Monday, December 8, 2014
TD and I recently ordered timed tickets online and went to the beautiful and extraordinary Matisse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Henri Matisse is one of my all time favorite artists. I love the colors and simplicity and joy in his paintings. For the last years of his life, due to nearly fatal abdominal cancer, Matisse was disabled and confined to a bed or chair, so he could not physically paint. But he devised another medium for his artistry. From his bed or chair, he cut out pieces of paper which had been painted in colors to his specifications. Then he directed assistants how to arrange the pieces on the wall with pins. The resulting colorful cut-outs stand as some of the great artworks of the twentieth century.
Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.
No photography is allowed in the MOMA exhibit but I will say it is one of the most amazing shows I have seen. Matisse himself combined many cut-out art works together on the walls of his studio, and the arrangements are reproduced on the walls of the museum so there is an explosion of color everywhere you look.
The Parrot and the Mermaid
Matisse's great genius was his simplicity. Using a few colors like those out of a child's small crayon box and the most basic shapes and forms, he creates compositions that moved me emotionally, they were so beautiful. Even though they are simple, they have great power and great joy.
Memory of Oceania
As Matisse worked in the medium, the art works got even bigger and even simpler.
It's a generous show that goes on and on - there are about 100 artworks. What a great pleasure it was to see. At the end, we bought the exhibition catalogue
which wonderfully reproduces the cut-outs.
As I mentioned, the exhibit demonstrates how the artist hung his work in his home and was surrounded by it daily. These photographs show how Matisse covered his walls with his artwork. A nice way to live!
Here is Monsieur sitting in bed, in a tie, cutting out colored paper. Even the bed base board is shaped like a cut-out.
Here is the artist in a wheel chair surrounded by a rainbow of colored paper pieces. I like his turquoise cardigan.
This show is up through February 8, and the museum has tours and programs planned around it. Honestly, if you're in New York, don't miss this achievement.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Readers may remember that my mother passed away two years ago. Since then, my father has been living in the family house alone, and he has wisely now put the house on the market to sell as it is way too large for one person. My parents bought the big, modern house in 1981 when it was still under construction. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms, it fit our family well. Not soon after, I moved to New York City, and over the years it was always fun for me, and later TD and I, to go Grand Central Station on a Friday night and take the train out along the Long Island Sound to visit my parents on the Connecticut Shoreline.
The dining room was the place to gather for big, celebratory family dinners. In later years, my mother got the idea from a magazine or book that she wanted to turn the dining room table into a kind of salon table, piled with some of her beloved things. She covered the table with a purple cloth and put on it some of her favorite decorating and fashion books and art and cards and objects. The combination of colors and flowers and sparkly things was a real expression of her taste; it was like a little portrait of her.
When she grew sicker, she was confined to her bed. When I was visiting once, she asked me to arrange the table, dust the objects, and adjust things, so that it looked good. I did as she requested and when a friend came to visit, she reported to my mother that the table was pretty which made my mother happy, even though she could not see it.
My mother had a decorating style which was uniquely her own, and she applied it to every corner of the house. She liked light, clear pastel colors, leggy brown wood furniture, and lots of art and books and personal things around. Come to think of it, that is my decorating style too. There was a lightness to everything she did. She also was an artist who painted, and some of her paintings hang on the wall in this night time view of the dining room –
This big painting in the living room was found in Maine and features the colors and whimsy and lightness that my mother favored –
Here is a picture of my parents sitting in that chair on the right –
My father is currently considering a move to Colorado where he would live near my sister Cynthia. My mother's table is gone now. To prepare the house for sale, a stager came in and rearranged things for potential buyers. According to conventional wisdom, a lot of personal items were taken out of the house so that a buyer can see the possibilities. The collection my mother arranged was disassembled and the dining room table was laid with white dishes and silverware, as if awaiting diners to sit. My father reports tonight that a family came today to view the house and liked what they saw. And so begins the end of an era.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
It turns out that my friend George Carr knows Jack Carlson, the author of the new book from Vendome Press called Rowing Blazers, and so I was invited to the recent party to celebrate the book at the new Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street.
