Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Style

Here are two quotes from two very different sources:

"Style is a gift from God and it's meant to be shared." Sister Wendy Beckett

"Style is the best way to say who you are without having to speak." Rachel Zoe

Sunday, September 28, 2008

La Peckham

Ted and I went last night to the birthday party of our great friend Ellen Peckham, held in her loft. Ellen Peckham is a force of nature; an artist, a poet, a decorator, a gardener, and the owner of the Atelier A/E Art Gallery. http://www.atelierae.com/ She is fearless; after the attacks of September 11th, she had plans to go to Egypt, and went anyway, alone and undaunted. She went to visit the pyramids and said it was fantastic because there were no other tourists there, and she went in and crawled around on her back and took photographs.

Originally from Rochester, New York, Ellen at one time lived on Jane Street, so she was part of the Jane Street crowd which Ted introduced me to. She lived with her husband Anson in a house on West 22nd Street which I think was the most beautiful house I have ever been in. Ellen has a magical way of putting things together -- art, antiques, furniture, textiles, Asian objects. It reminds me of 611, my family's home, which I have written about here. On the top floor of her house was a garret-like art studio complete with skylights and walk ways and angels suspended from the ceiling. Honestly, it was Dickensian. She also had an amazing garden.

Recent years have been challenging; Anson passed away and Ellen had some difficult surgeries, so it was wonderful to be with her celebrating her birthday. Ellen sold the house on 22nd Street and moved into this loft. Picture an empty loft which she said was painted turquoise. The space could not have been more different from the nineteenth century house she lived in. And look what she has done. Now it's a wonder of art, beauty, plants, fabrics, glimmering light. It's an abundance of riches; the eye is dazzled. To me it's a combination of Bloomsbury, Proust, Venice, Asia.

The first thing you see when you walk into the loft is a brick wall, pictured above, lined with shelves of china and crystal and topped with dried red roses.

One of Ellen's friends, Gerald Busby, set a few of her poems to music, and they were performed by singer Gilbert-Michel Rolle. Here is Ellen standing at the left, Rolle at center, and Busby sitting at the keyboard.

Silver entrance hall.

One of Ellen's art works.

Chinese horns are hung from the ceiling.

Living room corner.

Ellen has an extraordinary eye; she truly is an inspiration. Happy birthday, La Peckham.

Ted got some dahlias at the Farmers Market.

I found this little bud vase in an antique store and it was a gift to Ted. It's handpainted and looks like the color of the ocean.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Emmys

Oh my heavens, weren't the Emmys terrible? I don't know how a tv show honoring excellent tv shows can be such a bad tv show... And I understand that reality tv programs really have the numbers and the viewers, but do the Emmys need to be focused around them? Should the guy from America's Funniest Home Videos be hosting the 60th Annual Emmy Awards? I don't think so. Award winners don't have time to say a proper thank-you because of all of the time taken up by a ridiculous "reality host competition"? That doesn't make sense. New producer please. The Emmys should celebrate real excellence, like my two favorite tv shows which won awards, 30 Rock and Mad Men (I wrote about Mad Men below on July 24th). The only one missing from the mix was Ugly Betty. Love Ugly Betty. You laugh, you cry, and it's all in spectacular Technicolor. I think it is a real gift to be able to create a funny, funny entertainment like that. It just makes people feel good. I envy the talent of someone who can create a really funny tv show.

Well, what saved the day at the Emmys? Fashion, that's what. There were some good looks on the red carpet. Many of the dresses were kind of boring, and kind of old looking for young actresses. There were, typically, a lot of bright color one-shoulder gowns. I like women who wore something different.

Here are some of my favorites. They happen to be three Desperate Housewives, looking not at all desperate.

Here is Housewife Eva Longoria Parker in Marchesa. It's different, it's short, it's flapperish, it has a giant bow. I like her hair cut short and slicked back, and her killer pointed high heels. It's a real departure from the safe looks on the red carpet, and I think it's great.

