Over the past month of towering blizzards which passed over my house (and knocked out my power for a few days there), I find myself increasingly contemplating milder weather, lakes, light, openness, speed, smell of jasmine. Oh to be somewhere swimming...
LIVING MY GAP YEAR
Filtering by Category: Art
It has become, I'm not sure how, something of a tradition in our house to paint Coptic mummy portraits on the first day of the year. In the crystalline sunlight that floods an empty living room once the debris of New Years Eve has been vacuumed and rubbed from it, my family settles into tranquil indoor recreations. Dad makes successive rounds of cappuccinos. Then, in these doldrums, I take out our book of mummy portraits from the Met and replicate in acrylic some deceased person who dwelled in Egypt centuries ago, and who looks in many cases like someone I might know, or recognize... This year's portrait dates from the AD 60's, from Roman Egypt under the reign of Emperor Nero. In a delirious melding of cultures, we listen to my parents tape of Greek folk music all the while.
While I was painting this I saw two cars in the parking lot beside me nearly back into each other. Then there was a lot of honking, some leaping onto the pavement and hollering at each other, and one of them quickly drove away. The noises scared me but my portrait managed to remain looking stoic. Watercolor on paper.
A Coruña is the city on the Northern coast of Spain where Zara has their headquarters. Overlooking the blustery Atlantic, it is known as the City of Glass thanks to the unique windows on all the buildings there, which contain an inordinate quantity of glass panes. The dense townhouses lining the beach form a glaring surface that reflects the sun and the glinting of the sea. I spent a week in A Coruña in July, working at Zara, and took many evening walks to admire these windows. Brilliant, breezy, blank. Sunglasses are advised; it was a dizzying city.
A rough rendition of my view from the doorway of Blue Bottle Coffee where I stood in line for my Latte Tuesday morning on the sidewalk of Jessie St, Theatre District, San Francisco. Beautiful sky, white buildings, the smell of a Colombia Popoyán roast, a soaring sense of self and work to report to in a moment... After, of course, a coffee, and the savoring of a gap in a day.
Sun in windows is what I wake up early for. Seven AM weekends and weekdays alike I'm up and ready to admire, to worship the domestic beauty, the ordinary glory, the continuity of life summed up and expressed in a silent beam thrown between my curtains. Ah, mornings...
Last week I went to Tokyo for three days—a short stay considering I flew fourteen hours each way. The city was so clear that week that from my window in the Grand Hyatt hotel I could see, 60 miles West of me, Mount Fuji in stately, gleaming white. The legendary peak crowned the city with a certainty of presence that made me feel happy to look at, like I'd achieved something in identifying it. I had a companion in the mountain. Glancing at each other over the heads of the city buildings, Mt. Fuji and I shared something secret through the vast emptiness between us; a tallness, a detachedness, a constancy that busy, bustling Tokyo did not have, temporary as the city was for me (three days!), and evoking fashion as it necessarily did by association with my work. The mountain, though, that was just there, and unlike fashion, it was dependable. I was glad, in my hotel room, to know it.
A vision of a rare sunny day in Paris! Pictured: the Musee de la Vie Romantique (museum of romanticism), which houses some Baudelaire sketches, some pianos, and a cast of Chopin’s left hand. Not pictured: my friend Camille who came to the Museum with me. She is studying writing at the Sorbonne this semester, and loves Claire Louis Bennett and plant-filled vegan cafes almost more than I do. We got into the museum this afternoon free of charge: the guard said this was because we are “from New York;” I think it is because Camille has blond hair and piercing green eyes and because I looked sorta alright myself today, fresh off a morning fitting with Céline. As high a personal cost as beauty tends to come at, it sometimes pays too (in crude financial terms).
Kept home from fashion week by a blizzard. Drank coffee from a cup with lilies on it and couldn’t be more happy.
Another little homemade postcard, this one from Barcelona, Spain, where I spent the past week shooting for Massimo Dutti inside a huge and digitally automated (post-apocalyptic) warehouse on the Inditex compound an hour outside of the city. I had one free afternoon, however, on the day I arrived, to cram full with beautiful Barcelona sights, and my first stop was Gaudi's famed Sagrada Familia basilica. Words cannot do justice to its staggering beauty (to borrow from Maggie Nelson: "the words are not good enough")....and nor are my scrappy pen gestures! But you get the idea of it...maybe.
Finally made it to see Frida Kahlo’s case azul. I painted the house on a bench nearby, using water which I scooped from a fountain in a plaza in the neighborhood of Coyóacan. After, I bought roasted crickets from a passing vendor. Couldn’t bring myself to try them.
