Buddhist Cowboy

by Kiko Matsing

Finally settled-in in Santa Barbara, CA. Just finished furnishing my room. It’s been slowly evolving these past few months as I experimented with the decor. Somehow it ended up being a mix of Western aesthetic and Buddhist iconography. I love the ruggedness of distressed wood and oxidized metal, but also the saturated color palette of psychedelic rock inspired by the great religions of Asia. I know it’s a bit blasphemous putting dead animal products side-by-side the Buddha, but I swear it’s not a lame attempt at hipster irony.

I got the steer skull from a rodeo shop in Goleta. It was actually part of the store’s decor and was not for sale. I had to egg the proprietor to sell it to me. He kept saying I could get one in Tijuana. When he finally relented, his price was still a great deal better than what’s on ebay. The lasso is from his young son training to be a charro. I said I was not interested in a new one, but something that has seen actual use. He assured me that it was the real thing. It still smelled of donkey piss.

On the adjacent wall, I hung some of my psychedelic album covers: Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and Cream’s Disraeli Gears. It’s hard to see on the picture, but Hendrix is portrayed on his second album as the multi-headed/multi-dextrous Hindu god Vishnu. Hendrix hated it, but it’s one of my favorite covers from the era.

Fan of fur. It’s both luxe and kitsch at the same time. I used the Google+ vintage templates Miles and Wes (named after the jazz musicians) to give the photos a polaroid look. It takes it back to Elvis Presley’s glam Graceland from the 1970s with campy shag carpeting and upholstery in his man-cave.

Bush gives Koizumi a tour of Graceland (from BBC)

More framed album covers: The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators–iconic Texas psychedelic band–and The Zombies’ Sgt. Pepper album, Odessey and Oracle.

The picture frame on the right-most column of books shows a photo of an installation I did on my apartment wall when I was living in Houston. It was a collage of postcards from my travels in Europe made out to be the shape of Texas, after a joke by Rene Magritte.

This is not a pipe. (Rene Magritte)

Horseshoe hooks from the rodeo shop. The proprietor has a local welder/artist make these for him. Perfect place to hang my Los Pollos Hermanos trucker hat from favorite show, Breaking Bad.

I must have been a buckaroo or dandy in my previous life–or both. Either way, cowboys are the Old West’s popinjays.

The Flying Burrito Brothers (with Gram Parsons) outfitted by Nudie Cohn,
Ukranian immigrant to America who infused the cowboy suit
with his culture’s traditional embroidery. (Source: Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors)

UPDATE (15 Nov 2014):

I threw out the reading chair and put a full length mirror instead. I think it goes better with the steer skull above. I also found an oversized antique-style clock that complements the distressed western-style bed and US map. It actually covers an ugly square window on the wall. I replaced the psychedelic album covers with an Andy Warhol print of gunslinging Elvis Presley. (The real thing just sold at Christie’s for $81.9M!) I thought it added a cheekiness to the cowboy decor. The print is actually a t-shirt I got from a hipster shop in Manila called Artwork. The letter press print of “Coffee Makes You Queer” is from Alabama artist Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. who visited Urbana, IL when I was living there. I found the stenciled beach sign at an antique store in old town Goleta. I still find it hard to believe I live where I can hear the faint sound of ocean from my bedroom window.

Elvis Presley by Andy Warhol

These delft-blue elephant prints on ivory-toned linens remind me of 19th century British India. The horseshoe hooks were were a gift from my Texan friends. I found these dainty ones with Victorian typeface on enamel detail which are great counterpoints to the heft of the rusted iron.

Cork-board with postcards and mementos from my travels. This used to be where the oversized clock now hangs. I also collect my fortune cookie oracles on this board. One of my favorites: “You will always live in interesting times.” How vague is that! More t-shirt prints of pop culture icons from Artwork: John Lennon looking at the world through strawberry eyes, and Andy Warhol wearing a wry banana grin. What clever reference to their works–the psychedelic song Strawberry Fields Forever, and the pop art cover of the album Velvet Underground & Nico. The two rusted iron cowboy figures are candle holders (you stick ’em on the hats) from a thrift store in old town Goleta.

I could not resist this Roman head from an antique shop. It has a faded label at the bottom that indicates it was from a museum at U Penn–so this must be a plaster cast of a real marble artifact? Finally, I found a walking cane (leaning on the far wall) made of segmented horn pieces to open and close my window drapery with.

And with that, I think I’ve reached a good stopping point in my adventures at interior decoration.