Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Joy of June, In Three Parts

Brother Thom, aunt Ellen, uncle Bob in Latham, New York.
The month of June is often time for family celebrations and this year TD and I had a full dance card.
The first weekend of June we winged up to Rochester, New York, on JetBlue for the wedding party of my cousin Peter's daughter Dottie.

Here is Dottie arriving at the party with her husband Bryce behind and mother Lorie. Earlier in May the couple had already been married in Italy in Tuscany, and this was a celebratory cocktail reception held at the Twin Beeches Estate in Pittsford, New York. Dottie looking beautiful arrived in a horse drawn carriage and then guests passed through the mansion to a posh reception on the tented terrace. This is my father's side of the family, and it was great fun to see aunts and cousins and their children. My mother was not feeling up to the trip but my father did drive from Connecticut, and here we are:

At the reception, photographer Cythnia Fay took this picture of yours truly, which was posted on Fine and

My cousin Bryan and his wife Sherry happily invited us to stay at their house which was most comfortable. Big congrats and best wishes to Dottie and Bryce as they begin their married life together; their party was a wonderful beginning.
The second weekend of June we headed down to Ocean City, New Jersey, for TD's mother's surprise 90th birthday party.
TD spent the weekend there with his mother Edna and I took a Greyhound bus on Sunday morning out of the Port Authority at 9am. The party was held at the Ocean City Yacht Club which has a big sunny room that is situated right on the scenic Great Egg Harbor Bay.
A colorful June table

And another table. The Dawsons are a riot.

At last the birthday girl did arrive and she was indeed surprised.
Here is Edna surrounded by family and friends as we all sang Happy Birthday.

We settled down to a buffet lunch and delicious birthday cake. When it was time to leave Edna insisted on driving us to the train station. She goes to the gym three times a week – a true inspiration. God bless.
The third weekend of June we rented a car and raced up the New York State Thruway to Latham, New York, near Albany, for the engagement party of my cousin Lindsay. The party was held at the home of the parents of her fiancé Mark. Here is Lindsay second from left greeting guests.

This is my mother's side of the family, the Mumfords. These aunts, uncles, cousins and their children are always a joy to see.

Here are my nephew Aaron and niece Jane. You have met them here on the blog before. Adore.

The big pretty house and garden were the perfect setting for a party. A buffet dinner was served under a tent and we sat down at long tables. Then TD and I drove back to New York to return the car at Hertz. People at the party said, "You didn't get a Zip Car?" Next time!
I loved it all. In three weeks I got to see the three branches of my family. How often does that happen? That is the joy of June.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

L'Amour Fou of Yves Saint Laurent

I went last week to see the documentary movie L'Amour Fou about Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and tucked myself into a tiny IFC theater on Sixth Avenue. You know that the great Saint Laurent died in 2008 and that Bergé was his partner in life and business. This documentary is largely about the auction that Bergé and Christie's held at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2009 to sell off all of the art and antiques and possessions which he and Saint Laurent had bought over the years.

For they had amassed an extraordinary collection including works by Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Mondrian.

The couple had houses in Paris, Morocco, and Normandy, all filled with art and antiques. The house in Morocco (pictured below, the Paris house is pictured above) was dreamily decorated by Jacques Grange in the Edwardian style of Marcel Proust.

This collecting is the L'Amour Fou, the mad love, of the movie's title. After Saint Laurent died, Bergé wanted to unload it all, or most of it. By the movie's end, the auction is over, having made $483 million, almost a half billion dollars, though the movie does not note the figure. Bergé said that some of the proceeds would go to AIDS research.

But of course the most fascinating part of the movie was Saint Laurent himself, the genius who defined the world of fashion in the last half of the twentieth century with his fantastic couture confections, strong pant suits, and tuxedos for women. The movie portrayed his quick rise when he found himself at age 21 named head designer at Christian Dior after Dior died. Soon after that he and Bergé founded the house of Yves Saint Laurent and he held the fashion world enthralled for the next thirty years. In the seventies though the designer suffered from depression and the effects of alcohol and drugs. That is when he launched his new fragrance called Opium.
And then the movie stopped.
I don't think I've ever experienced that in a theater before. A manager ran in to inspect. I was waiting for the film to melt in the lense but of course movies aren't made on film anymore. The manager said, "Sorry about these mechanical issues which are being caused by the intense lightening story outside." We – there was a handful of us in the theater – looked at each other; what lightening storm? He said, "You can have a complementary pop corn or drink." The pop corn turned out to be organic and topped by natural butter – very tasty indeed.
The picture went on again, and it portrayed a sad descent for Yves Saint Laurent into serious depression. Bergé said that Saint Laurent was happy only two times a year, at the fashion shows. The somber movie offered a lot of Bergé talking but I wished that it showed more of Yves Saint Laurent's clothes which were so spectacular. I still remember from the seventies his collections including his Russian collection

and his Chinese collection. He changed the way women dressed with his fantastic colors and exoticism. You see glimpses of it in this movie and I would loved to have seen more. But I did enjoy the movie and visiting the beautiful if somewhat melancholy world of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Even when Saint Laurent was seriously crippled he was an extraordinary artist.
Blog bonus – the movie trailer:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Bike Ride Through Riverside Park

