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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Inside The Met Gala 2014 Zoo: Charles James Beyond Fashion

The 2014 Metropolitan Museum Constitute Gala was a stunner.  The exhibition is dedicated to the dresses of Charles James, an English-born designer who moved to New York in 1940.  This year was the year for the artistry of couture, the glamour of fabric, and the power of the female form.  
Giant rose sculpture of James figure with de-constructed dress 
Wearing Alexis Mabille couture: corseted bustier with skirt in white silk jersey and grey satin jacket
The Vogue greeters

Cocktail hour with velvet sofas, champagne and the beautiful Met Museum
Co-Chairs Sarah Jessica Parker and Bradley Cooper introduce the evening  
One of the perks of a Friends of the Costume Institute corner table,  the "backstage" view
The room was filled with gardenias, including table top
Frank Ocean performed with an all female orchestra in top hats 
After party at the Boom Boom room at The Standard Hotel
Best date ever!  With Alexis Mabille leaving the after party
Though The Met Gala has become a zoo of celebrities and hype, this exhibition is truly worthy.  The intricate detailing of these dresses is inspiring and transcendent.  My hope is that all of the press and chaos that now surrounds this event actually bring into the museum the hoards of people who pour over the fashion and glamour of it all.  This is a world-class museum with the most amazing collections and exhibitions, and I only can hope that the art does not get lost in the crowds.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Life of Privilege

The art of Eric Buterbaugh never goes unnoticed.
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan
I live a privileged life, and I always have.  I was privileged to attend an elementary school where music and art were just as important as math and reading.  It was a privilege to attend a public fine arts high school where I studied chemistry and English literature but also studied dance, acting, art and music practically in one day.  I was privileged to attend an all woman's college to focus on political science and dance and acting.  It has been a huge privilege to have every one of my education experiences filled with academics and arts.  And it is the blend of the two together that made those experiences so special, so challenging and so memorable.

Last evening I had the privilege of hosting a dinner for P.S. Arts at my home in Los Angeles.  I recently joined the Board of Trustees to this incredible organization, and it is most certainly my privilege to be even a small part of what they do.  Public schools in Los Angeles and throughout California have lost almost all their arts education funding.  P.S. Arts provides professional art teachers of all genres in underserved elementary schools throughout the Los Angeles area.  These teachers from P.S. Arts work in the schools all day, all year.  Reaching poverty level students who would never have a chance to take a ballet class, learn a music scale or hold a paint brush to canvas, P.S. Arts is enhancing the lives of over 15,000 children each year.  I urge you to take a look at the facts of what P.S. Arts is doing and the impact that arts education has over students (  And P.S. Arts is truly a map for how to bring arts education into your own community: arts education, a privilege that should be allowed to every child in the United States.  

And what a beautiful night we had as the skies shone down upon us to celebrate and learn more about P.S. Arts and its endeavors.  I am beyond grateful for my parents giving me the gift of arts education in my life, and I was surrounded by people who feel the same.  That was a privilege indeed.  

Hubs with the man that makes it happen, Patrick Herning, and the reason I have the privilege of being involved
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan
Our guest speaker and former student Allison Luengas with Mort Gleberman, Rona Sebastian, Krsten Paglia (Executive Director) and Jennifer Leitch
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan
My mentors!  Maria Bell (President at Large) and Joshua B. Tanzer (Chairperson of the Board)
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan
The amazing staff with Executive Director, Amy Shapiro
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan   
The ladies that make it happen:  Julia Sorken, Pamela Bergman (Immediate Past Chair), Leslie McMorrow and
Maria Bell
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan
Delta Airlines has been an important part of this year as well.  Beyond a corporate sponsorship, they also sponsored the dinner including an elegant menu from their Executive Chef and a wine pairing by their Sommelier for International travel.  My vegan plate was fresh, beautiful and tasty; and I have two new wine favorites:  Ramey Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 (we were told to taste it in ten years) and Copain Pinot Noir "Les Voisins" 2011.  
(Photo courtesy of Stefanie Keenan

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Modern Women meet Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris

I attended an all women's college, Converse College, in Spartanburg, SC.  This school opened in 1889 when women had as few rights and choices as African Americans at the time.  I started my freshman year in 1989 - one hundred years later.  Then, I had no real understanding of what being a woman entailed, what hurdles I would face later in life.

