Saturday, November 10, 2018

Carolyne Roehm's Constant Thread

With Carolyne Roehm at her book party in Susan Gutfreund's Fifth Avenue home, and the cover of her gorgeous new book.
     Carolyne Roehm, a longtime friend of this blog, has a new book out called Design & Style: A Constant Thread. Besides being impressively large and heavy (you could do bicep curls with this thing), it's unusual for Carolyne, who has produced twelve books, because this one is largely autobiographical.
     We caught up with Carolyne a few years back at home and did two video interviews on the blog when she published her book A Passion for Interiors. Her living room, with its double height ceilings and brown velvet walls, is I think the most beautiful I've been in. Two years later we did a video with Carolyne in the New York City flower district for her book Flowers.
     Throwback to a book party past –

   For this book, Carolyne's friend Susan Gutfreund hosted a party in her renowned apartment on Fifth Avenue, and that was a real treat. The Fifth Avenue building was designed by architect Rosario Candela, who I recently wrote about for Architectural Digest. The stunning apartment was decorated by Henri Samuel, who was the subject of a book by Emily Eerdmans Evans, which I wrote about here on the blog. Candles flickered in the long salon facing Fifth Avenue where the party was held, and we had the chance to duck into the celebrated Winter Garden room, which is decorated in tones of yellow and green and pink.
    Carolyne is dedicated to beauty and her books have been about her expertise and passions in decorating, gardening, fashion and entertaining. With this book she combines them all and explores how everything she does, from her fashion designs to setting a table to arranging flowers, is inspired by her consistent taste and style - her constant thread. This book is unique too because she writes about her personal life experience. 
Carolyne at home in the 80s and her gorgeous peonies –

Joyful tulips inspired this Roehm design –

     Carolyne Jane Smith grew up in a Missouri farm town and was called Janie Smith until she decided to go by her first name and married Axel Roehm. She later married Henry Kravis, the Wall Street financier, who invested in her designer fashion collection. For ten years at the height of the rollicking 80s the couple were the toast of the town. But in the early 90s came divorce, her decision to close her fashion company and an unsuccessful attempt to start a catalogue business. Carolyne writes that, "there were moments in which I genuinely believed I wouldn't find the strength or the will to continue."
      As an escape, she decided to go to a college in England to study Shakespeare's tragedies, thinking that "the Bard might help me understand what the hell had gone wrong with my life." She tells a funny story about being locked out of the college dorm while taking a shower and hanging naked by her fingertips off a windowsill three stories above ground. There were regrets about her decision to close her fashion business and walk away from her catalogue venture. In Paris she had an unpaid internship at the legendary flower shop Moulié Fleurs and had the idea to create an everyday, how-to-book about flowers.
     In one of her designs –

Carolyne in Chanel and one of her creative gift wrappings –

    Carolyne returned and writes, " three years after I'd slunk out of New York, feeling in every meaningful way a failure to myself, I was back. At my lowest moment, I had gotten off the floor and taken a baby step, one that liberated me to move on to a new, and very rewarding enterprise. Once that happens, you never lose the faith that no matter how difficult life becomes, if you just take that step, things will get better. That was the great lesson of my wilderness years."
     Hers is a wonderful story of resilience and strength, and how creativity, beauty and art can rescue a person. A Passion for Flowers was the first of a dozen books. Carolyne is also an accomplished watercolor painter and she announced on Instagram (@carolyneroehm) that she has just launched a collection of Chinoiserie jewelry on her website. She designs and creates boundlessly without fear or limitation. I think these traits are in fact her constant thread. Cheers to Carolyne Roehm, a great inspiration.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Art of Gray Foy

     Up right now through November 16th at the Francis Naumann Gallery on West 57th Street is an exhibition of the work of artist Gray Foy, who worked in pencil, creating incredibly finely nuanced and shaded drawings. In fact, when you go into the gallery, they offer you a magnifying glass so you can inspect the drawings closely. One of the drawings is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which lent it for this show. I knew Gray and the show was a revelation to me.
     This drawing is called Abandoned Nest, and you can see how expertly he rendered the natural subject – 

    TD and I had the pleasure of meeting Gray, who passed away in 2012. He was the lifelong partner of the great Condé Nast magazine editor Leo Lerman, and we were introduced to the couple by TD's friend Richard. Leo was a larger-than-life personality who was an editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and ran the arts coverage at Vogue. Leo and Gray lived in one of the most amazing apartments I have ever been in, in The Osborne on West 57th Street. After Leo passed away, selections of his journals were published in a book called The Grand Surprise, which is a fun, jolly read that I highly recommend. When I knew Leo, he was walking with a cane and later was in a wheel chair. Coming behind and helping him always was his partner Gray.
     It turns out Gray himself was a fine artist. I had no idea. The gallery materials state that Gray was born in Dallas and worked as an artist in Los Angeles and New York. Using standard issue No. 2 pencils, he created surrealist scenes of figures and body parts inspired by Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico. Later he moved on to plants and botanical subjects, and these are my favorite in the exhibition. The gallery notes that, caught up in the active social life he shared with Leo, Gray stopped producing his art in the mid-70s.
    When I entered the gallery I was the only visitor so it was a very quiet and peaceful trip. The exquisite drawings pull the viewer in for closer examination.
I think my favorite was Uprooted Plants from 1955 –

Here is a close up. It's hard to believe all of the shadings and gradations are rendered in pencil; it looks more like a print – 

So delicate and serene. There were many other works to explore in the jewel-box of a gallery. It was a pleasure to visit the still and tranquil world of Gray Foy.