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Tree House in the Wetlands: The home as a platform for art

11 Jun 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

57-1An artist and designer whose works are exhibited at Ann Connelly Fine Arts Gallery in Baton Rouge, Winifred Ross Reilly (or Fu as her friends call her) is not confined by one medium. She weaves effortlessly from ceramics, screen-printing, casting, encaustics, and painting to large-scale construction. Her enchanting home, which sits on a three-acre flood plain, is raised eight feet in a marsh-like setting.

“It is very much like a Louisiana camp, but it’s modern,” says Reilly. “We live in the Bayou Duplantier wetlands. We live out in this wet area with pets, surrounded by cypress trees. The best part is that we have total privacy out here.”

Reilly’s colorful abode is an extension of her art, which ranges from large scale silk-screen collages to wall constructions made of dozens of miniature swamp houses. She is also an avid collector of regional art, which is displayed throughout the residence. “I have been collecting for many years and I trade with some of the artists,” she says. “I love contemporary, but I also love homey things.”

Reilly and her husband purchased the 1970s house in 1988 and extensively renovated it 18 years ago. “We added colorful stucco cubes emerging from the old structure, to add space and visual interest,” Reilly reveals.

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The renovation was a collaborative effort between the artist and the late New Orleans architect, Leonard Silvado. “He was one of the architects for the Aquarium of the Americas,” says Reilly. “He came here with Charles Moore, who did the Wonderwall. Leonard did the drawing for the renovation, and added the stucco cubes. Two of them create the bay areas in the master bedroom, which overlooks the cypress swamp.” The kitchen and entryway are also among the cubes that were created.

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“We don’t have a formal dining area,” Reilly asserts. Her dining table is located between the kitchen and family room, which has a lovely view of the lake. “I love to cook. We have an outdoor eating area and a huge 1950s barbecue pit that sits up on the deck.”

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The side entry opens up the family room to a multi-tiered modern deck overlooking Reilly’s organic garden and pool. “I am an avid gardener. I have an organic garden with veggies, herbs, and flowers,” Reilly boasts. “I have a 3-D wall sculpture over the fireplace in the family room that is made of a honeycomb board from a boat yard. I used to be a potter so there is an urn in it. I am working on these sorts of things for my upcoming show at Ann Connelly Fine Arts. It will probably be in my show.”

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The sleek living room, which has a slanted roof and a beaded board ceiling, is adorned with an intriguing table by Baton Rouge artist Guy Martin that was constructed with cypress knees found around the property. “The living room has a kind of swampy modern effect, very casual,” Reilly remarks. Adding interest to the room is an unusual mantle that was created from a cypress tree which had to be felled to make way for Reilly’s studio.

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The master bedroom in the three-bedroom residence is an oasis of natural fibers accented with Tommy Parzinger lamps. A painting by Michael Crespo, an LSU professor, resides over the bed. “I purchased it from Ann Connelly. It’s a fish and phases of the moon,” she explains. “Most of my art was acquired from Ann Connelly or the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans.”

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The Reilly home has an adjacent studio designed by Joey Wild that sits to the side of the house like a private hideaway enveloped in cypress trees. There is also a vintage Airstream travel trailer on the property. “It has been restored. We had people staying in it after hurricane Katrina. I have this fantasy of traveling in it!” she exclaims. Wooden walkways meander throughout the property, inviting guests to wander in the wilderness.

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Infused with the artist’s keen use of color and design that serves to showcase her intriguing art, the Reilly home is often referred to as a “treehouse” where friends gather to admire Fu’s ever-expanding collection. “Our home is always evolving. My work in the house changes as well,” she says. Like her art, Reilly creates dioramas of collected materials that have myriad possibilities for interpretation in this dreamy oasis nestled in the wetlands.

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