The Vernal Equinox

•03/20/12 • 2 Comments

 

It is said that today marks the start of Spring, although the night before last the bone-chilling temperatures, arctic winds and blinding snow took a rather contrarian position, refusing to give way to the seasonal rite of passage. Nature, with a mere flip of the wrist or arch of the brow, can do that — have her way — without explanation or apology, reminding all in doubt, who reigns supreme as the true mistress of the universe. While some would suggest our fates are determined by the moneyed masters, those other contenders for the title, the barons of a street called Wall, I far prefer to entrust my destiny to the czarina of true power, fickle and temperamental though she may be. To honor her resistance in refusing to let go, (and who of us, after all, has not held on long after the obvious was made apparent), this very small homage to her royal highness, Mother Nature, and to the magical and mystical spirits who dwell in her domain. The incurably curious might want to cross the threshold for a closer look.

 

Here
is a place
where
the silence
allows you
to hear
the
swish
of
falling
stars.

 

 

Quote: Wallace Stegner

 

 

Lartigue’s Angel

•03/18/12 • 2 Comments

 

I’m not a
photographer-writer-painter,
I’m a taxidermist
of things
that life
offers me
on the way.”

 

 

So wrote Jacques Henri Lartigue, one of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the twentieth century. One of those “things” that life put in his path happened in March of 1930, when Lartigue met a Romanian model, Renee Perle, at Doeillet. The exquisitely turned-out beauty quickly became his muse, lover and friend and for the next two years, the photographer set about creating an indelible icon in a relationship played against the backdrop of the quintessentially breezy atmosphere of the leisured class: Paris, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, and Biarritz.

 

 

Hot to the touch and cool on the eyes, Lartigue christened her an “angel.” “Around her, I see a halo of magic,” he wrote. In an earlier post on the famed muse, Anatomie de l’élégance, Lartigue recorded her physical perfection in his diary, describing her thus:

“She is beautiful.

“The small mouth
with the
full painted lips!

The ebony
black eyes.

From under
her fur coat
comes a warmth
of perfume.”

 

 

Photographer and muse shared a kind of symbiotic exchange with she reveling in the eye of his lens and he immortalizing her on film, creating a legend that would endure far longer then her life or her romance with Lartigue. Beyond that brief span of time, little to nothing is known about her, which only heightens the mystique.

 

 

What intrigues and captivates me most about Lartigue, beyond his extraordinary talent, or his depiction of a world like that of the 18th-century painter Fragonard–enchanting and frivolous, with life’s disappointments and sorrow well out of frame, was the magical narrative of the arc of his life that encapsulated goes something like this:

In his early years, he reveled in high society and luxury until the decline of his family’s fortune forced him to search for other sources of income. Despite his fall from privilege, he continued to write, photograph and record mesmerizing, vibrant and exciting images of the times, places and people who inhabited his world, all the while supporting himself and his family as a complete unknown; a mediocre, and most would say, “dreadfully inferior” painter.

In what can only be described as one of the greatest reversals of fortune in human history, Lartigue and his third wife, Florette, embarked on a cargo ship to Los Angeles in the early 1960′s. In a roundabout way, they stopped on the East Coast and meet Charles Rado of the Rapho Agency, who in turn, introduced them to the Museum of Modern Art’s head of the photography department, John Szwarkoski.

The year is 1963 and Lartigue is sixty-nine years old when he first presents a selection of his many photographs taken throughout his life to the young curator. That same year there is a photo spread of his work in the famous Life Magazine issue which commemorates the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and which is publicized all over the world. Overnight, the aging, impoverished and unheard of Lartigue becomes one of the renowned photographers of the twentieth century. The patient and long suffering would murmur in unison that ‘Good things come to those who wait.’ Maybe they do, after all.

Twenty-two years after being ‘discovered,’ Lartigue left this earth on September 12th 1986, in Nice, at the amply-lived age of 92, leaving behind more than one-hundred-thousand photographs, seven-thousand diary pages and fifteen-hundred paintings. A remarkable body of work for a man who never stopped discovering, documenting and recording a life as it was lived.

 

 

Of course, among that legacy were the pictures of Renee Perle with her wide-brimmed hats and sleekly tilted berets, the stacked bangles lining her arms, the billowy pants, the perfectly-coiffed finger waves and those nails, those infallibly polished nails, rendering her the status and chic of a true style icon, one that endures to this day.

The following magazine spread shot by Alexi Lubomirski for German Vogue in March 2009, with model Georgina Stojiljkovic is as timeless today as it was when Lartigue and his angel roamed the beaches and bistros of the cote d’azur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

•03/17/12 • 1 Comment

 

Suggestions for this day, via the press:

 

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States:

Cover yourself in green (bonus points for shamrocks), put a smiling leprechaun cut-out on your front door, head to your local “Irish Pub” and get happily tight.

 

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in England:

Eh, maybe pop down to the local pub for a nice pint.

 

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland:

Go to church.

