Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Still Remembering 9/11

Lower Manhattan as it looked in a photo collage from my graduate school days at Pratt Institute - although the balcony of my high rise dorm had a pretty good view, this was probably taken from the Empire State Building.

Another photo collage taken years later in a snowy McCarren Park when I first moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2000- just a year before the attack on the World Trade Center. The faint ghostly outline of the Twin Towers can be seen just to the left of the Russian church. I just moved from Tribeca where the enormous buildings loomed high above my sublet in a dizzying vertical trajectory into the sky. Every time I neared the apartment, they were there; two stalwart figures. As I sat on the incredible roof deck at the top of my building, I remember always feeling a sense of unease at their scale as my thoughts trailed off, "if those things ever fell".... In my wildest dreams, I never, ever felt those musings would actually come true.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Textiles from the Caucasus - Georgian Fabrics

It was early Tuesday morning in Tbilisi; the day we had carved out to do some shopping before it got too hot. One of my fellow travelers was adamant about hitting the market for locals to source some fabric for her wedding gown business and atelier. This corner of the city was definitely not on the radar of most who come here to tour the area. Gyorgi, our trusty driver and local guide for our week in the Caucasus suggested the place. It was a dusty open lot with some ramshackle buildings where one might find authentic Georgian textiles (or just about anything). I'm pretty sure he didn't know much about lace, and the word or concept didn't really translate to this part of the world.
The place was enormous, and we made a beeline to a remote corner in the back of the expansive lot to the fabric section. The first stop wasn't exactly what we had in mind. But across the way, the bazaar-like maze of stalls selling fabric in all shades was precisely what we dreamt of finding.
The Americans were here.....we were loud and excited. A sotto voce buzz started to travel through the line of shop owners. The more we looked, the more we wanted. Was it us who was on display or was it the fabric we were hunting? Older shopkeepers wrangled up their sleepy grandsons away from their cell phones to try to help understand our foreign chatter and make the sale. The designs were colorful and unique. And it was all so inexpensive! As we walked, creative projects were multiplying in our heads just so we could walk away with shopping bags full of these incredible brocades.
Our fellow traveler disappeared with Gyorgi in order to fulfill her mission. She returned with bags of stunning lace curtain fabric that would make any bride swoon. She was inspired to cut out the patterns or use the 8+ foot fabric for lengthy and dramatic trains, veils, or other ethnic head coverings we saw in our travels through the ancient byways and depicted in the Georgian folk museums and restaurants.
In the end, we all came away with something. Some more than others. (Guilty!) And oh, the pillows we could create once we returned home, an authentic souvenir that would last and be part of daily life. Of course, our dear driver insisted on carrying everything for us, and the back of our minivan was once again loaded down with the day's treasures. Yesterday, it just happened to be cases of Georgian wine.

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)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scrawls of Love - The Writing on the Wall

Trolling the streets of Lower Manhattan with my trusty camera, sometimes I find themes start to emerge. Often they are political or general human emotion. Here, the wall scrawls, scratchings, writings, and doodles all point to a similar place; the heart.💗

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Chinese New Year - Year of the Pig 2019 in Photographs

The 12th sign of the Chinese zodiac - people are born in the years: 
1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043

In the Chinese zodiac, pigs (or wild boars) are the metaphor and symbol of wealth. Their chubby faces, belly, and big ears are signs of fortune and the result of good fortune. Pigs might not stand out in a crowd, but are very realistic. Though frugal and not wasteful, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment, and will occasionally splurge or allow themselves a treat. They may be a bit materialistic,  but this is motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold tangible objects in their hands gives them security. They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for the most mundane tasks. If the opportunity arises, they will take positions of power and status. They believe that only those with power and status have the right to speak, and that’s their core objective.

Pig photos from over the years- (top) a fashion slant featured at Bergdorf Goodman's famous windows;
 (left to right) Carousel outside of Rouen, France; downtown Manhattan - The Spotted Pig
... and of course, some lions too.

Happy Lunar/ Chinese New Year!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Love Stamps

As part of my new marketing idea to create background vignettes for my own greeting cards, I started buying lots of props, photography backgrounds, and postage stamps that might relate to the featured image of those all-occasion cards. Some of my favorites are the colorful "love" stamp bundles. AS an artist, I appreciate their graphic genius- anything from ribbon-like words, floral text, those colorful heart-shaped candies that we all know, or the iconic Robert Indiana sculpture from Philadelphia. 

They make great backdrops, and the message isn't so bad either! Happy Valentine's Day! 🖤

Monday, January 21, 2019

Collecting (and Reminiscing) - Silver Snowflakes

Every Christmas, as a little girl, I used to receive sterling collectible snowflakes from Reed and Barton as gifts from an aunt on my dad's side. With Lawrence Welk on television in the background, the family would be gathered around my grandparents' living room before Christmas Eve dinner, and we would exchange gifts. As the only child on this entire side of the family, everyone watched me with delight as I opened my presents.
After a few years, I learned to recognize the small decorated package, and groaned with expectant boredom at what the predictable frosty configuration might look like this year. Then, I would quickly offer thanks, put it aside, and go back to tearing colorful wrapping paper hoping that something pink and Barbie-related would appear.
Year after year, the silver designs were hung on hooks on the underside of a shelf in my bedroom. Over time, they have developed a nice patina rather than the shiny, polished look of the perfect mirror-like silver. They now resemble the colorful oil bursts found on asphalt after a rainstorm.
By the 1980s, my protests must have been heard, because there was never another small box among the gifts. Since then, I have become intrigued by their varied beautiful designs. As I look at them now with wistful nostalgia, they remind me of past holiday seasons, and an era that occurred seemingly a lifetime ago in the front room of a rowhouse in Philadelphia.

(-written 12.31.2015)