gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Fashion meets a sense of self

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Once again, I’m loving Hanya Yanagihara‘s Letter to the Editor in The New York Times Style Magazine about fashion’s role in defining our sense of self, as well as the greater implications it has on how we relate to others and the world around us.

The word fashion tends to allude to a luxury not attainable for everyone, but here fashion means the very basic practice of people dressing themselves to get out the door in the morning. Not everyone pays close attention to what they wear and they do it simply out of necessity. But other people, including myself, dress with a purpose; whether that is trying to align themselves with the current trends, going against current trends, wearing what is comfortable both physically and emotionally (yes I do think that what we wear affects our mindset and emotions), making a social or political statement, etc. are all wrapped into what we decide to put on our bodies.

At T, that language often takes the form of fashion — specifically, fashion as a way of communicating not just something about who the wearer of it is, but also, and with increasing urgency, the kind of world we live in…

Despite its reputation, fashion is a democratic art: We all engage with it in some way or another (even if engagement means disengagement, rebelling against what we interpret as its rules and conventions), and it remains the single most effective way of telegraphing who we are to the rest of the world. What we choose to wear is who we think we are, or who we think we would like to be.

We’re constantly looking for ways to define ourselves and to set ourselves apart as individuals from the overwhelming world around us – to be someone. Fashion is an easy way to do that because it is perhaps what those around us notice first, after our physical characteristics. If someone has a consistent style, people who spend time around that person will assign that style to him/her as a quintessential piece of that person.

I know I like to wear things that make me feel good. At work, for example, I like to wear clothes that make me feel productive and professional. At home when I’m just lounging around I like to wear something comfortable and whatever will inspire the most hygge at that moment (something I’m always trying to achieve, but as we all know, it’s hard to attain it; rather, it happens spontaneously when everything is aligned just perfectly). I don’t always dress with a purpose, but I tend to feel better when I do.

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“But Beautiful” – Hanya Yanagihara

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As an art lover, the question of what beauty is often crosses my mind in the context of admiring art. I took a philosophy of art class in college, which allowed me to explore this question further. The primal question of whether or not beauty can even be defined in  is perplexing enough, let alone attempting to assess the level or quality of beauty. I found this Editor’s Letter by Hanya Yanagihara, the Editor-in-Chief for the The New York Times Style Magazine, very insightful. I thought her whole letter was thought-provoking, but especially the bit below.

But of all the ways in which art and design test our understanding of the world, one of the most important is how they make us question what exactly beauty is. Great art and design remind us of two things: first, that what is beautiful is not necessarily what is pleasant or pretty; and second, that the search for beauty, in all its forms, is elemental to the human condition. Every person in every culture, no matter how impoverished or restrictive, tries to ornament her life. This desire — to stimulate the senses, to remind ourselves of the wildness of the imagination — is not an indulgence or a luxury, but an instinct, one that defines us as human. What, after all, is the entire arc of history but a compendium of things — the pottery, cloaks, jewelry, houses, furniture, vessels and tapestries that humankind has always made (and will always make) to assert its presence in the world?

…to find and reveal and present beauty in all its forms, even if sometimes those forms don’t resemble what we understand as beauty at all. Beauty might be something ephemeral, made more potent for the brevity of its life…

I think Yanagihara perfectly captures that beauty is not simply an aesthetic characteristic we assign to things, but that it’s actually present in virtually all that the human race brings forth in the world. We have this drive to create something for ourselves or for others in an effort to exercise our creativity and imagination not only for a useful purpose, but also to simply satisfy our instinct to surround ourselves with what feels good.

 

Goat Yoga

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Most everyone who knows me knows that I love goats. I’m not quite sure how this love started, but like most loves, it just happens when you least expect it. I suppose my earliest recollection of my love affair with goats is from when I was in grade school and went to the 4-H Fair in the summertime. Among other animals, there were always goats. Adorable goats. And I started looking at pygmy goats for sale online, at a very affordable cost! It escalated when I lived in Massachusetts for a year about 4 years ago, where I regularly visited a goat farm, especially when they had babies. I’ve been dreaming of having my own little goat farm ever since!