This is Housewife Marcia Cross in Elie Saab. This is a very 50's silhouette with a full skirt, again, a very different shape. Beautiful tulle and lace. Very Grace Kelly in Rear Window. I think the color is pretty on her with her red hair, and this 50's shape kind of reflects her conservative character on Desperate Housewives. Or, was she having a Mad Men moment?

Housewife Felicity Huffman in Reem Acra. I think she looks great here with a blunt hair cut over one eye. It's sharp and modern. And a little train on her dress adds a lot of glamour in the back. It's a nice line from top to bottom.

I loved seeing Elizabeth Moss on the stage when Mad Men won the Emmy for best drama. She plays Peggy, the anxious, ambitious copywriter. This is what she looks like on Mad Men:

Here she is at the Emmys. Wow!

She must wear not any makeup on Mad Men; that's brave. I think Elizabeth should have been nominated and won an Emmy -- she's really good on Mad Men. Instead, Dianne Wiest from In Treatment won for best supporting actress in a drama, and she wasn't there. Elizabeth will be on Broadway this fall in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, also starring Jeremy Piven from Entourage, who also won an Emmy. Elizabeth Moss is definitely an actress to watch.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today is a beautiful day in New York City, crystal clear sky, cooler but still warm. I went to a flea market I haven't been to, the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market on 39th Street between 10th Avenue and 9th Avenue. I rode up on my bike and didn't know where I was going exactly but I followed two younger gay guys in v-neck sweaters, jeans with the cuffs rolled up, and loafers with no socks, and voila, there I was. 39th Street is blocked off to traffic, and it's adjacent to a highway ramp. New buildings and construction sites rise up all around. It's an unlikely spot for a flea market, but I found many wonderful booths and of course lots of people with great style roaming around. Style grows and blooms potentially on every square inch of New York City and that's what makes it so great.

Here is the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market. The big building in the middle is the new New York Times building on 8th Avenue.

I got these hippie beads, $5.

I also got this little metal pot, $3.
I like the green and gold color, kind of Asian. It looks to me like 611. My great aunt Milly lived with her husband Jim Fikes in the Philippines and so she brought back some Asian furniture and bibelot to 611 West German Street, the family home in Herkimer. The Asian things in a Victorian house was a really nice combination. Milly was a fascinating person, extremely intelligent. She was one of the first women to attend Cornell University, and she went on a scholarship. Not bad for a girl from Herkimer. Jim Fikes worked for Firestone Tire and Rubber, and after the Philippines, Milly went with him and their two young daughters to live in Brazil. He had gone to India but decided it was not a good place to bring his family. In Brazil Jim Fikes suddenly and tragically died of a heart attack. Later, Milly lived for many years at 611 and worked in the office of my great uncle Freddie O'Donnell, a lawyer in Ilion. I think if she lived today, she herself would have been a lawyer. Milly always encouraged me to read, and when we visited 611 she sat in her arm chair surrounded by stacks of library books, and smoked. History -- World War I history, World War II history -- was her passion. She used to give me book lists; she had me reading Theodore White. Milly introduced me to the Sunday New York Times, that thick journal of a life beyond upstate New York. My great aunts had seen some of the world and I think they saw in me an eager student. Standing over the dining room table, Milly leafed through the first section of The Times, a dead grey ash hanging perilously off her cigarette. Perusing the department store ads, she proclaimed at last, "There is nothing I like in fashion this year." My uncle Brian recalled that during cocktail hour Milly would put a log on the fire in the living room and not miss a beat in the story she was telling. Cocktail hour, fireplaces, story telling; it was quite magical. Milly had a big influence on me.

What was I talking about? Oh, the pot.

Earlier in the day at the Farmers Market today I bought this potato vine, $1. I like plants that have movement to them; the eye has somewhere to go. I also like plants that are reddish, not green. Again, it looks Victorian to me, like 611.

I put the potato vine into the pot and placed it in the hall next to the window where I hope it will get enough light and be happy.
Here are some pictures from the Farmers Market today. Ted said it's beginning to wane...

That's Ted in the brown sweater. 

