Sunday, January 29, 2012



Valerie's friend Allan, a man of a certain age who lives in San Francisco (well, Berkeley, actually), asked if we knew about Vivian and Marian Brown, twins of a certain age who live in the City by the Bay. When we said we didn't, Allan told us they have become San Franciso icons, and encouraged us to work at becoming equivalent icons in New York. He sent us a You Tube video, which we happily pass along to you, below. In the meantime, we thought if we were going to be New York icons, we had to start by being seen in iconic places. What better place to choose as our first location than the heart of Broadway, at TKTS (above). (Yes, we bought tickets, a story for another time.)

If you’d like to read a little bit more about the twins,
here’s their Wikipedia link. There are quite a few other videos about them, as well, by the way.

As for Allan, he is very shy, but we're happy to attach this recent self-portrait he sent. Foot surgery (you can't see it, but Allan has a brand new titanium implant in his big toe joint) gives all three of us something very important in common -- Allan can't wear high heels either!

What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat (from the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show); vintage Norma Kamali leopard jacket (from Another Man's Treasure at the Metropolitan Pavilion Vintage Show show a few years back); harem pants (from Timbuktu); Lux De Ville patent bag (from Enz); Trippen boots (from A-Uno); vintage glasses (from Fabulous Fanny's), vintage bakelite rings (including one from Sheila Strong's Fool's Gold at The Pier Show).

Valerie is wearing an Ignatius hat, a vintage mouton coat (dyed to look exotic) from the Metropolitan Pavilion, a Banana Republic sweater (thrift shop), Comme des Garcons pants (resale shop), Arche booties (thrift shop).

Vintage Clothing Alert! The Metropolitan Pavilion's 15th Vintage Clothing Show is next weekend: Friday, Feb. 3rd (1 - 8 PM) and Saturday, Feb. 4th (11 AM - 6 PM), February 3-4, 2012 @ 125 West 18th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brief Interlewd

A little midweek ha ha for our friends.
(Scroll down for the Sunday post.)

Found at a fun little store called

Sunday, January 22, 2012

YA MAGAZINE - Don't Cry for Me, Santiago!

We're big in Santiago, Chile! Last month*, we were thrilled to be among four fashion blogs featured in Ya, the magazine published by El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper. To give you a flavor, we've uploaded all four pages with us and our fellow bloggers. Our headline, appropriately enough, says "Style has No Age!"

As background for the article, we were each asked to respond to a series of 13 questions and submit several photographs. The editors selected a picture of us taken at one of our photo shoots with Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style. Since the text is in Spanish, we've included our answers to some of our favorite questions below, which pretty much speak for themselves.

Q: I need to know the story about The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. How the idea was born?

Jean: Valerie and I would go to so many places: galleries, museums, craft shows, lectures, vintage clothing shows, and run into lots of "women of a certain age" who didn't seem to have a "voice". Apparently, we thought we had enough voice to go around and started the blog to share our opinions, to convince other women that life isn't over at fifty -- or sixty! We really believe that life keeps getting better. We keep encouraging women to get out and enjoy life and fashion and design and find what makes them happy and just do it! I like to think we're the optometrists for our generation -- getting women to see life through a different set of lenses.

Valerie: Jean and I met at a vintage clothing show in 2008. I was about to have an exhibition of antique Japanese babies’ kimonos at a New York art gallery, and was handing out invitations for the opening to people I thought might be interested. I saw Jean and our now mutual friend Judy nearby. Jean was wearing a stunning vintage hat. I thought “THAT’s my audience.” I gave them each an invitation, they came to the opening a few weeks later, and we have been friends ever since.

I soon realized that I never saw Jean dressed casually – but always wonderfully – so each time we met, I wore my favorite clothes. People began to stop us on the street and ask if we were going to an event. They asked if we were artists or fashion designers or stylists. Often they wanted to take our picture. Once we were stopped by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis. My friend Barbara suggested we should blog about our outings. We resisted for a long time because neither Jean nor I knew how to do that, but Barbara introduced us to Blogspot. We were initially very intimidated, but Blogspot is extremely user-friendly. It turned out to be very easy, and the service was – and is - free. We started the blog in August of 2009 because we had nothing to lose. It was a fun and adventurous way to spend our free time, and it turned out to be a great way to meet interesting people. As a result of our blog, we have appeared on TV, in newspapers and magazines, and online publications. We have been photographed for three fashion books: Vintage Fashion Accessories by Stacy LoAlbo (2009), StyleLikeU by Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum (2011), the forthcoming Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen (2012). And as of September, 2011 we have a book of our own, Life Dressing: The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, written and illustrated by Joana Avillez.

