Monday, May 31, 2010

Lighten up, will ya?

     I was chillin' on the roof not long ago and had the pleasure of meeting a new neighbor. We started chatting, and he asked me what I do for a living. I proudly told him that I am a fashion designer, and with more than a little bit of self-satisfaction began to elaborate on all of the projects I am currently working on. Finally, I got over myself long enough to ask about his profession. He replied, "Oh, I am a medical researcher.....I'm working on a team trying to find a cure for cancer." Yeah.

That's how I felt.

     I often feel that people take fashion WAYYYYYYY to seriously. I am certainly not exempt from this. There is so much pretense throughout the whole industry - elitism, self-importance, a general air of superiority. And to what end? No one is going to die if a dress is tinted ecru instead of cream, or the exit order is messed up during a fashion show, or if a model's hips are 1/2" larger than stated on her comp card. But nearly everyday I see stylists chain-smoking out of anxiety, assistants cowering in fear of their photographers, and producers shouting into cell phones about late manicurists. Jeeeeeez...who knew finger nails were so stressful! And even more serious is the wave of model suicides in the past couple of years (Ruslana Korshunova, Ambrose Olsen, Daul Kim, Noemie Lenoir), as well as all of this nonsense about Terry Richardson lately. Really? We're going to let the guy keep manipulating and abusing women (many suspected to be underage), because he shoots for a few magazines????? It's stuff like this that makes me think, "What is this industry really about anyway?"

The Haughtiest of Them All

     Of course, any industry has its pros and cons....I'm sure the cancer research field has it's share of power-hungry corporate climbers, and that doesn't get a sick person well any faster. But I just wish it weren't so prevalent in fashion. Fashion to me is about creativity and invention....personal expression and confidence. If we have to wear clothes every day, then why not have a little fun with it. 

Betsey Johnson, fashion designer, doing her signature runway age 65

     FUN - there's a novel idea!
Josh, aka Best Boyfriend Ever, took me to see Sex and the City 2 last night - OPENING NIGHT. He was the only straight man in the crowd. I was in tears before the film started! Of course, if you're looking for substance, you're in the wrong place, but it was so nice to see something that was purely about having a good time. And you should have seen the crowd - all women dressed to the NINES. They were having fun with fashion........why don't industry people feel the same way????

Sex and the City 2 - Totally campy, silly, and heavy handed....but so much fun!

     So in an effort to have a little fun with the fashion nonsense I would like to introduce you to:

     The Catorialist is a dead on parody of the super hoity-toity style website The Sartorialist. And it's spot on, even down to the American Apparel ads on the left! The author of The Catorialist even writes funny, fashion-y back stories to accompany the photos, in true Sartorialist style. I was crying laughing the first time I saw it. (I think it'll be really funny to those familiar with The Sartorialist and how completely pretentious it has become. And people who like cats.)

Another thing fun and silly...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Important People

Yesterday was the birthday of my friend Jason Pfaeffle.

Jay and I met freshman year at Pratt Institute. Although he had yet to declare his major, it was obvious from the start that he was exceptionally talented - he could have chosen any course of study and succeeded. Jay's mind works in strange ways - actually everything about him is a little bit strange, and I mean this is the best sense possible. He sees the world in a way that is completely unique to him, and the art he makes is reflective of that. His work is clever, subtle, organic and also geometric, sophisticated yet accessible. Jay has about the biggest chance of changing industrial design of any one I know; maybe not in the up-ending way that some might imagine, but with the subtlety and sophistication that really ends up changing the way people go through their days. As the great furniture designer Jean-Michel Frank said, "The revolution will take place in millimeters, not centimeters."

One of the things that I appreciate most about Jay is how he pushes me to be better. He leads by example - always improving himself, moving forward, doing better work, trying new things. He never stops giving me a hard time about working harder and being focused, and as much as that frustrates me at times, it totally lights a fire under my butt. There's something to be said for people who force those around them to be better.

Jay, I'm glad you were born! Happy Birthday!

Jay jumping off the high platform at Schwanseebad Pool in Germany.

Dream Sequence

I built a little daydream the other afternoon..........(this requires a little audience participation to get the full effect, so bear with me)...

Play song....

"Mind, Drips" by Neon Indian

I was a nude in a Will Cotton painting, floating on a cotton candy cloud.....

Paintings by Will Cotton

.....and see in the distance rows and rows of dancers in white (turn off sound)....
Paris Opera Ballet performing "Shades" from La Bayadere

...and I float up into space, where my cloud disintegrates....
Cygnus Loop Nebula
...and I tumble back to earth...
...down into the ocean...
Photograph by Dominic Neitz

...through a sea of jelly fish (turn the sound off)...
Jellyfish Lake in Palau

.....and other fish (turn the sound off this one too)...
Kuroshio Sea - 2nd Largest Aquarium in the World

...and eventually I wash up on the beach....
Photograph by Naila Ruechel

The End

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dogs on Film....Part 3

Pepper supports equality for all!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Something amazing....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Body Says What Words Cannot

     In this weekend's New York Times is a very interesting article about the ballet La Bayadere. La Bayadere has long been one of my favorite classical ballets - it is a spectacle to watch with a fantastic, convoluted story of love, honor, betrayal, murder, retribution and opium induced hallucinations. The costumes are fabulous - midrift baring, sari inspired embroidery, yards of chiffon. But more than watching it, I've always loved dancing it. Each role, whether it be principle or corps de ballet, is technically challenging as well as expressive - the choreography ranges from aggressive to ethereal, even within a variation.
In the last scene of La Bayadere, Solor smokes opium to find respite from the grief of having lost his true love, who was
killed by his new wife. He begins to see visions of her surrounded by the ghosts of other lost lovers. The entrance of the 
"Shades" is one of the most recognizable moments in classical ballet - it is very technically trying for the dancer and has to be executed softly and in synchronicity with all of the other corps de ballet members.
     I found the NY Times article enlightening as to the origins of this ballet in the west (it was premiered in the US in 1980) and the woman who brought it here, one of my favorite ballerinas Natalia Makarova. Anyone who knows much about ballet and has seen Makarova dance would agree that to stage and direct this huge ballet would necessitate someone with as much range as the great Natasha. She is just as soft and lovely as Giselle as she is cunning and seductive as Odile.

Natalia Makarova as the Dying Swan

     The article announced the opening of American Ballet Theatre's season at the Metropolitan Opera with La Bayadere. Knowing that Makarova staged the production makes me want to see it, despite the fact that my second date with Josh 2 years ago nearly ended in disaster in large part due to the horrible mood I was in after having seen ABT's sorry version of the ballet. Then, it was neither solid nor delicate, the dancers (Solor danced by Angel Corella and Nikiya danced by Paloma Herrera) never knew exactly what they were supposed to be feeling at any given moment, and the corps work, which for a ballet this big HAS to be concrete, was sloppy. La Bayadere is such a huge production that without the utmost care and sensitivity it just becomes a tacky mess (some dance critics believe it to be that way no matter how delicately it is staged).

     To be honest, I am pretty skeptical about how successful ABT's La Bayadere can be. I've been disappointed by their productions in recent history. The dancers seem to go for the 'cheap shots' - turns, jumps, extension - more so than the slow, story-building burn (with the exception of one of my favorites, Julie Kent). True musicality seems to be a novelty, and emotional range has more to do with the speed of movement than true expression. And La Bayadere requires true mastery of all of these elements for the story to be told with the most eloquence. In the article, Makarova talks about "using the whole body in harmony." I just haven't seen that in ABT's dancers as of late.
    I am hoping that Ballet Theater will be able to do justice to this ballet in the coming weeks. But at least if the dancing sucks, you've got great costumes to look at.
Heather Jurgensen of the Hamburg Ballet as Nikiya

The amazing Sylvie Guillem

Svetlana Zakaharova

Natalia Matsak

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Have Love

     One of the hands-down best things about New York are the people you meet. You never know who you might come across any given day - a stranger could turn out to be your best friend, or business partner, or sous chef, or love of your life. And so many people come to New York to find connections like that., which perpetuates that energy, the sense that anything can happen.
     I recently met a wonderful woman. We started bonding over a shared Jamaican heritage, and, as is customary in the city, ended up exchanging business cards. I was amazed by what I discovered when I went to her website, and I thought you might enjoy it as well...