Are you getting tired of picture of Bell (see Finding a Kitten)? Well, William Wegman takes pictures of his dogs...

so I figure I can take pictures of Bell...

Pretty in Pink

Bell gave me a whack on the nose last night so I have a bloody slash on my nose. I look like Jack Nicholson in Chinatown; you know I'm talking about right?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bicycle update (see A Boy and His Bicycle). Something happened to my nifty new blue bicycle -- the front wheel was squeaking. It didn't look like the brakes were rubbing against the wheel but something was going on because it squeaked as I rode it. It seemed harder to petal. I took into into my bicycle repair place and asked the guy to look at it, center the wheel, or whatever. He took it into the back where the repair guy works and I heard them both go, "Whoa!"

I went back to see what was going on. They said someone tried to take the front wheel off the bike. The nut on the left of the sprocket was dangling off the end. "Someone tried to take it off by hand," they said. Oy. They screwed the nut back on and now I'm careful to thread my chain through the front wheel when I lock it up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This is what we had for dinner the other night: flounder sauteed with a little lemon juice, boiled potatoes, corn on the cob, arugula salad with tomatoes. All of it was from the Farmers Market. All of it was fresh, from nearby farms or waters. I love to eat like that. That is the bounty of September.

Coco Chanel

We tried to watch the Coco Chanel movie with Shirley MacLaine on Lifetime Television. Not so good, and on the screen permanently on the lower right hand corner was a big Lifetime logo; this is what it said for the entire movie in big white letters: "You are watching Coco Chanel Lifetime Red Carpet Movie Event." I guess at Lifetime they don't think their viewers know what they're watching? I cannot stand those big logos, they are so distracting. My eye goes to it, and the program becomes unwatchable. Those big logos defeat the purpose.

But, Chanel. What a story. She was a French orphan, and grew to become the most influential fashion figure in the twentieth century. Before Chanel, women of the Belle Epoque wore corsets and clothes so highly structured that they could hardly get out of a carriage. Just in time for the automobile, Chanel invented sportswear, literally borrowing sporting clothes from her boyfriends, like sailor shirts, trousers and tweed jackets. She fashioned women's clothes out of wool jersey, which had previously been used for men's underwear. On to it she piled fake jewelry, faux pearls, which had been unheard of. It was called "poor chic".

Chanel in the twenties

Besides the clothes, she revolutionized the way women looked, popularizing the sun tan, bobbed hair, and red lipstick. Her perfume Chanel No. 5, sold in a glass cube that still looks modern today, is the number one selling fragrance in the world.

She was a genius, a fashion designer who expressed the modern age in her work, just as Picasso, Diaghilev, Stravinsky and Hemingway, who were her friends, did in their respective arts. Her clothes were natural and easy, and followed the line of the body. I want to say, athletic. What she created was timeless. When you see photographs of Chanel, the clothes could practically be worn today. She is often pictured in a crewneck sweater, with pearls and cuffs piled on: she is a working woman in a sweater. Coco Chanel was living proof of her motto, "Fashion passes but style remains."

This link offers a tour of Chanel's amazing apartment and a film with the beautiful Keira Knightley; that girl really knows how to wear a cut-on-the bias gown.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Toast to Bill Cunningham

The man of the hour.

The windows at Bergdorfs pay tribute to Bill Cunningham.

Last night Bergdorf Goodman threw a party for Bill Cunningham, the legendary photographer for The New York Times who shoots style on the street. He's a wonderful, original, independent voice who has a quick eye for real style. He said in Women's Wear Daily on Tuesday, "I don't pay attention to celebrities. I don't photograph them. They don't dress so...interestingly. They have stylists. I prefer real women with their own taste." In this day of tabloid celebrity journalism, that is quite a contrarian thing to say. And that's why everyone loves him. He's a very gentle, soft-spoken soul. And he hates being in the spotlight. I've tried to interview him before but he said no. He's quite an anomaly in the fashion business.