Angelina is an iconic society teahouse that was founded in Paris by an Austrian man in 1903, named after his daughter-in-law, or granddaughter, depending who you ask. Both women, in fact, were named Angelina. For over a century, Angelina has reeled in the famous and elegant of the world and cranked out famous hot chocolate. The best chocolate I've tasted in my chocoholic life. I've now had their exalted pitcher of chocolat l'africain three times during different visits to Paris, and it never fails to astound. The first time I had it was sort of by accident, in the Louvre in the exhausted and ecstatic aftermath of my first fashion week a year and a half ago. The most recent time was four days ago, after sitting for a portrait that will become an Hermés perfume campaign. A few groggy, jet lagged morning hours before my return flight to New York afforded me the perfect opportunity to sit, sketch, and chocolate-OD at one of the little round tables in the salon on the Rue de Rivoli... An auspicious way to start 2017, I'd say. A sweet way to greet January.
Cheers! It's a bright and shining Sunday morning here in suburban New York. There are two empty champagne bottles in the recycling bin, and a shimmering silence engulfing my world: the silence of a household sleeping in. I hope everyone had a safe and celebratory NYE, and I wish you a happy 2017.
On my flight home from Italy last month, I painted this postcard (in the dark cause the reading light at my seat didn't work and every one else was sleeping). It's a rough imitation of the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari, which had come to be the hub and intersection, heart and soul of my stay in that town. Unreligious but not atheistic, I've always felt a permeating wonder for religious art of all kinds, and the deep tradition that attends it, and the way it circumscribes a culture. So the Basilica, aside from being a convenient spot to hang around a stone's throw from my Aribnb, was a cache of fascinations, and especially enjoyable because it is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, my childhood favorite (the one who leaves chocolate in your shoe in December--at least in Germany or Scandinavia, or here if you're the child of the child of a Scandinavian)!
Two days to go before Election Day. Finally. Tuesday, Nov 8 2016, will be my first time voting, and what an exciting (and terrifying?) first! I'm hoping it will also be a first for the nation-- a first female president in all our 240 years of existence as a country. I'm shocked that it's taken so long; even Pakistan had a female Prime Minister in the 1980's in the wonderful Benazir Bhutto. But women in the US got the right to vote less than 100 years ago, can you imagine? Not yet one century since the right I will exercise this week came into our hands. May this week bring a whole lot more into our hands: a presidency, a governing (at last) position.
This Sunday I'm thinking of affection. I'm thinking that no matter who you are, what you do, or what spiritual system you prescribe to, one universal factor of worldly success and/or happiness is love for yourself. We all possess some permutation of this virtue in the form of a biological tendency (our species wouldn't still be around if it weren't for a small pre-programmed evolutionary feature known as self-interest!), but indeed self-interest is a very different story from self-love and self-appreciation. The latter qualities are more nuanced, less definable, and, in my experience, harder to practice in life. But they are abilities that I think are vital to good relationships with others, to self-confidence, productivity, and general contentment. So even if you don't feel like you deserve it-- you procrastinated your to-do list today, feel frustrated over something you said earlier, or just find yourself utterly contemptible at present (as is often the case with our ambitious and fragile consciences); go give yourself a hug. A big hug, now.
I spent this past weekend up in Maine, visiting a woman I think of as my surrogate grandmother- though not biologically related to me, she cared for me nearly every day of my childhood, from infancy to adolescence. Staying with her in her little cottage in the seaside town of Bath, we spent our (few) days together baking, playing Chinese Checkers, and ahh, sitting on the windy autumn beach! Here is a view of the Sound I painted one morning on Popham Beach, crouching barefoot, while Hildegard napped in a protected wildlife nesting zone on the dunes. It's one of the great pleasures of travel to gather tangible memories of distant places-- and homemade postcards, I think, are one of the best ways to do so!
This Sunday I am writing some homework assignments, I'd rather it be blog posts but oddly blog posts won't get me an English degree in this world... With a good cappuccino though, it's a pretty decent day :)
Today is my first day back home after a week of vacation with my family at a cottage appropriately titled Faraway, on a lake (also appropriately) called Doolittle. Which is exactly what we do when we are there. We spend a week there every summer with good family friends of ours, and basically all we do all week is swim, read, hike, and eat. Eat a lot. It's true paradise, and now it's been lost...until next year. So as it rains here back at home I am feeling particularly glum about the notable lack of a giant lake in my backyard. And the absence of my friends. And the huge freezer of ice cream we demolished over the course of the week. Paradise lost...lost until next year.
Because there’s nothing better to do.
Because my head is a horse
and if it comes to an abrupt stop
it overheats, can die.
Words are sponges, blue and holey,
neat swiveled foams
that mop a brain cool
and when they’re done they have
its heat, its juice, its steam and shit,
and they heap
on tables and shelves—
so many swabs of thought
in some Lab for the study of Growing Up.
Someday, maybe, they’ll be examined.
Someday, perhaps, explained.