Same same but different

Prior to my blog hiatus, I very much wanted to write about this. A few triggers gave rise to this post. The first trigger was a post about a year ago when Design Sponge did a house tour of a couple from Brooklyn, NY. It reminded me of a scene from a favourite chick-flick (my second trigger). Then it kinda snowballed…

In that article, writer Rumaan Alam and photographer David Land lined their Brooklyn dining room with an impressive collection of amateur paintings and antique prints of Rembrandt’s portrait of George Washington amassed from junk stores and eBay.

Rumaan Alam and David Land's collection of George Washingtons are a mix of amateur paintings and antique prints assembled from junk stores and eBay

via Design Sponge

It was the striking look of collecting the same painting but interpreted by different people, artists, eras and styles. It was a striking idea. While George Washington doesn’t resonate with me nor my culture and history in quite the same way as it would for an American, it is easy to see how that idea can be carried to something more personal, more meaningful.

Same same, but different.

The scene from that chick-flick movie I mentioned above is from Definitely, Maybe. April (Isla Fisher), the leading lady, collects secondhand copies of Jane Eyre, but only those with personal inscriptions.

Same same, but different.

Collection of Jane Eyre books from the movie Definitely Maybe

April: I read [Jane Eyre] every year or two. Each time it’s different. It tells me different things. Anyhow, when I went away to college, my mom sold our house and somewhere along the way, Jane Eyre got lost. Now, every time I pass a second-hand bookstore, I look for the copy that my dad bought me for my birthday. I know I’ll never find it. It’s stupid, but it’s become this, like, weird superstitious little–
Will: It’s not stupid.
April: -thanks– hobby.
Will: What are all these?
April: Oh, these are the ones I found that have inscriptions.

This beautifully intimate and highly personal collection is sparked by April’s last gift from her deceased father. She doesn’t even remember the inscription her father writes in her lost book. Years after they lose touch, Will–the protagonist– stumbles on April’s book in a secondhand bookstore. In it, is a beautiful handwritten dedication to April from Charlotte Bronte:

‘The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;–
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.’

The handwritten inscription in April's copy of Jane Eyre, Definitely Maybe

I love how the narrative and author in April’s collection are the same, but the binding, the book cover and the inscriptions make each book meaningfully different; and therefore carry a different weight.

Same same, but different.

Another trigger/inspiration-point comes from Weisshouse owner and designer Stacy Weiss’ loft home in Pittsburgh, as featured in Apartment Therapy. Her beautifully modern loft home boasts a beautifully displayed collection of self-portraits by Lipsitz (Poland), painted between 1952-1981.

The ‘same’ is obviously that this is the same person. Same head shape. Same shoulders. Same posture and countenance. Even the basic colour pallette. Same size of canvas. Same painting medium. Same style of painting. (Obviously, had he used different painting styles (e.g., Impressionistic, Cubist, Surrealist etc) it would have been dramatically different… and probably not been included as a trigger for this post.)

But ‘different’ in the stage of life of the artist. The self-portaits reflect his aging body, over 30 years.

Same same, but different.

Another trigger comes from yet another movie. Eloise (played by Jennifer Aniston) in the 2009 movie, Love Happens, is a florist with a treasured collection: the most poignant of messages and dedications from orders of flowers.

Florist Eloise from Love Happens reading some flower dedication messages

“Julie, we have never met, but I’ve watched you lovingly all these years. Congratulations and have a beautiful wedding. Love, your father.”

“Stacy, these are supposed to last two weeks. I’ll be back in time to see them bloom….
… Yeah, deployed Marine. He never saw them bloom.”

“My dearest wife, happy 50th anniversary. Sorry about the rug burns last night….
Life on a 3-by-5.”

Same in that they’re for orders of flowers. Same in that they’re probably written on the same note/cardstock. Same in the emotion carried across with these orders: love, warmth, devotion, intimacy, yearning and well-wishing. Different in the messages.

Same same, but different.

I will include one last trigger. I was so inspired by Francis Alys’ substantial 20-year collection; reproductions and reinterpretations of an oil painting, now lost, of fourth-century Saint Fabiola. The original was painted in the nineteenth century by French artist Jean-Jacques Henner.

Francis Alys' collection of Saint Fabiola's paintings

According to Wikipedia, Saint Fabiola was a nurse (physician) and Roman matron of rank of the company of noble Roman women who, under the influence of the Church father St. Jerome gave up all earthly pleasures and devoted themselves to the practice of Christian asceticism and charitable work.

Same same, but different.

I think a same, same but different art or book collection would resonate with me so much more than the colossal butterfly or rock collection. Or life-size Victorian dolls, as per noted in this house for sale in my local neighbourhood. Neither is the collection and display of Ecstasy tablets by the gentleman in UK for me.

So, now, I am sooo very keen to start my own Same Same, But Different collection!
(Yes I know. I need another collection like I need a hole in my head.)

Other paintings that would make a great same same, but identical display:
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer (c1665)
Whistler’s Mother (1871) by James McNeill Whistler
Van Gogh’s 1889 famous piece, The Starry Night
The macabre 1893 Edvard Munch classic, The Scream

I have been toying with collecting books with pink or yellow or green bookcloth bindings.

We are on the cusp of relocating and therefore, I’ll have to evaluate my myriads of collections our possessions. Perhaps it’s time to get rid of less meaningful collections and start one that resonates with me. For instance, my vintage toys collection. I have it because… well, because it’s cool.

I look forward to start a Same Same, But Different collection!

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The Woman behind the Blog

Welcome to my blog! It’s such a pleasure having you here.

What are you inspired by? I am inspired by beautiful and bright interiors, fabric, furniture, pinks, yellows, greens, chairs, china, trees, chocolate, peonies, hydrangeas, cherry blossoms, roses and rhubarb with cream.

Friends and family call me drey (pronounced 'dree'... short for Audrey) and I can often be found zipping through op-shops and vintage stores in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia.

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Write me at paperbean(AT)gmail(DOT)com