Stat Counter

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cindy Sherman at MoMA

A few weeks ago, I'd never even heard of Cindy Sherman. Then both of my weekly magazines, Time and New York, published articles on the new retrospective of her work at MoMA. I was intrigued! Kurt and I decided to get some culture on Saturday and check it out.

This is one of the opening images, from her "society" series...
Basically, she's been taking photos of herself since the 70s. But they're not considered self-portraits Here's how the exhibit explains it:
Masquerading as a myriad of characters, Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954) invents personas and tableaus that examine the construction of identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. To create her images, she assumes the multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylist. Whether portraying a career girl, a blond bombshell, a fashion victim. A clown, or a society lady of a certain age, for over thirty-five years this relentlessly adventurous artist has created an eloquent and provocative work that resonates deeply in our visual culture.

Yes, I was so fascinated by that, I stood in the gallery and typed the whole paragraph on my BlackBerry!

Anyway, after an opening room which included images like the above and this one, which was one of my favorites...
...the exhibit progresses more or less chronologically, starting with her Film Stills from 1977-1980. Fun fact: some of these were done "guerilla style"...she would quickly shoot them at various sites. But most of her career since then has been done in studio. (Second fun fact: Madonna sponsored the 1997 MoMA exhibition of the film stills, and Sherman has been called "the original Lady Gaga.")
After the film stills came the Centerfolds, which were so controversial that they were not run by the magazine that commissioned them because of feminist concerns about the alleged "victimization" of the images.
There was also a room of her history portraits (1988-90), where she played off of the classic Old Master concepts...but with a lot of prosthetics...
There was some fashion work in the early 80s...she would play around with images of haute couture unlike anything you'd see on a runway...
And then the "breakthrough sex pictures" in the early 90s...
I can hear my mom saying, "Well, that's enough of that!" So, you'll just have to see more of those for yourself...there were some interesting ones with what looked like chewed-up chocolate and vomit.

The curatorial notes said Sherman's work explores the "obsession with class, status and youth at the heart of culture series is a sort of wall of really awful Glamour Shots that was shown in Hollywood one year during the Oscars. It looks at "the cycle of desire and failed ambition that permeates Hollywood."

Finally, there were the "monumental" 2008 society portraits, ironically taken before the crash. They are a sort of eerie look at boom time success, though this was one of my reminded me of a Madoff-type wife who's just found out they're losing it all. The woman's teeth are crooked, which made me think of people who didn't grow up with money and were too old to wear braces by the time they could afford them...

As you can tell, I loved the exhibit. One of the notes called fashion "a daily form of masquerade that communicates culture, gernder and class." I'd never thought of it in that way, but it's true. We all put on a certain layer of artifice each morning in an attempt to determine how we'll be seen or perceived...and we all make judgements and assumptions about others based on what we see and assume...


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Family reunion in Dallas

There are friends...there is family...and then there are friends who feel like family. While in Dallas, I drove to the suburban metropolis of Trophy Club to visit with my friend Hilary's parents, Ross and Judy, and her sister, Jaime. I am so fond of all of them! I also got to meet Hilary's Aunt Cindy, Uncle George and cousin Mallory.

They treated me to lunch at Babe's, a Texas institution. It has no menu. You simply choose between fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. Everything is served family-style. The meal comes with biscuits, green salad, creamed corn and mashed potatoes.

HEAVEN!!! We went on a Wednesday afternoon...apparently the line stretches all over the sidewalk on weekends. Good thing I decided to wear my skort with an elastic waist that day...
Jaime and her precious pup, Toula

Playing in Philly

While I was between jobs, I took the train over to Philly one Saturday and spent the night with my college dorm buddy Renee. She and her husband Aaron took me out for an absolutely incredible dinner at a restaurant called Ela.

Sunday morning, Renee and I met our friend Ashley for brunch and a play date. Ashley's daughter Maggie is just a little older than Renee's son Felix. How is it possible my friends managed to have the two cutest kids in all of Philly? I mean, clearly I am not the least bit biased! 

Maggie pretending to be shy...

On our way home, Renee stopped to buy some goodies in the Italian Market and sent me home with some of Philly's best spinach fettucine...

My Reading List

My friend Seana was looking for some book recs, so I took a few minutes to go through my journal and remind myself what I've read in the past year. I love getting recommendations from friends, so I thought I'd share these with you...

Also, I have a habit of writing down a compelling quote or two when I finish a book, so I had fun looking at what I'd written down and thought you might also enjoy these quotes:

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (This is a collection of short stories...also LOVED her novel The Namesake.) She writes beautifully about the experience of being a first-generation American and what it means for the parent-child relationship. But I find her stories to be very universal; they speak to coming to terms with one's identity and the ways in which we forge an identity that is both separate from and inextricably linked to our parents.

He imagined the boy years from now, shutting the door as Roma and Romi had. It was inevitable. And yet he knew that he, too, had turned his back on his parents, by settling in America. In the name of ambition and acccomplishment, none of which mattered anymore, he had forsaken them.

