Archive for April, 2009

Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor: Black, Affluent, and Witty

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 29, 2009 by thebibliophile

Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor

I’ve long been waiting for Colson Whitehead’s book Sag Harbor,which was recently reviewed in The New York Times. Check out Whitehead speaking about the book in the clip below or read the NYT review.  I don’t like this review. The reviewer seemed just a little too eager to use the term “oreo,” and a little too intent on using hefty metaphors. It seems at odds with Whitehead’s own concise and elegant writing style – that’s beautifully evocative, even cunning in its wit and construction, without being pretentious or including unnecessary flourishes. And I have a feeling there may be nuances the NYT reviewer may have missed. That doesn’t discourage me at all. I’m a fan all the way – ever since I read Apex Hides the Hurt.

Despite the Times review, it seems like the essence of the book is captured. And I for one, remain very excited to read Sag Harbor; it’s going to be a great read. Whitehead is truly talented.

In Maudern Times

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 by thebibliophile

Beatrice “Bea” Arthur passed away on Saturday April 25th.  Arthur is familiar to many as Dorothy from The Golden Girls, but she also made history with the CBS television show Maude.  Maude, a spin-off from All in the Family, featured the first female character to have an abortion. In fact, the show aired two months before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade.While abortion was legal in New York state, where the show was set, it was not legal in several other states – and many local stations would not broadcast the episode entitled, “Maude’s Dilemma.”

Contrast this with current films like Juno and Knocked Up and television shows like the updated 90210 when womyn (miraculously?) strangely don’t even seriously consider abortion, and it gives one much to consider about how far we’ve actually come in terms of the independence of womyn and the right to choose.

Is there anything so powerful and beautiful as a funny, witty, smart womyn?

Halle Berry Covers Bazaar Magazine

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 by thebibliophile

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Halle Berry is always beautiful. Yet is there something about the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, that doesn’t have her looking quite like herself. I can’t figure it out: is it the angle, did they go L’Oreal on Beyonce and lighten her skin, is it the hair, is it the garish and ill-advised bright fuchsia background and dress? The images inside the magazine are quite stunning, and  becoming, which leaves me wondering why they selected the cover photo.

Get it Ms. Berry. Makes me not even think about Monster’s Ball – for like a minute.

Spring is Sprung: Life Captures the Evolution of Race in America

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 22, 2009 by thebibliophile

Life Magazine Photo by Yale Joel taken in 1962. Image is featured on Google under "Spring Hats" on April 19, 2009.

I truly do believe that old axiom that a picture holds a thousand words. In fact, I think my love of art and visual culture, makes me more likely to believe and think that far more than a thousand words can be captured in an image. Images can carry a weight of history, a whole Britannica of history and conflict. So my discovery of this image, featured on google as a link to Life Magazine‘s tribute to Spring Hats on April 19, 2009. The series of photos was taken by photographer Yale Joel, for Life,in 1962. Joel seems to be photographing in an upscale store, in New York city.

As a hat lover, I was inclined to explore the link. Two things struck me: 1.) stumbling across this series of womyn and men posing in front of the statue of what appears to be a life-sized black jockey/servant and 2.) the fact that Life featured no womyn of color – no Black womyn in particular, because hat wearing is a cultural heritage that many womyn of color carry on today. So, where were the womyn of color. And what, pray tell, the heck is going on in these images.

Life Magazine Photo by Yale Joel taken in 1962. Image is featured on Google under "Spring Hats" on April 19, 2009.

To me, the posing womyn seem to capture the juxtaposition and conflict between white female sexuality and privilege/oppression and “othered” (here read as Black male) sexuality and the fantastical imagined gaze of the Black male. In many of the photos it appears that most of the womyn trying ton hats are completely oblivious or unaware of their placement in relation to the statue – though in some it looks as if the presence of the “servant” somehow enhances the play of trying on hats.

What a way to encapsulate the way that fashion can simultaneously ignore and exotify, distort, and subjugate the presence and images of people of color. On the one hand, the presence of the outrageously outfitted figurine, heightens the whimsy of trying on hats. On the other hand, none of the womyn seem at all to be engaging with or noticing the figure – even though it is in their direct line of sight. Only the man pictured in the image at right, seems to be playing at bending the realities in the photo – both playing at gender, and at the presence of the Black figurine. There is something in his playfulness, combined with the gaze into the mirror (a familiar narcissistic trope of film/literature that feminizes and suggests doom of a protagonist. For example Broken Blossoms, Snow White)

The attire of the mannequin is also telling; the clothing seems to be of European provenance in the 16th or 17th century. The mannequin is heavily ornamented – with earrings, pearl necklaces, and the costume the figurine wears is also heavily decorated. It appears that a candle-shaped light is placed in the mannequins left hand.

