27 September 2013

The House in the Woods

When a house is abandoned by people, some other dwellers might just decide to claim it as their own. In the case of with some burnt-out cottages in Suomusjärvi, Finland, the new occupants were woodland creatures. After noticing signs of small animals in the buildings Kai Fagerström, who has a summer home nearby, spent the next few years documenting his new neighbours. The resulting photographs have been turned into a book, The House in the Woods. “I am fascinated by the way nature reclaims spaces that were, essentially, only ever on loan to humans,” says Fagerström. His images are incredible and sometimes downright magical. 

To see more images from the series, visit Kai Fagerström's site here.

26 September 2013


Sunday I headed over to Brooklyn with some friends to check out Photoville, a collection of freight containers that had been transformed into dozens of photo galleries. There were also lectures, workshops, and a beer garden—something for anyone interested in photography.

Great photo by Lisa Elmaleh

We checked out most of the exhibits; I particularly liked the work of Lisa Elmaleh, which reminded me of some of the images from the Great Depression, and enjoyed the Photographic Orchard with Cherry Blossom Trees by André Feliciano—trees covered with tiny pink cameras. My favourite exhibit may have been the Camera Obscura by La Fototeca who transformed one of the containers into a giant camera. Entering through heavy black drapes, it took a moment to adjust ones eyes in the dark before seeing the reflection of the Manhattan skyline on one wall (upside down, which is how a Camera Obscura works) courtesy of a small hole on one side of the container that acted as an aperture. Also got to check out the Penumbra’s Center for Alternative Photography’s booth where people could pose for their own tintype photo.

Yet the work on display had to compete with the gorgeous view of the city. Afterwards we walked through Brooklyn Bridge Park before capping off the day with some Blue Marble ice cream and a visit to the Powerhouse Arena bookstore where I picked up a couple of books. A lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Photoville runs through September 29, 2013. For more information visit here. All photos by Michele.

23 September 2013

Chelsea Art

"Cabinet Interieur de Madame Adelaide, Corps Central, Versailles" Robert Polidori (1986)

My neighbourhood, Chelsea, is the art center of New York with more than 200 galleries showcasing artists of all mediums. Saturday morning I decided to pop into a few to check out some photography exhibits.

I love everything French so my first stop was to see “Versailles” by Robert Polidori. The series of large format photographs depict the restoration of the Chateau de Versailles, the 17th-century built home of France’s kings and queens, including Marie Antoinette. Taken over a 15-year period (1985-2010) they show palatial rooms filled with builders’ tools, ornate paintings leaning against walls, torn fabric, and faded paint. Quite impressive, they make Versailles seem almost more real than the opulent images one is used to seeing.

Next up was “Across the Ravaged Land” by Nick Brandt, a collection of photos of quite a different nature. These large, black and white images of Africa’s endangered animals were extremely moving. Elephants, lions, and the arid land in which they struggle to survive are interspersed with the remains of the dead. One image, of a row of men posing with elephant tusks, was particularly disturbing. What is so incredible about them is how close-up the shots are. The lion above just begs you to reach out and touch his mane.

Out on the street though was my favourite exhibit of the day. What do you do with a closed-down gas station? Turn it into a "Sheep Station," of course. The old Getty station on the corner of Tenth Avenue and 24th Street has had fake grass and 25 "Mouton" sculptures (sheep) by François-Xavier Lalanne added among its defunct pumps and a white picket fence surrounds it all. Organized by Paul Kasmin and Michael Shvo, it’s whimsical and eye catching and so much nicer than a smelly old station.

“Versailles” is at the Mary Boone Gallery through October 26, 2013; more info here. “Across the Ravaged Land” is at the Hasted Kraeutler Gallery through October 19, 2013; more info here. "Sheep Station" is on view through Oct 20, 2013; more info here.

