June Brides

•06/22/12 • 10 Comments

 

Yes, yes, I know, the errant in me is silently creeping in to post an utterance to my diminishing band of readers who have all but abandoned me, as I have them. Forgive me, but I will make my new endeavors known shortly. In the interim, a bit of art to soothe the brow of the cultural wars that divide us. Lest you thought this to be a personal announcement of the Errant Aesthete’s upcoming nuptials … well, yea of momentous imagination!

Before the month of June of 2012, leaves us to the annals of history, an enchanting, and in these times, controversial, cover from first-time contributor, Gayle Kabaker, for the New Yorker commemorating a year of marriage equality in New York. Chosen from the blog, Blown Covers, also known as ‘New Yorker covers you were never meant to see,’ the story of the pick for the June 25 cover is, clearly, far gentler than the feedback.

The magazine’s art editor, Françoise Mouly, found the image through her Blown Covers blog. Every week, Mouly hosts a cover contest on the blog, open to all, with themes that closely mirror those she suggests to her regular contributors, from Father’s Day to books to the theme that reeled this image in: weddings. Kabaker is the first artist to make the leap from blog to cover.

“I live in the Berkshires, so I do almost all of my work online,” Kabaker said. “It’s a big deal, getting on the cover. … Françoise told me not to tell my mother until the issue actually went to press, because things could change,” she added. “I didn’t want to say that my mother’s dead—but I know she’d be very proud of me.”

I had thought to end this lovely little anecdote with that warm sentiment on the artist’s deceased mother, but the bliss of brides and weddings is not only a political war, but one of gender as well, as evidenced in this email to the New Yorker on their depiction of marriage:

“Why isn’t there a gay male couple on the cover of New Yorker magazine? You guys seem to have a habit of avoiding showing gay male couples on the cover of your magazine. This is not going down well with the gay male community and has been criticized on popular gay websites like towleroad. Perhaps New Yorker is not the gay-friendly magazine it claims to be. All in all, this selective homophobia on the part of New Yorker magazine is one of the reasons why I and my gay male friends won’t be voting for Obama.”

A more reasonably seasoned soul noted, “Really? You and your friends are going to vote for Mitt Romney because of a New Yorker cover?”

So, it would seem. How banal and predictable we are. How rabid and quick triggered our responses, how shallow and sluggish our thinking.

 

 

•05/27/12 • 2 Comments

 

ROMANESQUE SCULPTOR, Italian
(1140-1160, Lombardy)

Although this sculpture of Eve on the portal of the Cathedral of Lodi, also known as Basilica Cattedrale della Vergine Assunta located in Lodi, Lombardy, Italy, is a statue set against a pier, a column-statue in the Italian manner, in execution it is close to the French style. Some consider this a work by Benedetto Antelami from the second third of the 12th century; it was more probably carved by an Antelami follower. The expressiveness of the sorrowful face, the dynamic movement emphasized by the folds of the contemporary dress, and the linear formulations are all characteristic of the 12th-century Lombard school.

In a word, exquisite.

 

Overheard

•04/01/12 • 6 Comments

 

“Wouldn’t it be
a fine thing,
a swell thing,
a boon to the community of man
and to all creatures great and small,
if this girl’s soul
was as ripe
and stunning
as her ass.”

 

 

Image: Horst
Words: Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

 

 

Dolce Far Niente

•03/27/12 • 6 Comments

 

 

 

I am obsessed with home right now for I am in search of one. A quiet place, a private place where I can retreat from everything. There is a beautiful expression in Italian ‘Dolce Far Niente.’ The sweetness of doing nothing. For me, these spaces are exactly that, places that require little more than just being in them — doing nothing.

 

 

There should be at least one room, or some corner,
where no one will find you and disturb you or notice you. You should
be able to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free,
loosing all the fine strings and strands of unison that bind you,
by sound, by thought, to the presence of other men.

 

 

Images: Electic Revisited
Griege
Homes & Gardens
Livingetc
Chateau de Moissac
Passage: Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 

 

Passing Through

•03/26/12 • Leave a Comment

 

Things always come when they are meant to, even if a bit late. This post, “Passing Through,” for example, seemed perfectly harmonious with the lyrics of a song, entitled “Empty” by Ray LaMontagne.

You see,
I’ve been to
hell and back
so many times
I must admit
you
kind
of
bore
me.

 

And then late this morning, as I was idly paging through a mostly forgotten book, the perfect pairing of word and image found its way to me in this fable taken from the Tales of the Hassidim. While the weathered door hardly resembles the modest room depicted in the fable, it, somehow, matters not.

 

A tourist from America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim.
He was astonished to see the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and bench.
“Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is your furniture?”
“Where is yours?” replied Hofetz Chaim.
“Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m only passing through.”
“So am I,” said the rabbi.

 

 

Overheard: Bette Davis

•03/24/12 • 3 Comments

 

 

I’m the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived

 

When a man gives his opinion he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion she’s a bitch.

 

I often think that a slightly exposed shoulder emerging from a long satin nightgown packed more sex than two naked bodies in bed.

 

In this business, until you’re known as a monster you’re not a star.