Everyone hopes to have Bill Cunningham take their picture on the street for his Sunday column. I had a friend who wanted to write an article called "Trying to Get Bill Cunningham to Take My Picture." I've never been pictured in his column. Ted has been in it three times! Ted is on the board of directors of Bailey House, the organization that houses homeless people with AIDS, and Bill Cunningham likes to support the group by showing up at events and taking pictures, often of Ted. They developed a little friendship.

I said to Ted as we got off the elevator and walked into the party on the third floor of Bergdorf Goodman, "If Bill Cunningham takes your picture and I'm not in it I'm going to divorce you."

The party was a crush of people. Loud, noisy, fun. I had the chance to meet Cathy Horyn from The New York Times and tell her how much I like her blog. I saw my friend David Patrick Columbia who is the founder of NewYorkSocialDiary.com and the editor-in-chief of Quest magazine, and I said hello to model Lauren Hutton who I interviewed years ago. Bill Cunningham, with a camera around his neck, was in a corner, with well-wishers all around him. Ted is usually not aggressive in social situations but he made a bee line for Bill Cunningham and they had a little chat about Bailey House. I waited for the moment when he would spin around and start taking pictures of us. Bill Cunningham said,"Thank you so much for coming." Flashes went off as another lensman shot Bill Cunningham and Ted together, arm and arm. When it was done, I could see Bill Cunningham was crying. I'm not sure why -- because of the support he and Ted give to Bailey House, because someone from Bailey House had shown up for him, because of the AIDS epidemic. He had tears in his eyes and he couldn't compose himself. He is a very, very sweet man. Ted said, "He's an artist."
Bell reads my blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Party Obama

Ted and I ponied up some change and attended an Obama fundraiser last night. It was held at the studio of fashion designer Charles Nolan; his partner is Andy Tobias, the financial writer and Democratic Party Treasurer, who we know from Fire Island. Special guests were Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Charles' studio is at the end of West 27th Street, near the Hudson River. We walked and walked, hadn't been down that far before. Old brick buildings and cobblestone streets with a view of the river reminded me of Dumbo, in Brooklyn. Outside, a chic crowd waited in line. Town cars rolled down the cobblestones and stopped and the car door would open and some glamorous thing would emerge. We had to cool our heels in line for about twenty minutes waiting for the freight elevator (unsmiley face) but we finally made it up just as Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker were moving toward the microphone.

Anna Wintour welcomed the crowd and thanked the people who organized the event. She was wearing a beautiful red and white print dress with a sparkling necklace, or was it part of the dress? Hard to tell, but dazzling. SJP, with long wavy hair, had on a grey blazer with big shoulders, a white tee shirt, a tiny black skirt, black leggings and black high heels. She spoke eloquently about Obama and the upcoming election. Then Obama's campaign manager talked for a bit about how close the election is and how everyone needs to do what they can.

We need to make this happen, people. I feel like this country has been hijacked by the religious right wing, and we need to get it back to where it is based on humane ideas and civilized values. This current administration, which was never properly elected in the first place, has bullied and brutalized the world and ignored its own citizens. These last eight years have been a nightmare on every possible front, and it needs to end. I've said this before, below, but I think Obama offers a breathtaking opportunity for hope and change.

Well, then. At the party there were a lot of attractive people, a lot of beautiful girls tottering around, going on to other Fashion Week parties not doubt (Prada and Yves Saint Laurent parties were also scheduled last night). The look is a very short skirt or dress, very long legs and very high shoes, and on these girls it is fantastic. Lauren Santo Domingo, formerly Lauren Davis, was there. She's married to Andres Santo Domingo, a Bolivian heir, and she's tall, thin, blonde hair cut bluntly at the chin, cheekbones for days. This is what she had on: a little shrunken cotton khaki trench coat like from the Gap but probably not, a grey tee shirt, a skirt that looked like it was made out of navy blue feathers, and towering high shoes. I love that look of a plain top and a crazy bottom. Miuccia Prada favors the look too. It's like, "I threw on this simple tee shirt or sweater and then threw on a crazy feather skirt and major shoes to jazz things up." It's like, "It looks like I don't care, but I really do," which I think is a good way to go. Here is Miuccia at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Party. The top half -- the blouse, the hair, the makeup -- is plain, while the bottom half, the skirt and shoes, is over the top. If she was sitting in a restaurant, from the table up she would look simple, but then when she got up it would be, "Wow!" I like the contrast.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

As the deluge rain came down last night Ted and I had a steak and saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly on pay-per-view. Beautiful movie, in French with English sub-titles. It was in the theaters about six months ago but going to the movies now can be a trial.

