CATEGORY: MORE PORT TOWNSEND
Some time in my distant past while looking through a House and Garden magazine, I came across a photo of a large, maybe life-size, maybe more-so, sky-blue hippopotamus. Accompanying it was an article about the artist, Francois Arnal, who had made it out of an extra durable kind of plastic that he and his artist wife had perfected. The top of this behemoth opened up exposing a large cavity. It was a bathtub! There was a photo of the couple inside it, both of them delightedly laughing. I tore the page out of the magazine and saved it.
While unpacking files after my move to Port Townsend, I came across that page again. I looked at it carefully. The top of the hippopotamus had five “door” sections opening with brass hinges. The two largest sections, were on either side of the middle of its back, and seemed to be hinged to each other like a bi-fold. Two smaller sections above the front legs, opened to each side. Across the rump was a section that had one hinge above the tail, and lifted into a vertical position. When all five of these were opened, they exposed a roomy receptacle inside.
I got out a magnifying glass and looked closer. The nose/upper jaw/forehead section of this hippopotamus looked like it also opened, hinged from the top, and its lower jaw looked like a toilet bowl. Wow! A toilet complete with lid! The waste line could be through one leg; the water lines could also be through a leg; the vent could be the trunk of a palm tree! It would require a raised platform to make it the right height, but that could look like a flat rock! I looked for a place to put a basin. Yes! The rear end could also open up to make a small counter space on either side of a basin, and the opening rump section could contain a mirror.
I immediately sat down and made some drawings of this all-in-one hippo bathroom and the setting for it. I decided that any shape room would do as long as it was large enough for a generous in-set planting area for a palm tree jungle around the edge. Beneath the hippo was a free-form dirt colored floor with an extension leading to the door. Or doors; an alternative being that one wall might be a glass door leading into an enclosed, jungle planted courtyard. The ceiling was a large skylight. The interior walls would be painted with a jungle mural, or it could be mirrors in which the owner could catch glimpses of other blue hippotopotomi through the verdure. The lighting was from the ground up into the trees, and the hippo could also be wired with tiny lights in the tub lids and larger lights at the sides of the mirror. I thought of all the details, even where the toilet paper holder would be: in the trunk of the palm tree that would contain the vent.
This was to be a guest bathroom, so that when any guest wanted to know where the bathroom was, the owner could show them the door (a blue door!) and allow them to enter by themselves. Just imagine it! There would be nothing in the room but a big blue hippopotamus standing in a jungle!
A sequel to this is that in the June, 2006 House And Garden, the same blue hippopotamus was again illustrated, but with this caption: “Since the 1960’s, Francois-Xavier and Claude LaLanne have created imaginative anthropomophorphic artworks that double as functional objects, such as his hippopotamus-shaped desk. Through JGM Galarie, Paris.” First it was a bathtub and then, in 2005, it was a desk! That is, unless it is actually a combination of the two, in which case you take care of correspondence while bathing.
I searched this “Gallerie” on the internet, and also the names of the two artists. I found all three. The artists are a married couple, and quite famous. Ms LaLanne is the one who did the painting of the man with a cabbage for a head, which was on the cover of an album by Serge Gainsburgh, and widely publicized back in the 70’s and 80’s. Francois-Xavier (not quite the same name as in the first article) did the blue hippo. He died in 2008. But what I think is that during his lifetime he was desperate to find a really good use for that wonderful sky blue hippopotamus and just needed me to point him in the right direction.
In my internet searching, I found the last picture of the blue hippopotamus. It was in a dusty “grandma’s attic” of a warehouse somewhere in Paris with a plethora of other stored items. Sad.