Sunday, March 13, 2011

Artist's Proofs

At first we were devastated to learn that we could not commission Al Hirschfeld to do a portrait of us now that we are famous. How can you prove you're famous if an artist hasn't drawn or painted you? But all is well because we have been immortalized (and more than once!) by fabulous artist Joana Avillez, who discovered us on Advanced Style.

We had to share with you some - well ALL, actually - of Joana's drawings of us (all the ones we're aware of, anyway).

This one dates back to December 2009, when we wrote about "a few of our favorite things" in the spirit of Christmas. This drawing is aptly titled Jean's Rings.

This one was taken from our recent triumph at Time Out New York.

This was from our Closet Queen posting. Great rendering of Valerie's Donna Karan gown and furry green vest!

This was the result of Jean's meeting with Joana at the recent Metropolitan Vintage Show. Jean went with Jodi, while Valerie stayed at home feeling sorry for herself and her arm. Jean says: It is surprisingly intimidating to have someone sketch you while you're trying to act normal. (As anyone who knows us can attest, our attempts at normalcy require great acting.) It is definitely much less traumatic to have one's likeness rendered from a photograph. I read somewhere that when nurses or therapists have to give bad news to mental patients, they deliver the information while they're eating, because the act of eating is a stress-reducer (at least for the non-eating disorder patient population.) Perhaps that explains why Joana waited until she, Jodi and I stopped for a snack before she got out her trusty sketchbook. She even captured Jodi's star tattoos on her digits!

This followed our meeting with Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style. The original photograph first appeared on Ari's website, and a few weeks later on the huge cover of Rondo magazine, a color pull-out section from Vienna's Der Standard.

Jean, the cover girl of Waist-Up zine! (A work in progress.) Jean says: On the one hand, I want EVERY rendering of me to be drop-dead gorgeous and glamorous. (Vanity, thy name is J-e-a-n!) On the other hand, drawings of oneself should be recognizable -- otherwise, if nobody knows it's you, what's the point? My husband took one look at this and said "I'd know that was you anywhere!" Besides, how many people are blessed enough to have anyone, let alone a wonderfully talented artist who is also a funny and amazing person, draw them? I am truly one lucky dame! (Valerie says: Vanity, thy name is N-e-a-r-l-y E-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y, I-n-c-l-u-d-i-n-g M-e.)

And this - a drawing of Jean's fabulous zoccoli dentati ([clogs with teeth] custom made for Jean according to her design) - appeared on Joana's blog on Tuesday, March 15.

Joana has a limited edition book out - ROOMS - available on her website! Support your local artists, folks!

Joana is also working on a series called Knee Down and Play (a counterpoint to Waist-Up?), which focuses on people from the knee down - a refreshing change from face-centric portraiture.


We've made it look like Joana draws only us, so just to prove that we are not her sole models, and there's lots of other stuff in her bag of tricks, we're including two extra pictures to give you a better idea of the sort of work she does. Valerie says: I nearly chose the the drawing of Joana's father, which is very studious, serious, loving and much more traditional in style, but I couldn't help myself. I chose this drawing because of its playfulness and imagination. At least, I THINK it's a product of her imagination! This drawing is from her book, Rooms. Jean says: I'm SO glad Valerie selected this drawing because it demonstrates Joana's amazing sense of humor, mixed with irony and wit. The tiny figures in the foreground are little prostitute dolls from Mexico. The chubby cherubic nude on the window sill makes me want to laugh out loud. It also contains a recurring shape in Joana's work, similar to Micky Mouse ears, which can show up as a hat or a clown's wildly bifurcated hairdo or just ears in many of her cartoon-like renderings. While Valerie does not, I absolutely love mouse ears and bunny ears and love any excuse to wear them. I remember being in Saks a couple years ago with Valerie raving about how Marc Jacobs included little black ears in one of his Louis Vuitton collections that knocked me out. While I kept pointing at them on the mannequins and secretly trying to figure out how to score a pair, Valerie was appalled. (I even wore Minnie Mouse ears to my own 60th birthday party.)

Valerie says: Yes, I was shocked! Shocked! Jean sometimes admonishes me to swear that I'll put her out of her misery if she ever winds up looking like X or Y in her old age. (She's unlikely to wind up looking like an Elvis impersonator, but you get the idea.)

Fundamentally a coward, I've always rejected violent solutions to the fashion problems she fears, and have suggested instead that I could set her out on an ice floe. It worked out well for Lillian Gish. (Shrewd readers will point out that this is problematic, however, as there may not be any ice floes left around the time Jean starts showing signs of bowing to peer pressure to wear fleece pants.) Mind you, I could reconsider my position on humanitarian grounds if the ears thing becomes a public problem.

On a more serious and academic note, Joana's drawings like the one Valerie chose remind me so much of Maira Kalman's (who has done New Yorker covers and books) because of their humor and insight. This Kalman drawing (image from the Jewish Museum) is titled "Self portrait". While fans of the former (Joana) can go to her wonderful blog and website, fans of the latter (Maira Kalman) should make it their business to get to the Jewish Museum. Through July 31, the exhibition "Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World)" features her wonderful cartoons and paintings in one gallery, her needlepoints and fabrics in another and a third contains actual objects from her life which appear in her paintings. Check out the Kalman colored portrait (wearing a fab-u-lous hat!) in The Moment, on page 3 of today's New York Time's Style Section.

Jean says: I chose this drawing because it contains so many different fairy-like creatures ranging from the PG-rated pair at the upper left and upper right to the nearly x-rated babe in the center of the top of the page. What a hoot. The carefree nature of the creatures and their sense of movement remind me of Clara Tice (1888-1873) who did a number of wonderful ink and pencil on paper drawings of early twentieth century performers and dancers in motion. Next week, Meredith Ward Fine Art Gallery on East 74th Street is launching "On With the Show", featuring Clara Tice drawings of the New York stage. The one which reminds me of Joana's Papagenos is one of Dorothy Sylvia and Elliot Taylor in "Very Good Eddie", 1915-1916.

Joana, thanks for the great, great drawings, and for letting us share them!


  1. Great drawings - with all the terrible news around it was so nice to see something pleasant!
    On another note, you had mentioned the store Rosebud on this blog and after meeting someone carrying a Rosebud shopping bag, I went to the store and loved it. The clothes are different and wonderful and the owner, Fern, is delightful.
    Thanks for alerting me to this terrific store!

  2. Wonderful pictures, fabulous outfits, amazing women, what a package!