“Free as a bird” is an expression that’s been on my mind. The ability to do whatever you’d like, without any concerns is a state of mind. Without restrictions, worry, fear, or regret, what would you do with your life?
Achieving this state of mind certainly takes work. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. Things often don’t go according to plan. But freedom lies in not getting stuck in doubt or misbelief. When I catch myself lost in these sort of thoughts, I let go of the looping ideas by being outdoors. Lately, I’ve really paid attention to birds.
“What merits these animals being the most free of all?” I thought to myself as I watched them meander around.
Each bird seemed to have an almost human expression to me. Some appeared worried, others playful.
“Maybe they aren’t as carefree as they seem. Survival takes a lot of effort regardless of your place in the animal kingdom,” I wrote in my sketchbook while at the Grand Canyon.
“But their freedom revolves around two abilities: to be unwavering in the face of uncertainty and to effortlessly travel at will.”
When searching for food or shelter, birds are never consumed with worry of failure. They aren’t thinking about the past of future. Birds may fight for survival and have emotions, but they don’t cling to anything. They simply continue along their way. I admire that.
I also admire birds’ ability to be on land or in air instantaneously. Freedom, to me, is the ability to travel. To see and experience all that the world has to offer . . . there is nothing greater than this.
Recently, I’ve been fortunate to travel quiet frequently. I’ve seen and photographed birds all around the world this summer. After photographing birds in St. Vincent, I wrote myself this note:
“I might not have wings, but I’m not so different than a bird. I have the same ability to float from one spot to another without negativity, without doubt. When I let go of everything that holds me down, I can soar.”
I mentioned in my last post that I started a new job. Part of my training took me to Richmond. After work, I decided to roam around the city for a bit by myself. My only plan was to check out a few vintage stores, figuring that fashion would somehow lead me to an adventure. I hopped into the hotel shuttle bus and gave them the address to a local vintage retailer in Carytown.
I had no real desire to buy anything, but just wanted to walk around – absorb some of the local scenery during my short time in the city. Chatting with the driver, I looked out the window. We passed an old bus terminal that was absolutely irresistible to me. It was covered with hundreds of the most evocative, brightly hued art I’d seen. Set against the warm, sunny late afternoon the setting seemed dreamlike.
Cooing while trying to snap a few photos from the van, the driver sensed my enthusiasm. He didn’t really know what the site was, other than it was an old bus terminal. I asked him if we could take a quick detour and investigate the site.
Everywhere I looked was beautiful! The space has previously belonged to the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC). Built in 1902, the structure housed trollies and buses that were not in use or needed repair. The site was abandoned back in 2009. Residents were unhappy with the crumbling buildings. They pushed for a creative use of the space, hoping to install stores and restaurants to boost the local economy.
The city’s response was to create a Street Art Festival, inviting artists from around the world to create large scale murals. Since the time frame was limited, it became a hotbed of creativity. Artists were working side-by-side, helping and inspiring one another.
Hamilton Glass, a Richmon-based artist, likened the festival is like a jam session for artists:
“We feed off each other, he said about five hours into his mural. It’s great painting next to someone who’s being creative.“
I could have spent all day here! There was no evidence of any businesses within the compound. But there was a young couple walking around taking photos. They took a photo of me, which shows you the scale of the work. It’s really massive and overwhelming!
Like a kid in a candy store, I ran down the empty streets eagerly taking in as much art as I could. Every mural was so interesting and unique. Some were even 3-dimentional. One of my favorites was a blue wall filled with metal birds.
After closer inspection, the birds are decorated with names and poems. If you’re in Richmond, I highly recommend stopping by to see it for yourself: 2501 W. Cary St.
To see the rest of my photos from the Old GRTC Bus Terminal, follow me on Instagram!
It’s been an intense week, so things have been quiet on my blog. New classes, new students, presentations about The Stieg Collection. Everything has been so much fun, but I’ve had little time to write. I probably should be grading papers, but I wanted to write a post about my fashion forecasting class.
Much like it sounds, you can predict future fashions and trends if you know what to look for. We look at different people, what motivates them to participate in fashion, innovations in textiles, trends in colors, and lots of other things. What I like most about teaching this class is that I have to communicate how I see things. Last week, I took my class on a field trip to do some trend spotting. I have some ideas in my head already that fashion is going to become increasingly inspired by nature.