Q: Which are the topics of The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas?

Jean: My mantra is "we are not dead and we are not invisible!" We are trying to change society's view of older women (along with some women's view of themselves). Grey hair is something to be celebrated, not covered up and hidden. Live large! On another level, we are also just sharing our adventures and opinions with others -- of any age, gender and fashion. After all, true style is ageless. [That's the sentence they took for their title, El Estilo No Tiene Edad.]

Valerie: Our topics are whatever interests us... Clothing issues are important to us because all the magazines focus on younger women. Older women need fashion advice and fashionable clothing too. We talk about the tyranny of fashion, show how to fight it and how to have fun with your wardrobe. We cover art exhibitions that inspire us. We attend craft shows to encourage people to buy handmade goods instead of machine made products. We have touched on the environment, animal rights, politics, charitable organizations, and older women role models.

We occasionally poke fun at the world as we see it. We will probably never talk about baseball. One day we want to blog about how women can take charge of their finances without being taken advantage of. Actually, we will have to have a ghost writer for that. We need to get that advice before we can give it!

Q: Why older people?

Jean: Why not? They're our demographic. Face it, it's where the action is! The baby boomers are booming! Every 8 seconds, someone turns 65 in the U.S.

Valerie: Three reasons. A) We write about older people because not enough people write about older people. B) We write about older people because we ARE older people. We have experience at being older! Our friends are older, too! C) We write about older people because older people continue to have lives that are very interesting, vibrant, accomplished, and inspiring. Older people are still seeking new achievements and ways to contribute. Generally, we just do so more quietly.

Q: There´s a profile for people to appear in your blog?

Jean: No, not really. We've covered beekeepers, jewelers, cancer survivors, fashion designers, illustrators, fellow bloggers -- of all ages, sexes and nationalities.

Q: How do you get inspired?

Jean: Sometimes it is topic-driven, like naming the top 10 women who inspire us, or 10 of our favorite "things". Other times, it is event-driven: we make an annual pilgrimage to the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show; we went to Phillip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut for Valerie's birthday; we toured the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition after hours at the Metropolitan Museum. We inspire each other, give each other ideas, pick each other's brains. We are both incurable hat addicts, so great looking headwear automatically gets our attention.

Valerie: Anything and everything can be a source of inspiration. We did a blog posting about our fingernails once, and how different they are. When I broke my wrist, I blogged about that. Jean volunteers to do animal rescue, so once when she rescued a group of feral cats, she blogged about that.

Q. Which are your favorite designers?

Jean: Current or vintage anything by: Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood, Donna Karan, Norma Kamali, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo, Yeohlee Tang, Lillith, and Jean Paul Gaultier puts me over the edge.

Valerie: Different designers design for different body types. For my body type, and for my tastes in style, I love vintage Issey Miyake, Krizia, Norma Kamali, Perry Ellis, Ellen Tracy, Ungaro, Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani. Currently, Kedem Sasson can be very interesting. Jean introduced me to Rick Owens, but I don’t own any of his work, although I really admire his edgy originality. I like to look at Ann Demeulemeester, but she designs for a different body type. I love Gaultier. I’m sure I have left out many others.

Q. Which will be your advice for older people to get dressed?

Jean: My advice for people of any age is figure out what YOU want to look like, and then just find the clothing that sends that message. When we're dressed up and out on the town, you'd be surprised how many people approach us and say something like: "I wish I could dress like you." My response is "You can. It's easy." If you're in a rut, change it. What are you waiting for?

Valerie: Dressing style is like painting style. Da Vinci was a master painter and Picasso was a master painter, but their work has nothing in common. In the ‘60s, every woman wanted a pill box hat because Jackie Kennedy wore one. For most women, that was a mistake because they didn’t have her hair style or her face shape or her body shape or her wardrobe. Each person has to find out what is good for his or her individual characteristics. What looks great on Jean will probably not look as good on me, and vice versa. One day we should do a blog in which we wear each other’s clothes, just to demonstrate that.

Q. How does your blog impact the fashion industry?

Jean: We get a lot of local press and since we were on Bravo's Fashion Hunters, get recognized on the street a lot. Other bloggers seek us out -- just as we check out their postings. We have not yet had THE impact on the fashion industry that we really want: Visibility for "women of a certain age." Joe Zee from Elle Magazine spoke at the Independent Fashion Bloggers conference this fall, and in response to Valerie's question why his magazine ignores older women, he said that Elle covers the runways and the designers are not focusing on older women.We want to change that dynamic. As the U.S. population ages, there are growing numbers of older consumers who are interested in being stylish. Designers are missing the boat and ignoring a huge target audience.

Valerie: So far I don’t think we’ve had an impact. Hopefully, we can change that. We would love to be fashion consultants advocating for older consumers. In particular, we would like to help shoe designers make shoes that are comfortable AND beautiful! Jean and I can’t wear high heels anymore, and we need wide-toed shoes. They CAN be beautiful, but usually they are so ugly! Do shoe designers think I wake up in the morning and say “It’s such a lovely day. I think I’ll wear my ugly shoes.”?

I think we could launch our own line of gorgeous comfortable shoes for older women. There’s such an untapped market out there. With financial backing, we could probably sell out our whole line in one day if we put it on a cable television shopping network.

Right now, our primary impact is on other women. Many - both older and younger - have written in to say that we have given them the courage to dress more creatively, which is very gratifying.

* * *

What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat; Prada jacket; Issey Miyake pants; Trippen platform boots; Habla skull clutch; vintage bakelite necklace, bracelets and rings; vintage plastic earrings; and vintage frames with prescription sunglass lenses.

Valerie is wearing a vintage black velvet 'volcano' hat labeled H. Leh & Co. Allentown, Hats by Eddi; earrings from Tokyo; red sunglasses from St. Mark's Place street vendor; multicolored bracelet of woodchips from the flea market, red wooden bracelet from Japan, red plastic ring from El Museo del Barrio; dress by Yoshiki Hishinuma, full length slip by Victoria's Secret, shoes by Nicole.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

W'e're SO amazed that we got the blog completed before midnight. As a reward, we get to watch DOWNTON ABBEY uninterrupted tonight at 9pm local time. We highly recommend this fabulous costume drama. Everyone always looks stunning, although Maggie Smith (that’s DAME Maggie Smith to you) takes some very big cake for her more-sumptuous-than-thou, nature-abhors-a-vacuum-even-in-clothing attitude toward dressing. Oh, and the plot is wonderful too, of course!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can You Use Kim Kardashian and Idiosyncratic Fashionistas in the Same Sentence?


Recently there's been so much we want to post that (as we have frequently repeated lately) we've fallen far behind, and wonderful niblets of information are piling up on our computers. So we agreed that we should try doing mid-week postings of things that catch our eye(s), but aren't necessarily boffo enough to be part of the Sunday posting.

We could call them Tidbits, or Snacks, or By the Ways or Midweek Supplements (that has quite a ring to it) or Entr'actes or Interludes or something. We'll have a better idea what to christen these things in weeks to come as we do more of them.

In the meantime, here, hopefully, is the first of many unscheduled Midweek Supplements to come.

But back to the story at hand....


OMG! As you can see, we are on Kim Kardashian's blog!

The picture above is a print screen we lifted off her blog. Click here to link to Kim Kardashian’s blog itself, so you can see the real thing.

Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style wrote a week ago to tell us ('cause it's his video!), and we're so behind we're just getting around to telling you today.

I hope I'm like this when I'm older, she writes. (We hope she is, too.)

OK - it only looks like she's talking about us - really she's referring to all of the fabulous women of a certain age who appear in the video. But still... We ARE on Kim Kardashian's blog!

Are we famous yet? (Nah... Not till we pay for our first two Porsches - in cash!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kids in a Candy Store

OK, really adults in a costume rental warehouse.

What better way to start the new year than by ogling thousands of vintage clothes from the past 150 years?!

On January 2, on our day off, we traveled just two subway stops out of Manhattan to Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing in Long Island City. We met Helen at the 2010 Easter Parade, and struck up a conversation with her because she was wearing a Bes-Ben hat adorned with horse heads while she chatted with a woman wearing a felted white teapot. See? Haven't we told you hats are perfect conversation starters? Here we are with the proprietress herself.

Click here to read the very interesting story of how Helen got into the costume rental business. The day we were there, she was displaying a dress worn by Beyonce in her role as Etta James in Cadillac Records. (Did you see that movie? It featured all sorts of great stars doing great jobs with a great script.) There was also a very sexy negligee worn to great effect by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, as well as a dress worn by Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce. In her thirty years in the business, Helen has amassed a list of movie, television and theater credits as long as your arm, or longer. Click here for a comprehensive list that will boggle your mind and delight your imagination.

We were like very privileged kids in a 6,000-foot candy store. Helen's warehouse is normally to the trade only, so for her to invite us to enjoy these treasures in person was a treat beyond words. Helen has the place beautifully organized. The space was filled with row after row of meticulously maintained two-level racks, divided into men's and women's wear arranged chronologically. Naturally, with so much real estate to cover, we spent most of our time in the women's section.

Helen's system of classification is so thorough, and her inventory so broad, that if you asked for a pale blue cotton dress from the 1930s to fit an actress size 34-24-35, Helen could find one for you within five minutes.

Here is a rack of 1940s jackets in every imaginable color, all tagged for easy identification.

We were free to browse the aisles and pull out the pieces that caught our eye. Valerie chose this red and black 1950s number for closer scrutiny. Helen gave us carte blanche to remove the plastic coverings, but we could almost hear our mothers in the background, exhorting us not to court trouble, so we erred on the side of caution.

Jean selected this 1940s black crepe dress with marvelous bakelite buttons.

Sometimes, the little details make all the difference. In this case, the shape, color and angle of the bakelite buttons with their double XX stitching pattern combined with the tailored shape of the dress make it a film noir-type classic.

One Hat - Two Heads!

Sometimes, when we both like the same hat, it looks great on both of us. Other times, it looks better on one than the other. On rare occasions, we both strike out. You be the judge!

We both tried the stunning monkey fur hat that Helen is wearing in the first photo and both found it to be flattering.

We agreed that a sophisticated statement hat such as this requires a little attitude to carry it off.

For lack of a better descriptor, we called this vintage black grosgrain chapeau "the propeller hat". It turned out to be one of those instances in which we both agreed that the hat was great, and wanted it to look better on us than it actually did. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work for either one of us. It's a classic example of what Valerie calls "a ninety-percenter". (Almost everything about it is wonderful, but the missing 10% - not necessarily the item's fault - is a deal breaker.)

Sometimes, it is more flattering to have more going on in the front of a hat than, as in this case, the back. At least in our case. We both really wanted the hat to work its magic on us.

Although the garments in the warehouse are strictly rental only, Helen periodically weeds out the duplicate items and sells them. This little black felt 1940s felt cap with a curved tail was on the sale rack. We both gave it a whirl.

Because the price was right ($16) and because it cried out for a bakelite pin or something to spiff it up, Jean took this little number home with her for some Art Deco TLC. If you look closely, you can see a little lipstick smear on Jean's right cheek - a result of the exuberant holiday hugs and kisses when we arrived.

Helen, knowing we'd be wearing hats, greeted us wearing a black straw item she took off her sale rack. When she heard it was available, Valerie snapped it up. At ten inches in diameter, it's small enough to wear as a breastplate when it's not being worn as a hat.

While traversing the aisles, we hit pay dirt when we found this gown that screamed son-of-Elsa Schiaparelli! This modern day knock-off was created for a Roundabout Theater remake of The Women.

The beadwork on the lobster was amazing. These days, most of this type of handwork is done in India. Since sequins and beads are a staple of drag queen costuming, business there is booming. Just think of all of those Priscillas of the Desert in small towns across America in need of beaded gowns!

We loved the two lobster claws hanging from long straps that tie at the neck of the back of the dress and hang down. Wouldn't the claws look great on a hat?

These shelves held dozens of antique umbrellas, parasols and walking sticks.

It's hard to see, but this umbrella had an elaborately carved dog's head at the end of its handle. Many of the others were equally charming and quirky.

Helen gamely climbed a ladder to show us some of the hats in the boxes atop one of the display cases. She modeled this black felt with an orange butterfly detail.

Here is what we dubbed the great wall of hats. That's Helen's assistant, Dan, in the corner of the shot.

Other Things That Set Our Hearts Afluttering

A wonderful Edwardian period jacket with a Pennsylvania label on it.

In the 1960s, we would have run the other way if anyone had suggested circle skirts to us - SOOOOOO '50s. But aren't they wonderful? The one on the left is printed felt; the one on the right felt like flocked rayon.

The response to the poodle skirt? Felines, of course!

It was amazing how much detail one can find in the sleeves of vintage clothes. In the first photo below, small strips of fabric have been shaped into tubes, and sewn in intervals along a see-through arm. In the second, small bits of white fur have been shaped into leaves sewn onto small velvet cap sleeves. These are highlighted with stems in large stitch embroidery.

Helen showed us this glamorous hand-sewn fur trimmed jacket.

If you click on this photo, you can get a better look at the sleeve detailing. It's almost like a spur on an animal's hind leg. A working person today would complain that this marvelous detailing would get caught on everything. Perhaps this was worn by one of the ladies who lunched.

An assortment of bright cotton prints from the '20s.

Here's Dan again. Helen has a way of picking great assistants. Dan has a degree in musical theater. Albertus Swanepoel, who now makes hats sold at Barney's, among other fabulous places, was one of Helen's interns. (BTW, anyone interested in interning should contact Helen.) Just before we left, Dan modeled a red lumberjack plaid cape and hat that he'd found while thrifting upstate over the holidays.

Helen also sells assorted vintage collectibles on Etsy. Click here to see what she’s offering these days. And while you're at it, have a look at Helen's
BLOG, too!

What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing frames from Fabulous Fanny's; bag by Made Her Think; boots by Trippen; pants by Timbuktu; jacket by Kyodan; vintage black bakelite rings; vintage black & white bakelite orb ring from Sheila Strong -"Fool's Gold"; black skull earrings - gift from Jodi Head & RJ.

Valerie is wearing a Hattie Carnegie modified derby with figure eight cutouts (Stella Pier Show), metal whisk-like earrings from Jean's Block Association's flea market, a boy's cutaway morning coat labeled "Dynasty Collection" by After 6 (thrift shop), Express white cotton/lycra shirt, Comme des Garcons wool patchwork pants (consignment store), Aerosole shoes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brooklyn Museum Birthday Bash

Get thee to the Brooklyn Museum ... post haste!

Two terrific shows are up and running but the first closes at the end of this month and the second in the middle of next month: Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties (closing 1/29/12) and HIDE/SEEK: Difference & Desire in American Portraiture (closing 2/12/12). For her July birthday, Valerie wanted to go to Phillip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut. (See our 7/11/11 posting for details.) Jean chose to go to the Brooklyn Museum for her November birthday bash, to see these two shows. (Yes, yes, we know. We're just getting around to telling you about it NOW. We've done sooo many things that we're sooo behind in posting about! We moved this up so you'd have time to see the exhibitions before they close.)

The museum's indoor and outdoor spaces are visitor-friendly. Valerie gets up close and personal with the Burghers of Calais.

The lobby features a cafe (a teeny cafetino, really, says Valerie, but right by the huge windows with a sweeping view of the sculpted grounds and Eastern Parkway) serving good lattes and cappuccinos and light snacks. After we refueled, Ms. Jean opened her fabulous birthday presents, courtesy of Ms. Valerie (teeny presentinos, really, says Valerie)! Without revealing too much detail, chocolate skulls among other interesting objets, were involved!

Apropos the "Art of the American Twenties", we encountered this lovely young couple attired head to toe in vintage clothing, getting into the act. They were pushing their baby in an incongruously high tech stroller. Perhaps they are in the market for one of those old-fashioned "baby buggies"? Sure hope their child appreciates them, (especially in a few years when he realizes all his friends' parents are wearing designer sneakers and logo-emblazoned fashions?).

They looked great together and their attention to detail was fantastic, right down to the footwear. Notice the seam in her stockings! Raise your hand if you remember those!

But we digress, as usual. Back to the meat of the matter.

Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties
October 28, 2011–January 29, 2012 Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor

Paul Cadmus 1928 by Luigi Lucioni (from Brooklyn Museum Website)

"How did American artists represent the Jazz Age?" asks the exhibition Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties which brings together for the first time work by 68 painters, sculptors, and photographers who explored a new mode of modern realism in the years between the aftermath of the Great War and the onset of the Great Depression. Throughout the 1920s, artists created images of liberated modern bodies and the changing urban-industrial environment with an eye toward ideal form and ordered clarity—qualities seemingly at odds with a riotous decade best remembered for its flappers and Fords.

Artists took as their subjects uninhibited nudes and close-up portraits that celebrated sexual freedom and visual intimacy, as if in defiance of the restrictive routines of automated labor and the stresses of modern urban life. Reserving judgment on the ultimate effects of machine culture on the individual, they distilled cities and factories into pristine geometric compositions that appear silent and uninhabited. American artists of the Jazz Age struggled to express the experience of a dramatically remade modern world, demonstrating their faith in the potentiality of youth and in the sustaining value of beauty. Youth and Beauty presents 140 works by artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Demuth, Aaron Douglas, Edward Hopper, Gaston Lachaise, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Luigi Lucioni, Gerald Murphy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston. The painting above of Paul Cadmus is the one that caught our eye one day in the subway, and convinced us we had to see this show. The portrait is stunning, and so is the show.

Two Women 1924 by George Wesley Bellows (from Brooklyn Museum website)

Bellows' ambitious work is an homage to Titian's circa 1514 Italian Renaissance painting Sacred and Profane Love (Galleria Borghese, Rome) in which a nude and a clothed figure are paired to contrast pure love (unclothed) with its worldly counterpart. In the 1920's, when Freudian ideas were as current as the latest fashions, viewers likely read George Bellows’s variation on Titian’s theme as an embodiment of the vying impulses of sexual openness and repression. The assertively lit nude and her clothed counterpart appear in the well-recognized parlor setting of Bellows’ home in rural Woodstock, New York.

Something comes over the two of us when we go to museums. Our jaunts become like outtakes from a Marx Brothers movie.

In the stairwell between exhibits, occasionally egged on by a number of passing people who took our pictures, we emoted.

As you can see, there's more than enough light in the stairwell...

Here, however, is Jean in Horst or Hoyningen-Huene mode. The pose is almost identical, but the angle is different, and shot without a flash. No special photoshop effects.

And here, Jean's hat, distinctive already, is transformed by the play of shadows.

It is a little known fact that Valerie lived not ten minutes' walk from the Brooklyn Museum during her childhood, and visited frequently. (Particularly the Egyptian wing. Keep in mind that right about then minor TV channels were having a field day filling time slots with movies from the '30s and '40s, and a perennial favorite was Boris Karloff's The Mummy). It's also a little known fact that in those days Valerie considered no museum visit complete without a slide down one of the museum bannisters. Guards watched the art, not the stairwells, so it was possible to punctuate the solemn contemplation of boy kings, god kings, cat goddesses and cat mummies with a little fun. Why would anyone ever want to take an elevator to the next floor when they could take the monkey bars?

Here Valerie relives old times. Valerie notes that her center of gravity (like so many other things) has changed considerably in the intervening years, and sliding down the bannister demanded much more concentration than she remembered. At least, to her credit, she remembered!

HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
November 18, 2011–February 12, 2012 Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th Floor

Self Portrait 1975 by Robert Mapplethorpe (from Brooklyn Museum Website)

The first major museum exhibition to focus on themes of gender and sexuality in modern American portraiture, HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture brings together more than 100 works in a wide range of media (paintings, photographs, works on paper, film, and installation art), charts the underdocumented role that sexual identity played in the making of modern art, and highlights contributions of gay and lesbian artists to American art. Beginning in the late 19th century with Thomas Eakins’ Realist paintings, HIDE/SEEK traces the often coded narrative of sexual desire in art produced throughout the early modern period up to the present. The exhibition features pieces by canonical figures in American art—including George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, Alice Neel, and Berenice Abbott — along with works that openly assert gay and lesbian subjects in modern and contemporary art, by artists such as Jess Collins and Tee Corinne. HIDE/SEEK presents artists’ responses to the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the AIDS epidemic, and postmodern themes of identity, highlighted with major pieces by artists such as AA Bronson, Félix González-Torres, and Annie Leibovitz. More than simply documenting a prominent subculture often relegated to the margins of American art, HIDE/SEEK offers a unique survey of more than a century of American portraiture and leads the way towards a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of modern art in America.

Janet Flanner 1927 Berenice Abbott

According to exhibition notes, in 1922, Janet Flanner settled in Paris with her lover, Solita Solano, and spent the next fifty years writing her “Letter from Paris,” column for The New Yorker. Flanner and Solano became fixtures in the salon life of the city, their homosexuality providing a crucial entrée into the most fashionable literary groups, which were then dominated by wealthy expatriate lesbians. Flanner signed her column with the decorously French and sexually ambiguous pseudonym “Genêt” to hide her identity, but like most masks, the name revealed as much as it hid. With her campy prose and focus on known gay and lesbian personalities, Flanner provided a knowing glimpse of the Paris “in” crowd. In this portrait by Berenice Abbott, Flanner wears two masks, which—like her pseudonym—suggest her multiple layers.

One thing we found very interesting were the two Romaine Brooks portraits - one a self-portrait, the other of Una, Lady Troubridge. Those of you who were reading us last year might remember that Romaine Brooks was listed as one of the women we most admired, and the two above-mentioned paintings were posted to the blog. Up until our trip to the Brooklyn Museum, however, we had not seen the paintings in person, just in photographs. Here we got to see them both, one in each show. Because Brooks was an early 20th century American painter and a lesbian, her portraits could have gone in either show. The museum judiciously decided to put the self-portrait in Hide/Seek, and Lady Troubridge in Youth and Beauty. Jean briefly contemplated the fashion potential of a monocle, but immediately hit two major barriers: how does one do a monocle version of sunglasses? When and if that minor challenge is overcome, one wonders if they come with progressive lenses!

Ram's Head, White Hollyhock-Hillsl 1935 Georgia O'Keeffe (photo from Brooklyn Museum website)

O’Keeffe filled her landscapes of the desert Southwest with an abundance of horns and antlers. According to the Brooklyn Museum, this painting features an enlarged ram’s skull and antlers hovering emblematically over landscape and sky; the organic lines and complex orifices of these nearly abstract forms conjure associations both phallic and feminine.

Maintaining the O'Keeffe theme, after touring the galleries, we headed to a great Mexican restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn whose walls featured numerous ram and steer skulls, including this specimen.

We welcomed the opportunity to cool our heels and compare notes about what we'd seen and what we thought. Oh, and the cocktails were delish! Having said that, however, we are still looking - so far fruitlessly - for a frozen mango margarita to compare with the peerless ones we had at the late lamented Tabla. Where DID those genius mixologists go?! Anyone who knows should tell us!

We HAVE to put in a GREAT word for the Brooklyn Museum Gift Shop. Of COURSE we went there FIRST. (Once, somewhere, we saved a museum gift shop for last, only to discover that it closed before the museum galleries did! Thwarted in our attempt to buy something! Museum trips are a pilgrimage, and museum shops aren't like The Gap (or like The Gap used to be, that is), with one on every corner. Once you've missed your chance, you're not likely to get it again. So now we visit the gift shops first. (It's good to get it out of your system, too. That way you can focus on the art.) Anyway, the Brooklyn Museum Gift Shop has a great buyer or buyers. There's always something very clever and original there, there's a wonderful variety, and their prices are very good. Go, and buy! (Remember it helps support the museum.)

What we're wearing:

The birthday girl is wearing an Ignatius faux leopard hat; 8-eye leopard Doc Marten boots; Kyodan jacket; Illesteva glasses; Angela Capputi resin alligator bracelet and Canal Street oversized watch; vintage black bakelite necklace and rings; Lux de Ville black patent handbag; and white museum ID tag.

Valerie is wearing a Parkhust hat; aluminum pin from the flea market; vintage I.B. Diffusion sweater (also from the flea market; top to bottom there are no repeats in the design, which probably indicated a highly skilled pattern maker, and may also have been a challenge for the knitting machine); yellow cotton gloves (Metropolitan Vintage Show); Betsey Johnson dress (thrift shop); Arche shoes (resale shop).