Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches

So many things to talk about this week!

Orly gives cancer the big kiss-off
Jean Goes Down for the Count
The Outsider Art Fair
Second Hand Books, Second Hand Boots
Display of Hats of the World at Bergdorf’s
Costumes at the Cloisters

Orly gives cancer the big kiss-off

First, we are happy to report that Orly, our stylish breast cancer patient, has finished both chemotherapy AND radiation, and was pronounced CANCER FREE as of January 19. Still feeling the effects of the radiation treatment, Orly, whose sense of humor was left completely undamaged by chemo or radiation, has dubbed herself the Burning Woman Festival. As a rite of passage, Orly held her own ‘voodoo ceremony’ with friends and family, photos of which we are delighted to share with you. Here is Orly, wearing a ceremonial gown for the occasion, complete with drawn on nipples. In the style of the best beauty pageants, the gown proclaims her status.

Following a dramatic change of costume, Orly prepares to set the gown on fire.

The gown goes up in flames.

With the ceremony over, there is another costume change, and drinks all around to formally proclaim the end of the ordeal and the return to the celebration of life.


(For the original blog on Orly and her encounter with breast cancer, see our Nov. 29, 2009 post, What to Wear to Chemo.)

* * * * * * * * * *

Jean Goes Down for the Count

Jean says: Whatever I've got, I would not wish on my worst enemy: For the past two days, everything aches, my throat hurts, my nose runs and my head throbs. At the moment, however, things have calmed down slightly, so I am going to take advantage of my downtime to update you on some of our recent February Sunday outings.

The Outsider Art Fair

On Sunday, February 7, Valerie and I went to the Outsider Art Fair on 34th Street. After taking in the paintings, collage, sculpture, clothing and various oddments, we stopped in the cafe area for caffeine and bubbly, and met two extremely talented women of a certain age who are still actively working and creating. Valerie and I are seated with Jean Betancourt, a Brooklyn-based designer and jewelry maker, and Carol Horn, American sportswear and knitwear designer. [Valerie says: I DROOLED over Carol Horn creations for years and years!]

Carol is modeling a pair of her new hand painted jeans which she will be recreating for Anthropologie in the near future. Fans, stay tuned.

Needless to say, Jean Betancourt's lush purple mane and fabulous glasses got our attention. With very little prompting, she displayed just some of the jewelry she was wearing that day - all of her own design. For more on Jean's jewelry, go to:

Although trying to get a word in edgewise was truly challenging – Carol and Jean clearly go way back, and can complete each other’s sentences - we managed to hold our own long enough to compare notes about the show. The range of materials and expression was truly amazing. Many of the pieces are exuberantly humorous. I must confess that I found some of the price tags for the drawings of deceased unknown artists ($85,000 and up) disconcerting when you consider that in many instances, neither they nor their descendants are profiting from their labors.

Below are some shots of Valerie and me wandering around the show.

Valerie wore a vintage Issey Miyake floor length dress, black and white felt cuffs by Tiiti Tolonen and, in a bid to hold up her end of the Outsider Art Fair, an antique fireman's jacket, probably early 20th century, when the custom was fading out in Japan’s charge toward modernity. The layered, hand stitched cotton jacket is fully reversible. While the outer is typically somber, the lining is often flamboyant (as here). This lining depicts a fox with a human skull and bones and an unlit lantern in tall grasses under a hazy full moon. These are traditional visual codes for a Japanese ghost story. Firemen's jacket linings often depicted tales of the supernatural.

I tend to gravitate to black cats, and there was no shortage of artwork featuring felines.

Here I’m wearing a Lilith quilted jacket, black modal turtleneck, vintage black bakelite necklace, Maria Del Greco fleece hat with vintage bakelite domino pin, large bakelite cuff bracelet and ring, black resin skull ring by Made Her Think, and black resin alligator cuff by Angela Caputti, Brigitte harem pants, Trippen boots, and black leather shoulder bag.

Second Hand Books, Second Hand Boots

Jean continues:

After brunch last Sunday, February 21st, Valerie and I took a short walk to the Strand bookstore, which often has countless wonderful books on art, fashion, graphic design, jewelry, textiles, photography and architecture in a small space. Some are rare, many are very affordable, and all are eminently covetable.

Before splitting up [amid a flurry of melodramatic air kisses], we took advantage of the beautiful weather and headed to an East Village thrift store to check out the latest arrivals. [Valerie says: Jean bought a pair of Wellies, just ahead of the snow storm. How did she do that???] Here are some shots of Valerie cutting quite a figure in her red hat and boots and fabulous felt coat.

OK, when I sent these shots of me to Valerie via email, her comment was something like, "Oh, dear. You really do need some contrast." While I hate to admit it, I am a creature of habit. My first preference, when cruising my closet, is to go for the safe, dark goth look. That does, however, have its limitations. Without going pastel princess or Vegas showgirl overnight, I do think there is some room for improvement in my color palette. Therefore, consider the gauntlet thrown and the challenge accepted. So, for the foreseeable future, I will "shop my closet" and unearth some artifacts that, if not actually colorful, are at least a contrast. Let's check back in a few weeks, shall we, and see how well I'm doing? In the meantime, I'm crawling back to my sick bed to moan, groan, sniffle and wheeze.