Even in the city, you can see that people crave nature. Plants line storefronts. Colorful flowers and shrubs are displayed for purchase. Food culture is becoming more focused on natural flavoring, organic produce, and saying “no” to genetically modified organisms.
We also went to Brooklyn Charm, and I noticed a lot of jewelry that took cues from the natural environment. Leaves, flowers, gems, crystals, geodes – everything pointed to the great outdoors.
I couldn’t resist! I got a few small charms for my own necklace.
I saw some vintage clothing from the neighborhood we observed that had some great references, too. I wanted to buy everything, but I was only observing.
Leaves can be dressed up or down!
And you can never go wrong with flowers.
I started to see how people were already wearing this on the street. Doesn’t it look sort of like the early 1970s?
My thoughts were confirmed when I saw all the pictures from Coachella! New York and California seem to agree some fashion points. It’s a flower power revival, don’t you agree?
I’m always spotting amazing fashion during my travels. The New York subway system is a constant source of fashion inspiration for me. There is just a constant flux of people getting in and off the train, all with unique and individual ways of dressing themselves. Last night, I spotted these awesome saddle shoes in contrasting leather and suede. They are by Cole Haan. So beautiful!
So here is why I love these: You can tell just by looking at the leather that it is a fantastic quality. The brown leather looks very pliable, meaning it will mold to the shape of your foot the more you wear the shoes. I’m also really partial to naturally dyed leathers in shades of brown. Natural dyes and tanning processes in leather create variation in color. I think these photos show exactly what I’m talking about. The more you wear naturally dyed or tanned leather, it will scuff or change shades slightly in certain areas. I love this effect! It gives your shoes a bit if character.
The green suede is also really beautiful. I’m pretty partial to green, but this combination is just stellar! It’s classic, could be worn with lots of different outfits, and mixing different textures on a shoe is almost always a good thing. It’s just more interesting than a uniform solid color of leather.
I decided to check out Cole Haan’s site for the shoes. The closest pair available for purchase is the Ellwood Saddle Oxford. This version has a similar color way (British tan & khaki), but both colors are made of the same type of hand polished leather. The Ellwood also has a cutout design on the toecap.
Saturday was a really fun day. I spent a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my mom. It was her first time there, so I had to show her around. I’m lucky enough to know the Impressionist galleries pretty well. I visit them almost every time I’m there. (Second floor, Nineteenth Century European art!)
She absolutely loved it. We dashed about, looking at different things, only to meet in front of paintings we mutually admired. Like mother, like daughter I guess would sum the experience up, because we met up in front of this painting by Van Gogh:
Shoes, 1888. It’s a beautiful painting. Dazzling hues, strong brushwork, impasto layers of paint, interesting composition. We talked about this only after a good laugh- we love paintings of fashion. We sort of marveled at how the shoes were timeless. They could still be fashionable today, and here they were in a painting from 1888. We wondered is they were Van Gogh’s own, or maybe they belonged to his friend and fellow painter Cezanne.
My mom was really insistent that they looked like a pair of Vans. She probably made this connection because the soles of the shoes in the painting look white. I wasn’t really convinced on this comparison. To me, the shoes seemed like they were made of really nice leather. Van Gogh took a lot of artistic liberty with selecting the color of the paint, so I guess everyone sees something different. I imagined a soft, buttery leather, with an oval shaped toe cap.
We had lunch downstairs in the cafeteria, and I spotted these shoes on a passerby:
Making these kinds of connections between fashion and art is practically what I live for. Of course I was beside myself with excitement, and shouted “I love your shoes!”. They were practically right out of my imagination of what I thought Van Gogh’s painting was trying to represent. (These shoes, of course, have a few more eyelets than the painting.)
The wearer almost escaped without further interrogation. I sat and looked at the rest of my food, and the thought of not know more about the shoes made me lose my appetite. So I ran after the gentleman to find out more about the brand. Ian was kind enough to fill me in. The shoes are by Clae, an Los Angeles based company. Founded in the 1990s, the shoes are a take on merging casual silhouettes with the comfort of an athletic shoe. Designer Sung Choi coined a term for this concept: “athleisure“.