Persuasion by Jane Austen (I got hooked on Downton Abbey and went on a Brit lit kick)
It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before; and, generally speaking, if there has been neither ill health nor anxiety, it is a time of life at which scarcely any charm is lost.  
Backwards off the Curb by my former Sunday school teacher, Chris McMillan
All my judgments about my parents came back to haunt me -- not a doubt. I saw clearly how I could have been more tolerant of the character flaws I saw in them. I could have loved them instead of being such a harsh critic. My relationship with Mac could have been different, if only I'd found it in my emotional range to love more, to give more, to be more accepting. Shut up, Saint Francis. Why could I not care more about loving and less about being loved?

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
"Why must I do what is hardest?"
"Because, Marion, you are an instrument of God. Don't leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play! Leave no part of your instrument unexplored. Why settle for 'Three Blind Mice' when you can play the 'Gloria'?"
"...not Bach's 'Gloria.' Yours! Your 'Gloria' lives within you. The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible in you."

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. This was a fun no-brainer about a couple of college friends living in New York, struggling with life post-college as their friends all get married.
"I pushed someone on the subway," Isabella admitted. "They were going too slow, and I just pushed a little bit."
Harrison laughed. "So you think you need to leave New York?"
"Yeah," Isabella said. "I always said when I push someone, it's time to go." 

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
We pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit... These are stories, instead, about people who were given a special opportunity to work really hard and seized it, and who happened to come of age at a time when that extraordinary effort was rewarded by the rest of society. Their success was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up.

(I also loved Gladwell's theory that work needs three things to be satisfying: autonomy, complexity, and connection between effort and reward. My job failed in all three wonder I was bored at work!)
Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
...for a great many people, the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day. Perhaps, then, there is something to [the] advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
"Do you have children?" I ask.
"Explain to me why that's important."
"Sometimes we -- sometimes you -- there are children who need more. Or not more, but different. I'm sorry, I'm not being articulate."
"There are children to whom parents give more."
"I wouldn't put it like that."
"He smiles. ... "Let me rephrase," he says. "Sometimes children can get more attention because they seem to be in more need of attention. And then there are children who seem so self-possessed and competent that they seem to need less."

One Day by David Nicholls
She sometimes wondered what her twenty-two-year-old self would think of today's Emma Mayhew. Would she consider her self-centred? Compromised? A bourgeois sell-out, with her appetite for homeownership and foreign travel, clothes from Paris and expensive haircuts? Would she find her conventional, with her new surname and hopes for a family life? Maybe, but then the twenty-two-year-old Emma Morley wasn't such a paragon either: pretentious, petulant, lazy, speechifying, judgemental. Self-pitying, self-righteous, self-important, all the selfs except self-confident, the quality that she had always needed the most.

No, this, she felt, was real life, and if she wasn't as curious or passionate as she once had been, that was only to be expected.

This section leapt out of the page and seemed written just for me, given my obsession/fascination with that letter I wrote myself in high school and my anxiety about opening it in 2010.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shotgun for carpool

I used my time between jobs to catch up with college friends. My college roommate Barb lives in Dallas with her handsome hubs and adorable kiddos, Maggie and J.B. Barb's husband Burns was away on business travel, so I set up shop in their lovely guest house and kept her company.

We spent a few days going to the gym, shopping and gabbing. Such fun to get together with an old friend and feel like no time has passed. Our lives have changed, but deep down we are still Babsley and Lynbra!

There is nobody I trust to give me fashion advice like Babs...we hit the best consignment shop in town, Clotheshorse Anonymous, and loaded up on designer duds. One gal's junk, right? I snagged a DVF dress and a few other fab finds for the spring wedding circuit.

I do believe the quote of the week was the moment when J.B. came running out of the practice arena at gymnastics, looked at Babs and me watching him, and proudly announced to his class and teacher, "I have two mommies!!!"

Costume time: Maggie dressed up like a snowman

Sweet Maggie is ready for school...
"OK, now take a picture of my bottom."
J.B. chowing down on his spaghetti at the club.
Maggie and her mac and cheese...
On the way to school...
Duke love in the yard...
J.B. was not feeling the camera...unusual for the little love bug man! He filled me up with kisses and cuddles. I thought I was his new favorite person! "Umm, no offense," Burns warned, "but in case you're wondering...yes, he's pretty much like that with everyone." Cannot wait to see those little personalities grow.
My "treasure" from the consignment shop...never-worn Givenchy heels! Original retail: $850. (My mom's quote: "Please tell me you did not pay more than $50 for those." Sure, Mom, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! One more purchase for the "hookered up" file -- a leather dress. To do: find leather dress-worthy occasion!)
Babs getting a "how to" lesson in smoky eyes for the school gala...
Babs demonstrating how she's gonna rock those smoky eyes...
Showing off my loot...python print BCBG dress and pink Cole Haan ballet flats.

Hopefully Burns will not have a heart attack when the bills come in. It's only every two years that Barb and I get together...we had to make up for lost time! At least we did not hit Neiman Marcus this round...
Such a joy to see one of my besties with a happy, full life. Babs, you have always excelled at everything you've done...motherhood is no exception!! HUGS.