Roses at sunset (click on photos to enlarge)
The other night I went uptown to meet my friend Elliott who was laid up at home after a little surgery. Elliott lives on the Upper West Side which is not a neighborhood I get to often and we had decided to have something to eat in Riverside Park so I rode the blue Schwinn up the bike path which runs along the edge of the Hudson River. Usually on the weekends, the bike path is terribly crowded and I actually avoid it because it can be dangerous but at 6:00 on a weeknight it was pleasantly free of traffic. The path is flat and I love whizzing up it right next to the river and past the boat marina at 79th Street. Further on I crossed the West Side Highway and got into the wooded, hilly part of Riverside Park, which stretches from 72nd Street to 158th Street. Elliott lives on West 90th Street and I couldn't tell where I was exactly so I rode for a bit. I love parks that offer trees and grass and flowers in New York. Although I am a city boy, I also am a country boy. Parks offer the simplicity and pleasure of nature in the middle of a very sophisticated city.
Elevated over the river is a wide promenade which is perfect for strolling.

At the top of the promenade is a wonderful flower garden bursting with plants. A sign says that it is maintained by volunteers called the Garden People. Looking it up, I see that this garden provided the setting for a scene in the 1998 movie You've Got Mail.

Roses and flowers run the length of the promenade.

As the sun grew lower over the Hudson River, the shadows grew longer.

I found my way up to 90th Street. The elegant buildings that line Riverside Drive curve gracefully to follow the street.

I picked up Elliott and we headed back down to Riverside Park to catch up and eat some sandwiches and salads. Bikers and runners and walkers passed by. This building rose above us. Elliott said it was the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Monument built during the Civil War to commemorate those who served.

The sun slipped down behind the crest of New Jersey.

When it was dark we said good bye and I rode my bike home. There were even fewer people on the path and it was a delight to zip along the river towards 15th Street. Lights sparkled on the black river and there was a moon overhear. Something about being on a bike at night, like our ride in Amsterdam, takes me back to my childhood in the most joyous way.

Here is a little video I made while riding along the promenade. Enjoy the sounds of the birds and the musicians. The only thing you don't get here is the rich fragrant smell of the trees and the grass.

A Ride Through Riverside Park from Bart Boehlert on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Visit With John Derian

John Derian in his company's Lower East Side art studio (click on photos to enlarge)
You may remember that I am a huge fan of the work and style of artist and designer John Derian, and that his two stores on East 2nd are some of my favorite places in New York. I've had my eye on John for this blog for a while, and recently I ran into him one Saturday afternoon at the Antiques Garage on West 24th Street. I introduced myself and, happily, he subsequently agreed to meet for an interview.
John is inspired by the nineteenth century and nature. He has a wonderful eye for putting things together in a way that is charming and evocative but also modern and clean. To me personally, he perfectly combines the old with the new.
For instance, when I arrived at his store for our meeting, John was excited about this mix of things pictured below. On the wall are linoleum prints by the British artist Hugo Guinness who lives in Boerum Hill with his wife artist Elliot Puckette and their two daughters. John reported that the prints are of "animals that live in the hedges." On the table are delicate, beautifully-colored paper flowers and paper potted geranium plants by the artist and floral designer Livia Cetti of The Green Vase. These blooms actually look real, but they will never die.

The wood table and chairs are teak and handmade in Belgium by the French company Massant, and, John said, they age gracefully outside. The mix of white, black, wood and a little color from the flowers makes up a simple but sophisticated arrangement. That to me is very John Derian.

John grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts, the youngest of six children. "I didn't fit in; I was the only creative one in my family," he remembers. "I was always making things. I built forts and things in trees and was always creating an environment." As an adult he produced wreaths and other decorative objects for gift shops, and then started making decoupage items, gluing nineteenth-century imagery to the bottom of glass plates. The decoupage business took off and John opened his store at 6 East 2nd Street in 1994. The close-by Dry Goods store which offers textiles, furniture, rugs and art, was opened in 2006.
An assortment of light fixtures hangs over the store cash register.

A profusion of paper flowers bloom at the front door.

Over a mantle, decoupage plates are hung in an overlapping arrangement for a collage effect.

In the Dry Goods store two door down, on a plain wood table, an antique reading lamp shines over a paper geranium plant which has painted variegated leaves and one pale pink flower.

Four years ago John bought a house in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which was built in 1789. With walls of seashell and horsehair plaster and wide wood floor boards, it appealed to his love of the rustic and organic, and he installed a shop in the back of the house. Wallpaper from the 40s was left untouched since John admired its patina. "My brother came to visit the house and said, 'Take your time renovating,'" recalls John. "I had already renovated."

The company art studio where all the decoupage items are made by hand is three blocks away on Chrystie Street, and John offered to take me there. In a bright and airy space, craftspeople cut paper, glue it onto the bottom of glass objects, seal it, and paint the back.

I hadn't actually realized that all the decoupage pieces were made by hand.

A view from the back of the studio.

Paperweights awaiting delivery; John Derain now sells to 800 stores.

Goods headed to Bergdorf Goodman.

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon visit with John Derian who makes the beauty of the past up-to-date and modern for the twenty-first century; it's truly an inspiration.