Monday, April 22, 2019

Tulips Galore! Celebrating Earth Day

In northern New Jersey, you won't find windmills, canals, or Delft blue pottery, but you will find more tulips than you ever imagined outside of Keukenhof Gardens or the famous tulip fields of the Netherlands (and, even some wooden shoes). If you can't make it to Holland in the springtime, there are rows of colorful tulips right in northern New Jersey that rival those found outside Amsterdam. Just a short distance from Trenton and Bordentown, Holland Ridge Farms have planted millions of tulip bulbs in newly-forged beds. In the fall, the spectacle turns into sunflowers worthy of a Van Gogh painting. For the past two years, the former dairy farm has dedicated over about 153 acres to the cheery spring flowers complete with a pollination expert (straight from Holland). Visitors can freely roam the rows and pose for the camera with multiple varieties of photogenic tulips. 
I'm looking forward to taking the country roads of the Garden State during the fall season, and enjoying equally as many sunflowers- perhaps during the exquisite lighting offered at a sunrise or a sunset visit. Either way, they're beautiful no matter what!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Fabulous Fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

I often wait for an exhibit to be almost over before I'll force myself to go- especially during these cold months fraught with all kinds of weather. Seeing the latest fashion exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was no exception. Fabulous Fashion: From Dior's New Look to Now had been on my list since before it opened in mid-October. Whether  you are a fashion addict or casual observer, it was a really nice selection of cocktail dresses, glorious gowns, shoes, hats, handbags, and bridalwear.
A Dior silhouette with classic cinched waist, 1948; Woman's Fumo (Smoke) Evening Dress - silk shell detail by Roberto Capucci, 1985
These two designs reminded me of my own prom dress from the 1980s- Pierre Cardin and Jacqueline de Ribes, 1990.
My favorite ruffled detail on a light and fluttery dress by Pierre Cardin.
Issey Miyake's colorful  and unique "Flying Saucer" dress was a crowd favorite, 1994; Detail of cocktail dress by Emilio Schuberth, 1961
Evening dress and petticoat designed by Anne Fogarty in 1953 (above); Draping as shown by Marc Bohan (yellow dress with cape, left), 1983
Pierre Cardin - Woman's Evening Ensemble: Top and Skirt, 1989

Friday, February 22, 2019

Fashionably Fierce Street Divas - The Art of Bradley Theodore

As I was driving to work earlier this week, I heard the shocking news that Karl Lagerfeld, the creative genius behind Chanel, had suddenly passed away. I always thought of Karl as an immortal, vampire type; someone who just might live forever.

I immediately recalled the work of street artist, Bradley Theodore. A doppelganger in many ways for Basquiat,  and walking the same NYC streets; only the subjects have changed from jazz legends to fashion insiders and royalty. Over the years, I had seen and documented many of Bradley's neon, patchy, skeletal renderings of familiar "faces" such as columnist Diana Vreeland and Karl Lagerfeld. The image of Grace Coddington with blazing red hair and outstretched arms (below), is my favorite. His use of the existing basement door is quite clever.
Tom Ford - style icon for Gucci and YSL
Grace Coddington, Chinatown, NYC - April 2015

With his own iconic style (that distinctive white ponytail, the oversize sunglasses, and the perfectly-pressed Edwardian shirt/ suit jacket/ black denim combo), Karl had been lovingly given homage throughout the walls of New York City numerous times. Not meant to read as morbid renderings, these paintings represent the interior of all human beings. The skeleton, colorfully painted in these wall murals has become the great equalizer- an ever-familiar reminder or iconic base that applies to us all. How ironic. In the end, it would appear that we actually do all put our pants on one leg at a time. They just may not come with an extravagant price tag! Looking forward, I anticipate that the House of Chanel will continue to endure through spectacular runway shows as the brand transitions to a new creative heiress. For now, as we recall over-the-top never being quite enough, and through designs coveted and cherished by devotees, Karl is indeed eternal.
Mr. and Mrs. Pineapple, Union Square; Queen Elizabeth I, Lower East Side
Fashion photographer Terry Richardson (2014); a life-sized Karl Lagerfeld lingers in a doorway

Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss (originally mistaken for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen)

Karl Lagerfeld in profile; Diana Vreeland (2013); and a Christie's emblem

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Return from the Grand Spectacle of Carnival in Venice, Italy

Looking into the orb, the next few months promise to bring a seismic transition. I'm in the midst of a six-month Exit Plan from New York, an escape, really. Living in this city has become very difficult when it comes to being creative. Finding that balance has been nearly impossible, and after twenty years, it's time for a shift anyway. A big change.
As part of that Plan, I quit my job (this time, in finance) in January, and immediately bought a ticket to Venice; a place that has become a refuge when I need a true vacation. It was time to start putting the things that are important to me front and center. I planned to visit some longtime friends. It also just happened to be perfect timing to take in the festivities of Carnival. Below are some of my travel notes and photos from my second voyage to Venice for this colorful occasion.

