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Folding Art

Folding screens are seductive. They can be absolutely beautiful as a stand-alone work of art, and you can do things with them that you can't possibly do with walls and windows. They can divide space, soften it, add drama or much needed color, hide a fireplace in summertime or prevent drafts in winter. They can be as simple as a piece of stretched velvet on a frame or as elaborate as the antique French boudoir screens used in palaces.

Screens have a marvelous narrative that parallels world history and teaches us so much about the periods of art throughout time. Folding screens were originally created by the Chinese and later adapted by the Japanese, who made such beauties that Japan has became more closely associated with screens than their true place of origin has.

Barbie Mayer of Greenwich came to love Japanese culture and arts while living with a Japanese family in Honolulu one summer. "It was a great experience," she says. Years later, she and her husband, Tony, traveled in the Far East where they learned of a man in Tokyo, George Godoy, who spoke English and sold Japanese screens. "He was well known in the American community as someone who was trustworthy and knew a lot about the art of screens," she says. "We bought two twelve-and-a-half-foot screens from him that date back to 1770 — one is 'Fall-Winter,' the other, 'Spring-Summer.' They are representative of the four seasons and now take up one end of our living room. Mr. Godoy was so excited with us because most Japanese homes do not have spacious rooms to display these expansive screens. He personally brought them over to install them and see them in their new environment."