Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Papered Wall, Rio 2011."

Collage with papered boy, Rio 2011.

The streets of Rio de Janeiro are currently exploding with art, and any available surface is an opportunity for some rogue artist to express (presumably) him-self. Graffiti has reach masterpiece proportions, with artworks elbowing for space on brick walls, electrical boxes, undersides of bridges, and even the occasional slow moving vehicle.

These works in spray paint, by brush, or through decoupage, all tell tales in various styles, of class and struggle, of life on the street and life in outer space, of drugs and euphoria and love and violence and death and peace.

I like many and even love a few of them. In particular, I'm captivated with a few, including those who use original artwork printed on paper which is then pasted around the city in strategic spots.
Illustrated Paper Woman, Rio 2011.
 A wide-eyed woman hugs her stiletto clad feet, amidst a cacophonous array of tags and talent. Each line finely rendered, bringing her curves into curious focus.
Papered Corset, Rio 2011
Nearby, a paper corset is plastered to the wall, a lingering garment from which perhaps she has just escaped, it now transforms into its own butterfly and would surely flutter away if not for the paste fixing it solidly to cement.
Papered Cristo, Rio 2011
The enormous is rendered approachable, as the omnipresent Cristo the Rendentor hovers never far from sight, outstretched arms offering blessings to a city below in perpetual chaos.

Papered Allstar Shoe, Rio 2011
Similarly the minute develops epic proportions, and the importance of an object is exaggerated through prominence and placement. A shoe, probably left by a paper giant, sits stealthily beneath a window ledge.

The industriousness of this display can not be understated, as it allows the vandalizing artists to sneak in and out undetected, quickly applying the adhesive and then the image, presumably an original, before clandestinely moving on to the next "canvas", transforming the sprawling city into an urban gallery.

The more promotional amongst the lot, elect to repeat for effect, same or similar images in multiple locations, creating brand recognition and memory reinforcement.
Art Wallpaper Swatch, Rio 2011
The most dramatic work encountered during this survey was by an artist using a  bold pink and white motif, depicting characters in various states or irony; a smoking mouse, a mustachioed woman, a Mexican wrestling mask or a Day of the Dead skull.

Then, as I rounded the corner in the neighborhood known as Botafogo I encountered the most impressive piece of the day, lurking just inside the gates of the Universidade Federal do Rio, a prolific promoter had covered an entire building with his images.
Universidade Federal do Rio, 2011
Every nook and cranny, every wall, window and door, completed papered, creating a cotton-candy installation, where sightseers and onlookers snapped photos and jaded students rushed to and from classes, feigning indifference.

And this, all within a short afternoon walk along the streets of Rio de Janeiro, the "cidade maravilhoso" living fully up to its name, without even the help of sun or sand or palm tree, just another urban landscape yearning to provide its population of artists a place to live and a place to express the emotions and concepts of that life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Mariko Mori and Laurie Anderson at CCBB"

Three exhibits that put the focus on the artist.
Mariko Mori at CCBB Rio 2011
There is a lot of hype surrounding the handful of works by the Japanese artist Mariko Mori now on view at the CCBB in Rio. Upon entering the CCBB, a former bank building, the main space is filled with the enormity of her UFO, an interactive pod piece where participants are invited to plug into and become a part of the experience, light and sound and brain wave activity projected within the walls of the amoeba shaped vessel which convincingly looks as if it did just arrive from some far away planet.

(Note to hopeful viewers, get there early to avoid the crowds as the pod can only accommodate 12 guests per hour - so there is a lot of waiting for the 15 minute experience.)

I was familiar with Mori photographic work from late last century, and was happy to find one of her most famous images inside the exhibit.

Mariko Mori "Empty Dreams" at CCBB Rio 2011
Way back in 1999, it was acceptable if not encouraged to don a bright blue wig and mermaid outfit and do a self-portrait. Good clean fun. Today, revisiting the image, it reminded me of those heady days working at Patricia Field's and Fifi Mahony's, but mostly it seemed quaintly vintage, halcyon days gone by.