 

I’d marry again if I found a man who had fifteen million dollars, would sign over half to me, and guarantee that he’d be dead within a year.

 

I wanted to be the first to win three Oscars, but Miss Hepburn has done it. Actually it hasn’t been done. Miss Hepburn only won half an Oscar. If they’d given me half an Oscar I would have thrown it back in their faces. You see, I’m an Aries. I never lose.

 

I survived because I was tougher than anybody else.

 

I will never be below the title.

 

 

Image: Bette Davis, Photographer: George Hurrell

 

 

The Enchanted Edible Forest

•03/22/12 • 1 Comment

 

Surely, it had to be enchanted. What else could account for the intoxication in the air – the perfumed scent of peaches, apples, lemons and plums, the aroma of lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme. Everywhere you looked there were fruit and nut trees forming an open canopy, with the bounty of their gifts limning the branches — pears, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Barely visible shrubs yielding raspberries, blueberries, currants and hazelnuts filled the earthen hollows with other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts making their scattered debut throughout the seasons. Native wildflowers, herbs, wild edibles, and perfectly colored and curved perennial vegetables blanketed the earth in a cornucopia of plenty.

Looking across this woodland web of ecological wonder, where food and medicine is cultivated, where birds, bees, butterflies and insects congregate, where soil replenishes and redeems, and where vines, trees and arbors of hanging kiwis, grapes and passion-flowers adorn nature’s nave like small sacraments, you suddenly realize this is not fantasy, but a true to life edible forest, a celestial shrine, a green cathedral, anointed with gratitude, tended with reverence and venerated by all.

This life force, or what is being called, “a park to be eaten” is currently underway on two acres of land in my newly adopted home of Seattle. In a gesture of unimagined cooperation, agreement and simple goodness, this edible ecosystem will be all-natural, healthy, and free to the public. The goal is to mimic nature while providing free, healthy food to the local community. Citizens will be invited to harvest food on the honor system. “It’s just good ethics,” one of the designers said. “Help yourself, don’t take it all and save some for anybody else.”

‘As a new citizen of the Emerald City, I couldn’t be prouder,’ I murmured in silent tribute, as though my arrival on the scene like the Elf Queen Galadriel in a wisp of gossamer, sprinkling a wave of fairy dust from my ecologically-engineered wand had something to do with Seattle’s inspiration.

The Japanese farmer and philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka once said,

 

“The ultimate goal
of farming
is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation
and perfection
of human beings.”

 

How we garden reflects our worldview. It is a testament to ourselves, our livelihood, and the legacy we leave behind. It’s objective is not merely the growing of things for survival, or the industrialization of farming as a means to control, contaminate and cash in on our nation’s polluted and plundered food supply, but the life-affirming cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and of acting in the world. Forest gardening gives us the experience of what it means to feel the dirt, scatter the seeds, cradle a bulb, all the while teaching us how the planet works, how life blooms, dies and resurrects, and how we, as a species, can master our collective destiny, assuming our rightful place as part of nature doing nature’s work.

Seattle’s first harvest is expected in spring of 2013, although the trees will take a few years to bear fruit. There is talk that the park may be expanded to seven splendid acres, making it the largest food forest in America.

 

Image: Green Cathedral, Joel Barr, Painting in Oils

 

 

The Vernal Equinox

•03/20/12 • 2 Comments

 

It is said that today marks the start of Spring, although the night before last the bone-chilling temperatures, arctic winds and blinding snow took a rather contrarian position, refusing to give way to the seasonal rite of passage. Nature, with a mere flip of the wrist or arch of the brow, can do that — have her way — without explanation or apology, reminding all in doubt, who reigns supreme as the true mistress of the universe. While some would suggest our fates are determined by the moneyed masters, those other contenders for the title, the barons of a street called Wall, I far prefer to entrust my destiny to the czarina of true power, fickle and temperamental though she may be. To honor her resistance in refusing to let go, (and who of us, after all, has not held on long after the obvious was made apparent), this very small homage to her royal highness, Mother Nature, and to the magical and mystical spirits who dwell in her domain. The incurably curious might want to cross the threshold for a closer look.

 

Here
is a place
where
the silence
allows you
to hear
the
swish
of
falling
stars.

 

 

Quote: Wallace Stegner

 

 

Lartigue’s Angel

•03/18/12 • 2 Comments

 

I’m not a
photographer-writer-painter,
I’m a taxidermist
of things
that life
offers me
on the way.”

 

 

So wrote Jacques Henri Lartigue, one of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the twentieth century. One of those “things” that life put in his path happened in March of 1930, when Lartigue met a Romanian model, Renee Perle, at Doeillet. The exquisitely turned-out beauty quickly became his muse, lover and friend and for the next two years, the photographer set about creating an indelible icon in a relationship played against the backdrop of the quintessentially breezy atmosphere of the leisured class: Paris, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, and Biarritz.

 

 

Hot to the touch and cool on the eyes, Lartigue christened her an “angel.” “Around her, I see a halo of magic,” he wrote. In an earlier post on the famed muse, Anatomie de l’élégance, Lartigue recorded her physical perfection in his diary, describing her thus:

“She is beautiful.

