Tuesday, September 1, 2015

John Singer Sargent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Self-Portrait of John Singer Sargent from 1886.
TD and I ventured up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently to see an exhibition of John Singer Sargent paintings called Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends. I am huge fan of Sargent's and try to take in his work whenever I can. A few years ago TD and I took a trip to Cooperstown where we saw an exhibition of his works at the Fenimore Art Museum on the banks of Otsega Lake, and we made a video about it. Sargent had such a great eye for personalities and clothes and interiors; he made everything look elegant. This show at the Met is a collection of portraits of the artist's friends so they are not as formal and studied as the famous portraits which Sargent did for paying clients. These paintings are more intimate, spontaneous and experimental. Sargent's work is always refined and sophisticated, but these paintings are also relaxed and easy-going, which is a combination that I love.
This famous photo shows Sargent working in his studio. The paintings below in the wonderful show at the Met took Sargent out of the studio, to be with his friends.

There are about 90 works in the Met exhibit. These are a few of my favorites -
This is Claude Monet. I always picture Monet with a big white beard at his home in Giverny. I didn't know he looked like this in his younger days - kind like a bearded Williamsburg hipster.

Below is a charcoal sketch of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Yeats, the greatest English-speaking poet of his generation, lived in County Sligo in Ireland, which is where my great grandfather Dan O'Donnell was from. Yeats wrote a beautiful poem about a lake near Sligo called The Lake Isle of Innisfree. I love this drawing - was there ever a more handsome poet? The description notes that "Yeats cultivated his appearance as a poet and an aesthete, wearing a velvet coat and bow tie as a reminder of his elevated status as an artist."

Here is Claude Monet again, this time painting by the edge of a wood. I like his blue coat and his light grey pants. 

Here is a similar subject matter - this time it is artist Paul Helleu sketching with his wife. The painter concentrates on his work as his wife gazes off. His mouse brown coat contrasts with his light grey pants.

Here is another artist named Ambrogio Raffele, who is pictured in his hotel room as he considers his landscape painting which straddles the washstand and the bed. A hat and bed clothes are strewn over the bed linens as the artist surveys his work. What a charming way to live. 

The painting below, called A Dinner Table at Night, pictures the dining room at the home of Edith Vickers who is shown drinking a glass of port at the end of a meal. The silky ruby red lampshades cast a romantic glow over the scene. 

Lastly is one of my very favorite Sargents called An Interior in Venice from 1898. It shows the grand salon of the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice where Daniel Sargent Curtis (right) and his wife Ariana (center) lived. Standing at the rear are their son and his wife, both elegantly rendered in long lines. All are dressed in black and grey and white, and the vast space of the salon recedes back into the shadows as golden chandeliers and gilt frames hang overhead. Sargent painted this as a gift but Ariana refused the gift, feeling she looked too old and that the lounging pose of her son was indecorous.

In the gift shop I bought a book of the paintings, here pictured at home with little Bell on top of a Double RL Ralph Lauren scarf.

I enjoy looking at the paintings at home now and learning more about them. A trip to a Sargent exhibition to me is a trip back in time to a more cultured and aesthetic era. It's always inspiring and I find it comforting and reassuring. This show is up at the Met until October 4 - go if you can.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ralph Lauren Volunteers at the Farmers Market for City Harvest