Also, I am now working at Ralph Lauren! Yes dear reader, I was offered a job as senior writer, special projects, in the internal creative agency at Ralph Lauren, and I most happily accepted. So I am very familiar with the gleaming new Polo store which offers the Polo brand for women that has just been introduced, as well as Ralph's Coffee, a charming coffee shop on the second floor. Check it out.
Rowing Blazers, with photographs by F. E. Castleberry, thoroughly explores the dapper blazers which boating teams have worn since the nineteenth century. The author Jack Carlson himself has rowed for Georgetown and Oxford, and his friends came out in droves for the book party which was already packed with rowers and their admirers by the time my friend Paul from work and I arrived. Sporting mates gathered together and moved throughout the party so there were crowds of color, like the fellows in red above, wherever you looked. It brought to mind the recent Ivy Style exhibit at F.I.T.
A display at the front door of the Polo Ralph Lauren store set the scene –
Gents in navy and white –
Gold and blue and white stripes –
At the party George Carr introduced me to Jack Carlson who told me that he is now studying for a Ph.D in archeology at Oxford. When I asked him what about the rowing blazer interested him, he said, "It's a combination of all the things I love – rowing and style and pageantry and history and heritage."
In his book, he explores the boating jacket which first came about at the end of the nineteenth century in distinctive contrasting colors so that spectators could identify the different teams as they rowed past. Rowing teams still wear their signature colors today, as illustrated in the book.
Pale blue with white trim at Eton College –
Three versions of the blazer at the Queen's University Belfast Boat Club –
Will Satch of the Shiplake College Boat Club in Henley-on-Thames, England, in a boldly striped blazer –
The Georgetown Univeristy Boat Club in blue with grey trim –
I'm a big fan of these blazers which have a distinctly Edwardian feel; they look like they're right out of Downton Abbey. Once, at a vintage store in Montreal, when I was at college at McGill University, I bought a navy blue Bill Blass blazer with white piping. I wore that jacket all the time, with jeans and everything. The rowing jacket combines good health and exercise with a sophisticated, elegant line. In one garment, the boating blazer captures the spirit of the sporting gentleman.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I hope you will be able to check out my feature in the October Fashion issue of Elle Decor magazine which begins on page 95! Editors Michael Boodro and Peter Terzian asked me to talk to ten American fashion designers about their very first apartment in New York City. Peter Som, Stephen Burrows, Anna Sui, Michael Bastian, Betsey Johnson, Ralph Rucci, Jill Stuart, Adam Lippes, Josie Natori, and the the boys at Rag & Bone, Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, all shared their very charming memories with me. I hope you enjoy it and the issue.
Talking to the designers reminded me of my first apartment in New York. When I moved to New York I crashed with some acquaintances from Martha's Vineyard in a loft in Tribeca, but my first real apartment was on Second Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets. I had a temporary job at the time working as the chauffeur for Mr. Perry Ellis, which is another story. One morning as I sat waiting for Perry in his bottle-green Jaguar at the curb, I looked through the classifieds (remember those?) in the back of The New York Times and spotted an ad for a three bedroom apartment with a big deck out the back on Second Avenue. It was $1,200. My brother Thom and his high school friend Bob Manogue and I were looking for an apartment together, so I rushed to the corner pay phone (remember those?) on Columbus Avenue and called them, and we met that night at the apartment's open house. There were scores of other groups looking at the apartment. I sought out the superintendent, one Mrs. O'Brien, to whom we politely introduced ourselves.
And we got the apartment!
But Thom and Bob and I did not have the security deposit! I called my friend Abby who was good with this sort of thing and she loaned us the money. We all met at a bar inside the Port Authority bus terminal and then headed over to meet with Mrs. O'Brien, who we subsequently nicknamed Obie.