“The small mouth
with the
full painted lips!

The ebony
black eyes.

From under
her fur coat
comes a warmth
of perfume.”

 

 

Photographer and muse shared a kind of symbiotic exchange with she reveling in the eye of his lens and he immortalizing her on film, creating a legend that would endure far longer then her life or her romance with Lartigue. Beyond that brief span of time, little to nothing is known about her, which only heightens the mystique.

 

 

What intrigues and captivates me most about Lartigue, beyond his extraordinary talent, or his depiction of a world like that of the 18th-century painter Fragonard–enchanting and frivolous, with life’s disappointments and sorrow well out of frame, was the magical narrative of the arc of his life that encapsulated goes something like this:

In his early years, he reveled in high society and luxury until the decline of his family’s fortune forced him to search for other sources of income. Despite his fall from privilege, he continued to write, photograph and record mesmerizing, vibrant and exciting images of the times, places and people who inhabited his world, all the while supporting himself and his family as a complete unknown; a mediocre, and most would say, “dreadfully inferior” painter.

In what can only be described as one of the greatest reversals of fortune in human history, Lartigue and his third wife, Florette, embarked on a cargo ship to Los Angeles in the early 1960’s. In a roundabout way, they stopped on the East Coast and meet Charles Rado of the Rapho Agency, who in turn, introduced them to the Museum of Modern Art’s head of the photography department, John Szwarkoski.

The year is 1963 and Lartigue is sixty-nine years old when he first presents a selection of his many photographs taken throughout his life to the young curator. That same year there is a photo spread of his work in the famous Life Magazine issue which commemorates the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and which is publicized all over the world. Overnight, the aging, impoverished and unheard of Lartigue becomes one of the renowned photographers of the twentieth century. The patient and long suffering would murmur in unison that ‘Good things come to those who wait.’ Maybe they do, after all.

Twenty-two years after being ‘discovered,’ Lartigue left this earth on September 12th 1986, in Nice, at the amply-lived age of 92, leaving behind more than one-hundred-thousand photographs, seven-thousand diary pages and fifteen-hundred paintings. A remarkable body of work for a man who never stopped discovering, documenting and recording a life as it was lived.

 

 

Of course, among that legacy were the pictures of Renee Perle with her wide-brimmed hats and sleekly tilted berets, the stacked bangles lining her arms, the billowy pants, the perfectly-coiffed finger waves and those nails, those infallibly polished nails, rendering her the status and chic of a true style icon, one that endures to this day.

The following magazine spread shot by Alexi Lubomirski for German Vogue in March 2009, with model Georgina Stojiljkovic is as timeless today as it was when Lartigue and his angel roamed the beaches and bistros of the cote d’azur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

•03/17/12 • 1 Comment

 

Suggestions for this day, via the press:

 

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States:

Cover yourself in green (bonus points for shamrocks), put a smiling leprechaun cut-out on your front door, head to your local “Irish Pub” and get happily tight.

 

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in England:

Eh, maybe pop down to the local pub for a nice pint.

 

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland:

Go to church.

 

Hence, this Aesthete will be spending the day, lifting a pint, reclining in a pew, and dream of smiling leprechauns dancing a jig in her head.

To You and Yours

 

 

Today’s Notable Aesthetic

•03/14/12 • 2 Comments

 

Dongen, Kees van (1877-1968) – 1919c. The Corn Poppy

 

Kees van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the original members of the controversial Fauves (Wild Beasts). He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits. But he knew what he wanted to capture in oils and upon finishing his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam in 1892, he frequented the Red Quarter seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes.

In 1899 he went to Paris and began to exhibit, in among other venues, the notoriously scandalous 1905 exhibition Salon d’Automne, featuring the bright colors of Matisse and others, who were to become known as the Fauves for their irreverence against Impressionism. He was experimental in his work and his associations, being a member of the German Expressionists, part of an avant-garde wave of painters who had hopes of a renewal out of Neo-impressionism and, eventually, joined the circle of friends surrounding Pablo Picasso.

Under the influence of Jasmy Jacob, amongst others, Kees van Dongen developed the lush colors of his Fauvist style. This gained him a solid reputation with the French bourgeoisie. As a fashionable portraitist his subjects included Arletty, Leopold III of Belgium and Maurice Chevalier.

On his popularity as a portraitist of high society women, he cynically remarked, “The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished.”

A remark so in keeping with another of his favored sayings,

 

“Painting is the most beautiful of lies.”

 

 

Monochromatic Melancholy

•03/12/12 • 5 Comments

 

A new visual presence has made its way into my life.

 

 

Defined by beautiful soft focus landscapes,
desolate spaces and unrecognizable forms,
the work of Geoffrey Johnson is
enigmatic, seductive and otherworldly.

 

 

Human figures faded into almost transparent city landscapes;

 

 

monochromatic palletes and sepia tones;

 

 

an air of mystery fused with a veil of melancholy.

 

 

More of his work can be seen at Hubert Gallery

 

 

Images: Geoffrey Johnson.

Special thanks to one of my favored blogger friends, Thom, whose new blog, Form is Void, is a source of wondrous imagery.