This movie is directed by Julian Schnabel, the artist, who also directed Before Night Falls, another very interesting movie. You know that Schnabel is a world class artist but he is also very talented in many other ways. He decorated the lobby of the Grammercy Hotel, which is extremely striking. In Greenwich Village, on top of the building he owns, he built a gigantic pink Venetian palazzo. It's controversial, because it's pink, but I think it's amazing looking and quite brilliant, and certainly more interesting than the glass boxes rising up all over town which already look dated to me. But I read he's having trouble selling the real estate within his palazzo.

And he's a movie director. As you would expect, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is out there, artistic, not your average night at the movies. It is based on the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was the editor of Elle magazine and suffered a traumatic stroke which left him completely paralyzed accept for his left eye. He could not move, he could not talk. He could only communicate by blinking his left eye. And with the help of a translator, he writes a book, his memoir, by blinking out one letter at a time.

Quite an amazing story. And very artfully told by Mr. Schnabel. The man who plays Bauby is great; he literally acts with one eye. Every time you think you have troubles, think of Jean-Dominique Bauby.

This is a corner of our bedroom, and I liked how the shadows were falling. The white thing is a garden ornament, meant to stick into the ground, and the cow skull I made out of clay in high school in a sculpture class at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute in Utica, New York. The Art Institute is connected to the Munson Williams Museum of Art which is a very good museum to visit, if you are in Utica. The building was designed by Philip Johnson in 1960. Golly that must have been a big deal in Utica in 1960! www.mwpai.org

Even as a kid I loved the museum. They have Thomas Cole's "Voyage of Life," the four-part series by the Hudson River School painter, which is fun for a kid to look at. Members could borrow art works and my mother took me down to flip through all a lot paintings to borrow. I liked that. 

When I was quite young my parents signed me up for art classes at the Art Institute. I had a fit. I did not want to go. The classes were after school and I distinctly remember having a tantrum one afternoon in our gravel driveway while my mother waited in the car. "I will not go." "Yes you will." "No I won't." "Yes you will." It was a stand-off. But finally I did get into the light blue Valiant station wagon.

I was in the class in front of an easel, painting. And guess what? I was good at it. I can still remember the teacher: tall woman, older, white hair, white apron, skirt below the apron. We're going very far back here. She said, in front of my easel, "Class, I want you to look over here. This is a good painting." Well how do you like that. I beamed. It felt good to excel. I went back to the Art Institute for years; I think it was called an Art School then. Classes were at night, after dinner. I took it all -- painting, drawing, print making, sculpture. That really was a fun time for me. 
Ted picked up the sunflowers which you can see in the foreground at the Farmers Market.

I got these dusty pink sedums. I like flowers that look wild, almost like weeds. These are in a vase I bought at an antique store which looks like cabbage leaves. It's kind of like our Tiffany vase which looks like raddichio leaves. I love flowers, but I like objects that depict not flowers, like leaves, fruits, nuts, pine cones. With these objects you get the colors and natural aspects found in flowers, but they're not flowers. Does that make sense? 

Bell is settling in. She's a riot, racing around the apartment, popping up here and popping up there and popping up on the couch next to my head.

Love the pink ears.

On the Mies van der Rohe chair.

Rose is adjusting.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it."  Goethe

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day at the Met

BB at the Met

On Monday, Labor Day, Ted and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was blessedly not crowded. I was an art history major at McGill University, and I love going to the Met. What I like most is nineteenth century European painting; London and Paris at the second half of that century.

We went first to the J. M. W. Turner exhibit.