My associate Anne and I in the office before we headed down to the Farmers Market. 
    My employer Ralph Lauren is super-committed to volunteering and philanthropy and making the world better. For instance, a big initiative of the company each October is the Pink Pony program which raises money and awareness for cancer care and research. In fact, The Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation funds the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in Harlem in order to provide excellent care in an underserved community.
    Four times a year the Company sponsors Gives Back weeks, when employees around the world volunteer for a wide variety of organizations. Recently, myself and some associates signed up to help out City Harvest at the Union Square Farmers Market. TD and I love the Union Square Farmers Market where we shop for food and flowers every Saturday. The last chapter of my book is about the Market. City Harvest is an important organization here in New York which works to feed the city's hungry by gathering or "rescuing" food from restaurants, groceries, bakeries and farms. Our job at the end of the day at the Farmer's Market would be to gather leftover food from the farmers.
    On a Wednesday night, my department associate Anne and I took the subway down to Union Square where we gathered with other Ralph Lauren volunteers and met a volunteer from City Harvest who gave us instructions. Armed with big plastic bags, we were directed to approach the farmers and ask if they had any leftovers to donate. The farmers had been through this drill before so they were familiar with the request.
   We split up in groups and off we went. Some farmers had nothing to donate and some had A LOT. We filled the plastic bags and then the bags went in big plastic rolling carts.
We packed up loads of basil and herbs -

Beautiful red and yellow tomatoes - 

Luscious peaches and firm green beans -

We stripped the tables bare -

The bags piled up in the big rolling carts -

     All of the fresh food smelled and looked so good - I wanted to take it home myself!
     We rolled the plastic carts to a big City Harvest truck. An employee there emptied the carts into the truck. It all happened pretty quickly as the farmers were packing up and going home. When we were done we were told that we had gathered 6,500 pounds of food in 190 bags which were going directly to a food bank in Brooklyn that night! That was satisfying.
   That evening I posted a picture from the Market on Facebook, and a friend of ours who is a minister in Brooklyn left a comment saying that her church's food bank got a delivery from City Harvest every Wednesday night, and that perhaps the guests there were enjoying the very food that we had just packed up. Amazing!
   Check out City Harvest - it's a great organization. And kudos to Ralph Lauren for encouraging employees to volunteer and help in important ways.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"How I Look" Ebook for Kindle

My style memoir How I Look is now available as an ebook for Kindle for a reasonable $6.99!
You can check it out here.
And read the Women's Wear Daily review here.
Recently at work we were discussing a free give-away gift and a bookmark was suggested. One of my young associates said, "Who uses a bookmark?" The kids like the ebooks!
Hope you enjoy this one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Aunt Monica Mumford, R.I.P.

Monica on the left, the last time I saw her in Sarasota, Florida, with my uncle Brian and my mother. 

Two weeks ago TD and I flew to Colorado to visit my sister Cynthia and Barb, and my father in his new residence there. As we were driving back to the Denver airport to depart, my brother Thom called with the sad news that our aunt Monica Jane Mumford, who we called Monnie, had passed away unexpectedly after a short illness in Sarasota, Florida.

Monica was a wonderful free spirit and adventurer in my life. When we were kids growing up, we were close to the siblings of my mother - Ellen, Monica and Brian. For example, Brian took me on my first airplane trip, from Albany to Philadelphia, where we visited my grandparents in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Monica and Ellen lived in an apartment in New York City, and my mother took my brother Thom and I there to visit them. We went to the Barnum & Bailey Circus and I was so excited at Madison Square Garden that I thought my head was going to explode. We went to visit the F.A.O. Schwartz toy store, which was then housed in the building where the Bergdorf Goodman Men's store is today. The top floor had the most complicated and wonderful operating train sets. The Four Seasons restaurant was the destination for a cocktail (my mother was quite fearless in bringing two young boys into the iconic restaurant). The waiter brought me a glass of tomato juice wedged into a pile of shaved glass in a small bowl "for the bambino."

Three sisters - Ellen, my mother, and Monica, at our last big family Christmas holiday get-together, which my parents hosted at home in Connecticut

Later Monica lived alone in a studio apartment and worked at an ad agency. Thom and I went to visit her there and she took us all around New York City including down Christopher Street, which was then actually gay. Again, with the exploding head. She bought Thom a denim jacket which was the coolest thing I had ever seen. She introduced us to New York, which had a big influence on both of us to say the least. As a single gal in the city in the 60s, she had great style. I still remember her meeting us as we got off the train in Grand Central in a snappy navy blue and white outfit.
Sunglasses, leopard print coat, head scarf - our very own Jackie O. –

Funny memory - when my great aunt May died at home in Herkimer in the late 60s, we all went to the funeral. My grandmother, who was a stickler for clothes and how people were dressed, gave Monica a hard time because Monica was carrying a black patent leather handbag with shiny gold trim, and patent leather and shiny gold were not appropriate for a funeral. (Of course I remember all this minutiae.)

