Sunday, March 30, 2008

A 1930s Gentleman and The Birthdays

I never knew my Grandpa Charlie. A tailor in the garment district of New York City's Lower East Side, he died two weeks before my little sister was born. She was named Caroline in honor of him.

My grandfather exists in my mind through Grandma Minnie's wedding pictures--quite the 1930s gentleman with a flair for fashion, a confident gait and a sly look.

Delivered in the hospital on my third birthday (yes, we are exactly three years apart), Caroline's birth is my first memory.

Aware it was my birthday and the importance of having one as well as the fringe benefits associated, one can imagine my devastation at the conspicuous absence of both my parents. Rather, my great Aunt Octavine celebrated with me. I received first a Fisher Price record player, and then a baby sister.

Forced to then share all birthdays following, every year "our" birthday celebration included all the neighborhood children. With the Fisher Price record player in tow, we endlessly played musical chairs outside. My mother dressed us in matching Victorian style dresses in differing colors and put our hair in ringlets. Great Aunt Octavine made a cherry cake (white cake with maraschino cherries in the batter and pink icing and maraschino cherries on top) and we would blow out the candles...together.

Most of the presents consisted of Barbie and Tracy (Barbie with brown hair--a favorite among us brunettes) dolls. My mother, not thrilled with the whole Barbie idea, only let us keep one each. My father then stashed the rest. To this day, hidden in the depths of some closet lie various late 1970s and early 1980s Barbie and Tracy dolls, still in their original packaging.

My sister and I are very close and live only minutes away from one another albeit not in our hometown. We still celebrate "our" birthday ever year together and sometimes even wear matching outfits. I think Grandpa Charlie would laugh.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Disco, My Mother and The Brazilian Stacked Heel

I love fashion. And I love shoes. When I was little my mother had a pair of Brazilian stacked heels. It was the 1970s and they were black suede with a cutout toe. I used to play dress up in them. They were so beautiful.

But my mother is not a packrat. She does not carry that gene which forces one to keep everything out of sentimentality or a need to hoard.

As a small child, I vividly remember finding garbage bags destined for Goodwill containing her wedding dress (a red velvet mini later worn to my Junior Prom), various early 1970s formals and innumerable pairs of high heels. Apparently she no longer had a need for such things as a mother of two in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Salvaging what I could in the back of the car en route to the donation center, I managed to save much of the lot. But the shoes were lost; destined to exist only in my memory.

So I present to you my mother's Brazilian stacked heel disco shoes (now in red), a beret (from my great Aunt Octavine) and a Diane von Furstenberg wrap-around dress I remember my mother wearing when we went out somewhere fancy.
My tribute to fashion through my childhood self.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Maira Kalman, Mice and the Movie Star

Despite an ever present drizzle (I must remember not to complain however, as I am the one who chose to live in Portland), today was most sunny. I was on the front page of Etsy and read a most wonderful interview on Inspiration Boards with one of my most favorite illustrators, Maira Kalman.

My father first introduced me to Maira Kalman's work through her New York Times column. Her illustrations provide social commentary and speak to the mundane aspects of life which fleetingly take on great significance. I suppose I find her most inspiring as her illustrations are not comics nor cover designs nor pictures in a book but rather form a column, a consecutive series of thought meant to observe and comment, to titilate and anger, to provide a conscience and put forth an opinion.

And I found this painting entitled "Devasting: The Movie Star." (See her real identity revealed in the comments section thanks to a most observant reader!) It had fallen behind the bookshelf and forgotten about. Two others were found as well. I suppose having mice in my studio (the impetus behind the cleaning) has a sunny side as well.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Show Me Some Leg

When I'm totally broke (usually the case as a working artist) I cannot, I must not succumb to my most favorite of obsessions: impractical shoes.
As a size 35 European, my choices in footwear are limited to old lady loafers with tassels, children's shoes and couture footwear from discount department stores. I choose the latter most emphatically.

In my recently cleaned out closet(s)--I am also a clotheshorse as well--I found my beautiful Dolce and Gabbana black and white genuine cowhide slingbacks. Still in their box, I have only worn them once, but no matter. I own them to own them. To admire them. To create my own little shoe museum.

I have little occasion to don haute couture fashion. Usually in cotton leggings and my father's ancient oversize promotional tees from various marathons in the 1980s whilst in the house and only a pair of galoshes to spice up the outfit when I venture out, high fashion eludes my day to day activities.

