She painted the blue-and-white tiles that are inset throughout her kitchen cabinetry. That was seven years ago. It also means the artist is working from a rather awkward position. This is not your ordinary abode on a rural highway in upstate New York, and the blond woman inside with the husky voice is not the usual refugee from Manhattan. Says Darni, "There's always something new going on with me. Because the glass has been sandblasted to help the paint adhere, she sees neither the tip of her brush nor the surface she is painting. At the same time she was trying to break into show business, she was serving a prestigious, four-year apprenticeship at Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, the Danish company known for its painted figurines and porcelain dinnerware. At the age of 19, Darni won a Marilyn Monroe lookalike contest in her native Denmark. Destiny isn't finished with Darni yet.
Darni started painting still-lifes on canvas, mainly Old World in feel with gilded frames, to suit the antique furniture she was selling. In the '20s, Handel and Pairpoint were the biggest names in painted lamps, which were all the rage. First, it was the stage. She painted the blue-and-white tiles that are inset throughout her kitchen cabinetry. Lampshades and bases are priced separately. She learned a tight, controlled type of painting that she "for years battled. I wanted to be a bold Impressionistic painter," says Darni, who now sees the big picture. Shadows are about all she can make out. She also lavished her brush on the house as a fast-and-cheap means of repair. She started painting again--only this time it was dresses. But out of those shadows, out of smudges of paint that she heaps onto the glass and then swirls around with her brush, come magical flowers, brilliant blooms born in her mind's eye and now set free to float across the glass. But housing prices forced her and the real estate agent to keep on driving. In the beginning, she did that quite literally, putting "For sale" tags on her own antique furniture and objects, a collection she had amassed during a lifetime. And she created the mosaic fireplace surround in one of her parlors, using broken pieces of glass and porcelain. But before the limelight found Darni, she had already found her love of painting. The glass gets fired in two kilns on the ground floor, packed like crown jewels and shipped to buyers and museums as far away as Japan and Australia. The highway brought her customers from the city, up for a weekend in the country. Her collection sold fast, and an antiques dealer she became. Her husband became ill with Parkinson's disease and Darni had to find a new job--one she could do from home while caring for her husband--and a new home, out of the frenetic pace of the city. She points out the vintage photographs of her and Gary Cooper, and her and Edward G. The room, in fact the entire first floor, which is a series of parlors and galleries that flow one to the next, is filled with a pleasing hodgepodge of stuff--a Russian cabinet with an onion pattern carved into the doors, a French curio, bronze statues, antique dolls, butterflies in small ashtrays, a life-size skeleton. At the same time she was trying to break into show business, she was serving a prestigious, four-year apprenticeship at Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, the Danish company known for its painted figurines and porcelain dinnerware. Not part of the package--acting lessons, music training, coaching of any sort. He had seen her paintings in the house and figured she could restore the design with her magic brush. Eight assistants--including an artist who makes the molds for her bronze bases Darni does the sculptures --work with the artist at her home-studio. She paints in a new, two-story studio that is attached to her plus-year-old Victorian house. These companies employed the best artisans.
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