Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Roses and Refuse

Along the Hudson River Park where I run and ride my bike are blooming right now the most wonderful rugosa roses. It's really a shrub with dark green leaves which explodes with joyous flowers at this time of year. The roses also smell heavenly – fragrant and slightly fruity.

Rugosa roses are native to eastern Asia where they grow on the coast, often on sand dunes. Because the plant is tolerant of seaside salt and wind, it is also known as the beach rose. Tough, low maintenance and salt tolerant, it is often used next to roads which are salted during the winter for ice. Like the West Side Highway.

Mounds of roses have been planted throughout the Hudson River Park – white at the entrance

pink at the water fountain

and along the bike path, with the river beyond

Waves of pink and red at the tennis courts.

I love this flower which is white and pale pink in one bloom.

The best part though is around the big sanitation center.

As you come up on it there are seemingly fields of flowers.

The roses diminish the sanitation truck idling in the background.

The beauty and the fragrance overwhelm.

If you have to have a giant sanitation center, it's nice to have it surrounded by roses, no?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Street Life

(click to enlarge)
Street banners and telephone kiosk ads that I wrote for Limelight Marketplace are now up in Manhattan, and it's fun for me to see things that I wrote on the street. Limelight Marketplace is the new shopping destination in Chelsea which is housed in the former Limelight nightclub which was originally the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, built in 1844-1850 by Richard Upton, architect of the renowned Trinity Church on Wall Street. Sixty different vendors have taken the vow, and my banners reflect the celestial offerings – it's divine!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Flowers Right Now in New York City

are purple. Like the purple pansies I planted at the front door. Pansies like cool weather so these have been happy this spring. I love climbing the steps of the stoop and seeing their smiling faces.

(click to enlarge photos)
Inside we have magenta peonies, full and luscious, each one like a ruffled ball gown which grows out of a small hard ball of a bud.

At the farmer's market there are spiky irises

and pastel cornflowers

and clouds of phlox.

I like the coolness of these purple spring colors before the hot pinks and reds of summer. This pale lilac phlox tone to me is a Swedish color. I'd like to have a room painted this hue, like a library. Right now our library – I say library, it's our office/guest room/library – is painted grey but it doesn't read grey to me, it reads dark white. Next time I think I will try a soothing Swedish purple color like this phlox.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"American High Style" at the Brooklyn Museum

Outfit at the entrance of the show by Norman Norell.

It has been quite a year for American style in New York. First there was the the "American Beauty" show and seminar at F.I.T. over the winter. Then last Monday "American Woman" opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Last Thursday, TD and I went to the opening of "American High Style" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art which is up in conjunction with the show at the Met, as a part of the Brooklyn Museum costume collection moves to the Met for care and storage.

The show in Brooklyn highlights some of the most renowned pieces from its collection. This show starts with heavy, ornate, highly structured gowns by the House of Worth, as does the show at the Met. This is because modern fashion begins with Charles Worth, the English dressmaker who moved to Paris to create the first famous fashion label. This show states that "one of his most significant contributions was to transform the perception of dressmaking from craft to art by raising aesthetics and identifying himself as an artist."

This striped dress in the middle is by Poiret from 1910. A few years ago the Met did a beautiful show on Poiret. These horizontal stripes overlaid with silk chiffon look quite modern.

This silver lame dress is also by Poiret. The notes say five embroidered pomegranates are scattered over its surface. This dress could easily be worn today - so beautiful and simple.

The outfit on the left by Schiaparelli was perhaps my favorite in the show. The silk blouse is decorated with a dazzling star burst of sequins and beads. It tops a black ribbed silk velvet long skirt. Just put on these two pieces and you are spectacularly dressed. No jewelry necessary. The top is a jewel in itself.