Without money to spare, yet with an itch for couture, I draw. I draw the shoes I want to own, I paint the outfits I want to buy. Creating fashion through my imagination relieves a bit of my fashion anxiety and most thankfully saves my pocketbook from total destruction.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Art Nouveau Wine Label

A year and a half ago I was approached by two wonderful young wine makers whom recently relocated from New York City to Walla Walla, Washington. Following their libatious dreams westward, they bought a large acreage, two German Shepherd puppies, and started their own winery. Fans of Art Nouveau style, the vinters approached me to illustrate the label and work together to design a concept for the winery itself.

Located on the North Fork of the Walla Walla River in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, Stella Fino winery pays homage to its Italian roots through both its namesake and old-world Italian wines similar to those found in Montalcino, Italy.

Pictured is my illustration of Stella Fino as she appeared in New York City in the 1920s. The proprietor's great grandmother, she arrived in the United States through Ellis Island in the early 1900s from Italy.

Perhaps my favorite commission piece thus far, I only last week saw the bottle for the first time. You can't tell in the photo, but all of the lettering and the image are raised. In addition, I also painted a 3' x 2' enormous painting of Stella to be framed and hung at the winery. Already reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle, I think this amazing wine is on its way to greatness. I feel most honored to be a part of it all.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Indie Rock, the Electric Viola and Art Nouveau

My sister plays the electric viola. A member of multiple bands over the past decade, she has played in warehouses and for house-parties; for weddings and in street fairs. For the larger shows she asks me to do the poster art.

The life of an indie rocker violist dictates a measure of flexiblity when it comes to performance locales. Venues include concert halls and ballrooms, but also smoky pubs and basement parties.

Below is my favorite such story:

I had yet to visit the venue in which my sis's band was to play. Next door to the indie-rocker hipster glam bar, Tube, I figured it to be similar--expensive drinks, skinny jeans: the typical see-and-be-seen Portland crowd.

I should have been clued in by the name, Food Hole. It just sounds gross. And gross it was. I could wax at length about the lack of decor, windows (except for one that was boarded) and utter filth, however many a dive bar fit that description. Food Hole out did even the nastiest dive bar.

The single toilet was behind the stage. Not in a room, mind you, simply just behind the stage there was a toilet. And that was the bathroom. Absolutely disgusting. But highly memorable.

Tomorrow my sister leaves for SXSW in Austin, Texas in both her capacity as a musician and as a booker for the Wonder Ballroom here in Portland.

Pictured is my Art Nouveau style illustration of her wailing away on her viola. Designed to be used on business cards illustrated especially for her SXSW sojourn and screenprinted by Julie of Handmade Julz, she is now ready to assume full rock 'n roll status.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Art Nouveau, Relaxation and Pretty Pictures

Last night my dog got out. Neighbors across the street sought to corral her back into my house lest she run into the street. Run into the street she did whilst a large truck approached. The truck stopped just in time, but poor Belle was so scared she ran right into the parked truck. She's fine, but I'm shaken up.

My nerves still in an uproar, I sit at the computer, drinking tea trying to calm down a bit. When in these moods, I hearken back to a simpler time by going inside my paintings, seeking solace through Art Nouveau styled organic lines, matte colors, haute couture fashion and pretty faces.

Pictured is one such image. I find her countenance peaceful, her expression calming. She has a certain nobility about her, yet no pretension; her life maybe less complex, less trying than her modern day counterparts. I pretend myself there, and somehow I feel a bit more relaxed.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Sunbathers

February in Portland means heat wave parties. Donning your bikini, flip-flops and sunglasses in the middle of winter is only an activity those absolutely starved for Vitamin D will do.

Last night I attended one such party. My wonderful friend Neal turned the heat up to 85 degrees, queued up various surf themed LPs, and mixed pina coladas. February in Portland was never so tropical.

Pictured are The Sunbathers. I proclaim to be an avid sun-worshipper and have spent many a hot summer's day cooking myself to a nice golden crisp. I drew this picture in honor of us leather-chesters. Seeking to capture that perfect sense of gluttonous behavior, note the slight snarl on their beautiful faces. Thus I present
Hedonism and Vanity: the sunbathers.

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