Monica was always up for an adventure, always interested and excited about something new, and always supported my creativity. Visiting my grandparents in Haddonfield, New Jersey, she bought me a jewelry making kit and encouraged me to make jewelry in the basement - paper mache flower earrings and a pin, which my mother kindly wore for a short time. Monica still talked often about our O'Donnell family and had wonderful stories to tell plus she gave me family-related gifts so she was an invaluable link for me back to the past. She smoked constantly but she had long, thin elegant fingers which made smoking look impossibly chic. A great curiosity and imagination plus a lovely melodious way of speaking made her the most delightful company, in person or on the phone.

A love for animals was a lifelong passion and she always had a beloved pet dog. When I was young, she had a bird, a yellow parakeet I think it was, which she named Pourquoi, as in "Why did I buy this bird?" She led an unorthodox life and went her own way. After high school, Monica entered the convent for a short time. Here is a picture of us together at 611 at that time. I was not yet one year old.

She wrote me a note on the back of the photo -

"Bart - Eve of year when I was going into convent. You were my best thrill before I did it -"
We were good friends for a very long time. I will miss her a lot.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Glimmerglass Festival Spring Gala 2015

Left to right: Sean Panikkar, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Soloman Howard, Andrew Stenson, Jacqueline Echols, Young Artist Sean Michael Plumb, Carin Gilfry, Rod Gilfry and Dwayne Croft. Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

TD and I recently attended the Glimmerglass Festival Spring Gala at the swanky Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue at 60th Street. We are big fans of this music festival which is located upstate in Cooperstown, and features operas and musical theater in the summer months. It's the second largest summer opera festival in the United States,

This year Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Before the Gala's musical performances, Artistic Director Francesca Zambello talked about "the visionaries in the village of Cooperstown who created an opera company which is a miracle in a cow field." She noted that, "the festival now presents one hundred offerings every July and August in harmonious natural surroundings." One offering this summer will be Candide by Leonard Bernstein. At the Gala, Bernstein's daughter, Jamie Bernstein, introduced "Make Our Garden Grow," which is the emotional and powerful final number of the opera. TD and I played "Make Our Garden Grow" at our commitment ceremoney in 2000, and it made me cry as I held TD's hand. It was wonderful to hear the artists of Glimmerglass, pictured above, sing this rich moving song up close.

Get your tickets for the Glimmerglass 2015 season and enjoy one of summer's pleasures.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

If You Like My Blog You May Like My Book

Dear Reader, I have written a book! It's called How I Look, and it's a style memoir about the people and places and experiences that have shaped my sense of style and taste, from growing up in upstate New York to college in Montreal to summers on Martha's Vineyard to living and working in New York City. It's a paperback with about 130 of my black and white photographs, and is available on Amazon.com for the low Amazon price of $12.27!
I am grateful to TD, a graphic designer and art director, and designed the book and the cover. I like "how it looks."

I was happily surprised recently when the book got a good review from the fashion bible Women's Wear Daily.

Read the WWD review here.
The book is really born out of encouragement I received from this blog. As I was writing it, with stories about Perry Ellis and Polly Mellen and Jackie Kennedy and Bergdorf Goodman, a theme emerged, which was American style. Chic but casual, sophisticated but simple, and elegant but effortless, the theme of American style kept emerging, and became a thread through the stories in the book.
It's available now on Amazon here. I hope you like it! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Bailey House Gala and Auction