As has this style of self-expression for Mori, who abandoned being the star of her own artwork and slowly fades from view until the only thing that remains is the architecture that houses the action. Honestly, I would have loved to see more of her photography, as I am a big fan of self-promotional self-expression.  As for the pod, rather that a performance and art space, I was fantasizing about redecorating and moving in!

Also on view is the work of Laurie Anderson, and while I have been familiar with her work for years, (even saw her perform live in Austin back in the day), this exhibit marks the first time I have seen a retrospective of her work.

Laurie Anderson at CCBB Rio 2011
 The show, titled "I in U" (Eu en Tu), covers decades of her work, from videos of her more well-known performative pieces, to actual displays of some of her most famous instruments, (deconstructed violins as above, or even the iconic neon violin and bow!) There are also violins that play themselves, images of her through the ages, and more high-tech pieces; Laurie Anderson as pontificating projection, holy hologram, diva of digital. Her work across 40 years and nearly as many mediums exemplifies her manifesto of 'transitoriety', or "the state of permanent movement, destined never to arrive".

Additionally, tucked into the catacombs of galleries within the CCBB is the exhibit "Eu me Desdobro em Muitos", and while not the star show, it is certainly worth seeing.

CCBB Rio 2011
This exhibit focuses on self-representation in contemporary photography and includes some pretty big names. Robert Mapplethorpe, Gilbert & George, Pierre & Gilles, and Cindy Sherman are all represented, as well as a bevy of other Brazilian and international photographers, all putting the self in self-expression.

For more on the Cultural Center of the Bank of Brazil, check out the CCBB:

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Daniel Senise at Casa Franca Brasil"

Daniel Senise "2892" at Casa Franca Brasil June 2011
Daniel Senise is an established Brazilian artist with a fascination for facts and figures. His precise exhibit at Casa Franca Brasil in Rio de Janeiro, titled "2892" references his main installation in the exhibit, a number with no names.

As you enter CFB, the viewer is not only met with the beauty of the space, with its soaring columns and the several cupolas of the ceiling arching away this way and that, in the former customs building located in the Centro neighborhood of Rio, (near Prace XV, my regular Saturday morning flea market), but also with two imposing walls of what appears to be stretched white canvas flanking either side of the entrance, guiding visitors through the gallery. Upon closer inspection, (and a little reading) the viewer learns that this piece is actually constructed from hotel sheets, some of them still marked with the logo of the hotel, and the title, "2892" references the number of guests who have slept, or passed between these sheets.

Numerics can be horrifying, especially when considering the limited space and the things within that space that so many of us share. How many people have sat in this chair before me? (Try not to ponder this on an overnight flight from JFK to Rio, for example, as it can be insomnia inducing!) How many people have ate from this same fork or drank from this same coffee cup?  How many people are breathing this same air? And while I am not trying to inspire anyone's neuroses, it is something worth pondering, in a shrinking world with a growing population. 

Similarly, (and not to get too preachy here, but...) what is the impact that each of us make on our surroundings, including, each other?

"Mil" (1000) by Daniel Senise at CFB
In one of his other pieces, Senise examines just that. His installation titles "Mil" (or 1000), celebrates his 1000th piece of artwork, a creation of giant brick-like panels floating on white walls. But again, looks can be deceiving, as Senise plays a trick on the viewer, and takes a jab at the art world, a world which after 1000 pieces, he is thoroughly entrenched within, for actually these bricks are fabricated from recycled paper, pulp created from museum catalogs and gallery literature generated from his other 999 works. 

By studying the 'bricks' closely, one can see the texture of the paper pulp, with flecks of color, and maybe a snippet of random text here or there. It is art imitating art, a spectator sport becoming a spectacle, first talking about itself and then becoming itself. Art, and to a greater degree - LIFE, seem to do this with some frequency. The author writes a book about writing a book, the director make a film about film-making. And again it goes back to impact. What is the impact our visualizations (even the subconscious ones) have on others, ourselves, our world? How does what we do make a statement, tell a story, express our desires? And how can that be recognized and justified on a planet of billions? Senise seems to be saying, even to himself: 'Just stop for a moment and think'.