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament by J. M. W. Turner, 1834

It was amazing. I like exhibits that I don't know much about, and then I am pleasantly surprised. At the first half of the nineteenth century the British artist Turner did wonderfully atmospheric paintings of snow storms, sunsets, ships at sea. Very abstract, very out there, very ahead of his time. When we walked into the show, the paintings reminded me of the The Raft of Medusa by Gericault, the monumental painting of a historic ship wreck that hangs in the Louvre. You can see the line from Gericault to Turner and then on to Monet, the Impressionist who painted the effects of light. But the work by Turner, who died in 1851 in relative obscurity says the Met, is, I think, even more modern and abstract than Monet, who lived later. Turner was a true visionary. It is a big, beautiful show.

Then we went on to the newly opened Nineteenth Century European Art galleries, which we have visited before. I think the Met did a fantastic job with these galleries. The way the paintings and wall colors contrast from room to room is beautiful. These rooms alone would constitute a major museum in any other American city but at the Met they are only a small part of the sampling.

Garden at Vancresson by Edouard Vuillard, 1920

This is one of my very favorite paintings. I love the combination of the garden, the woman in a pink robe, the pink house with blue shutters and a red roof, all so very French. A beautiful way to live, no? The woman in the garden looks like one of the tall blossoms. The mix of flowers, clothes and architecture all melds together into one vision; you can't separate one from the other. That's what I call style.

The Wyndham Sisters by John Singer Sargent, 1899

This is another favorite. It's a very big painting. It rises above you so you can't really see what is going on at the top, and I'm sure Sargent meant it that way. He was the American artist who had major success when he left home for Europe, like his contemporary, the great American-born writer Henry James. Sargent is one of my very favorite painters; he had an astounding talent to create real beauty. Even if the subject was not so great, he had a very elegant eye. (This is a very nice Sargent site: jssgallery.org.) These are the Wyndham sisters painted in their London home on Belgrave Square. The sister on the left is Pamela Tennant; surely the model Stella Tennant is a descendant. The white satin gowns in the painting really shimmer with light. Again, I love the combination of the clothes, the flowers, the furniture, the interior, all in cool and elegant green and white. The only contrasting color is the gold gilt frame.

Morning on the Seine by Claude Monet, 1897

I love this painting by Monet. I remember this painting, not in the last Impressionist gallery at the Met, but the one before that. There were windows in that gallery. The gallery was smaller, and all of the paintings were intense, and there were windows all around. We're going back here to like 1983. This painting is really a dream --blue, green, violet, pink, lilac. I could just look at it forever; I get lost in the soft undulating mutations of color. You want to climb into a boat and fall asleep on the Seine here.

Here is another painting by Monet, a serene summer field filled with flowers -- red, pink, yellow, blue. He had a breathtaking way with color. The bright sky vibrates with blue; you can feel the summertime.

This joyful painting is Claude Monet saying, "Have a great day!"

I love the food this time of year because it is all fresh from the Farmers Market. I like to cook and am interested in cooking but I don't do it very often mostly because of time I guess, and also Ted is a good cook. But the other night I made some ratatouille.  

There is an article on gourmet.com that says America hates ratatouille and eggplant.
Really? These are probably the people who are voting for John McCain. I love ratatouille and eggplant. Eggplant grilled on the grill with some olive oil is the most delicious thing. For my ratatouille the other night I didn't have an eggplant but I did have big yellow and green zucchinis from the market. 

This is what I do. Put some olive oil in a big pot and warm it up. Then in it saute some chopped up onions until they are golden. Cut the zucchinis into bite size pieces (do not peel) and throw them in the pot. Cook and stir until they are soft. Chop up a tomato and throw it in. Add some canned chopped tomatoes if you don't have enough fresh. Stir around and cook. Add a dash of red wine, and then salt and pepper and basil to taste. Voila. Summer in a pot. 

I love the colors of ratatouille -- red, green and yellow. It's a cheerful dish. With the ratatouille we had a hamburger and mashed potatoes, also from the farm, served on one plate. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out. That is my favorite way to eat -- simple, healthy, easy, comforting.