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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Sitting on a Park Paris.

It's fall and the weather has segued into brisker temperatures here in the northeast.  But with a minimum of bundling up, it permits sitting outside; perhaps to read a book or to write a love song smoking a Gauloise.  OK, I'll take us out of the 1960's to save our lungs and replace that cigarette with its modern electronic counterpart, and the book with an iPad, but you get the picture.

Banc bench from the Le Jardin collection at Cote France.
At any rate, this is what came to mind when I espied this whimsical take on a traditional park bench from French furniture company Cote France. Like a refugee from the island of lost toys, "Banc" is its furniture counterpart. Intentionally forlorn and asymmetrical, it is functional sculpture. Instead of a traditionally weather-worn wood look, it asserts itself into a 21st century garden with a bold splash of color; very simple and exceedingly clever.

Though I was unable to locate a photo of Jacques Brel sitting on a park bench  (I am sure he did sit on a park bench at some point), it took little or no effort to locate one of him smoking...perhaps a Gauloise.  Don't try this at home, folks.

"Je ne suis pas a vendre. Vous comprenez? Et je veux vivre ma vie comme je le veux." ~ Jacques Brel

*Edited by Kristi Saare Duarte. Check out her awesome travel blog:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ghost Town

At first glance you might surmise this to be the remains of an old abandoned Tuscan villa. Majestic and antique, it looks like a house I would like to own. But then again, maybe not: this small scale version of an Italian-style villa was erected for the "soul" purpose of housing the remains of those who have passed on.

Happy Halloween.

Its just one of hundreds of mausoleums situated in Buenos Aires' La Recoleta Cemetery. Recoleta Cemetery, which has been around since the 1700's, is purported to be one of the most beautiful and architecturally exciting above-ground cemeteries in the world. It is the resting place for a plethora of the once wealthy city's most elite Argentinian families. It's infamous residents range from that of former presidents, dictators and statesmen to renowned actors and writers, and even a grand-daughter of Bonaparte.

Evita slept here.
Eva Duarte remains one of it's most infamous inhabitants, and though the Duarte family tomb is aesthetically less pleasing than some others that span the cemetery's 14 acres, it is an important destination point nonetheless.

If you are as big a fan of old cemeteries, as I am, you can only imagine my bitter disappointment during a 1980's trip to Paris: a chance to visit the city's famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery was unintentionally thwarted.  The most visited cemetery in the world, it includes the graves of the most illustrious figures in the Parisian art, literary and music world. The likes of Chopin, Moliere, Modigliani and Colette have found their final resting place here...not to mention Jim Morrison.

Visits to the cemetery in Recoleta have given me plenty of solace since that missed opportunity in Paris so long ago.  Like Pere Lachaise, it reads as a miniature version of it's own city; showcasing Buenos Aires' various architectural styles and former opulence.
Clearly, at one point, money was no object; Byzantine, Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic themed monuments are but a few of the many architectural styles represented here. 

City of sighs against a bustling Buenos Aires skyline.

Eternal companions in the form of weeping ladies and guardian angels offer peace to the living and the dead.

Now this is looks like no one has been
in to dust for awhile!

*Edited by Jennifer Vandemeer.
** All images snapped by yours truly.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Theo Stavropoulos: Offerings of Light

"Offerings of Light" a memorial exhibition of the paintings and studies of Theo Stavropoulos is being hosted by myself and the Lehman College Art Gallery in Bronx, NY where the artist taught for 25 years.  The exhibition will run from September 3 - 26th.  For further information and the artist's biography, here is the link to the press release:

Update: Here is a link to a review by Xico Greenwald for the New York Sun:

Notes about the artist’s works:
Theo Stavropoulos, c. 1976.*

After suffering an early introduction to the atrocities of war, a foundation could have been set for a potentially dark existence. But early on, art became Theo’s diary and the theme of inner light his personal arsenal against the abyss of negativity until the end of his life. Theo, who embraced a philosophy that no time barrier actually existed between the past and present, felt that inner light was a pathway to that connection as well as one to humanity.

 A strong religious foundation, revisited later in his life, and two significant mentors had the strongest influence on the evolution of Theo’s work. His earliest mentor was his first art teacher in Greece: Giorgios (Yorgos) Gounaropoulos, a surrealist painter and pioneer in the Greek modern art movement in the 1930’s.  His works encompassed classical elements from antiquity and modernist thought infused into light-flooded, dreamlike imagery  gently abstracted by “Gounaro”.

 Theo Stavropoulos, Shield, 1976.*  Photo by: Eduardo Duarte.

"Landscape" by G. Gounaro, 1935.

Gounaro’s influence is apparent in Theo’s artwork; light as a dominant tool in explaining the coexistence between past and present, resulting in a subtle play between two dimensions.

A painter paints because he has no time not to paint.” ~ Josef Albers

Josef Albers, a pioneer from the Bauhaus school and father of color perception, was another profound influence in Theo’s life and art.  Besides being a father figure to Theo, the tremendous impact of Albers’ philosophy, teachings and disciplines helped to shape the body of his work and subsequent role of teacher.

Albers explored the relativity of color and its endless possibilities within the format of simple geometric confines, the most notable example being in his “Homage to the Square” series.  In Albers’ ground-breaking testament to the magic of color, he focused on color as an infinite entity, not merely as a tool used in defining objects.  It was Albers' mystical thought that profoundly affected the way Theo would ultimately perceive the world without and within and then translate it on to his own canvases. Theo typically only used a minimum palette of colors in his paintings but was able to make a color appear that may not have started out on the canvas to begin with.  This was another example of Albers’ influence.
     "For Dominique", 2001, acrylic on canvas.* Photo by Eduardo Duarte.
This exhibition is presented in mostly chronological form, spanning nearly five decades of  the artist’s work. While Theo’s earliest paintings evoked a more gentle homage to classicism in contemporary form,  works produced in mid-life saw an emergence of bolder abstraction, many of his canvases containing an unearthly emission of light. The evolution of Theo’s abstracted figures (both in his paintings and countless notebook studies) are an integral part of this exhibit.  They have taken on many forms; some lyrical and some unapologetically uncomfortable and have been the artist’s constant companions for the last two decades of his life.  Works produced by the artist in his last decade revisited former experimentations with undulating inanimate forms, organic imagery such as in the floral themes, fragmentation of light and finally, his decision to embrace a bolder use of color.
Untitled, c. 2000 - 2006, acrylic on canvas.* Photo by Pat Genova.

Theo’s evolution as an artist encompassed constant rediscovery and experimentation combined with the revisitation of aspects of his early artwork.  From his earliest known works containing warm tones and classical elements that reflected his cultural heritage, to seemingly otherworldly imagery in the form of inanimate and human-like apparitions, they are a visual testament to the artist’s  personal journey through life.

Unititled, c. 1990 - 2005, acrylic on canvas.* 
           Unitled, 1991, wash and ink on paper.* Photo by Pat Genova. 
~ Dominique Stavropoulos-Williams
This exhibiton is sponsored by Dominique Stavropoulos and curated by Professor Pat Genova, BMCC, CUNY. Special thanks to Susan B. Stavropoulos, Claudio P. Williams and Amei Wallach, Art Critic and Filmmaker.
 ~Edited by Kristi Saare Duarte.
*Rights for reproduction remain with Dominique Stavropoulos Williams. (currently under construction) 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spring/Summer 2013: Flower Power.

Floral patterns, one of the most popular design trends for 2013, couldn't arrive at a better time as far as I am concerned.  After an excruciatingly bleak winter, a sorry excuse for a Spring, and a monsoon-like start to Summer, these metaphors of hope and regeneration are a welcome antidote to our collectively cloudy mood. Art imitates nature (and then some) as dramatically-bold botanicals are splashed across anything ranging from furniture and accents, to floors, walls and ceilings:

Most of us experience an elated mood around flowers, but a behavioral research study at Rutgers's back in 2007 backs this up: it provided documented proof that flowers promote an overall sense of well-being and satisfaction, as well a heightened outlook on life.  According to the study, flowers were found to encourage relaxation, reduce anxiety and depression and boost energy, among many other positive findings.

  "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." ~ Claude Monet

"The Earth laughs in flowers."  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson 
Flowers provide a welcoming atmosphere in the home and instantly brighten and warm up a space--and elicit genuine smiles!

"The flower is the poetry of reproduction.  It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life."  ~Jean Giraudoux

"I hope some day to meet God, because I want to thank Him for the flowers." ~Robert Brault 
*Dresser by Cote France, chrysanthemum table by Odegard,  Peony rug by Roubini,, Anthropologie folding chair and pillow, John Lewis sofa, Cole & Son wallpaper, Graham and Brown wallpaper, Marc Phillips rug.
*Edited by Jennifer Vandemeer.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This Caught my Eye.

"Garbo's Eye" Natural linen.

Recently, while web surfing, I came across the page of a fabric and wallpaper company called the "Cecil Beaton Fabric Collection". I stopped short on the image of a wing chair upholstered in a simple linen fabric, printed with a mad repetition of eyes.  The name of the print is "Garbo's Eyes". Pictured against a portrait of the iconic silver screen star, the photo was taken by Cecil Beaton in the 1930's.

I was immediately drawn to it's obvious quirkiness and bold design statement. That this particular textile design did not read 'creepy" surprised and delighted me. Could it be because it is a representation of the divine Garbo--her ocular allure skillfully captured by the great Cecil Beaton? Taken from one of many of his whimsical designs, "Garbo's Eye" is from a series of charming sketches he created. The licensing for the sketches was acquired by the UK-based interior design company, Beaudesert, and they have created a delightful collection of inspired fabric and wallpaper designs.

Add caption

Cecil Beaton may be most famous for his photographic portraits of celebrities, but he was also an award winning costume designer, interior designer and diarist.  A very close friend of Garbo and later, her lover, it's likely the sketches of her eyes were drawn from life.

Greta and Cecil in the 1940's
*Edited by Jennifer Vandemeer


Monday, February 25, 2013

Happy (belated) Birthday, Grand Central!

Grand Central Terminal, one of the world's most beautiful train depots and surely one of New York City's proudest architectural achievements, is celebrating it's 100-year anniversary. As tempting as it was to present an abridged version of my design school paper on this magnificent Beaux-Arts masterpiece, I chose instead to spare myself...and you.  Due to the centennial celebration, there is currently a wealth of literature and information out there and one more post about it may seem a tad redundant.
OK, I plead some redundancy, but I promise not to be boring. I offer some lesser known anecdotes about Grand Central, hence the post's subtitiling: "Did You Know..."
Fit For Emperors:                                   
  • The layout of the station and many architectural elements--including it's abundance of columns, archways and vaulted ceilings--were modeled after the elaborate baths of Imperial ancient Rome.

Floor plan and reconstructive rendering of the Caracalla Roman Bath.

Grand Entrance:
  • Two pink marble grand staircases modeled after those in the Paris Opera House were designed for the station's main concourse, but only one staircase was originally built.  As we know, a second staircase has since been installed. Who can guess which one is the original?
 Area 61:
  • Beneath Grand Central rests a hidden platform containing the infamous unlisted "track 61". Once directly linked by private elevator to the Waldorf Astoria's garage, it was made available to the likes of FDR and other illustrious VIPs of the era. It has long since been sealed shut, but still houses the original presidential train car and elevator constructed to accommodate FDR's armored Pierce Arrow--for secret trips between the hotel and his home in Hyde Park, NY.  So why can't the train car be transferred to the surface for viewing by the public?  Because it weighs too damn much--to the tune of 142 tons! Apparently a glimpse of the abandoned platform is possible when leaving the lower level of the station. Keep your eyes pealed for it when traveling on the Metro North!
Franklin Roosevelt's private train car on track 61. 

 The Four Faces of Seth:
  • Did you know that the faces on the four-sided clock at the information booth are made of opals? Designed by Connecticut's famous Seth Thomas Company, the clock has been estimated by Christies to have a whopping value of $10-$20 million dollars.

Stairway to haven:
  •  Did you know? within the information booth on the main concourse is a hidden staircase to a room inside the lower booth on the dining concourse level. It was designed as a break room for the station's booth employees. No doubt a day's full of stupid questions can take a toll on your sanity!
 Luxury Rental:
  • Though not exactly a secret these days, once in awhile I like to get a drink at the slightly "hidden" and off the beaten-path, Campbell Apartment. Located on the balcony level on Vanderbilt Avenue's side, it was first leased by John Campbell in 1923 from William Vanderbilt (whose family built Grand Central). The interior was remodeled by Campbell to evoke 13th-century Florentine palazzos. It is a sight to behold with it's massive leaded windows, baronial fireplace, painted wooden ceiling beams and other Neo-Gothic design elements.  From rush hour on up, and at week's end, it is quite crowded and can be a bit of a struggle to get a drink at the bar. There is actually a waiting list to sit down for drinks in the main living room which has been tastefully refurnished in Art Deco style. Not surprisingly, the bar is pricey, but the opportunity to enjoy the opulent splendor of America's robber barons, is a real treat.
The Campbell Room in Grand Central Terminal.
Saint Jackie:
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

  • Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a key figure in the fight against the proposed demolition of Grand Central in the mid-1970's.  It was slated to be replaced by yet another banal steel and glass building typical of the era of anti-adornment. After New York's Penn Station had met a similar horrific fate in 1963-1966, Jackie went to bat in 1975 and together with a host of New York's glitterati, formed a preservation committee in order to save the threatened Beaux-Arts structure.  A long hard battle was fought which eventually found it's way to the supreme court. Victory was won in 1978. Brava, Jackie!
Here is an excerpt from her letter to then mayor, Abe Beame:
"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?"

 Jackie with Bess Myerson and Ed Koch on the right.  Can anyone identify the gentleman with the groovy glasses to the left?

Grand Central Terminal during wartime.  This surely solves the query about the second staircase.

        Grand Central almost empty at 6am, Saturday morning, after work on an overnight shoot in Manhattan.

*Edited by Jennifer Vandemeer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gastronomic Desire at the Drugstore

My husband and I recently took a trip to historic Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, a charming seaside village settled by the Portuguese in the 1600's.  After checking into our hotel, we asked  the concierge to recommend a good restaurant in the area.  "You must go to El Drugstore," he responded, "you'll really like it". ("El Drugstore"--Uh, okay, thanks, we'll be sure and check it out...maybe). Hoping to avoid a potentially over-priced tourist trap, we decided to pass on that. At the nearest café,  we instead enjoyed perfectly good traditional fare: chivito, an artery-hardening but incredibly delicious Uruguayan sandwich: a thin slice of churrasco beef, with cheese, olives, totatoes, ham, mayo and a fried egg. This was accompanied by papas fritas (French fries) and a bottle of agua con gas (seltzer).


Our homeless amigo is also a fan of chivito and waited patiently for our leftovers.
The following day, while taking in the sights of this truly enchanting city, we happened upon two antique cars parked on a cobblestone street--one of them filled with flowers in the trunk. I love old cars...I mean, I really LOVE old cars, so I went over to inspect them and take a few pictures.  At some point we realized that we were standing in front of the very restaurant that had been recommended to us back at our hotel.  "El Drugstore" had me at the 1929 Model A Ford. It's interior was set up for an intimate dining experience for two, complete with table and place settings. To my dismay, my husband steadfastly refused to eat in a car.  After several attempts to change his mind and a tolerable amount of moping, I finally gave in and we ate dinner inside the restaurant that night.

Upon entering the restaurant, one encounters a strikingly funky décor; a kind of fun-house chic style interior with walls painted in primary colors--every inch of them awash with bold paintings and posters. The café has four rooms, some tables covered with polka-dot tablecloths accompanied by coordinating folding chairs. The rooms in the back are decorated with an unapologetic plethora of furniture styles, accented with assorted found objects ranging from children's toys to object d'art.

 There was Frida...

     And Geisha....

 And Spanish Rococo...

Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to seek out restaurants and bars with plenty of atmosphere. As a designer, I am inclined towards the aesthetic by default and it would follow that I  need to have my visual senses satiated.  "El Drugstore"  certainly did not disappoint on that front, and even though it bordered on over-the top-eclecticism, I was delighted by it's fun and quirky style.  That aside, when it comes down to brass tacks, if the food isn't good, a restaurant is bound to fail.  I certainly will not return to a place that does not have good food.  I have seen mixed reviews regarding El Drugstore's extensive menu, which includes seafood, tapas, fusion and vegan fare. But as far as we were concerned, our gastronomic experience was nothing short of orgasmic.  While I enjoyed the chivito a day prior, I am not typically a big meat eater. So at El Drugstore we opted for a mélange of seafood platters, one of which was a sumptuous platter of gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic). We accented our meal with a excellent Clerico (white sangria). Muy rico!

Even the menu was cool...

There's no denying it's a tourist destination, but the prices were manageable,  and our meal was great--not only would I recommend it, I'd go back in an instant.

"El Drugstore" has an outdoor café, music at night and takes reservations.

179 Vasconçellos
Colonia, Uruguay

TEL: 011-598-522-5241