Monday, July 23, 2012

A Trip to Martha's Vineyard

Up at Aquinnah, a view to the Gay Head Lighthouse (click on photos to enlarge)
Last week TD and I had a lovely and much-needed week's vacation on Martha's Vineyard. The island off the coast of Massachusetts has a special spot in my heart because I lived for two formative summers there in college, and the place had a big influence on me. Martha's Vineyard to me is a combination of sophistication plus natural, easy style that continues to inspire me. We have been back a handful of times since, and I always love to be there.
My mother painted this view of me walking to the beach during a family vacation -

For this trip, I found on the internet a cottage which is located way up-island in Aquinnah. When I lived on Martha's Vineyard, the area was called Gay Head, but it has since reverted back to its original Native American name. Our little cottage was at the end of a long dirt road, and it was one mile from the ocean beach.
We went straight away to get a car beach pass to Philbin Beach, the private beach for Aquinnah residents. To get to the beach, you walk up a sandy path hill, over a crest, and then down a hill for the most wonderful entrance to a beach.

We walked up towards the Gay Head Cliffs which are renowned for their red clay content which was used to make bricks.

Around every turn in the bend is another great view.

Other beachgoers too were enjoying the beauty of the beach and ocean.

We took another path up, over kind of a wooden boardwalk that weaves through grassy fields.

Our little cottage was a wonderful combination of wood beams, blue trim and white furnishings - perfectly casual for the beach.

There was an airy porch, for writing and drawing.

The house was completely secluded and the only sound we heard was birds singing.

On the second floor was a large bedroom with windows on three sides. In the middle of one night a thunderstorm rolled in and bright lightening cracked all around us through the windows.
We went to the nearby fishing village of Menemsha where we met our New York City friends Beth and Tim for a lobster dinner at the Home Port restaurant. Nothing better than lobster right out of the sea.

Martha's Vineyard is largely undeveloped so a great part of its natural beauty is green country land that rolls down to the blue ocean. In spots, grey weathered wood houses with white painted trim dot the landscape. I love the colors of Martha's Vineyard – blue, green, sand, grey, white. That is really all I wear.

One day at the beach, we situated ourselves near a large rock. I thought that rock looked familiar.

It's where we took a family photo, probably twenty five years ago, with my parents and siblings. Yours truly with the long hair is on the right. It is one of our best family pictures.

I walked along the beach and saw these rocks which were rather miraculously balanced.

When I returned, they were gone. Did I make that up in my head, I thought? No, because I have the photo as proof!
I was waiting for TD to do some body surfing in the ocean, but I like the sound of the waves anyway –

We drove to a private beach on Menemsha Pond and had a glass of white wine as we watched the sun set. Birds fluttered about overhead as the sun sank down. The ever-changing colors were breathtaking. I said, "This is like we're in a Walt Disney movie."

On our last day there we went up to the Gay Head Lighthouse to take in the ocean views.

Below the Lighthouse parking lot, a big white tent had been set up on the side of a hill with white heraldic flags waving overhead. It looked like a tent for a wedding. Sure enough, as we passed by, I saw the bride who was there with a photographer. She was tan and had blond hair, and was wearing a white strapless wedding dress with a big bouffant skirt. Following the photographer, she gathered up her voluminous skirt in her arms and ran down the green hill out of sight.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

The facade of the Branch Bank of America from 1822-24, originally located on Wall Street, and now found in the newly renovated American wing at the Metropolitan Museum.
Since the Fourth of July fell in the middle of the week, TD and I were in town for the holiday and we decided to take advantage of the day and go up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We did our best to get there on the early side, before it got very crowded, arriving at 11 am.

The first stop was Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, the current exhibition at the Costume Institute. It opened in May and you might have read about it; it pairs together in conversation and clothes Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian surrealist fashion designer who lived from 1890 - 1973, and Miuccia Prada, the Italian fashion designer who is of course alive and thriving. Cleverly, the curators of the show created video clips directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Australia) in which Prada and Schiaparelli, played by actress Judy Davis, have compelling conversations.
I loved it.

(No photography allowed; these two photos from The New York Times)

The show was just so smart, and it was so interesting to hear the fashion designers talk about their work and see their clothes presented together. And the clothes are beautiful. Carefully constructed and decorated with embroidery, beads, paillettes, and plastic disks, the designs are intricate, striking, and timeless.

They discuss their different approaches to fashion – Prada designs from the waist down and Schaparelli designed from the waist up, noting that she lived in a cafe society where women sat at restaurant tables so it was important to look fashionable on top, with an emphasis on the shoulders and the bust.

Prada on the other hand notes that "there is so much going on from the waist down, sexy stuff, being attached to the earth." In fact, I have noticed in photos that she often wears a plain sweater and a crazy skirt, like one made of feathers, and outrageous shoes. In this movie, in fact Prada, perhaps the most influential fashion designer in the world, sits at a table wearing a simple white shirt with a grey v-neck sweater, small earrings and no makeup.

This is a photo of Jenna Lyons, the creative director at J. Crew, with designer Eddie Borgo, arriving at the opening party of this exhibition, and you can see that she is channeling the same idea with a plain v-neck sweater and a fantastic, opulent feather skirt. And a great red lipstick.
It's such a cool way to dress – understated on top and glamorous on bottom, a great combination.
Elsewhere in the show, Prada said (and I was trying to write down the quotes correctly), "With my clothes, I try to make men look human. I try to make women look powerful."
"I don't want to make women look pleasing in any way."
"I am trying to create something to wear that makes sense with the mess of life."
Go see this show – it's a very intelligent presentation of clothes and the ideas behind them.

After the dazzle of ornate decoration, we went to see the exhibition of plant drawings by Ellsworth Kelly, which was like a clean, cold, bracing drink of water.
Sunflower, from 1957
Ellsworth Kelly, the contemporary painter who is renowned for his minimalist, color-field paintings, lives in upstate New York, where he produces delicate plant drawings that are lovely in their simplicity. It's a wonderful show to see in the summertime.
The Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings catalogue
Then we headed up to the hot, sunny rooftop to see Cloud City, a large constellation sculpture of interconnected modules by Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno.
Made out of metal and transparent and reflective materials, it looked like a shiny space ship had landed on the roof of the Met. It's possible to climb up into it, but visitors need to go first to the fourth floor to get a timed ticket (free).

After a lunch in the cafeteria, we headed to the recently renovated American Wing (pictured at the top of this post) which I had previously visited with Jane. Here, the museum's American paintings have been beautifully mounted in airy new galleries; I think my favorite room holds the John Singer Sargents. It was a hot summer day, but the whole museum was cooly air-conditioned. The spacious, serene museum is for me like going to church, and there is a lot to see there right now. It's like being in heaven.