20 September 2013

Be the Photographer

Lee Miller in Man Ray's Studio (1929)

"I would rather take a photograph than be one." Lee Miller

I feel the same way. I really have no interest in being in front of the lens. Speaking of which, this weekend is dedicated to photography. I'm planning on seeing the Robert Polidori exhibit "Versailles" at the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea and then heading over to the Brooklyn Bridge Park for Photoville, a photography festival that uses freight containers for exhibition spaces. Can't wait to be inspired. Be sure to check back here and on my Instagram account for coverage. Have a lovely weekend!

18 September 2013

New York Then and Now

Marc A. Hermann is a press photographer with an eye for the past. In his series “Then and Now” he merges crime scene photos from the archive of the New York Daily News with modern day images of the same locations. They are fascinating and at times disturbing, giving us a unique look at New York history. Like the image above of Edna Egbert, a resident of 497 Dean Street, Brooklyn, who on March 19, 1942, distraught over the lack of news from her son serving in the War, climbed out onto the ledge of her building and fought with police who finally managed to get her down to safety.

Then there’s this image of a fire that broke out at the Elkins Paper & Twine Company at 137 Wooster Street, New York, on February 16, 1958. Two firemen and four members of the New York Fire Patrol died that day; the building was later demolished and today the current building houses both commercial space and apartments.

The rest of the images in the series are equally compelling. To view them (warning: some of the photos include dead bodies), visit Hermann’s site here. Original black and white photos by Charles Payne.

17 September 2013

Museum Goers

Most weekends you can find me wandering around one of New York's numerous museums. I love museums. No matter how small or large or how many times you've been, there's always something new to discover, something to learn, something that is pleasing to the eye. When I travel, I always try to visit the local museum(s); it's a great way to learn about a city or a culture in a short amount of time. And they also provide you with a place to sit and take a break and, if you're lucky, a café so you can grab a coffee and a snack.

Museums are also a great place to people watch. There are so many types of museums goers (the art lover, the out-of-towner, the local, the bored partner, the first-timer, the frequent visitor, the know-it-all, the tour group member, the list goes on) not to mention the guards (I could do a whole post just on guards) that I often find myself observing them instead of the art. Here are some shots from a couple of the museums I visited this summer (side note, two of my favourite museums, the Frick Collection and the International Center of Photography, do not allow photos so those visits alas must go undocumented as do the ones where I didn't have my camera).

All photos taken by Michele at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

12 September 2013

Drink Champagne

"Coco Chanel (Reclining)" Horst P Horst (1937)

"I drink champagne on two occasions—when I'm in love, and when I'm not."—Coco Chanel

I wish I could say that being busy drinking champagne was my excuse for my acting like a slacker recently when it comes to this blog. Unfortunately, the excuses are all too common and boring (work and other commitments and yes, just a wee bit of champagne). Really, not worth spending time discussing. But, I will try and do better. So look for more posts soon. In the meantime, please make sure and follow me on Instagram and Pinterest (where I waste way too much time), and if you don't already, follow my blog with Bloglovin. Back soon.

09 September 2013

Julia Margaret Cameron

"Julia Jackson" Julia Margaret Cameron (1867)

There is a small but powerful exhibit currently at the Met devoted to the work of the great Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879). Cameron focused her efforts on creating portraits and allegorical scenes that often bring to mind Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Her photographs are ethereal and beautiful, sometimes mysterious and always striking.

The mother of six didn’t take up photography until middle age when her daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera as a present. Unlike other photographers who strove for detailed clarity, she relied on soft focus and long exposures that often resulted in blurred images. Many of her fellow photographers mocked her work yet her images remain some of the most important photographs of the 19th century.

"Sir John Herschel" Julia Margaret Cameron (1867)

Friends with the leading artists and scholars of her time, Cameron would engage many of them as her models. We see Alfred, Lord Tennyson in an image that the poet dubbed “the dirty monk,” noted scientist Sir John Herschel whose solemn face and white collar gives him the look of a preacher of old, and Lewis Carroll’s muse, Alice Liddell, posing as Pomona the goddess of fruitful abundance.

"Sappho" Julia Margaret Cameron (1865). Notice the crack?

For me, my favourites are her images of women. Her niece, May Prinsep, is seen posing as Beatrice Cenci, the Roman woman immortalized by Shelley while her housemaid, Mary Hillier, makes a lovely Sappho in an image that Cameron was so fond of that she kept it even though the negative had a large, visible crack in it.

Unlike her male models, Cameron almost always posed her female models as famed characters from literature and mythology. One exception was the haunting photograph of her favourite niece, Julia Jackson (the mother of Virginia Woolf). Her face half in shadows, she is portrayed without any costume, her beauty allowed to speak for itself.

Cameron once said, “I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me, and at length the longing has been satisfied.” I believe she did indeed achieve her goal.

“Julia Margaret Cameron” is at the Met through January 5, 2014. For more information, visit here.

05 September 2013

Live Like Amélie

Audrey Tautou is Amélie.

I’ve written before about how much I love the film Amélie (2001). It’s my go-to film for whenever I’m feeling down or just need a jolt of happiness. It’s influenced my décor (heavy on red), confirmed for me that bobbed hair is best, and made me dream of living in Paris.

This week a friend of mine forwarded to me a BuzzFeed piece called “22 Ways to Turn Your Life Into Amélie’s Life.” “Savor the little details in life,” “be sure to listen to the people who know you best,” and “invest in a giant red patterned umbrella” are just three ways the author says you can live more like Amélie. It was perfect timing. Recently I’ve been feeling a bit worn out and could do with some Amélie reminders on how to live life. For starters, this weekend I think I'll go in search of the perfect crème brûlée so I can crack the sugar crust with my spoon and at the movies I'll be sure to turn around and look at the people in the dark.

To read all 22 ways, visit here.  

03 September 2013

Hopper Drawing

Edward Hopper’s works often evoke a sense of isolation, of characters alone in a big city. They are intrinsically American, evocative of a particular place and time in our history. “Hopper Drawing,” a brilliant exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, examines Hopper’s process by looking at the numerous drawings he made including those that served as sketches or studies for his most famous paintings.  

While just 21 finished works are on display there are a couple hundred drawings as well as sketchbook pages. It’s interesting to see Hopper’s vision unfold—a character’s stance changing various times or a location morphing into something quite different from its model. Even a seemingly simple doorway can be seen to switch numerous times. I particularly liked reading his annotations including notes to indicate what colours to use. Hopper's work is often compared to film noir so it’s not surprising to find some of the drawings resembling storyboards as if he was seeing the work in film stills. 

Included in the exhibit are many early drawings by Hopper—dozens of nudes from his student days as well as sketchbook pages from trips to Paris filled with images of café society and various Parisians, including many elaborately made-up women. These drawings may not instantly be recognizable as Hopper but they show a young man finding his own style.

In addition to some wonderful and familiar paintings of New England, many of which are of still recognizable locations, there are some special treats in the exhibit that normally require a plane trip to see.

One of these is Hopper’s legendary “Nighthawks” (1942). Parodied so many times and reprinted on countless postcards and posters, this famed painting is always something of a shock to see in person, as if you almost don’t believe it’s real. There have been countless debates over the exact location that inspired Hopper (it most likely was a combination of a few places) so it’s fascinating to see the evolution of the famed diner take shape in numerous drawings as is the repeated changes to one of the men at the counter. Hopper worked out every aspect on paper; even the coffee urns got their own drawing.

My personal favourite though is “New York Movie” (1939), which shows a female usher waiting for the film to finish. I always like to imagine what the woman is doing. She may be simply listening to the film but I think she's lost in thought, spending the few moments she has to herself before the lights go up. In the exhibit we see 52 different drawings that Hopper made using different city theatres as his inspiration. Over and over again he worked out the columns, the seats, even the usher herself, using Mrs. Hopper as the model.

And speaking of New York, one of the highlights of the exhibit is a piece with just one accompanying drawing. “Early Sunday Morning” (1930) is displayed frameless on an easel, as if Hopper has just walked away. It’s quite effective and reinforces the image of the artist at work.

“Hopper Drawing” is at the Whitney through October 6, 2013. For more information, visit here.


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