and fairy tales, and the wordless understanding nurtured by decades of yogic practice. At the same time, her work is honed by learning from contemporary masters and enriched by discerning study of the genre and perspectives widened by travel. She is knowledgeable and demanding of the process necessary to achieve the desired finished effect—the look of infrared film.

Infrared light exists just beyond our range of vision; cameras using this spectrum capture a view we can never see—strong colors and contrasts, milky-white foliage, and porcelain skin. With IR film no longer readily available, Moser has customized two digital cameras to produce infrared’s other-worldly images.

“I’ve always been interested in spirit photography [of the late 19th century],” she says. “I loved the romantic, Victorian, ethereal quality of infrared from the first time I saw it. The longer I use it, the more interested I am in its possibilities.”

"Frozen Blooms"

“Frozen Blooms”

Moser’s photographs transform the familiar into images as fragile and foreign as dreams. A title, “Mahoney Retreat” from the series “Other Worlds – Inner Life,” leaves viewers retracing their own memories of the nearby park. In “Pool of Tears,” the pattern of overhead branches echoes dark-wet strands of hair. Delineated against a broad white back, the composition is both the scene and its reflection, illustrating the series’ title, “Illusions of Water.”

One of Moser’s models, Kristi Mattini, worked at Nouvelle Eve when invited to participate. “I have a long history of ballet,” Mattini says. “Sometimes, there’s a theme, but usually I just go through the dance movements in water. It’s impossible to hold a pose, which shows how good she is at catching the moment.” In the same way that Moser isolates a fleeting image and imbues it with a sense of timelessness, she creates an artwork of an individual. “Even if I’m standing next to my photograph,” Mattini says, “people don’t realize it’s me, and I can appreciate the work without feeling self-centered.”

"Isadora"

“Isadora”

In Moser’s years between little girl and award-winning photographer, there was a degree in fashion merchandising, work as a buyer, and Nouvelle Eve, a high-end women’s boutique in the Old Market. For nearly 40 years she expressed her creativity in developing the store, the brand, and the clientele. The photographs she enjoyed taking liaised with the shop’s sophisticated marketing profile. In those years too, she and her husband renovated a condo and established Jackson Artworks, ahead of the curve in living the Old Market life.

“I loved retail, loved that lifestyle, but I reached a turning point,” she says. “It was very clear to me.” The time had arrived to recognize and embrace the artist that had been waiting all those years. “I believe that everything I’ve done has been foundational to my life as an artist.” In the past few years, the Mosers have sold the shop and the gallery, generating a tremendous sense of freedom, and finally time, Moser says, to “relearn how to play.”

"Mahoney Retreat"

“Mahoney Retreat”

During her long apprenticeship, she gained a thorough understanding of infrared’s characteristics, always moving toward more subtle and mysterious results. [Note: All Moser’s images are created photographically; none are Photoshopped.] Looking ahead, she would like to explore adding techniques, such as encaustic, or printing on surfaces other than paper. The knowledge she has acquired over a lifetime hasn’t dimmed the awe of her first experience. “Oh, no,” she says with a smile. “The expertise allows the magic to happen.”

Kat Moser’s work is handled exclusively by Anderson O’Brien Fine Art (aobfineart.com).