As a creative, and an artist, my superficial goal is only to try and make the world a little more beautiful, to leave it a better place than I found it, to clean up after myself, and maybe, just maybe, inspire someone else along the way.
For more on Casa Franca Brasil in Rio de Janeiro:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Wallpaper 1,2,3's"

In my apartment in Rio, there is an entrance area that I generously refer to as the "Foyer". It has a small wall, that encloses the door, viewable only once one is fully inside the apartment. On one side there is a huge (1 meter) round window where light filters through patterned glass and the coastal breeze constantly flows. On the other side is a wooden hutch with sliding glass doors fondly called the "Catete Gothic", so named after the neighborhood (Catete) where is was built, and the era (Gothic) which it reflects. Upon it sits the shrine to Saint Sebastian, the patron Saint of Rio de Janeiro, (and one of the better looking nude saints), along with a few other relics and talismans.
Pax Hotel circa 1940's
Years ago, after buying this apartment in the Gloria neighborhood of Rio, I was tasked with decorating it on a rather tight budget. The basics were first covered, wiring, plumbing, ceilings, and floors, leaving the enjoyable job of decorating. The apartment building was once a hotel, (Pax Hotel, see above), and the apartment I was now responsible for was originally a suite, with two large rooms and a few smaller ones. Keeping with the theme of the hotel, I really wanted to include the palm frond wallpaper from the Beverly Hills Hotel. After much research, I was in luck to discover it had recently been re-issued, and was available on the market. I secured one double roll of it, at a considerable price, and hoped it would be enough to cover the main wall. Hiring a professional wallpaper hanger, I watched as he pieced and put the puzzle together to create a beautiful mural. 
Beverly Hills Hotel Walpaper
 Alas, aesthetic choices are never universal, and even this undertaking encountered some household dispute. The re-issue came in 3 shades, from a subdued sage to a bright green (the original) to a vivid turquoise. A disagreement ensued over which color-way would be chosen for the apartment. The solution was the more subtle palette of sage on the main wall, and I framed a swatch of the original and hung it above the counter in the kitchen. Everybody's happy. Plus I get decor for two rooms.

When it came time to paper the wall in the foyer, I needed something to coordinate with the adjoining rooms, while still maintaining the spirit of Rio and the pied-a-terre apartment at hand. Working in the window-dressing world, allows access to a lot of materials, and after an installation on 5th Ave in NYC, I walked away with several rolls of wallpaper by William Morris, the noted British decorator, designer, and later religious fanatic of beauty and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Option 1: William Morris Wallpaper
Having seen, and even assisted the installation of several wallpaper projects in NY by this time, I decided I would go it alone, and hang the paper myself. The paper went up surprisingly easy (then again, it was a small wall), and I was pleased with the results.

There were a few lessons to be learned from attempt number 1, namely, a small swatch of a pattern can be lovely while a slightly larger area of same said pattern can be overwhelming. Plus, the person I share the apartment with declared: "Old Lady!" and as such it was determined it would be replaced directly.

Another project in NYC soon yielded more wallpaper, (as it was becoming a medium of choice), this one a florid design with birds and an Asian influence.
Option 2: Floral Wallpaper
Lessons aplenty in this installation. Namely, I thought what the heck, despite numerous warnings from all authorities in wallpaper, to remove old paper before re-papering, that I would just paper right over the top of option 1. Lessons: William Morris is highly textured, and after the new paper dries, the texture of the original covering could be seen in the new paper. I called it all additional texture. The busy print of the floral design was otherwise very forgiving, and in a place or two I even added a patch to cover an imperfection - practically invisible to the naked eye.

My 'room-mate' now shouted: "Old Lady!", as apparently did the wallpaper. And thus again it was determined the paper would be replaced.

This time, I was preparing for a demonstration in NYC and for the filming of my Paper Arts course, and was material shopping accordingly. I discovered that the Janovic paint and paper store in Chelsea actually stocks a variety of wallpaper on the roll, ready to hang. For the project at hand, I bought a modish print with a metallic finish, perfect for my demonstration, my Paper Arts class, some gift wrap trend forecasting I was working on, and that pesky wall in Rio. Multi-tasking.

