Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Required Reading.

I've written about the Jak and Jil Blog before, but this time I must insist that reading it is a prerequisite for any friend of fashion who is also a friend of mine. I love the site because the photos are large. When it comes to eye candy (and maybe a few other things in life) I'm a size queen. The simple black and white surroundings of the site let the photos do the poppin' and the photos are divine; like sent from God through founder Tommy Ton's lenses. His sense of style, color, and fab are unparalleled, even in a blogosphere crammed with typing/snapping fashion heads. Check his flow:

Do Mr. Ton the honor of checking out the photos in their large spalshy size on Jak and Jil. His work makes my fashion bone itch. That's a good thing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Prima Ballerina

Nina Ananiashvili in a production of Don Quixote. How beautiful is that?

Tutus were such an incredibly large part of my childhood. I loved dancing, going to dance class, wearing legwarmers, and putting on shows. That was all fine and dandy, but when I got to wear a tutu? Now that was a phenomenal day in the life of this little lady. Tutus were reserved for special occasions like recitals, and putting on on suddenly made my little-legged dancing career a very serious matter. A tutu equaled immediate prima ballerina status, and I loved ballerinas. On the 27th American Ballet Theater's own prima ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili gave a farewell performance at The Met that by all accounts looks and sounds like the work of a truly gifted artist. The New York Times's review of the Ms. Ananiashvili's final performance paints the beloved dancer in an incredibly humble and joyous light, speaking repeatedly of her sincere and transparent affection for her colleagues and fans.

I honestly haven't thought about ballerinas in a long time, (uh, somehow, they just don't come up in my normal conversations anymore) but the photos accompanying the Times piece are a great reminder of just what I love about dancers, and dance costumes. Dancer's bodies are works of movement, there's something about the body built not from weight lifting and gymming, but from movement executed with grace and lightness, that looks like poetry in motion. It's like seeing a very well designed machine, where the beauty of its form results from its use and function. That kind of beauty aligns aesthetics and practicality in a way that I find reassuring and settling. Ananiashvili's talented execution of intricate dance moves seems to slow time, her legs are suspended just enough longer than you would assume so as to astonish. Her body is full of grace and has all of the clear flourishes you would expect of a ballerina; the subtle muscle tone, the perfect posture, the creamy complexion, and incandescent presence. So beautiful.

Dance costumes are such works of art. They too meld form and function in such a gorgeous way. The bodices are tight and secure enough to stay seamlessly put, but give just enough breathing room for the passage of so much movement fueling air. The tutus (THE TUTUS!!) are constructed eloquence. Nina's swan costume is a gorgeous layered affair, mimicking feathers and fluff in a refined way. Who makes those costumes? That sounds like an assignment for I Want To Wear It. I'll look into that for you and report back. For now, go back and watch Nina twirl again. It's a pleasure.

All photos by Erin Balano for The New York Times. Click this link to see the entire slide show.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One/One-Thousand: John Deakin

Francis Bacon's oeuvre of nightmares in oil on raw canvas is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show is extensive and full of interesting information about Bacon's process and life. Aparently he couldn't stand people to see him paint, even the subjects he asked to sit for portraits. So, he commissioned sometimes British Vogue photographer John Deakin to take photos of his desired subjects and put them in two dimensions for him to work from, in private.

A Bacon portrait of Muriel Belcher (l) based on a photo of Ms. Belcher by John Deakin (r).

It turns out that Deakin's work was phenomenally more than source material for Bacon's paintings. His portraits speak volumes about his subjects, and himself. He's famously quoted as saying, "Being fatally drawn to the human race, what I want to do when I photograph it is to make a revelation about it. So my sitters turn into my victims". As a sign of his true photographic talents, Deakin moved naturally between glamour shots of fashion for Vogue, portraits of his Soho drinking crowd for Bacon, and amazing street photography capturing the walls of Paris and denizens of European cities. His style is so easy to take for granted now, when everyone is toting a digital camera and snapping away in public, but he worked in the '50s and '60s, a time of film, when the shot was set in print with no "delete" button or flash settings to aid in perfecting it. His shots were composed, framed, and snapped with the absolute instincts of an artist. Here's a sample of his diverse portfolio:

A comprehensive portfolio of Deakin's photographs can be found on the site A Database.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adopt Me, Please.

Isabel and Ruben Toledo are my dream fashion parents. I want them to adopt me and re-parent me so that I can be indoctrinated into their stylin' hippie-ish universe. I have this idea of their home being a crazy playground of sorts, where nothing is normal sized, where every surface is drawing paper-covered, and food is edible artwork. I also think that when you wake up in their house as their adopted 27 year-old child you get your clothes for the day designed and sewn onto your body fresh daily. If that's not how it is, I don't want to know.

Isabel hard at work (l), Ruben's hard work (r). Click images for source information.

Isabel is a superbly talented maker of things. She's not just a designer. She imparts her style and spirit into everything she produces, which makes it all wonderful. Ruben is an artist with a flair for the surreal and a style as distinctive as his wife's clothes are wonderful. Together they are kind of magical. Watch them talk about their art and each other. Watch him keep a part of her skirt on his leg and her wrap her arm around the back of his chair in this interview. Watch them take the term Soulmates and apply it to real life.

