rebecca purcell

World Maker

Interior Alchemy

projectsrebecca purcellComment

1995-1998

All images Gross and Daly

Interior Alchemy was published in 1998, and featured seven spaces that uniquely brought the past into the present. I think the book was a little before the curve on this aesthetic — it was another ten years before it attracted any attention — but it was a satisfying experience and it helped jump-start my career in styling, so nothing really to fuss over. I had several objectives for the book: imbed an aspect of my art practice by featuring nine esoterically defined interior styles; champion the idea that style was not dependant on finances and “taste” in a classical sense; showcase some incredible spaces featuring a Past-Present aesthetic; and highlight the word “hoosh.” 

Rebecca Purcell Art director and Stylist, Photographer Gross and Daley

Rebecca Purcell Art director and Stylist, Photographer Gross and Daley

I managed all of this except for the art practice aspect, it was considered a bit too esoteric by the publisher, although the idea of highly disparate styles still came through.

Rebecca Purcell Art director and Stylist, Photographer Gross and Daley

Rebecca Purcell Art director and Stylist, Photographer Gross and Daley

Another objective was to work with Sue Gross and Steve Daly. Old Houses had recently been published and it was a book I found revelatory.

Photographer Gross and Daley

Photographer Gross and Daley

I had been working with Paulette Cole at A.B.C. for several years, exploring the Past-Present realm of patina and weather but at the time Old Houses appeared, I had never seen an entire interiors book devoted to the ravages of time, and the exquisite complex layering that only neglect and weather can create. 

Photographer Gross and Daley

Photographer Gross and Daley

The past revisited in the present has always been evident in home décor, but it was the visual inclusion of its deconstruction that was not only ground breaking but also psychologically left of field. One just didn’t shoot an historical interiors book that featured homes that were a mess, let alone falling apart with dirt, dust and debris gathered in the corners! 

Old Houses was the first — that I had seen anyway — to document this intersection of nature and a domestic setting, a declining that was simultaneously emerging as something “other.” 

Photographer Gross and Daley

Photographer Gross and Daley

So it was the brave and cutting edge duo of “Steve and Sue” I wanted to shoot the images for my book as I planned on highlighting a few messes of my own. To my utter joy and amazement they agreed.

Rebecca Purcell Archive - Photographer Gross and Daley

Rebecca Purcell Archive - Photographer Gross and Daley

I am so grateful we had the opportunity to document the spaces in Interior Alchemy as most no longer exist. The remarkable Tribeca loft of J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion (Expedition chapter) was dismantled shortly after publication, but not before they hosted a private martini auction with only three bidders allowed: Mark, Bob Braine and Alexis Rockman. As the guests became increasingly inebriated and vociferous, the three participants parceled out a large collection of taxidermy birds… a night to remember for the eccentric rarity of the event as well as a vodka fueled battle over a stuffed puffin that almost turned violent – no doubt the first battle of its kind. 

Rebecca Purcell Archive - Photographer Gross and Daley

Rebecca Purcell Archive - Photographer Gross and Daley

Jeffrey Jenkins home (Simple) has been thoroughly overrun by his mounting collections (and my increasing infiltration – I live with him).

Rebecca Purcell Stylist - Photographer Gross and Daley

Rebecca Purcell Stylist - Photographer Gross and Daley

The dense, oriental-gothic apartment (Exotic), of my brother and sister William Bryan and Mary, has morphed several times since these images were taken and now is a far more quiet, albeit toy-ridden home, to Mary and my niece Cira. 

My own apartment (Alienated) has turned into what I refer to as “Hotel de Lyon” — hybrid, disheveled French via the American flea. 

And the afternoon folly Morgan and I created from a chicken coop for “Humble“ appropriately drifted away with the wind and weather.

Rebecca Purcell/J. Morgan Puett Stylist - Photographer Gross and Daley

Rebecca Purcell/J. Morgan Puett Stylist - Photographer Gross and Daley

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