     Naila's work is sensitive and exhuberant. It's rare that I experience such a joyful quality in photography. I am grateful to have met Naila, and I look forward to seeing more and more of her work. It seems that she had a lot to say.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Summer Never Ends

     To me, summer means ease and enjoyment. Kick back, lay back, lay out, chill out.....summer should be about taking it easy, right? To make the season both enjoyable and easy, I like to have a few things around the house and in the fridge, so that when it's time to relax with my friends I'm totally ready.
     One of the best things to keep in the fridge is fresh salsa. It's easy entertaining - you can just set it out with chips for a Yankee's game (and, boy, are there a lot of them). It's helpful for dinner or lunch - a piece of grilled chicken over rice, topped with salsa is a quick, balanced meal. I often even eat it by itself, with a little flax seed oil, almost like a chunky gazpacho. And although it's so simple to make, guests are always impressed by fresh homemade salsa.
Here's what you need:
-about 6 large, firm tomatoes (you don't want them to be too ripe)
-1 large white onion
-1 bunch of fresh cilantro
-2-3 limes
-a little salt to taste
-a pinch of sugar
....and my secret weapon is Valentina mexican hot sauce (you can find it in the spanish food section of most comes in varying degrees of spice - I use extra hot)

Ready to go!

This is the hot sauce

Dice the tomato and onion into small pieces, and finely chop the cilantro 

Throw it all into a big bowl, add the pinch of sugar, salt and drizzle with hot sauce

Mix well

And you're ready to serve!
Damn, so easy.

The only tedious part about this recipe is the chopping. But if I make 1 big bowl early in the week it will  last several days.

Now all you need are some chips and a cold beer!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Next time you're bored at work...


To Do This

1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
or click
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it to FB with this text in the "caption" or "comment" and TAG the friends you want to join

I got totally carried away...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Important People....

     Today is a special day for one of my most favorite people, my sister Sydney (a.k.a Squidney/ Little Squiddle/ Squidney Ann McSquidmont). Today Sydney graduated from New York University, with more accolades than I can keep straight. 
      There are so many things to say about Sydney - she is incredibly intelligent and creative, and I'm continually impressed by how utterly talented she is. It seems that everything Syd puts her hands and heart to can't help but be beautiful. She is also one of the most adventurous people I know. Being my younger sister, in some ways I've always imagined her as 'under my wing.' But the reach of her curiosity, her openness, her willingness to learn have surprised me in such a joyous way and have shown me how to see the world as a place full of amazing things to be discovered.
      Sydney is more 'herself' than anyone I've ever met. She is unmistakable, and I love her for that. I know that humanity is better off for her being a part of it, and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world gets to see that too.

Sydney is a muse....she gives so many looks.

Sydney is an excellent dancer.

Sydney is a world she is in exotic suburban Nashville, TN.

Sydney's hair has it's own personality.

Sydney helped me, day and night, with preparations for my fashion show...right up to the last minute.

Sydney commands the attention of the room.

     Congratulations, Sydney. I am so proud of you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Ultimate Outfit....part 2

This outfit is composed of....

Carine Gilson silk chiffon kimono robe

Alexander Mcqueen lace bustier

Celine trousers

Prada satin and velvet shoes

Prada St. Pitone foldover bag

Solance Azagury-Partridge Lonestar earrings

Delfina Delettrez hand bracelet

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Joke is on.....who?

     I recently saw Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film by the graffiti artist Banksy. And, wow, was it rich.
First of all, I HIGHLY recommend it. It's fun, well executed, clever and thought provoking - just like Banksy's street art. 

See the film before you read this, otherwise I will spoil it for you!
     The movie starts by telling the story of a rather eccentric frenchman in LA named Thierry, who by chance falls into the street art scene as the movement's unofficial filmographer. The footage is raw, exciting, really get a sense of the evolution of the art, and I found myself more and more thankful that it had been captured on film. You get an extraordinary peek into a world in which only a handful of people really live.
Graffiti mosaic by Space Invader

See it?