Ok, now go see my Mama Isabel's mid-career retrospective at The Museum at F.I.T., which is on display through September 26th.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two Minutes For All Time

A few years ago Nick Knight lined up some to the world's most cherished human resources (supermodels!) and snapped their photos for a model-heavy issue of British Vogue. Before the gorgeous creatures escaped his studio to return to their natural habitats, he pointed a digital film camera at them and let it roll for two minutes in a Warholian exercise. The project, called More Beautiful Women, was for Knight's brilliant fashion/web love child, SHOWstudio. No instructions were given; there was no goal, no endgame- just two full minutes of permission-granted voyeurism. The videos are like mini-psych experiments. The models mostly begin with fierce stares, or some sort of strong, put-on pose. Then they giggle and loosen up. Then they attempt to regain composure, but we've seen through their pay-per-hour stare and it doesn't last as long this time. They look away, they fidget, or they become mannequins. They get bored. They are no longer models, but women watching their own thoughts, unaware of the camera. Then they are relieved when it's over. Here's a play-by play of Helena Christensen's two minutes:

The opening stare into the camera is fierce and sexy from behind a half curtain of perfectly tousseld hair. That's why she gets the big bucks.

Then the arms relax, a smile cracks.

She tucks the fierce hair behind her ear.

Makes a brief attempt to get the fierceness back.

But melts again.

Gives us a stellar, goofy eyecross.

Gets bored.

Is no longer vamping in the least.

Gives a goofy, girlie grin when the timer buzzes.

Leaves the set giggling.

It makes for great watching. Click here to see Christensen in full. Erin O'Connor and Kate Moss also took turns staring down the lens.

kate moss in more beautiful women

I wish there were better archives of this project. Knight had so many women participate, from Twiggy to Naomi, to Penelope, to Shalom. If you hunt down anymore beautiful creature clips, send 'em my way!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Small, Precious Things

A sampling of work from As Small As It Gets opening tonight at Art Since The Summer of '69.
Click image for details.

Dwelling in New York City definitely gives you an appreciation for the smaller things in life, and with everyone's everything shrinking, small is the big new thing. After staging ephemeral art shows in unexpected spaces across the nation, like a make-up artist's studio and an existing retail store, gallery Art Since the Summer of '69 is christening their new permanent space on Chrystie Street with a show called As Small As It Gets. Size queens (and kings) will have to reconsider their priorities, as all of the works in the exhibit are smaller than 15".

A Ligia Dias piece inspired by the work of Robert Morris. Click image for source.

One of the featured artists in the show is jewelery maker Ligia Dias. Dias' industrial materials (rope, metal washers, chains) are mixed with a sculptor's finesse and pretty, precious things to create Robert Morris-inspired pieces. Alber Elbaz liked her work so much that he invited Ligia to join his staff at Lanvin where they collaborated to create the house's jewels for three successful years. Rei Kawakubo is also a huge fan, and Dias' noose and pearl necklaces added heaps of edgy cool to Phillip Lim's Spring/Summer '08 collection. Digas' work is part of the small offering from As Small As It Gets and can be seen at the exhibit, which runs through July 15th.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nurses' Whites.

I've always been a little obsessed with our culture's obsession with nurses. Those caring, maternal figures, all dressed in their white uniforms, are ubiquitous pop symbols. It seems that their capacity for good is always matched with a certain propensity for bad behavior. We've all got mommy issues, I suppose.

There's a few new nurse centered shows popping up on network teevee these days (the best of which is definitely Eddie Falco's caregiver-and-taker turn as Nurse Jackie) and it got me thinking. Why white, nurses?

My obvious guess would be that it exhibits cleanliness and sterility, but it turns out that white was the color of choice for the medical profession before the current scientific evidence of germs was even in existence. Nursing as a profession came out of the practice of nuns caring for the sick. Nuns dress their virginal selves in innocent white, which the nurses adopted. The other founding reason for the whites is that they were bleachable. Stain removal of bodily fluids is a bitch, so the best way to get the guts out (sorry folks, it's true) is to bleach everything back to pristine white. Color fades, but white can be soaked in Clorox and made to look like that gunshot gusher in the ER was never wheeled through the halls on your rotation. That's why the whites. Now go watch Nurse Jackie.

All the photos accompanying this post are from The Center For Nursing History's photostream on Flickr. It is a pleasure to browse.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Let's say first that I am a huge fan of Steven Klein. His portfolio includes some of my favorite fashion photography of all time. His projects for W Magazine with Madonna, Bangelina, and a solo Mr. Pitt are all sexy edged with spooky in an interesting way:

But this? This goes too far. Or not far enough. I can't tell which...

That's Bruce Willis blindfolded and sporting a pair of nude skivvies for a walk down the stairs with his wife. And this? This is him getting a lil active with an alienized/sci-fi version of his wifey:

Oy. This is wrong in so many ways.

It's too awkward.
Mr. Klein, your excellent portfolio gives you one get out of photo purgatory free card, but DO NOT do this again.
I have to go.