Here's a little nineteenth century multi-media. The painting is by Carolus-Duran and depicts Emily Warren Roebling dressed to meet Queen Victoria in 1896 in a gown by Worth. Emily Roebling is famous in Brooklyn; she was the daughter of John Roebling who designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge. When her father died, Emily took over the historic project. In the foreground is the actual dress that she wore by Worth, an elaborate concoction of velvet and silk and brocade. I was taken by the plethora of artificial flowers embellishing its long train; the woman was dragging a veritable garden around behind her!

This little figure shocked me. This is a black gown worn by Queen Victoria at the christening of her great grandson Prince Edward. At first I thought this mannequin was kneeling; I had no idea Queen Victoria was so short. Certainly you don't get that idea from glamorous movies made about her. I learned later that Victoria was so short and stout that she was buried in a square coffin. True story.

Here is an array of gowns by the American couturier Charles James who famously lived in the Chelsea Hotel. These are sculptures to wear.

After the show there was a reception in the main lobby of the museum. A few years ago the Brooklyn Museum added a new modern entrance which I think is very successful. It reminds me of the Louvre, where you are inside and looking up at the old buildings outside.

We walked down the Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza, TD and I in our blazers. When we passed a family on the sidewalk, the young girl turned to her father and said excitedly, "I think they are twins!"
At Grand Army Plaza, The Brooklyn Public Library was lit up. The curving entrance features gold-embossed ancient figures around the towering doorway, like a great Egyptian temple at dusk – a distinguished center of learning and culture.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Day in New York

On Saturday after my yoga class I went over to the Perry Street Sale in the Village where neighbors were selling clothes, books, art, antiques and all kinds of stuff. I love a good street sale. You can find some charming things, and Perry Street is really pretty, lined with brownstone houses and covered by a canopy of trees. I believe Perry Street was where Carrie lived in Sex and the City.

The sale was crowded with shoppers.

After I perused up and back, I bought this metal container pressed into the shapes of leaves and vines. It looks William Morris Edwardian to me. The guy selling it said it's a vase

but I am using it as a waste basket.

I also bought a Liberty of London tie, which I think would be nice worn to a garden party. Like I need another Liberty tie.

But what can I say. Liberty "says Hello to me very distinctly," as Polly Mellen said in Unzipped. Liberty is also an Edwardian company, also featuring florals. Do you see a theme emerging here?

That night TD and headed to the Bowery on the Lower East Side to Pulino's, the new restaurant from Keith McNally which just received a good review in The Times this week. We had a reservation and jumped on the B train but we fouled up and ended up in Brooklyn at Dekalb Avenue. Don't ask. We hustled back and finally arrived at the restaurant, a half hour late.

We cooled our heels at the bar. Like Pastis, Balthazar and Schiller's, the interior includes Keith McNally's signature tiled walls, exposed brick, and old-fashioned lighting so that this brand new restaurant looks like it had been there forever. The place was completely packed and the noise level was thunderous but it was a fun environment.

We ended up commandeering two chairs at the end of the bar for the best seats in the house, and decided to eat at the bar, so being late worked out. Pulino's features mainly pizza, and the food from chef Nate Appleman was really good. We split a roasted fennel salad, and creamy mozzarella with a beet salad.

Then, a pizza with rock shrimp and a pizza with sausage. Really delicious food. I can still taste it. We drank Coney Island lager beers on tap with it.

Here is the hardworking kitchen.

I love the wood and metal racks in the foreground.

Then we toddled down to Rivington Street to celebrate the birthday of my cousin and godchild Erin who had invited her friends to the bar Marshall Stack. Cool dark bar, more exposed brick and old-fashioned pendant lighting. I drank delicious Sixpoint ale which is made in Brooklyn. Erin has a lot of interesting friends and she loves New York, just like her godfather.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"American Woman" at the Costume Institute

I was invited this week to preview the new show "American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity" at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Curated by Andrew Bolton, this show is the first at the Met to feature clothes from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection which transferred to the Met in 2009. It promised to show how American style developed from 1890 to 1940 by organizing eras into iconic archetypes like the Heiress, the Bohemian, the Flapper, and the Screen Siren. You might remember that I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology's recent exhibit on American style and its accompanying seminar, so I was looking forward to seeing this new show, made possible by support from the Gap and Conde Nast.

