Archive | April, 2012

Two Fashion Designers, One Serial-killer

17 Apr

ImageThis piece is hanging at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  I find it captivating – it reminds me of people I am friends with.  People who I find incredibly artistic and fun and who I don’t get to spend near enough time with.  I guess it makes sense that my reactions to art have to do with relationships.

Art history and fashion design – these are not things I know about.  My expertise lies in pedagogy, human experience, relationships, and children.  I know a lot about children.

Art history and such things have never interested me and I have never been required to study them – so it is somewhat ironic that this amazing opportunity to frequent some of the best museums in Europe has been laid in my lap.  I have seen Monet, Manet, Rodin, and Cezanne. I recently saw a special exhibit of Degas’ Nudes at the Musée d’Orsay.  I have learned about the Pre-Raphaelites and awed over the work of those who idealized subjects and those who were dedicated to realism.  I was struck by Ophelia and the Lady of Shallot, and Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose moved me to the extent that I have been back to see them multiple times.  Photos and reprints of these magnificent works do not do them justice. But this image of Isabella Blow and Alexander McQueen, I couldn’t resist snapping it during my third viewing last week.

Just to the left of the picture is the most gripping and disturbing piece of artwork I have seen yet. The silhouette is of Isabella Blow, head thrown back laughing, crazy trademark hat.  But what is that casting the shading?  Yes, taxidermy.  Crows, rats, lipstick all wrapped in a revolting tangle.  It is fascinating.   I had to take these pictures so I could share them. My iPhone shots are weak.  When I got home, I did a quick web search about Blow.  Her story is tragic. She took her life in 2007 after battling depression.  McQueen followed suit in 2010.

Oddly enough, in addition to admiring and ruminating over this metaphoric sculpture about the image cast vs. the monstrosity within, I have been watching Dexter.  If you don’t know about the ShowTime series, it is about a sociopath serial-killer.  He leads a double life.  The image he casts is of a forensic detective, a loving boyfriend, dedicated brother.  His monster within, a monster born of childhood trauma, forces him to kill.  If you have not seen it, it is worth the time.  Smartly written and brimming with ethical dilemmas about good vs. evil.

What has gripped me so about Dexter and about Isabella Blow is the idea of intervention.  Does intervention work?  Are some things just too powerful to fight against?  Can the effects of childhood trauma be diminished with enough therapy?  Can medication take away the damaging urges without also quelling the artists’ drive?   Are any of our institutions equipped to deal with these problems?

Lots of questions, but I don’t have any answers.  I just know that in the last two years of my work in education, I encountered way too many children that I feared could not be helped.  Is it too much to hope that art might some way provide an answer?  Perhaps we are failing our children because we are failing to focus on art.  Just a thought.


9 Apr


When we first met, it was love at first sight. She was so beautiful, so enchanting, full of history and so mysterious. I loved everything about her. How could so much have changed in just 25 years? For her it was a short blip in time – for me, a lifetime had gone by since last we met. Perhaps it was me who had changed so much. For me, I had enjoyed raising two children, building a home for my family in a distant land, and a career. For her, it seemed as though she had been the backdrop for a hundred-million snapshots. After the initial glimpse, the recognition of the beauty and the familiarness I felt for her, I realized she was the same old girl from 1988. She was dirtier than I recall, a bit more jaded, more Americanized by the corroding effects of the constant stream of gawking tourists. She gave up her “franc” – ness and perhaps some of her French – ness, yet she had not bothered to adopt any of the redeeming features of the 21st Century: no recycling, no bio-deisel, nothing new in the skyline.

…and I realized I have a new love.

Maybe my new girl is all gussied up for her big date fast approaching in August of this year.


Or maybe my new love has captured my heart for the way she has embraced the future while respecting the past. Her new silhouette is a stunning tribute to both her age and her youth – her tradition and her daring. It shows off her beauty of yesteryear as well as her mature sensibility with an eye for style. Her forward thinking is everywhere. Recycling bins dot every street, upgrades and planned works for the mass transit including “green” buses and biking lanes on the roads.

But what has shocked me most about the difference between these two cities, both of which I visited in 1988 and have only returned to this year, is the food. Yes, the food. I remember being so taken by the food in Paris – everything was so fresh and well-prepared back in 1988. The bread, the coffee, the croissants all added to my love affair with Paris. Our trip to London that year included fish and chips in newspaper and steak and kidney pie. You can still find such fare in London if you look hard enough and stick to the mostly touristy spots, but you can also find amazing, well-prepared, incredibly fresh and delicious meals for a reasonable price. Hake with sauteed kale and celeriac puree, or roasted duck with steamed cabbage and jersey royals – all prepared perfectly for around £14 ( roughly 22 bucks) – I ordered Noix de Saint-Jacques one night in Paris at a nice little bistro. It was tasty, but nothing special. The cream sauce started to split on my plate, it was heavy and not served with anything green.

What has really chuffed me the most about Paris though, is the coffee. Un café au lait. I know I can say it clearly in French. I know I drank it daily during my year there. Yet, it did not appear on a menu anywhere I went. Café milk. Really? No! I’m sorry, I cannot forgive this. If you are going to charge $6 for a cup of it – use the F$%&@ French word for it at least! It’s over between us – for now.


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