Life Magazine Photo by Yale Joel taken in 1962. Image is featured on Google under "Spring Hats" on April 19, 2009.

What do you think?

Life Magazine Photo by Yale Joel taken in 1962. Image is featured on Google under "Spring Hats" on April 19, 2009.

Can fashion ever truly be trusted to put people of color into the full center of fashion, thus making itself more authentic, when so much of the experience, tension, and witty retorts of fashion are made at the expense of the “other,” or through co-optation of the styles of others?  As bell hooks wonders, albeit on a much larger scale, how can we move from margin to center? And how can we do so, without being at the center of a bonfire of vanities, but at the center of an multicultural industry with a truly sophisticated, inclusive, realistic and yet daring philosophy toward aesthetics and fashion.

Or maybe it’s all fun and games – fashion means nothing, race in fashion means nothing, aesthetics don’t reflect cultural meaning….

 
 
 

The Architectural Shoe

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 by thebibliophile

I don’t know about the rest of the outfits featured here, but the shoes in the center – whoa damn! They are hot – both architectural and whimsical. Beautiful. I believe they are Prada.

Water & Womyn: The Art of Alyssa Monks

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 18, 2009 by thebibliophile
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Alyssa Monks, Laughing Girl

Alyssa Monks, Laughing Girl (right), Monks’ show is currently up at DFN Gallery in NYC. Check out Flavorpill’s interview with Monks, and what they had to say about the show.  I love the simultaneous abstraction and detail of her work.  Her paintings feel alive – as if I’m watching a real moment in time that the artist has captured. I appreciated Monks determination to feature womyn in the way that she does. Monks reminds me of one of my favorite artists Artemesia Gentileschi , who also painted womyn with a loving, detailed and realistic eye – always managing to create lumniscent skin, while capturing powerful, sophisticated, and facial nuances.

 Monks often features womyn shown throught the filter of water or shower curtains. In her interview she talks about the challenge of rendering water on canvas and how it can disrupt the male gaze.  Kehinde Wiley  is another artists who disrupts the classical male gaze in his work. What interests me both about Wiley and Monks is that they fuse the modern with classical skill, building wittily on the artists that have come before them.

I’m particularly struck by the similarity between Gentileschi’s Danae and Monks Fragments, Monks seems to be having a conversation with Gentileschi and its so interesting to see how the works speak to each other across generations and nationality.

 

Danae by Artemesia Gentileschi

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Fragment by Alyssa Monks

The most famous of Gentilieschi’s works is her representation of Judith, there’s a cool post about gender and the history of art here. Gentileschi, who was the daughter of a famous painter, under whom she trained, had a masterful understanding of light and shadow. I think this painting is amazing.

 
 
 

Elements of Style, Fifty Never Looked So Good

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2009 by thebibliophile

Fifty years ago today, William Strunk, and beloved children’s writer E.B. White,  published The Elements of Style, the definitive guide to writing in the English language. To celebrate the anniversary, the publishers have released an elegantly bound fiftieth anniversary edition. Known, and beloved or begrudged by students of English and composition writers alike, Strunk and White set the standard for good, clear, elegant writing. In an age, where twittering reduces our thoughts to a quik tweet, without much style or elegance, Strunk and White reminds me at least, of the power language possesses and conveys, when it is layed down on the page, with an eye for clarity and beauty. 

The Elements fo Style Fiftieth Annviersary Edition

The fiftieth anniversary edition allows us to not only see the rules that have remained over the last half century, but also gives us the opportunity to see what language rules have been abandoned – and to see if they have helped us communicate more directly. And while I target twittering as an example of the erosion of language, as a blogger, I can’t truly begrudge this new technological tool. It is, in the end, another evolution of how we communicate with one another – that leads inevitably, to changes in how we think about and use language. I’ve never been able to fully master all the rules of Strunk and White when writing, however, I find myself striving to achieve that ideal, nodding in agreement with the rules, happy to see others who take joy in the use and construction of the written word.

How fitting it is, that Strunk and White chose a title that mentioned style. For many of their suggestions for building a writing aesthetic, could also apply to building a fashion aesthetic. Take, for example, rule number twelve: Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. When on dresses, one must commit to the aesthetic of choice – anything less confuses your “reader.” For my part, I avoid tame colors, anything that suggests I am unsure of the look that I am wearing (even if I am experimenting with a new style.) I also think it means that one shouldn’t make apologies for one’s style: if it is the look you want, then cultivate it, make it translatable and clear. Then consider the rule, “omit needless words.: It’s a rule that reminds me of tips many fashion gurus are currently (and have been for some time) suggesting – that you should remove the last thing that you put on; this tactic is a way to edit and outfit, sot that it remains direct and elegant.

I have a theory: if we all read Strunk & White, would we be both, more fashionable and elegant, and more erudite writers? One can only hope…. 

 
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