Option 3: Mod Metallic Paper
The paper was a success in most every way. It was perfect for my projects in NYC. It was a hit as gift wrap. And there was nothing Old Lady about it. On arrival in Rio, transporting the cumbersome roll and the white suspicious powder that when mixed with water becomes wallpaper paste, I attacked the wall with relish.

As always, there were lessons to be learned. 1. Textured William Morris wallpaper is powerful enough to show through two additional layers of rather good quality wallpaper. 2. Patches invisible to  the naked eye are plainly visible when covered in a metallic paper. 3. Metallic paper, in general, is very unforgiving, and must be installed with precision. 4. Always use a sharp, fresh blade to trim the overlap, and allow time for the paper to dry sufficiently to avoid tearing. 5. In dim light, thankfully everything looks better. 6. In the end decorating should be fun, and it's not permanent, so enjoy it.

That's what I am doing. Enjoying it. I love the new mod look. It really freshened up the room, adding a more masculine and design oriented look. It ties in some of the other modern design elements scattered throughout the apartment, (tear drop fixtures, lit globes, tulip table and chairs, round bed), and coordinates with all the other colors present.

Coming up next: When I grow tired of this look, I plan on delicately shredding back some of the paper, to reveal glimpses of all three, to create that textured, layered, effect. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, for more tips on wallpaper and creative things to do with it, check out my Paper Arts Course on

For more on the Beverly Hills Hotel - a must see in LA:

For more on William Morris check out: 

Janovic Paint and Paper Stores:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Museu de Arte Modern - Rio"

Alton DuLaney @ Museu de Arte Moderna - Rio

The Museu de Arte Moderna, or Museum of Modern Art, in Rio de Janeiro, is one of these gorgeous museums where the architecture of the museum, in this case coupled with the beauty of its surroundings, competes with the actual artwork on display. Similar to the Guggenheim in NYC by Frank Lloyd Wright or the Oscar Niemayer masterpiece, the Museum of Contemporary Art, perched right across the bay in Niteroi, Brazil.

The MAM was designed by the architect Affonso Reidy in the post-war mid-century modernist movement that swept Brazil even more thoroughly than it did the Untied States. This was, after all, the era of Brasilia, the invention of a whole new modern capital city, when optimism was running rampant and the country really believed in the future. The megalith of steel and glass floats delicately on concrete "V" shaped pillars, surrounded by the Central Park of the south, the Parque do Flamengo - or the Flamengo Park, fully realized with tropical foliage by the landscape architect Roberto Burle Max.
View from MAM across park and marina to Gloria, Rio.

The park winds along the bay, conveniently linking my little pied-a-terre apartment in Gloria with the Museu, only a short and scenic walk away. From a perfectly placed floor to ceiling window, I gaze out from the museum, across the park and the marina, to Gloria. (That's my apartment building to the upper right hand corner of the photo, the white, curvy one.)

The wide open expanses of the MAM are prefect for large scale sculpture, and the main gallery contains several over-sized pieces in steel.

Jose' Resende at MAM, Rio.
The large, quasi-industrial pieces by Jose' Resende feel right at home on these polished cement floors. The interiors, cold and hard, juxtaposed with the exterior, lush and warm, create a worthwhile tension, while along with " equilibrio e a gravidade" (equilibrium and gravity), make some of the forces that Resende explores in his work.

A quick ascent up a beautiful spiral staircase, and I am in another gallery, filled with the sculptural objects and maquetes.

Assemblage by Jose' Damasceno, MAM, Rio.
Small assemblages and large scale installations compete for importance, with lines blurring as to what is a little part of something larger or a big part of something smaller. Nevertheless, each of the works by Jose' Damasceno successfully tells some story, leaving me, the viewer, trying to read more deeply into the scenario.

The Museum runs several exhibits concurrent, so there is always something for everyone to see. A smaller exhibit, "Genealogias do Contemporaneo", features work one might expect from Brazilian artists, though I fear it veers dangerously close to folk-art. (Side note: Nothing against folk-art, especially Brazilian folk-art, with all of its riches, both culturally and economically. Certainly, I have been known to profit from that genre in multiple ways.)