[Valerie, in protest, or in self-defensive mode, says: The problem lies in the gap between the acuity of the human eye and the limits of the primitive digital camera. The rich textures and dimensions that the eye takes in are all lost on the camera, which really can’t be faulted – it does its very best with what it has to work with. But the result is that while black clothes in person are subtle and sophisticated, in photographs that gets sacrificed. So what we need is the photographic equivalent of a little pale white chalk pencil to outline the wonderful shapes and textures. Smarter people will probably say we need Photoshop. And Freud might say sometimes a gauntlet is just a gauntlet.]

Jean is wearing an Ignatius fleece hat, Marithe and Francoise Girbaud coat, Lilith skirt, Trippen boots, assorted black bakelite and gold rings, charm necklace, Missoni sunglasses and Maurizio Taiuti shoulder bag. Valerie is wearing a Parkhurst wool hat (which originally came with photos showing five different ways to wear it), felt coat by the much missed Tiiti Tolonen, and leather boots by Frye.

Valerie reports:

Sumptuous Display of Hats of the World at Bergdorf’s

Many thanks to Ellen F. and Tim di Fiore who both alerted us to a fabulous display of headdresses from around the world in the north windows of Bergdorf Goodman (on 58th Street) in New York City.

The hats are from the collection of Stacey Miller. They were VERY hard to photograph in the windows, but I have to show you a few. They came in so many shapes and sizes and colors and materials and from so many social contexts that it would be impossible to do them justice here, either in words or photographs, so do go visit if you can, and if you can’t do that, you can always visit Stacey’s website.

After pressing my nose to the window for ages, like a child, the better to see everything (remember the wonderful Rolling Stones album cover? That’s what I probably looked like – with less stubble, and more gray, of course…), I had a look at the windows on the 5th Avenue side.

There were a few more Stacey Miller headdresses, but my eye was also caught by several Shoes I Cannot Wear (Jean can’t wear them either). They’re shown here, so you can see why I (why most of us???) can’t wear them, but they HAVE to be included, because - well, we’d all wear them if we could.

Check out the scrumptious heel on this one!

And what a great design these have! [Sorry - not clear who the designer(s) is/are.]

Not to be outdone, it looks as though Bergdorf’s window stylist was inspired by Stacey Miller’s collection, and made hats of his or her own.

This one, which looks like stiffened horse hair with painted Keith Haring-like bold black brush strokes, was a devil to photograph - from my perspective, everything caused window reflections. The only good perspective was the face-smushed-against-the-window one, as with the Stacey Miller hats, but I couldn't get my face up that high. (By the way, check out the mannequin's tattoo.)

Fortunately for me, I was dazzled by the same thing at the same time as another gawker/photographer. ‘If only I were two feet taller’ I said to her, whereupon she offered me the photographic services of her 6’4” husband. (The photo above is his handiwork.) I thanked him profusely for being so indulgent, and complimented him on doing such a good job. ‘Not at all’, he replied gallantly. ‘I’m used to it.’

The windows did the job they were supposed to do, and lured me into the store. I stopped on 3, where their artistic director had done the most marvelous job of decorating the walls with little white paper lunch bags, all opened up and attached to the wall at their bases in various configurations, with only their openings facing the viewer. GREAT way to decorate on a small budget, and what a great visual impact. Had they been lit from behind, I would have sworn they were Isamu Noguchi lamps. I wanted very much to photograph them for the blog, but was afraid I'd be chastised by indignant and territorial employees. (Nor would I have blamed them.) There was also a display of large white shopping bags, but there was something very ethereal about the little lunch bags. Hundreds of them were stapled, one to the next, around the middle of the bag, just far enough in that the staples were nearly invisible. My favorite display had chains of 10 paper bags each, with the first and last bag attached to the wall very close together, so the other 8 bulged away from the wall like open fans. Who would have thought it? Full lunch bags are a feast for the tummy; empty lunch bags are a feast for the eye.

Stacey Miller's hats will only be in Bergdorf's windows through Thursday, March 4, so hurry up and see them now.

* * * * * * * *

Costumes at the Cloisters

In conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition of stunning medieval illuminations, which opens this week, costume historian Desiree Koslin gave a lecture on medieval dress at The Cloisters on February 28.

But rather than just show wonderful slides, Dr. Koslin gave the audience breathtaking visual aids in the form of some thirty costume festival participants from the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, wearing garments of all strata of society based on illustrations of the period. The couple above each wore garlanded headgear.

After the lecture, the lords and ladies and beggars and merchants made their way through the halls of The Cloisters for photo ops. Many were knowledgeable about their costumes, and happy to talk about them. This woman wore wooden clogs, in contrast to the nobles, who wore tapered leather shoes.

To my chagrin, I was never able to find the woman who wore the most extraordinary of all the costumes. Hers was a red silk velvet gown with train and what appeared to be equally long sleeves, lined with faux ermine. (The good citizens of Nijmegen were all quick to point out that any fur they were wearing was faux.) Dr. Koslin said the original gown would have weighed about 50 kilos, and would have required attendants to maneuver about in. I did, however, get a chance to photograph this finely dressed lady, and take a close-up of her golden-horned and bejeweled headdress.

Dr. Koslin noted that green was a difficult color to dye, so this young man's outfit would have been very costly and unusual. And doesn't he have a great hat?!

The illuminations will be on view from March 2 to June 13.

No comments:

Post a Comment