I thought you might enjoy a tour through it too so we videoed the visit on the Canon. TD came with me to be the camera man. You know that videos are new here at Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things, and I think it's time for a video camera! Any recommendations would be appreciated. The galleries were a little dark, and the background noise is a little loud, but you'll get the idea here. Lean in and listen to what Anna Wintour has to say!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The City Celebrates Sondheim

The great American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim turned 80 earlier this spring, and New York City has been celebrating. Sondheim is of course the genius behind Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, and Follies, to name a few of his highest achievements. He certainly is one of the greatest living American artists, and what a great joy it must be for him to be acclaimed like this.

Earlier in the season the New York Philharmonic marked the occasion with a concert starring, among others, Patti LuPone, Elaine Stritch, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters and Audra McDonald. I know – amazing.

Right now, Bergdorf Goodman is paying tribute to the man with windows inspired by his music. An edgy military jacket and silver sequin jeans by Chistophe Decarnin for Balmain are positioned near a Sweeney Todd barber chair

and a beautiful black and white gown by Carolina Herrera is at home amongst graphic black ink drawings by the great Al Hirshfeld who died in 2003.

This week TD and I went to see Sondheim on Sondheim, now on Broadway at The Roundabout Theater which used to be Studio 54 back in the day. It's a biographical anthology of Sondheim's songs, conceived and directed by James Lapine who brilliantly directed Sunday in the Park with George on Broadway. This show includes a cast of six including Tom Wolpat (who TD chats with at our gym), Vanessa Williams, who is coming off her wonderful turn as the villainous Wilhelmina Slater in the much-missed Ugly Betty, and the great Broadway treasure Barbara Cook who this year is 83.

(two photographs from The New York Times)
The songs on stage are interspersed with video of clips of Sondheim talking about his life and work played out on plasma screens. You really do learn a lot about the man.

Stephen Sondheim grew up on the upper west side in New York City. After his parents divorced when he was ten, he and his mother moved to Pennsylvania. Luckily a nearby neighbor was the legendary lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein who took the boy in as a surrogate father. Sondheim adored Hammerstein and wanted to be just like him. "If Oscar was a geologist I probably would have become a geologist," Sondheim says via video in this show. Luckily he became the most brilliant composer of his age.

Sondheim's relationship with his mother was not as happy. He says that when he was forty and his mother was going to have heart surgery, she sent him a note which said that the only regret she had in her life was giving birth to him.

The audience gasped when he says this. You know, you never know what people go through in life. He said, "Thank God for Oscar or I might not be alive today." At another point this man who famously wrote about love and affairs of the heart says his first love relationship came along when he was sixty.

His work is wonderfully celebrated here. TD and I both thought the first act was a little flat but the second act took off with those powerful, emotional songs that bring tears to the eyes including "Sunday in the Park with George" which visually shows how a work of art comes together, "In Buddy's Eyes" which celebrates love between a couple as they get older, and "Not a Day Goes By" about a love lost but not forgotten.

When I met Ted on Labor Day on Fire Island in 1985, he introduced me to the work of Stephen Sondheim and took me soon after to see Sunday in the Park on Broadway. He had already seen it and wanted to take me. That show, about the process of the creation of art, was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. We went again to see the revival recently in this very same Roundabout Theater. I love Sondheim but Ted does even more so and has been to Chicago and Washington D.C. to see productions. We laugh: He says, "Do you want to go see the new Follies?" and I say, "No Ted I've seen Follies three times" and he says, "But you haven't seen this Follies."

But Ted really did bring all these beautiful songs to me. When I hear Stephen Sondheim, I think of Ted.