Modern St. Sebastian
What I prefer, though, is a little of the unexpected. What may appear a typical Brazilian, or "Carioca" scene, is in fact a modern twist on the classic Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, (or as it is also known, "a cidade de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro").

Of course, no modern art museum would be complete without the classics, and MAM has its share, despite a disasterous fire in the 70's that destroyed much of its permanent collection. The exhibit "E' Assim Mesmo" or "It's Like This" which promises the "grandes nomes de arte do nosso tempo", and certainly delivers with the requisite Pollock, Haring, Giacometti, Warhol, Picasso, and others.
Tacila do Amaral
Mixed in with these names of the international art world are the Brazilian names that deserve equal billing - Helio Oiticica, Tunga, and my favorite, Tarcila do Amaral, the modernist icon. Her renderings of distorted figures define a movement, and paint complicated histories with a minimum of strokes.

Andre' da Costa, "Paris Video", Rio de Janeiro 2011
And finalmente, (finally) a funny concluding story. My host and tour guide in Rio, Andre' da Costa and I both enjoyed all the exhibits and the grounds of the Museu. One piece in particular struck our fancy though, a video installation of Paris, projected into the corner of one of a gallery, inviting the viewer to interact. In 2009 when we were in Paris, we visited the George Pompidou Modern Art Center. There, one of the galleries had a video installation featuring the Rio neighborhood Gloria, in particular the Parque de Paris, which is near the Museum de Arte Moderna. Ironic to have seen Gloria in a Paris museum and to now see Paris in a Gloria museum.
Andre' da Costa, "Gloria, Rio Video",  Paris, 2009.

For more of the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, visit:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Louise Bourgeois"

Currently on exhibit through June 25, 2011, at the Cheim & Read Gallery in Chelsea is "The Fabric Works" by Louise Bourgeois. The show is exactly as the title suggests, but in stark contrast to some of Bourgeois more well-known works.

Most famous for her larger than life sculptures and provocative installations, these works, completed in the last decade of her life, from 2002 -2010, ( Bourgeois lived in Chelsea until her death last year at the age of 98, active in the art scene until the end, holding regular salons in her home, where artist, both the established and the unknown, could bring their work for her to discuss.) explore a more subdued side of her self-expression, while still exploring here life-long themes of domesticity, hierarchies, feminism, and matrimony.

In her last years, spending more time at home, she mined her closets for material, and used scraps of fabric, a section of a dress, or her husbands old handkerchief to produce these delicate yet bold creations.
Some familiar motifs re-occur, such as quilted pieces that resemble webs, a personal symbol for Bourgeois, whether expressed in welded steel or mattress ticking, or cloth remnants.

Small bits of vintage fabric are gathered into pouches and spider-egg-like cocoons, encouraging the viewer to consider not only the outer dimensions and shapes but the mystery within.

The exhibit is extensive, with room after room of her work. The catalog for the show, revelas just how prolific she was well into her 90's, with countless interpretations of a theme.

"Sewing is my attempt tp keep things together and make things whole", she is quoted as having said.

And while some pieces are completely abstract, others are referential, suggesting classic quilt-work or even landscapes.

As I viewed the exhibit with a long-time friend who works in fashion in Hong Kong, I studied each piece, noticing the style of stitch, the application of a button or the inclusion of a sewing needle, the hue of the thread, and how all the smaller details went together relating to the other pieces within the collection.  Together, my friend and I discussed the triumphs and failures of fashion, the value in documentation, and the history that is preserved in the art we produce, the story we tell in the method which we chose to weave the fabric of our life. 

Perhaps nothing announces more the person we claim to be than the clothing we choose to wear, the image we project through our second skin, which we don for protection from the elements and as a fashion statement. How appropriate is it then, the Bourgeois revisited these things in her last decade, reviewing the trends and traditions (she did grow up in Paris working in her family's tapestry restoration business, after all!) and translating them into her own personal finale. Something that once cloaked her body, in the end, became her body of work. Or as she herself stated, "Clothing exercise in memory."