The Bailey House Gala and Auction is next Thursday, March 26! If you are in New York, think about attending this wonderful, fun event. Ted and I have been involved with it for many years, and I have written about it here and here, when I made my one and only appearance on Bill Cunningham's New York Times "Evening Hours" party page. Bailey House is an important organization here in New York City which provides affordable housing and supportive services for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Stable housing is a crucial factor in good health and prevention of HIV/AIDS. This Gala is Bailey House's big fund raiser for the year. In the early days, Ted and I and a handful of other people really got this event off the ground. Now it has grown into a big and popular annual occasion. I'm proud to say that Ted has remained involved and has sat on the Bailey House Board of Directors for years.
At the auction, we have picked up some favorite things.
Photographer Christopher Makos took this portrait of us several years ago -

This colorful series of prints by artist Robert Grossman depicts "Armchair Travelers."

This whimsical drawing in ink on brown paper is by illustrator R. O. Blechman –

The industrial piece on the left features a half a wood spool on top of a metal stand, and I love it.

In his art studio, Ted also has a colorful print by James Rosenquist.
The event on Thursday night will be held at the Chelsea Piers, on the edge of the Hudson River. The evening begins with a gala dinner when Jane Pauley will be honored as well as my Ralph Lauren work associate Executive Vice President Alfredo Paredes and his husband writer Brad Goldfarb. After dinner, the lively auction will take place, where there will be more than 100 works of art and photography offered as well home decor items and trips to Paris, Costa Rica and Palm Springs.
Some highlights include a commissioned portrait by renowned artist Andres Serrano (represented here by a portrait of Chloe Sevigny) –

A handsome chair from Brunschwig –

Black and white photograph by Paul Reitz -

It's a fun event with a great offering of beautiful things and it does good work! Tickets are available here. All proceeds go to provide housing and supportive services to those in need living with HIV/AIDS.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Trip to Florida with a Jaunt to Palm Beach

TD and I recently spent a week in Florida and it was such a treat to get away from the frigid Northeast winter. Neither of us are big fans of winter... We flew Jet Blue down to Palm Beach Airport. As the plane took off from LaGuardia and headed south, I got a dramatic view from my window seat of the Hudson River looking down toward Manhattan and New York Harbor beyond. It's so much fun to fly.
In Florida, we stayed at TD's brother's condominium located near the ocean between Stuart and Jupiter above Palm Beach. The condominium is in a marina and it's build right on the water so we had wonderful views of blue water and sky.

In that water each day outside the condominium slept a huge manatee which we had never seen before. It was like a big whale, and interesting to watch it move around during the day.
To the ocean beach we promptly went.

TD and I love an ocean beach.

During the week we went to different beaches along the way. We were lucky with the weather - sunny and bright every day.
On Wednesday we drove to West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. West Palm Beach is home of the renowned Antiques Row along South Dixie Highway where many antique stores are located, and I have always wanted to go there. We parked our rented black Jeep and strolled along the highway to visit a number of shops.
I really liked Wilson Antiques with its white walls, metal chandeliers and dark wood furniture - a great, handsome look.

Coco House and Company features wonderful bamboo furnishings, which I love as I've said on the blog many times. To me, it's exotic and elegant but not too fancy - there is something casual about it. We chatted with the affable owner Serge de Laville who is originally from the south of France and has plenty of Gallic charm.

A couple of doors down is Cote Jardin, which offers French antique furniture and garden antiques. Behind the store was a pretty garden and another cottage to investigate.

We had a delicious lunch and then drove over the bridge to Palm Beach. Strung along Worth Avenue is every major luxury brand you can think of including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel, Gucci and Tiffany. Of course I had to visit the Ralph Lauren store. In signature Ralph Lauren style, the staircase was lined with paintings, but the colors of the art in the Palm Beach store were lighter and paler than in northern counterparts – very pretty.

We stopped at the famous Breakers Hotel for a drink in the bar. The Breakers was built in 1926 to resemble an Italian palace. It was pretty great.

The rest of the week we spent at the beach in the sun and taking dips in the ocean. After the beach we would swim in the heated pool at the condo complex.

