peacocks — one of the panels broke in half.
Distraught, she looked around for a way to
mend it, but her etched and burnished gold-leaf finish would have highlighted any glued
imperfections at the break.
She might never have worked at that scale
again had it not been for the simplest of solutions: “I thought of sandwiching the broken
piece between two new sheets of glass to hold
it firmly in place,” she says.
This newly devised technique allows her to
back-paint two or three separate layers and
bring them together to form moody paintings
with incredible depth and the tertiary chiaroscuro of some Renaissance works she admires,
all highlighted with flashes of burnished gold or
silver leaf. A relatively recent commission was an
eight-panel “Tibetan Flames” sliding glass door
for Burning Man’s San Francisco headquarters.
Cavorting monkeys like those in French
Baroque singerie and other fantastical creatures
also inhabit Richardson-Mack’s works, which
grace home fireplaces and restaurant interiors
as well as elevator walls of several mansions
featured in the San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Her always idiosyncratic and fascinating
site-specific paintings are hard to move after
they are installed, and the artist is relieved when
Showcase homeowners inevitably can’t part with
them, despite price tags that can range from a
thousand to several thousands of dollars.
Richardson-Mack, who has also designed
store windows and stage sets, recalls one of the
first art pieces she created a decade ago at the
Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco that
involved an elevator. Installed in a 6-by-12-foot
cubicle hidden halfway between the mezzanine
and the first floor, the piece evoked a Prohi-bition-era speakeasy in the building that was
known only to hotel guests and accessible via
a special elevator. “My life-size installation was
a 1920s-style vignette with mannequins, not
églomisé,” she clarifies.
That theatrical flair continues to seep into her
often-quixotic work, which aims sometimes to
startle and always to amuse. For a hotel in the
Cayman Islands, she created églomisé panels
featuring images of bashful, costumed iguanas.
For a dining room by San Francisco interior
designer Suzanne Tucker, she drew a lobster
inviting a lady to dine; in another work, skeletons are dancing in a “creepatorium.” “Because
of my background in set design and window
display, I like big objects,” Richardson-Mack