The Cheim & Read Gallery is located at 547 West 25th Street, near 10th Ave, in NYC.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Street Art"

Chelsea Gallery District
Is it just me, or is there a proliferation of high quality street art popping up all over Manhattan? Now, I'm not talking about your garden-variety graffiti, (which has its own place and value - but more on that later), but actual Art with a capital "A". Lately, during my walks through the city I always try to have my camera handy and my eyes open for that guerrilla masterpiece, like the above layered piece I snapped in the Gallery District of Chelsea. Not in a gallery, mind you, but on a construction barrier in the street.

Or on a recent walk on the Highline, I looked up to see this portrait poised high above the streets, on a building top near Mid-Town. Is it an act of vandalism or property value enhancement? Whatever the case may be, the tenant with access to this balcony hasn't bothered to reclaim the purity of this beige wall, but has embraced the spirit of the artsy North Chelsea neighborhood by leaving the work intact.

Highline Park
Speaking of the Highline, which I often do, one clever artist decided to forgo the search for a suitable wall, and rented a billboard instead, with striking results. A stark reminder of what the train tracks were before they became a tourist attracting park.

Meat Packing District
Of course there are no shortage of walls in the still gentrifying Meatpacking District, where meat processing facilities mix with hip hotels, beautiful boutiques, chic clubs, and dynamic denizens.

Over a neighborhood or so is SOHO, which was once the art-capital of NYC, though most galleries have since migrated north. Still, the murals deliver urban fulfillment whether in full color or basic black (like many of the shoppers elbowing their way down narrow cobblestone streets).

The city is indeed a colorful cornucopia of inspiration and creativity, from the small stenciled image to a full facade of a building celebrating the vibrancy and vitality of expression.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Highline 2"

A view of the Highline looking North
The long-awaited, highly-anticipated Phase II of the Highline (Park) is now open! After what seems like years of gazing up at the previously abandoned train-tracks, the gate finally swung open this week, and despite the 100 degree temperatures, I braved the full length of the park.

And the wait was well worth it!

Lush green lawns, overgrown "fields", trees and shrubs of countless variety - all accent the surprising bird's-eye view one gets while wandering the trails and bridges some 20 feet above the streets below. The new phase, connects the existing park opened a few years ago, and now stretching fully from 12th Street in the Meatpacking District to 30th street in North Chelsea. A full mile.
Winding Walk
Enough cannot be said about the views! And the unexpectedness of gazing between buildings, peeking around a corner or into the window of some of the impressive new architecture that has sprung up along this corridor. Virtually, an entire new neighborhood has been created, grown where once only weeds did, (and a few hundred art galleries!)

Bird Houses, London Terrace, Empire State Building
But nature is still there, in the middle of the city, with indigenous plants, butterflies, bugs and birds. The above image is of a bird-house cluster. Behind which, the mammoth London Terrace Towers can be seen, (a.k.a. my home!) and then the omnipresent Empire State Building.

A Seating Area near the entrance on 23rd Street
The Highline is a masterpiece in perspective, and an urban oasis when seeking respite from the city. There are clever seating options throughout, and green-green grass where the shoes come off and bare feet sink in.

As I stroll along, pausing only to absorb its beauty, I notice buildings I have never seen before, a hidden terrace or courtyard, roof top art invisible from the street, all before reaching the end at 30th street, where cyclone fencing discourages further exploration. There the tracks split East for several blocks of unclaimed marvels, and West, curving out around the Hudson Rail Yards, over toward the West Side Highway and the Javits Center. It is enough to make me realize that even with all this reclaimed parkland available for public the use, the city holds still more promise.
Phase III?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Howl! Festival"

Sunday was the annual Howl! Festival in Tompkins Square Park.  I am a long-time fan of Allen Ginsberg, and like many, feel that his seminal poem Howl! was pivotal for free speech. Reading the poem in college, I felt a sense of liberation, and the permission to explore myself creatively and sexually without apology. Of course, Ginsberg was still alive then, and living in the East Village.