After we signed the lease and got the keys, the four of us went over to the vacant apartment. It was kind of a strange configuration; two apartments had been combined together, so the kitchen was the hallway which you passed through to get to the bedrooms. We were thrilled to have it. We ordered a pizza and sat on the floor under one light bulb. And there our lives in New York began.
Monday, September 15, 2014
With Matt Fox, one of the proprietors of Fine And Dandy.
I recently had fun stopping in to visit the newish Fine and Dandy shop at 445 West 49th Street in Hell's Kitchen. Matt Fox and Enrique Crame, the boys at Fine and Dandy, have an online business which sells "accessories for dapper guys." With its success, they decided to expand and open a permanent "bricks and mortar" store in the neighborhood where they live, Hell's Kitchen. When I visited recently I found Matt tending the shop as Enrique was entertaining out-of-town friends.
Matt and Enrique have their goods made here in New York City and their prices are gentle. I like their aesthetic and taste, and always find something irresistible. The accessories also make great gifts. The small, charming ground level shop is jammed with unique discoveries - including ties, scarves, pocket squares, jewelry, and leather goods. It's like a well curated attic. There are also toys and games and vintage finds –
Some of the wool scarves are edged with colorful piping. I bought a grey scarf finished with light blue piping, very dandy indeed –
College pennants are stacked next to bowls of silk knot cufflinks that are colored like candy -
Fun suspenders to wear under a conservative suit –
Ties and bow ties in all different hues and patterns –
A view to the front door –
The charming front window of Fine and Dandy at 449 W. 49th Street –
Matt reports that he and Enrique are now recognized on the street by their neighbors in Hell's Kitchen. Check out the shop, and tell them I sent you!
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
TD and I had the most wonderful cat for seventeen years named Rose but recently we had to say good-bye and put her down. Oh, it is so hard and heartbreaking to lose a beloved pet.
We found Rose on a farm seventeen years ago in Fort Edwards, in upstate New York, near where my uncle Brian and his wife Susan live. Susan had spotted a sign for kittens at the farm and so we went down to investigate. It was a Fourth of July weekend and the farmer and his wife were not home. But we watched the passel of kittens roaming around the yard and we chose our favorite who was the most lively one. We returned later when the farmer and his wife were there and picked up the kitten and named her Rose.
Here is a picture of TD and Rose the year we got her -
She was wonderful company over the years, a sweet girl who enjoyed being with people. She would follow me from room to room like a shadow. She liked to sit in between us on the couch, and she got on the bed at night and slept next to me. Later we got a little cat named Bell, and they were often together and touched each other when they slept.
Bell and Rose in the kitchen -
Rose on Ted's birthday last year -
Kidney problems and thyroid problems are common in older cats, and Rose developed some but we did not treat them really aggressively because we had been badly burned in the past by a terrible vet.
When our first cat Katie was twelve years old she had a thyroid issue and we took her to Dr. Ann Wayne Lucas at Washington Square Animal Hospital on E. 9th Street. For Katie she prescribed Tapazole which caused the cat to become anemic and after $5,000 of blood transfusions (at the Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialist hospital on W. 15th Street which you should avoid at all costs), our cat Katie needlessly died. Dr. Ann Wayne Lucas was not familiar with this reaction to Tapazole, even though a simple Google search shows that it can be a problem. After Katie died, she sent us a condolence note which said it had been "a learning experience" for her. Terrible vet. We do not recommend Washington Square Animal Hospital or Dr. Ann Wayne Lucas.
We have a wonderful vet now - Dr. Maureen Hurson at City Vet Care on West 72nd Street who is fantastic and we recommend her highly.
We had old Rose checked up regularly and she was doing ok but one day a couple weeks ago she started to fail. Without going into the myriad details, we were told that the problems were insurmountable and that it this point she would be very uncomfortable.
TD on the last night with our Rose -
And so we decided to let her go so that she would not suffer further. It all happened very fast over one weekend in August and it was a shocking development. Afterwards, my heart actually hurt. We miss her terribly. Bell seems to be depressed without her and sometimes Bell cries out. Rose was a good companion for all of us.