They certainly are perfect for a Saturday walking around Manhattan. The style is classic and refined. But they certainly look comfortable enough to trek around the city. Definitely an updated take on what Van Gogh was wearing back in 1888!
Batik is such a magical textile. It’s a special way of dyeing cloth. Wax is applied to the surface of a cloth to protect certain areas from the dye bath. The cloth is dyed several times to achieve a rich, artistic surface. It is traditionally done by hand, and takes a very long time. Resistance and Splendor in Javanese Textiles is a small exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that explores this wax resist dyeing technique.
So, for instance, let’s talk about the sarung above. There are about 4 different dye colors. Before the sarung was dipped in a red dye bath, all of the areas that were going to be a different color had to be covered in wax. The wax prevents the dye from being absorbed in the fabric. The cloth was dried, the wax removed, and the the process was repeated for the other colored dye baths.
Batik is a traditional cloth from Indonesia. There are many studios in Java that have historically produced batik cloth. I wrote a lot about this in graduate school, and always admired how skillfully and artistically the cloth was decorated. Some of my research is actually published in book Encyclopedia of National Dress! The book is available for pre-order on Amazon. My mom (above) attended the show with me. She knows how crazy I am about batik, but she had never seen any in person.
She was mesmerized by the level of detail in the cloth.
One of the other aspects I love about Javanese textiles is that they are spiritual objects. Indonesia has a really rich and diverse religious community, but a large percentage is Hindu and Buddhist. The cloth and how it is made is a representation of the universe (sort of like Tibetan sand mandalas).
The act of making these complex patterns is a sort of meditation. Extreme care and mindfulness are needed, or else the design will not be executed properly. The artists that make these clothes must be fully present in the moment of creating the cloth.
Also, the colors of the dyes are a spiritual reference. The traditional natural dyes indigo, brown, and white represent the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. These three gods are a sacred trinity in Hinduism. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer. You can start to see how traditional batik represents the larger idea of the universe, life, and death.
Most of the designs and motifs in batik show scenes from nature. I think this really reinforces the spiritual element of the cloth. It represents the impermanence of life. Life changes. It never stays the same. Everything grows, changes forms, and eventually leaves the earth.
Most Hindu and Buddhist art address these ideas. Art from these spiritual traditions act as meditation tools. They give viewers ways to understand and accept the greater truths and experience of life. But most Buddhist and Hindu art is stationary and stays in one place. Batik can be worn, and serve as a daily reminder of spirituality.
All images courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you liked these images, I’ll be posting more to my Facebook page. Please check it out!
Street style blogs are so great. They are great visual chronicles of what’s going on in a specific city or town. I’m not sure why I haven’t dedicated more posts to admiring other people’s style.
So today, I’m branching out and doing a street style recap. Earlier in the week, I saw this stylish gentleman on the train.
I wasn’t too sure about sneaky photo etiquette. I really just wanted to “snap and run“, but it seemed sort of rude. What would you think if you caught a random stranger taking your picture on the train? The word creepy comes to mind…
So I decided to walk over and ask if I could photograph him. Thankfully, after fumbling through my explanation of how I blog and what I was doing, Mauricio allowed me to take a few pictures.
So here is what I like about his look:
The outfit is minimalist, which is classic and versatile. The pieces are well-cut, crisp, and monochromatic. Since the colors are muted, each piece can be mixed and matched in endless ways. Minimalist pieces are a great way to expand your wardrobe because each one acts as a building block.
The accessories compliment the look without being overpowering. The bag is vintage, which also gives the look a bit of originality. Vintage finds are always a nice way to make your look authentic- it’s rare to find the same vintage piece twice!
We only chatted briefly – 3 or 4 stops- but Mauricio recommends the following brands and stores:
The Matisse show at the Met definitely was not what I was expecting. Entitled In Search of a True Painting, the galleries are full of studies and series of paintings based around the same subjects. After seeing the impressive paintings on George Bellows, it was a real contrast to see an artist’s studies and struggles with the canvas.
The truth is, Matisse really struggled with painting. He never felt his work was complete, and wanted to push every painting to the next level. This was really a surprise to me. I’ve always considered Henri Matisse (1869″“1954) one of the geniuses of the twentieth century. I love his painting, Acanthus, which I am happy to report was at the Met.
The curators at the Met go on to explain:
Unbeknownst to many, painting had rarely come easily to Matisse. Throughout his career, he questioned, repainted, and reevaluated his work. He used his completed canvases as tools, repeating compositions in order to compare effects, gauge his progress, and, as he put it, “push further and deeper into true painting.”
The show didn’t really make much of an impact on me until I got home to paint. I sort of do the same thing with my own art. Trees are really my favorite subject. I spend a lot of time outdoors. I love to photograph, draw, and paint the beautiful trees I see while on my walks. A few weeks prior to seeing the Matisse show, I’d done a few studies of the same tree:
I mostly like to paint on the floor. Standing at an easel at my studio doesn’t really give me the range of motion I like. But when I paint with David Ohlerking, it’s especially helpful to have an easel. The way he mixes his paints is so different – they’re sort of runny. So the paint sort of drips down. I love painting with him because of this! It’s an entirely different experience. I always learn so much. If you paint, I really suggest venturing out of solitude once in a while. Painting with someone else can really help you learn new techniques and ways to express yourself.
When I paint by myself, I try all sorts of things. Sometimes I mix the paint directly on the canvas. Other times, I use a palette to mix colors or revisit something I’ve mixed before. (Oil paint never really dries!) I’ll push it around with palette knives, brushes, and bits of cardboard. My brushes are usually really dry. I probably don’t get all of the paint off and it hardens. So every time I use a brush, it manipulates the paint in a different way. I didn’t get to finish yet, but here is what I have so far:
The George Bellows show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art really blew me away this weekend. I worked at an art gallery for some time, and learned about the Ashcan School of painters. Founded by Robert Henri (1865″“1929) around 1900, this group of painters focused on depicting scenes as they were (Realism) instead of in the dreamy, staccato way of the American Impressionists.
Henri believed that painters needed to depict everyday subjects in an interesting and honest way: “What we need is more sense of the wonder of life, and less of this business of picture making.”
Members of the Ashcan School became instantly recognizable for their lavish use of black paint. Black paint had pretty much been eliminated by the American Impressionist palette, although it was used heavily by the Old Masters like Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Goya. Contemporaries of the Ashcan school affectionally called them the “Revolutionary Black Gang” or the ” Ash Can Group” (hence the name).
Stag at Sharkey’s by George Bellows, 1909. Image courtesy of cleveland.about.com
George Bellows (1882-1925) was originally from Ohio. He moved to New York to continue his study of painting. Bellows met Henri shortly after arriving and started to study with him. Henri encouraged Bellows to depict scenes of contemporary life, even if the compositions and subjects challenge prevailing standards of taste. Bellows focused on impoverished immigrants in New York, especially children in “squalid and dangerous slums”.
Cliff Dwellers by George Bellows, 1913. Image courtesy of The Tenement Museum.
Bellows is really my favorite painter from the Ashcan School. He has an amazing sense of value and color. All of the paintings have so many harmonious colors, and really express a sense of light and dark. The canvases are so luminous, they seem to have a radiant light source within. One of my favorite paintings in the show was called Noon.
Of course I’m partial to it because of all the blue paint, but you can definitely see how there are areas of light and dark. The bridge and how it casts shadows over parts of the canvas, the dark areas with figures in the shade, and even the billowing smoke – just take a look at how masterfully they are all done:
Noon by George Bellows, 1908.
There were so many great depictions of New York City. In addition to his sensitivity to color, Bellows was an amazing draftsman. He carefully outlines shapes within the composition. Almost all of the paintings have a balanced foreground, middle, and background. And the subjects just seem to come alive, with all the care and detail with which they are painted.
New York by George Bellows, 1911.
But really, the best part of seeing all of these paintings was the opportunity to look at Bellows’s brushstrokes. It’s really difficult to see in photographs and images. That’s why going to museums and galleries are so important. There is a really, tangible experience of the painting that you just don’t get by looking at on the internet or in a book. As someone that paints, it’s a special learning tool to see how other people push paint around the canvas.
The Palisades by George Bellows, 1909. Image courtesy of the Tate.
As I looked at certain paintings, I noticed that Bellows directed the paint to follow the specific object he was painting. So for example, the water is painted horizontally and the tree is painted vertically. Take a look at smoke in the upper right hand corner. It’s really easy to see that Bellows swirls the paint around to mimic the way smoke billows in the wind. So pretty!
Snow Capped River by George Bellows, 1911. Image courtesy of the Telfair Museum.
Snow Capped River was another favorite. You MUST see it in person. The image above doesn’t even hint at what a beautiful work of art it really is. Bellows also changed the thickness of paint within his compositions. Certain areas are very flat, with thin layers of paint, and others are thick and impasto.
The George Bellows exhibit is at the Metroplitan Museum of Art until February 18th, 2013. Don’t miss it – the show is included with general admission!
So much to do, so little time! I paint as a hobby, and am looking forward to getting some inspiration before going back to my studio.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has two stellar shows right now, one on George Bellows, and another in Matisse.
I promise to write more about these exhibits after I take them in. I’m really looking forward to seeing how these two artists paint landscapes and other nature inspired scenes.
I’m not sure what paintings are in the shows, but Bellows painted many scenes of New York. When I spend time in the city, I always love going to Central Park and Riverside Drive. These are two places Bellows loved, and referred to park settings as an “urban oasis”.
Matisse liked to paint in a completely different style, but I like his paintings of trees so much. (I’m really partial to painting trees. They are my favorite subject!). His Acanthus painting is really beautiful, such strong hues of green and purple paired together make me smile.
I’m hoping that both of these paintings are at the museum. They have a similar color palette, which would be interesting to look at in person.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to visit a new place every month this year. I love traveling, and have a few distant and exotic destinations on the list. But adventure doesn’t always have to be reserved to foreign locales. In fact, I always make it a point to live each day as if I was charting undiscovered territory.
That’s one of the many reasons I love New York so much. Every step I take in this city is filled with discovery, beauty, and adventure. Yesterday, I ventured over to the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute to see the exhibition on Fortuny.
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871 – 1949) was a Spanish artist and designer. He was one of the leaders in liberating women from the corset during the 1910s. Fortuny was a real Renaissance man and loved to learn. He collected and read ancient manuscripts and rediscovered an ancient way of pleating fabrics. He started to use this pleating to make gowns inspired by ancient Greek sculptures.
I’d learned a bit about this famous designer in school, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend this exhibit. Curated by Oscar de la Renta, I knew the show would be a real treat. I was not disappointed. A majority of the collection was on loan from private collectors, including Vintage Luxury. I really encourage everyone to see this before it closes on March 30th, because the pictures do not even begin to do the actual garments justice.
There was so much about Fortuny that I didn’t know. He was a descendent of the Madrazo family, which consisted of artists, curators, and collectors. Art was an intregral part of life for the Madrazo clan, and it deeply influenced Fortuny’s creativity.
Fortuny himself declared, “I have always had many interests, but I have always considered painting to be my profession.“
He painted beautiful portraits, experimented heavily with photography, and collected art and objects himself. This paved the way for him to design textiles and design garments.
The influence of Greek sculpture is pretty obvious. Yet Fortuny loved to travel and incorporated influences from various cultures into single ensembles or dresses. Exotic, orientalist themes are present, like kimono sleeves. His North African travels were always focused around documenting customs related to dress and photography. Fortuny also painted designs onto voided velvet scarves, which were then draped over his dresses to look like Indian saris.
Fortuny was originaly from Granada, Spain. He moved to Venice, where he operated his business. The Plazzo Orfei the location of the main workshops. He also had smaller textile printing locations on the nearby island of Giudecca. Italian influences are also scene in his garments, like the beautiful drawstring closures and embelishments trimmed with Venetian glass beads.
He also created textile patterns based on traditional Italian paintings. These prints included were on cotton and velvets. Many of the designs, like the melagrana design, are still available from the Fortuny company.
The clothes really speak for themselves, but gained a lot of attention in their heyday as well. Vogue stated in 1912 that Fortuny was “an artist who paints fabrics” and in 1923 “a great artist, with exquisite textiles as his medium”. I couldn’t agree more!
All images are courtesy of The Queen Sofia Spanish Institute. The exhibit Fortuny Y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy runs until March 30th, 2013.