Thursday - I spent my first few days in Bassano del Grappa (or just Bassano) with a longtime friend and his family. It was his daughter's fourth birthday party with a bunch of her friends from school and their parents. Amidst the chaos, I was trying to understand what people were saying to each other and also to me; trying to translate Italian into English and vice versa put my brain into overdrive. I had the usual problem of falling back to sleep after being awakened by something in the middle of my jet-lagged slumber. Today, I feel like I'm paying for it with a really bad head cold. It's not going to keep me inside though! I've been waiting far too long to come back here. 

Sunday - After a few days with my surrogate Italian family in the Veneto, I took the train directly into Venice to spend a few days on my own at my friend's family apartment near the Naval Yard. I had the keys to my home away from home, and my friend came with me to show me how all of the heat and electrical appliances work. I am so looking forward to exploring and taking pictures, resting, and having some much-needed solitude at night. 

Monday/Tuesday - The weather was great for February. Feeling more like the end of March, Venice showed off its warm weather, bright, sunny days, perfect reflective light, and clear twilight just like you might experience on a perfect June evening. This was my second excursion to my favorite water-drenched city for this colorful occasion. Eleven years ago (in 2004), the flooding canals, freezing rain, slush and snow felt like the horrid winter weather in New York I thought I had just escaped. The fog and dampness then was a deterrent to tourists lending itself to the Venice known only to murder mystery novels. 

Barometric perfection brought the crowds and the lavish, colorful costumes to a most exquisite backdrop. The city was absolutely mobbed with people. The masks and feathered costumes have been really something; a photographer's dream come true! I frequently see people walking around with two and three gigantic, weighty cameras and even bigger lenses to capture the spectacle of it all.

The sun's warmth has been helping the nasty sinus problems I've been battling for the past two days. Feeling this down and out definitely would have been enough to keep me home from my most recent dead-end job, but that's not happening in this stage-like setting! Tomorrow, I plan to go to Murano and then to mass for Ash Wednesday in Saint Marks at dusk when they will close that incredible basilica to the public. 
All over the city, you can see revelers of all ages in elaborate costumes lingering around this old church or that ancient set of steps with the heaviest concentration in St. Mark's Square on Fat Tuesday. Others are seen at an outdoor restaurant enjoying an ever-popular neon orange spritz or light lunch in the Lenten sunshine. Surprise encounters are to be had in the many squares, small bridges, and tight alleyways throughout the island. Nighttime brings bedecked party-goers who flock to the famous Cafe' Florian to gather for a coffee before rushing off to a masquerade ball. Everyone sits in the windows so they can pose for the throngs of photographers just on the other side of the glass. How strange this all seems! To go through the trouble of wearing complicated makeup, mask, and expensive garments so they can stand around like mimes slowly changing their positioning for the gathering crowd of photographers. I guess the prizes must outweigh that burden.

Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) - I went to Murano today following last night's annual festivities, and bought my train tickets to depart for Florence very early in the morning. The city has really emptied out. Everything is really quiet again; even the sidewalks seem to have a hangover!
The city is full of secrets, and even after all of the time spent there, (similar to New York) there are still little niches where, strangely, I have never been. At one time, I felt so confident knowing my way around every nook and cranny. The main fondamentas, the lesser-known campiellos, and the out of the way sotoportegos often acting as portals into even more remote spaces. So many things have changed since I was last here, and my memory fails me. I worried that it just might take my entire visit to re-orient myself. When you are lost, you try to remember all of the little architectural details like breadcrumbs to find your way back home or even just to something familiar; whichever comes first. Trekking along as I am submerged in my own hazy fog, I look up in the misty darkness - a gesturing, carved angel that I've seen somewhere before points the way...
On my last evening of wandering solo with a freedom and anonymity I seldom feel, I finally learned how to get back to the apartment in Castello with the same ease I once had several years ago. As I finished another full day of exploring and snapping photos, I approached the last leg of my journey and suddenly stopped walking. I found myself in Campo Giustinia, and looked up at the clear, starry night, grateful for the series of events that led me here once again. Despite feeling ill for the bulk of my trip, it was still far better than being at work sitting at a desk. Getting back to the me who was starting to feel lost, to who I really am once again as I prepare for the big changes coming my way.

➜Images seen in this post are available in my Etsy store as all-occasion (or no occasion) notecards.

(-travel notes, written in February, 2015)