I found the beautifully eerie exhibition at The Hammer Museum, Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880 to 1914, to be especially poignant.  Focusing on morphine use during La Belle Epoch is quite mesmerizing, but focusing on women's use during the time is both alluring and sad.  I learned that women were the majority of morphine users, while most of the artists during the time were men depicting these women.  There is only one female artist in the exhibition, Mary Cassatt; her Tea drypoint of a woman listlessly drinking tea in her own self-induced haze.  The connection between suffering prostitutes and high society ladies is clearly drawn, and it's something for us all to consider as women.  Class only separates us with brick and mortar.
Profil de lumière (Profile of light) 1886
Odilon Redon
Au bar (At the bar) 1897
Georges Alfred Bottini
*society ladies at the bar - something most of us can relate to
Ces dames des chars a l'hippodrome 1883-85
The ladies of the chariots at the hippodrome
James Tissot
*an image of the "modern woman" wearing headdresses similar to our own Lady Liberty by
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi
Mary Cassatt in the Louvre Museum of Antiquities 1879-80
Edgar Degas
Tea 1890
Mary Cassatt
*I just love the depiction of Cassatt by Degas compared to Cassatt's depiction of a woman having tea,
 stoned in her own world
Rayons de chaussures (The shoe department) 1895
*unfortunately this shop girl and many like her could not afford to live on their wages alone, so often they doubled as prostitutes - this unknowing wife engages with the shop girl as she is most likely making another "sale" with the husband.  again, the line of class divided in such a sad way for women.
The Moulin Rouge 1895
Eugene Delatre
*the forlorn prostitute on the streets of Paris in the rain
Morphinomane (Morphine addict) 1897
Eugene Grasset
*perhaps the most gruesome of the show, a woman numbing herself for reasons unknown - most likely a prostitute blocking the reality of her life.  at the time morphine could be smoked, drunk or injected
Now, at 42 years old with an almost 12-year-old daughter, I am only beginning to understand the importance of women's relationships.  Not only about fun, shopping and gabbing (though those things I most certainly do appreciate), women need to support one another no matter the differences we have.  While mildly down after seeing the exhibition (even with the lovely pastel walls and serene quality to the gallery), I was also inspired.  Inspired to understand that we as women should respect and support.  And I had a true realization of how far we have come as women and how much further we have to go in regards to the treatment of our own gender.  La Belle Epoque, The Beautiful Era, may not have been as beautiful as we think.  I look forward to our own era of true equality for women and watching our daughters enter a truly beautiful world.  Shoes and all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring Cleansing: Closet to Soul

Living in Los Angeles is always a little strange, as we don't have concrete seasons here.  And after watching an ice storm nearly destroy my hometown of Augusta, personally surviving another snow storm in New York during Fashion Week, and bundling up in furs in Paris for couture week, it is far time to enjoy the LA 80 degree weather and catch some spring fever.

The best way to catch that fever is to start with a little cleansing.  Yes, I love my green drinks, but sometimes some cleansing can come from the soul and the closet.  So I started digging around my closet.  In part because I had an assignment from Vogue China to present my couture collection to the magazine, but mostly due to the overwhelming need to purge and start anew.  And purging the clothes in your closet may actually help purge the fillers in your head and allow you to lose the negativity in your life.

Clothes are a bit like friends.  There are the staples in your life: the suit that you can never part with after you've worn it on a memorable occasion, the go to dress that will always make you smile and lift your spirits, the jeans that go everywhere you go no matter the location, and the evening gown that is so special that you keep it in a safe place where it will always be.  These are the pieces you keep.  These are the ammunition of your wardrobe, the building blocks.  Then there are the items that just have to go: the dress you bought that you can't believe you ever brought into your house and much less wore, the hideous pair of trousers that make you look and feel your worst, the cheap frivolous top that doesn't work with anything, and the tattered jacket that you should have gotten rid of years ago.

