Objects of Affection
photograhy: Hillary Maybery
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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:
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. >>>