That night after she was gone we got some roses for our old Rose -
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Cynthia and Barb with yours truly, the official witness.
My sister Cynthia and her partner Barb from Colorado recently came to town for some jolly celebrations.
First up, they got married!
They came to New York City to tie the knot as same-sex marriage is not yet passed in Colorado. With all of their paper work done ahead of time, they were scheduled to get married at the City Clerk office one recent morning. I was honored that they asked me to be their witness.
That morning I put on a tie and a jacket and looked in the mirror and saw looking back at me my uncle Brian Mumford and my grandmother Florence Mumford. I was bringing the spirit of my mother with me.
I met Cynthia and Bart outside the City Clerk office early and we went in. The Marriage Bureau is a nice big municipal space with marble walls and high ceilings. Other couples were there too to get married. New York's wonderful spectrum was represented with straight and gay couples and all different races and creeds and ages and sizes and colors and mixed marriages. Everyone was in a happy, celebratory mood, and the people who worked there were very pleasant and helpful. I believe that New York is marketing itself as a wedding destination. It was a very fun experience.
First we got a numbered ticket and waited for the number to light up over a window, like at the Department of Motor Vehicles. We proceeded to the right window to sign papers and then we were directed to wait outside a chapel where a Justice of the Peace presided. There were couples ahead of us and behind us and everyone was taking pictures. Then we were ushered into a bright, cheerful, pink room where the short Justice of the Peace stood behind a tall podium and recited the vows.
We were in and out in less than an hour.
Afterwards we went to lunch. Cynthia said to me, "Thank you for coming and thank you for paving the way."
The next night Cynthia and Barb hosted a celebratory family dinner at a tapas restaurant in Chelsea called Tia Pol where we commandeered the back private room and enjoyed a never ending procession of delicious tapas and red wine -
The following evening my brother Thom and his family hosted a birthday party for Cynthia at their apartment (a big birthday for her).
Here we are, the four siblings - Thom, me, Cynthia, Eric - on Thom's deck -
followed by the Boehlert boys - my father, nephew Aaron and his father Thom, me, nephew Ben and his father Eric -
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the deck with the buildings of the Flatiron District rising around us -
It was a great weekend of happy events. Thanks to Cynthia for bringing the party to New York.
Since then I have been to two funerals. Enjoy the present moment the best you can.
Live and love.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
It's time for a trip to the Charles James exhibit currently up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 10th. Charles James was the great American couturier who famously draped and shaped some of the most beautiful dresses created in the American haute couture. James, who was self-taught, designed in his native London before arriving in New York City in 1940. The designer was an artist whose medium was fabric and whose dresses were masterpieces. He was renowned for his striking color combinations, and his cut and construction, always refining and perfecting his living sculptures. But he was also eccentric and had a hard time running a business. The designer lived and worked in one room in the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street. When he passed away there in 1978 at the age of 73 of pneumonia, he was largely unrecognized and unappreciated. However, his structured dresses with narrow waists and flaring skirts influenced Christian Dior when Dior created the New Look in the late 40's, and so though he is not a well-known household name, Charles James shaped the direction of fashion.
Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photograph by Cecil Beaton.
The exhibition was curated by Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder, and is located in two areas at the museum – in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center on the lower level as well as an exhibition gallery on the first floor. The show was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York architects we met at a book party at Ann Ziff's fine jewelry store.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro lit the clothes dramatically to highlight their shape. Charles James loved to combine different fabrics like deep, dark velvet and glossy, lustrous satin –
which is here worn by the great Babe Paley herself.
Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Besides the clothes, there are on display accessories, drawings, videos, and some pithy quotes from Mr. James.
During the press preview for the exhibition, workers were preparing for the big Met Ball which was being held that very night. Here in the Great Hall, a kind of giant deconstructed Charles James ballgown made out of orange roses loomed over the entrance.
I had the pleaure of talking with the brilliant curator Harold Koda at the press preview, and my friend Scott Brasher made a video of the visit. Enjoy this nice long talk with Harold, and learn more about the great American fashion designer Charles James.