My spring purging has begun.  My closet is looking leaner and meaner.  I'm ready to add some new pieces that will only enhance what I already have, match the work I do in arts advocacy and take me through whatever season Los Angeles has in store.  Cleansed and ready!

Oh, and most of the shoes I kept after getting them cleaned up.  Those friends are mine forever.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A very provincial summer: Aix en Provence

It's not everyday I ride through a tunnel of trees to land in the pebble coated motor way of my house in Aix en Provence.  But it was for fourteen short days this summer.  I will never forget that drive.  That drive way.  That house.  That summer.  

Choosing a spot to vacate your life and spend time in the region of Provence can be daunting.  My second summer in a row, I can tell you that you really can't go wrong.  This summer was spent in Aix en Provence, a bit more northwest than last year, with as many wonderful things to do and see as the last.  The town of Aix is indeed charming.  Streets are crowded with shops, churches, squares, and people.  There is a joie de vivre that only can occur in France.  

The Festival D'Aix pulls many visitors in, especially those wishing to see music set in an unusual setting.  I was with a group of friends when we were able to see the Opera, Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verde.  Shown at the intimate theater of Théâtre de l'Archevêché in the heart of Aix, we enjoyed a modern interpretation of an 1851 Opera story in the beautiful outdoor theater.  Spectacular.  Word to the wise: arrive on time.  Apparently when it comes to operas, the French are quite prompt.

Right in the middle of Aix is the Atelier Cezanne, his studio where he painted amongst the beautiful trees and flowers of Aix, 'chemin des Lauves'.  It's a quick visit, but one of the most personal.  His paint brushes remain from his death, as well as his over coat, canvas stretching machine, letters to Zola and Picasso, books and so much more.  



If you are looking for a shopping expedition, Aix has much to investigate.  There is the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday market at the place de Verdun.  Filled with sundries of old and items of new, there is something for everyone at the market.  Fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, desserts all abound.  And if you are feeling more corporate it's easy to pop into the local Hermes for some air condition and luxury goods.  My group especially loved the locally owned boutique Gago (24 Rue Fabrot, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France).  I scored a cobalt blue marabou feather jacket, saving to wear for Paris Couture Week! And the Michelin Star restaurant, Restaurant Pierre Reboul, will not disappoint.  In fact, it will amuse and surprise you!

Aix French Laundry
Market shopping with friend Kay Fernandez
A table fit for friends and foodies
If you have the need to get out of town, there are many options.  As a wine lover, I demanded (without much coaxing) from my friends that we visit Châteauneuf-du-Pape. First stop: Les Caves Saint Charles in its 13th Century Cellar.  This place feels, sounds and smells like an ancient monastery, and the Master Sommelier, Guy, plays the role of pope well.  We also stopped by a much smaller cave, Domaine du Banneret.  There we were able to taste wines from our birthday or anniversary years.  And we were even allowed to put a few labels on the wine bottles.  My favorite wine there was the 1997.  The year I was born.


Lunch outside at the beautiful Chateau des Fines Roches was exceptional.  A romantic spot to sit, eat and drink...  (They have great wine tour drivers to ensure the safest of day trips!)

 Walking the small, sweet streets of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is as special as the grape varietals.

Another great side trip is to rent a boat and cruise down the Mediterranean Sea.  No matter your destination, the shoreline is blue and calming.  You can choose to go north or south (we went south past St Tropez), and that is truly a coin toss.  We had a day cruising to .....  Stopping at St. Tropez's Club 55 is always a treat, no matter how quick the visit.

I'm glad to have just now written this post from July memories.  I'm already more relaxed and sun kissed just thinking about it.  I love Provence.  I'd like to go again and again, if the French are willing.  My favorite moments were spent at the house, by the pool or walking the grounds.  Whether alone or with family or a friend, there was a quiet peace there.  A serenity of wholeness that rarely comes in the real world.  Oh vacation...

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