(Portrait of the artist:
detail, Escape from the Prophesy #2: Wooden Wings)
Once in a rare while, you meet someone who is so passionate about the pursuit of creativity that you are shaken to the very core by their commitment to live a life dedicated to art, imagination and unbridled joy.
For me, that person is Patricia Knop.
I met her at a dinner party in Hollywood a few months ago and was instantly enchanted. She and her husband, director Zalman King, had us all spellbound with their tales of adventure and derring-do and I drove home feeling that I had met some kind of unearthly creature. Painter, sculptor, screenwriter (91/2 Weeks and Siesta, among others), librettist (Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind), jewelry designer, decorator and more, Pat has a high-speed connection to her goddess muse and follows it wherever it leads her.
After our dinner, I couldn't stop thinking about her funny stories, her fervent enthusiasm and her wise words, so I called our mutual friend Martha and told her I needed "another dose of Knop." Within hours, Martha called me back and informed me that we had been invited over to her house for tea. I took my camera because I had been forewarned it would be special, but even I had no idea of the marvels that awaited me.
When I walked into her home, the first thing I saw was this massive Victorian ship's head angel. I'm pretty sure I gasped out loud.
According to Pat, "It was bought at auction years ago and I was told it once sailed the Great Lakes. For a long time, we had it mounted on a big dolly and it took up half a room. It dawned on me one day that we could wrap the wings around a couch and therefore sit on the angel's back."
I find the placement especially genius because it symbolically transforms the couch into the prow of a ship.
Pat's home is a virtual art gallery to her many talents. Here, a lifesize sculpture of her husband Zalman reclines in front of an antique religious triptych from Peru.
"I never studied sculpting," Pat says. "One night when I was about 19, I dreamed that I came upon a spiral building with an old man sitting on the steps. All around there were monumental sculptures that I loved. He said, 'If you love them, they're yours.' I began soon after that."
(Celeb tidbit: Peter Sellers, the actor, bought several pieces from Pat in the late '60's and early '70's. One was a huge female figure stradding a base in a state of elation. It was airlifted to London and the Beatles were there to celebrate when it was uncrated.)
In the center of the massive garden pavilion are a collection of carousel animals surrounding a sculpture of Pat in a blue dress. She explains: "At one point, we bought an old carousel and I sculpted bits of my life to ride on it. Our kids were in a chariot, my parents were in a ticket booth, and so on. Ultimately, it proved to be too big an undertaking and we ended up keeping the animals we liked, but had to break down the rest."
("Blue Pat" surrounded by carousel animals)
("Blue Pat" by Patricia Knop)
In another corner of the pavilion is a floor-to-ceiling triptych called Escape from the Prophesy #2: Wooden Wings. It's based on a dream that Pat had in which she found herself riding in the belly of an old WWII plane with a group of paratroopers. A hatch opened and one by one they jumped out until Pat was the only one left. She didn't have a parachute so she found a wooden angel and jumped. The angel's wings broke her fall.
(Fashion tidbit: The black dress in the painting was a one-of-a-kind creation created by Issey Miyake for Pat's friend, French film director Agnes Varda. Pat coveted the dress and wanted Agnes to give it to her and when she didn't, "kept" it by immortalizing it in the painting.)
Everywhere one turns in her house, you are greeted by a colorful assemblage or striking tableau. In the kitchen, she has grouped her pottery by color and then surprises the visitor with a beautifully spotlit painting in the very back of each shelf.
Pat also is an inveterate collector of suzanis. She appreciates their bright colors, the fact that they are entirely handmade by women in rural villages in Uzbekhistan and the personal stories that have been woven into each of them.
"To me," says Pat, "the suzanis are prayers made visible because they contain so many symbols of wishes for one's health and happiness."
She had always wanted to design jewelry...so one day, she just started doing it. Her pieces are all one-of-a-kind and fashioned from vintage costume jewelry, Bakelite, coral, even fossil ammonites. They are both sculptural and glamorous and made me think of Tony Duquette meets Marni.
Says Pat, "The jewels are simply minute versions of the larger paintings and sculpture. The compulsion to create them is the same, only they don't take half a dozen men to carry them."
There is such an overarching vision to all of Pat's work. When I mentioned this to her, she agreed. "Maybe everything blends together because it's all big and little versions of the same thing...and that is the drive to get pleasure from what we're looking at. There's not a lot of difference between the pavilion and a coral necklace."
When I stepped outside into her garden, I realized she was right. All of her art and possessions vibrate to the same chord. Even the colors and shapes of her Indonesian swing can be seen as an exploded version of her Buddha necklace.
Off to the side of the main house was a beautiful two-story guest house that doubles as Pat's art studio. I begged for a peek and she kindly allowed me to photograph a few of the dozens of paintings inside.
Pat uses friends and neighbors as her subjects and often incorporates their dreams and longings into her work.
(A Milagro For Jamie)
(on left: I Live I Die I Kill For My Family; on right: Rabbit)
(Hot Winds Blow, Hormones Rage, Laura Dreams of Betty Paige)
(foreground: Sculpture of Diana;
background: Diana Beside Herself With Ostrich Eggs)
Pat, thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to traipse briefly through your life. I feel so honored to be able to present these inspiring images to my readers. It's been a great lesson to meet someone like you. So many times we (myself included) succumb to procrastination or self-doubt when it comes to following our passions, and it's such a mistake, because in doing so, we achieve nothing but a sad little pile of dreams deferred.