I love the blue skies and water of the Sunshine State. It's 15 degrees in New York today. Wish I was back there now!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Novel Interiors

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti is a friend I met through the world of blogging. I believe we started our blogs around the same time, in 2008. Lisa lives in L.A. with her husband and son, and her wonderful blog is called A Bloomsbury Life. We became social media friends because we shared a similar passion for beauty and a taste in style and books and decorating and culture. When Lisa came to New York, we had a jolly drink together at the Gramercy Park Hotel; she wore perfectly worn jeans and black top which looked simple but was in fact wonderfully complicated.
Recently Lisa published a book with Potter Style which combines two of her, and my, favorite subjects – decorating and literature. Called Novel Interiors, it shows how themes from literature can be borrowed to inspire houses and rooms. With chapters centered on favorites like Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Evelyn Waugh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and more, Lisa explores how interiors can capture the spirit of literary passages.
First, I was impressed by all of the reading she has done and all of the literary quotes included herein!
Secondly, I was inspired by the decorating and the ideas –
I love the bamboo furniture in this spread in the chapter entitled "Remembrances of Things Past." I'm sure my fondness for bamboo comes from my great aunt Milly who lived in the Philippines.

A flower garden! Accompanied by quotes from Virginia Wolfe – dreamy.

I think my favorite spread is this bedroom which features windswept curtains and coral tacked to the wall and a mix of stripes and patterns on the bed.

On the Acknowledgements page I was honored to find myself thanked along with an illustrious group of writers and bloggers! What a nice surprise that was to discover –

After I read Lisa's book and I went out and bought some striped cotton ticking fabric to layer on our green canvas couch. And next, I intend to tackle her reading list at the end of the book. It's a lovely tome that I recommend. I support and encourage my compatriots who strive to make the world more beautiful and civilized. Bravo. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. I have had an unusual season this year – super busy at my new job at Ralph Lauren, and also very preoccupied with getting my father ready to move to Colorado, which I wrote about on the blog previously. So my attention has been elsewhere and the holiday season has literally flown by, but TD and I have enjoyed some wonderful parties and entertainments here in New York City.
Last weekend we at last got our Christmas tree up (above). We got it from our friend Billy Romp on Jane Street who has supplied our tree since 1988.
For my birthday, which is at the end of November, we went to see Pippin on Broadway!
(photo from Pippin web site)

When I was in high school, I went to see the traveling version of Pippin in Utica at the Stanley Theater. I took a girl. Later we went to the junior prom. Let's just say I enjoyed Pippin more! This production on Broadway is directed by Diane Paulus, who was the genius behind the recent Broadway production of Hair, and it features gymnasts and acrobats in a circus setting. It was so colorful and entertaining. We sat in the first row in the balcony. I had great time.
My photo of the curtain call –

On TD's birthday, which comes one week later, we had a delicious lunch at Union Square Cafe –

Up at Bergdorf Goodman, the theme of the holiday windows is the arts. This glittering one is based on music –

They do such a fantastic job with their windows. This one is inspired by film. It looks like a Greta Garbo silent movie –

Down Fifth Avenue, TD enjoyed viewing the big tree at Rockefeller Center –

We went to see the Matisse cut-outs at the Museum of Modern Art. I love these Christmas colors –

My mother had a cousin named Bondie O'Donnell, and he has a daughter named Julia who has a daughter Uma who is 14 years old and is studying here in New York City at the School of American Ballet. She's a real ballerina! I think Uma and I are second cousins once removed. Anyway, TD and I took Uma to see George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. (photos from the web site)

It was so beautiful. I had seen it years ago but really had not remembered how ornate and gorgeous it is.

Here we are at intermission, O'Donnell second cousins once removed.

Today is Christmas Eve. We are going tonight to my brother Eric's in Montclair for a family dinner. There we will say good-bye to my father who is moving to Colorado on Friday.
This is a picture of the two of us a few years ago at a wedding

I will miss him a lot.
And I am wishing you all the best for the holidays and the new year, dear reader.