     It was illuminating to watch the medium evolve and see, side by side, the different artists and their distinct styles. Of course, any discussion about street art at this level brings up the favorite 1st year art school debate: "What is Art?" Yadda Yadda Yadda.
     To me, the strongest element of the film is that it doesn't feel the need to answer this question. Instead, it gives the audience a bit of a multiple choice selection - is authenticity key? Classical technique? Spontaneity? Critical acclaim? Hype?

     As the story unfolds, Thierry becomes increasingly enraptured by the street art movement and aims to become an artist himself. He stages his own show under the alias of Mr. Brainwash - a body of work consisting of stolen ideas simply repackaged. The critics go wild and he sells over $1 million worth art.

    When this part of the story became evident to me, my heart sank. The whole film until that point had been about an authentic expression, and now this guy was making it all fake. I had a feeling that the arc of the plot was just too good to be true, but the storytelling had been so compelling that I really had wanted to believe it. Then I sunk into the realization that it was all a hoax! A prank! It made perfect up Banksy's alley, that "nothing is as it seems" message that permeates so much of his work.
     It had all been a set-up. Mr. Brainwash was a farce, yet this huge chunk of the art world and it's scenesters had bought it whole heartedly. (The film doesn't outrightly cop to this, but I just know it's true).

    But real or not, Exit just sent my mind spinning, there were so many gems of insight to be gleaned from it. First of all, it was a fantastic treatise on the routine commercialization of authentic, expressive art forms. A few people develop a language, a style, a movement, and others, piggybacking on their success, imitate and mass market it for profit. It's not that I completely object to making money off of an idea (I mean, I'm in the fashion industry), but when something is robbed of it's thoughtfulness purely for the sake of profiteering, it's disgraceful (I made the comparison between the work of Jean Paul Gautier for his couture collection - modern, beautiful, thoughtful, clever - with the abomination that was his crap "line" for Target).
     Theirry (or his character, at least) wasn't necessarily in it for the money. However, that came to him easily, thanks to the hoards of gallery owners, art brokers, and private collectors itching to get a piece to the up-and-coming street art trend. Which brought home another theme of Banksy's work - people often act like sheep, following their leaders, trendsetters and "tastemakers" seemingly without thought. His graffiti as well as his gorilla museum paintings (his earlier work consisted of sneaking his own doctored versions of classic paintings INTO museums and gluing them to the walls) seem to challenge people to open their eyes and at least see what's going on around them. His work reminds me of a great New Yorker cartoon...
    That's what Banksy's work is to me! Of course it's well executed and visually interesting, but really the visual is only an expression of the intellectual. It's more "think about what this image is saying" than it is "look at how interesting this image is." 
      The funny thing about it is if you divert the sheep from walking off the cliff, eventually they will all start following each other again, except now they're going in a different direction. They are still acting mindlessly, following blindly. The documentary frames the street art movement as this rebellious, spirited counter-culture, yet in the end becomes just as commercial and regulated as any other art genre on the auction block at Sotheby. It turns out, you can give people ideas, but you can't make them think for themselves. One of my favorite quotes from the film is from Banksy himself when he says,"I used to tell people to just go out and start making art........I don't do that so much anymore." (Or something to that effect).

      The film got me thinking about how authenticity in creative fields is validated. Theirry says something very profound about his work - that people will ask where he came from, if he has been a working artist for long, but that they will see his value eventually. That really rag a bell for me, as there are so many glaring examples of that philosophy in my own industry. In an age when everyone and their dog is a fashion designer, real credibility seems only attainable if one can stick it out for a while. Fewer stories these days are about designers who have worked their way up the ranks to one day set out on their own; instead it's about the breakout designer who must try to prove himself as time goes on, despite the hype that accompanies every other 'flash in the pan' (I myself am in this latter category). I don't aim to pass judgement on either path, but I think the point the film is making is don't just do something because you think you can, you can market it easily, you have friends who do it, or you have nothing better to do. Don't speak if you don't have anything to say. No one needs more noise in their lives. 

Anyway....there were/are/will be so many great things to think about from this film. GO SEE IT and let's talk!