The East Village has long been home to artists and bohemians. When I first visited NYC, I was not yet 20, and crashed at an artists' compound near Tompkins Sqaure. The park at that time was tent city, with homeless and prostitutes and drug dealers mingling with poets and painters. Having arrived fresh off the bus from my tiny hometown of Splendora, and already self-identified as an artist, I was enraptured in the exotica of it all. Well, NY has been cleaned up considerably since then, but on occasion, like the Howl! Festival, one can get a glimpse of what it once was, before Giuliani, before rent-flation, before September 11th - not that I am pining for the past - oh no, far from it - just fondly recalling.

Apropos to my first beholding Gotham City (or Sodom and Gomorrah as the case may be!), would be that this past weekend, I was entertaining a friend on his first trip to Manhattan, the 20 year old Michael James, also from Splendora. Besides the bars of Chelsea, I gave him the full walking tour, down the Highline, along the Hudson River Park, Christopher Street pier, across the West Village, through SOHO, lunch in Nolita, and arriving in Tompkins Square just in time for a few drinks and the Low Life (presented by the Jackie Factory) portion of the festival.

The perimeter of the park was wrapped in canvas, where artists were hard at work expressing both angst and creativity. The park was full of weirdos as only the East Village can provide. And then there was the stage show of drag queens, go-go boys, musical numbers, dance routines, voguing, and more. The crowd was full of colorful characters, many of whom I knew from past lives, most still friendly enough to say hello. And although a lot of it smacked of nostalgia, there was still the atmosphere of freedom, of self-expression, of eccentricity.

And everywhere I looked, was Mr. Ginsberg. Smiling forth from countless paintings throughout the park, in the demeanor of the oddballs and perverts congregating about, in the spirit of the few fools still brave enough to write poetry, and in the face of my young friend who perhaps, for a fleeting moment, could imagine what NYC once was and still is - a city of countless individuals, doing their own thing, free to express themselves as they see fit, a place where anything can happen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Birds of a Feather"

Everywhere I look, I am noticing more and more feathers. Feathers used in fashion, in decor, in window displays, in museums, even on gift wrap and other moments of celebration (the feather boa comes to mind!)

When it comes to fashion, Alexander McQueen has used feathers for decades in his couture creations.  Currently at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, his retrospective is on exhibit, showcasing over 100 of his fashionable fantasies, including this striking red and black ostrich piece.
ALexander McQueen at the Metropolitan Museum
At Bergdorf Goodmans, Linda Fargo - the creative director behind the theatrical windows - took  McQueen as an inspiration, and expanded upon it, with a giant red bird filling the space, and stopping traffic on 5th Avenue.

Bergdorf Goodman Windows 5th Ave
 Using feathers in window displays and visual merchandising is not uncommon, and seems to actually be a trend at the moment. A recent survey of top retailers on 5th Ave and Madison Ave revealed numerous creatives turning to this medium as a means of expression. It is easy to see why it is a material of choice, as it makes a bold statement while still appearing chic and classic.

Another iteration of this technique is in the use of taxidermy. Exotic birds express luxury, whether holding a Louis Vuitton hand bag or setting a romantic mood.

Ostrich at Louis Vuitton
Albino Peacock at Ralph Lauren
Feathers are also being used more and more in decor. The new Mondrian Hotel in SOHO has interiors designed by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, who is apparently a big fan of feather lampshades and lighting fixtures.
Mondrain Hotel SOHO NYC

So, if all of this feather flapping has you excited and you want to incorporate a little fluffery into your own life, I have a few ideas.  If you're not ready to spring for a piece of McQueen, how about just stick a feather in your cap (and call it macaroni!), or a few small ones in your hair. If a feather lampshade doesn't match you decor, consider adding a few beautiful plumes to your blooms, and create a custom floral arrangement. Or the next time you are wrapping a gift, add some feathers to your package and the look of your gift will soar!

Feather Gift Wrap by Alton DuLaney
Above is a gift-wrap I did with a beautiful peacock printed paper. Then I made a belly band out of glittered paper, and used a cluster of peacock feathers as my bow.

For more great gift-wrap ideas check out my class on, where I do a whole flora and fauna theme of decorating your gifts.

And for the best feathers, check out the Feather Place on line, for the widest selection of feathers from around the world.

They also do a cute blog, the Feather Girl: