|Kay Nielsen. The Shadow|
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
Saturday, 24 September 2016
I found the Archibald excellent as always. I must admit I found the choice of the winner somewhat baffling however when I first saw the photos of Louise Hearman's portrait of Barry Humphries. However, in person I could appreciate the skill she employed in a painting that apparently was many years in the making. Barry has a ghost-like glow in person against the deep, glossy black background.
And these are just some other works I enjoyed from the Archibald, as well as the Wynne and Sulman Prizes...
Saturday, 3 September 2016
I have been somewhat more cognizant of architecture and interiors following my visit to Rose Seidler House. Everyone notices the view from the Walsh and Mort Room of course, but it is equally a beautifully designed space.
The room takes its name partially from 19th century Australian industrialist Thomas Sutcliffe Mort - the Mort & Co Woolshed was demolished in 1959 to make way for the AMP Building.
Mort was an interesting figure who integrated the new technology of refrigeration into his meat and dairy operations. The French engineer Eugene Dominic Nicolle’s experiments were financed by Mort, with the first ice-making patent registered in 1861. This lead to the establishment of the first freezing works in the world at Darling Harbour.
Mort was able to subsequently produce meat it one area and ship it to another – even as far as London. A special picnic was organised in 1875 for 300 guests to demonstrate his capacities. Mort commissioned a special train from Sydney to deliver food to be served that had been refrigerated at his plant for over a year. Quite the miraculous achievement at the time!
Monday, 22 August 2016
Designed by New York architect Harry Seidler for his mother, Rose Seidler House was shocking to the post-war, rural community of the time and indeed the rest of Australia, with its futuristic cube like form. It was host this weekend to the Living Museum’s annual 1950's fair, packed with smartly vintage attired crowds set to experience everything retro.
Harry Seidler reminisced, “When the house was finished, people used to come in…people were four deep. My mother had to leave the house sometimes on the weekend, because they were all standing around the windows you know, trying to see this incredible contraption”.
The house was just as much a draw card during the fair. It was hard to move at times due to the volume of crinoline wearing ladies and gentlemen in suspenders. Along with live entertainment, a variety of stalls were present selling all manner of wares, from costume jewellery to typewriters. I found two interesting pieces to take home, a goldtone birdsnest with seed pearl eggs and a dolphin necklace.
|A collection of vintage lighters.|
For lunch I enjoyed a creaming soda float and cheeseburger from a diner style menu. I explored the House (barefoot, shoes are strictly prohibited) and admired the gleaming 1950s cars on display. All in all, an enjoyable day :)
|Snapped in front of the groovy balcony mural.|
Saturday, 6 August 2016
Saturday, 16 July 2016
The new Jackie Kennedy biopic starring Natalie Portman is nearing cinemas (well, we are getting closer to 2017) and I for one am very excited. The film will focus on the days following JFK’s assassination. We can only speculate what the film will include exactly though it was a fascinating, and of course dramatic time, in the life of one of the twentieth century’s most famous women.
I hope Jackie’s interview with Life magazine will be included as it is a fascinating, little known episode. Jackie was understandably traumatised following her husband’s public death and retreated to their mansion and Hyannisport. But she angered reading articles summarising JFK’s accomplishments, and dwelling on his failures, in the wake of the assassination. It would not do. So one week after she became a widow she called a journalist named Theodore White.
Unfortunately, he was not at home, but at the dentist. He was taken by a call from the chair with his mother telling him “Jackie Kennedy was calling and needed him”. Bemused, soon he was speaking to Jackie who he recalled told him, “there was something she wanted Life magazine to say to the country, and I must do it”.
It was not the sort of offer to be refused.
A hurricane meant flying was impossible that weekend, so White had no choice but to drive – through an appropriately dark and stormy night. The editors of Life agreed to hold the presses for the story, an unprecedented story that would cost $30,000 an hour.
Theodore White was well chosen. He had a respected career and was the author of a recent best seller detailing the 1960 campaign, The Making of the President, admiring of JFK and equally disparaging of opponent Richard Nixon. He had also been friendly with Joseph Kennedy when they had schooled together at Harvard in the 1930s. He was greeted by Jackie who described in his shorthand notes, “Composure…beautiful…dressed in trim black slacks…beige pullover sweater…eyes wider than pools…calm voice.”
She informed White she wanted to ensure her husband was not “forgotten by history” which stunned him, as the idea of his being forgotten seemed very unlikely. What she meant, in actuality, was that she wanted her version of history to become pre-eminent.
The following is the transcript of what she told White, a donation to the Kennedy Library made public after Jackie’s death in 1995. It is clear reading it Jackie’s consummate skill as a storyteller – she had quite the talent with words working for a newspaper and the Vogue Prix de Paris prior to her marriage, which she later tapped into during her career as a book editor.
There'd been the biggest motorcade from the airport. Hot. Wild. Like Mexico and Vienna. The sun was so strong in our faces. I couldn't put on sunglasses... Then we saw this tunnel ahead, I thought it would be cool in the tunnel, I thought if you were on the left the sun wouldn't get into your eyes...
They were gunning the motorcycles. There were these little backfires. There was one noise like that. I thought it was a backfire. Then next I saw Connally grabbing his arms and saying "no, no, no, no, no," with his fist beating. Then Jack turned and I turned. All I remember was a blue-gray building up ahead. Then Jack turned back so neatly, his last expression was so neat... you know that wonderful expression he had when they'd ask him a question about one of the ten million pieces they have in a rocket, just before he'd answer. He looked puzzled, then he slumped forward. He was holding out his hand … I could see a piece of his skull coming off. It was flesh-colored, not white — he was holding out his hand … I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head. Then he slumped in my lap, his blood and his brains were in my lap … Then Clint Hill [the Secret Service man], he loved us, he made my life so easy, he was the first man in the car … We all lay down in the car … And I kept saying, Jack, Jack, Jack, and someone was yelling "he's dead, he's dead." All the ride to the hospital I kept bending over him, saying "Jack, Jack, can you hear me, I love you, Jack."
His head was so beautiful. I tried to hold the top of his head down, maybe I could keep it in...but I knew he was dead.
When they carried Jack in, Hill threw his coat over Jack's head, and I held his head to throw the coat over it. It wasn't repulsive to me for one moment — nothing was repulsive to me —
These big Texas interns kept saying, "Mrs. Kennedy, you come with us", they wanted to take me away from him... But I said "I'm not leaving"… Dave Powers came running to me at the hospital, crying when he saw me, my legs, my hands were covered with his brains... When Dave saw this he burst out weeping... I said "I'm not going to leave him, I'm not going to leave him"… I was standing outside in this narrow corridor... ten minutes later this big policeman brought me a chair.
I said, "I want to be in there when he dies"… so Burkeley forced his way into the operating room and said, "It's her prerogative, it's her prerogative..." and I got in, there were about forty people there. Dr. Perry wanted to get me out. But I said "It's my husband, his blood, his brains are all over me."
I held his hand all the time the priest was saying extreme unction. The ring was all blood-stained... so I put the ring on Jack's finger... and then I kissed his hand...
Everytime we got off the plane that day, three times they gave me the yellow roses of Texas. But in Dallas they gave me red roses. I thought how funny, red roses — so all the seat was full of blood and red roses.
But there's this one thing I wanted to say... I'm so ashamed of myself... When Jack quoted something, it was usually classical... no, don't protect me now... I kept saying to Bobby, I've got to talk to somebody, I've got to see somebody, I want to say this one thing, it's been almost an obsession with me, all I keep thinking of is this line from a musical comedy, it's been an obsession with me... At night before we'd go to sleep... we had an old Victrola. Jack liked to play some records. His back hurt, the floor was so cold. I'd get out of bed at night and play it for him, when it was so cold getting out of bed... on a Victrola ten years old — and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot... "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."...There'll never be another Camelot again...
Do you know what I think of history? … For a while I thought history was something that bitter old men wrote. But Jack loved history so... No one'll ever know everything about Jack. But … history made Jack what he was … this lonely, little sick boy … scarlet fever … this little boy sick so much of the time, reading in bed, reading history … reading the Knights of the Round Table … and he just liked that last song.
Then I thought, for Jack history was full of heroes. And if it made him this way, if it made him see the heroes, maybe other little boys will see. Men are such a combination of good and bad … He was such a simple man. But he was so complex, too. Jack had this hero idea of history, the idealistic view, but then he had that other side, the pragmatic side... his friends were all his old friends; he loved his Irish Mafia.
History!... Everybody kept saying to me to put a cold towel around my head and wipe the blood off... later, I saw myself in the mirror; my whole face spattered with blood and hair... I wiped it off with Kleenex... History! … I thought, no one really wants me there. Then one second later I thought, why did I wash the blood off? I should have left it there, let them see what they've done... If I'd just had the blood and caked hair when they took the picture … Then later I said to Bobby — what's the line between history and drama? I should have kept the blood on.
White was awestruck by this account. He composed his draft essay in a guest room of the Kennedy mansion, his editors standing by. When he related it over the phone however they wished to remove the references to Camelot, which seemed to them overly sentimental. Jackie, standing close by, grasped what was going on and glared. Camelot would remain. The magazine was printed and flew off the stands around America, the vision of a magical, lost time was disseminated into the minds of millions.
The problem was that it was very likely untrue. Many close to Kennedy laughed at the idea of him enjoying the Camelot musical, a made up scenario to further Jackie's agenda. The show was based on the extremely popular novel The Once and Future King, also turned into the Disney film The Sword and the Stone. It differed from other adaptations of Arthurian legend in that it mocked traditional representations of chivalrous knighthood and critiqued militarism and blind nationalism. King Arthur, rather than a valiant warrior, was presented as a thwarted peacemaker, struggling to suppress pointless war. This message very likely resonated with Jackie and fit well with the image she wished to present, and so was harnessed in what James Swanson, writer of End of Days, called her “tour de force, her finest hour — actually more than five hours — of press manipulation”.
James Piereson agreed, “One must admire Mrs. Kennedy for the skill with which she deployed these images in the difficult aftermath of her husband’s death. Our retrospective view of President Kennedy is now filtered through the legends and symbols she put forward at that time. The hard headed politician devoted to step-by-step progress was transformed in death into the consummate liberal idealist.” This image he argues is more a reflection of Jackie’s romanticised perspective, or at least the view she wanted imprinted on history, rather than reality.
Theodore White later said he regretted his part in bringing the Camelot legend to life. Nevertheless, the vision of the Kennedy administration as a “brief shining moment” entered public consciousness, the Camelot legend pre-eminent to the current day – with Jackie’s agency largely unknown.
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Sunday, 12 June 2016
I very much enjoyed the Isabella Blow exhibition that opened at the Powerhouse recently. Isabella is not a figure well known outside of fashion circles, however was tremendously influential as a spotter and cultivator of new talent. She hunted designers like big game. Amongst her trophies were wunderkind Alexander McQueen, milliner Phillip Treacy, Julien Macdonald, Jeremy Scott, Hussein Chalayan, Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant.
Isabella was of aristocratic lineage and deeply proud of her bloodlines. Assistant Rachel Cooke described her as “a human triffid who smoked Benson and Hedges, who never wore underwear and whose touchstones in life were good jewellery and high birth.” Her clothing collection was purchased by fashionista and friend The Honourable Daphne Guinness, the granddaughter of one of the infamous Mitford sisters (described succinctly by Ben Macintyre as “Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover, Nancy the Novelist, Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur”).
|The Honourable Daphne Guinness|
Isabella described herself as a “walking billboard”, wearing fantastical designs of her prodigies in everyday life. She was rarely without an elaborate Treacy hat on her head and dressed in unfeasible couture. Whilst working at Givenchy in 1997 she purchased the above dress and a number of other items totaling 34, 930 francs. Amongst her receipts was discovered an expense claim to The Sunday Times for what she described as ‘business clothes’. From her perspective and in practice, they probably were.
Over her life she had all sorts of jobs, working at a scone shop, as a cleaner, for Tatler and Anna Wintour, along with many other fashion giants. She was an invaluable connecter of fashion figures, funding and functioned as a sounding board and inspiration. Manolo Blahnik recalled one project “doing shoes from animals in the sea. We made an octopus shoe, which was incredibly difficult. Then she wanted a shoe like a carnivorious plant…She would bring in extraordinary books about Surrealists, animals, dresses of queens…”
Sadly like many creatives Isabella struggled with mental illness and after many attempts ended her life in 2007. According to Treacy, “It’s a small detail. There was nothing tragic about Isabella. She was the life of the party.”
Monday, 30 May 2016
Monday, 16 May 2016
|Autoportrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti), 1925, Oil on wood, 35 x 26 cm. Private collection.|
The funny thing about this painting, which is one of my favourite paintings in all the world, is that Tamara de Lempicka never owned a green Bugatti, but a yellow Renault. But she said, she dressed like a green Bugatti, and the Bugatti like her, and that was all that mattered.
Friday, 22 April 2016
I have a new handbag!
Cheerful me with said handbag.
Now whilst I think the fact I have a new handbag is a generally important announcement by itself this particular handbag is notable as it was produced as a result of a recent collaboration between contemporary artist Gary Baseman and Coach.
Gary Baseman has earned his fame through his kooky, kitsch character based art reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s works with its sweet/macabre flavour.
Baseman has a tendency to jump into interesting side pursuits like toy design and on one occasion the creation of a Disney cartoon called Teacher’s Pet about a nerdy dog who dressed as a boy so he could go to school. I was very excited when I realised he was behind this as I was a fan of the show when I was little (I can’t believe no one I have spoken to remembers Scott Leadready the Second!).
I think to Coach collaboration is probably the strangest, largest jump so far, though has proven to be a masterstroke by whomever concocted the idea. It has been quite the hit with fashion commentators and fashionistas. Baseman's dripping ocelot print - the drip motif common in his paintings - is a modern spin on a classic.
I think I’d quite like the matching car…
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
As a once-Queenslander I had never been to the Sydney Royal before. Predictably, loved it. All the animals! I was a child again crooning at the chickens and cuddling the baby goats (very hungry and determined). And I met a llama, by itself amongst the alpacas - I don't know I have ever encountered one before.