 

Hence, this Aesthete will be spending the day, lifting a pint, reclining in a pew, and dream of smiling leprechauns dancing a jig in her head.

To You and Yours

 

 

Today’s Notable Aesthetic

•03/14/12 • 2 Comments

 

Dongen, Kees van (1877-1968) – 1919c. The Corn Poppy

 

Kees van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the original members of the controversial Fauves (Wild Beasts). He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits. But he knew what he wanted to capture in oils and upon finishing his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam in 1892, he frequented the Red Quarter seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes.

In 1899 he went to Paris and began to exhibit, in among other venues, the notoriously scandalous 1905 exhibition Salon d’Automne, featuring the bright colors of Matisse and others, who were to become known as the Fauves for their irreverence against Impressionism. He was experimental in his work and his associations, being a member of the German Expressionists, part of an avant-garde wave of painters who had hopes of a renewal out of Neo-impressionism and, eventually, joined the circle of friends surrounding Pablo Picasso.

Under the influence of Jasmy Jacob, amongst others, Kees van Dongen developed the lush colors of his Fauvist style. This gained him a solid reputation with the French bourgeoisie. As a fashionable portraitist his subjects included Arletty, Leopold III of Belgium and Maurice Chevalier.

On his popularity as a portraitist of high society women, he cynically remarked, “The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished.”

A remark so in keeping with another of his favored sayings,

 

“Painting is the most beautiful of lies.”

 

 

Monochromatic Melancholy

•03/12/12 • 5 Comments

 

A new visual presence has made its way into my life.

 

 

Defined by beautiful soft focus landscapes,
desolate spaces and unrecognizable forms,
the work of Geoffrey Johnson is
enigmatic, seductive and otherworldly.

 

 

Human figures faded into almost transparent city landscapes;

 

 

monochromatic palletes and sepia tones;

 

 

an air of mystery fused with a veil of melancholy.

 

 

More of his work can be seen at Hubert Gallery

 

 

Images: Geoffrey Johnson.

Special thanks to one of my favored blogger friends, Thom, whose new blog, Form is Void, is a source of wondrous imagery.

 

 

All That Was Lost

•03/11/12 • 2 Comments

 

Maybe it’s because I believe in the notion of synchronicity or that my small contribution can add to the greater good of the world, but when I was contacted today by someone who told me of their team creating a film on the unimaginable tragedy that befell Japan, one year ago today, I felt the need to remind of what we too often forget — the fragility of what can be lost in seconds.

These images, part of a solemn and moving photo essay by the distinguished photo journalist, James Nachtwey, and the accompanying story by Krista Mahr, a correspondent for Time, can be seen and read here in its entirety.

 

The three disasters that blindsided Japan on March 11, 2011 -— a 9.0 earthquake, a massive tsunami and a triple nuclear meltdown -— created an unprecedented crisis for which there was no rulebook. After the water receded that Friday afternoon, leaving as many as 20,000 dead and tens of thousands of homes and businesses in ruins, a terrible stillness settled over Japan’s northeast coast. A dusting of snow fell onto empty highways, void of aid vehicles carrying food, fuel, water and blankets. Tsunami warnings were still in effect, keeping search-and-rescue teams away from obliterated seaside neighborhoods. As workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant scrambled to get the damaged reactors under control, loudspeakers echoed onto empty streets, instructing people to stay indoors to avoid radiation exposure.

 

 

“Inevitably,
the mind is compelled
below the surface,
where the human tragedy
is equally unimaginable.
Inside all those houses and cars
are people —
entire populations obliterated,
silent,
waiting to be found
and returned to their loved ones,
a seemingly impossible task,
but one which is
methodically and patiently
being accomplished
because rituals of
respect and love and parting
are so vital to
humanity.”

 

Image: Feb. 23, 2012. Rikuzentakata, Japan. Shattered stumps of trees at the edge of the sea.
Image: Feb. 25, 2012. Ishinomaki, Japan. Families pray for the dead. This cemetery was buried under debris from the tsunami, preventing burials from taking place until now.
Quote: Photographer, James Nachtwey’s Impressions

 

 

In Praise of Women

•03/08/12 • 5 Comments

 

Today is International Women’s Day.

 

 

And while this day has been celebrated for over one hundred years…

 

 

honoring the economic, political and social achievements of women

 

 

women’s rights, particularly in healthcare, continue to be threatened.

 

 

I can think of no finer tribute
on this day in celebrating women
than by honoring one
who captured their magnificence
in photography -

 

 

Ruth Bernhard 1905 – 2006.

 

 

“If I have chosen
the female form
in particular,
it is because beauty
has been debased
and exploited in our
sensual 20th century.”

 

 

“Woman has been
the subject of much
that is sordid and cheap,
especially in photography.”

 

 

“To raise,
to elevate,
to endorse
with timeless reverence
the image of woman
has been my
mission.”

 

 

“Each time
I make a photograph
I celebrate the life
I love
and the beauty
I know
and the happiness
I have experienced.