This past weekend I got to do goat yoga, a craze that is attracting goat-lovers and non-goat-lovers alike. There’s something about it that is just intriguing. The hour of goat yoga was everything I thought it would be. Fun, filled with goats jumping on top of me (yay!), and light on the yoga. It was hosted by GlennArt Farm in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. I’ll let these pictures tell the story. Ignore my form though…it was hard to focus with a 20 pound goat on my back…haha

Lisa Graziose Corrin, Director of the Block Museum of Art

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I really enjoyed this interview with Lisa Graziose Corrin by Chicago Gallery News, a premier source for art happenings in Chicago. I subscribe to their email list and I’m always eager to read their weekly interviews with museum directors and gallery owners. Lisa Graziose Corrin is currently the Director of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, but she was previously the Director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), which is a place dear to my heart, as I lived in Williamstown for one year and absolutely loved it.

The way she describes her connection to the Met in New York and how it’s like home to her is endearing, and her observation of Monet’s Women in the Garden reminds me why I love art as I do. When we look at art we are forced to examine what we’re looking at while keeping in mind that what we see at first glance is not necessarily the whole picture.

I remember going to the Met and seeing a small study of Monet’s Women in the Garden, which is now in the Musee d’Orsay, and seeing the shadow on the back of a train on a woman’s dress and the hundreds of shades of green and grey that composed this picture. I realized Monet was not painting women’s dresses at all, he was painting the effects of light. It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes and everything I looked at around me after that changed. I saw how art could be a window onto other ways of perceiving and understanding the world. At that moment I thought “Wow I want to be looking through those windows for the rest of my life.”

This is the passage that particularly stood out to me. I just love her insight into the art world landscape, the future of leadership within the museum field, and the way she responds to work that inspires her.

Reggaeton

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So a few weeks ago a friend of mine introduced me to Reggaeton and I literally can’t stop listening to it. He shared a playlist with me, which I’ve been playing on repeat ever since. Among the many catchy tunes on the playlist, this one is one of my favs. I have no idea what the lyrics are saying because I don’t know Spanish, so I may be unknowingly offending a lot of people right now. From the music video I can gather that a couple is having a fight, they go their separate ways for a bit, and then somehow run into each other on the street in the middle of a dance party and make up? Can  someone who speaks Spanish please tell me what’s going on?? I don’t know how I lived my life before discovering Reggaeton.

Austin, TX

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I went to Austin, TX a couple weeks ago, making it my second time to Texas after going to Houston last Fall for a friend’s wedding. My primary reason for going was to support three friends who participated in the BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin over the course of two days (a big feat if you ask me)! For one my friends this was his second ride, but this year he was joined by his wife and a friend. The event is a fundraiser for MS research and each rider has to raise $400 in order to participate. The funds all go to the National MS Society and they raise millions of dollars because they have 10,000 + riders and some raise more than the required amount.

This type of fundraiser/bike ride doesn’t just take place from Houston to Austin, but in other parts of the country as well, like Minnesota, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the list goes on. I was really touched, inspired, and all things emotional that my friends participated in this ride because MS is something that hits close to home for me. It was definitely hot in Austin and we felt it while we were waiting for them to cross the finish line, but at least we got to hang out in the VIP MS tent. My mom and one of my best friends, who happens to be the sister of my friend who was riding, went with me and we made signs to wave at the finish line. It was amazing to see them cross that line and they were exhausted, but already planning training for a triathlon! They rode with Team Karbach, so of course there was beer waiting for them after they finished, courtesy of Karbach Brewing Co. After the ride we went out for BBQ, where I tried beef brisket. I got fatty and lean, per the waiter’s recommendation because I had no idea how to order, but next time I would probably only get lean.

While in Austin we also went out on 6th Street (of course) to a place called Easy Tiger. It definitely wasn’t a crazy bar, like many of them on 6th Street, and it had a really cute outdoor area next to a creek with strings of lights overhead. We went to the Zilker Botanical Garden, which was beautiful. It was so peaceful and I wish we had more time there. We visited the Graffiti Park and I bought a couple cute little prints from an artist. I was sad to hear that the graffiti wall is being torn down and relocated. We had a very short amount of time at the Blanton Museum of Art, but I liked what I got to see of it. They have a big contemporary Latin American art collection. We walked around The University of Texas at Austin campus, got breakfast tacos at Torchy’s (which apparently is a staple), walked around the vintage and luxury shops on South Congress, got ice cream at Amy’s (also a staple), and of course took pics at the I love You So Much mural. Right before heading to the airport we toured the State Capitol building, which was beautiful and we had an excellent tour guide. I learned a lot about the history of Texas that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know before.

We also went to Waco for a morning, which was amazing! See my post about Magnolia Market here.

I liked Austin, but I don’t think it’s a city I would want to live in. I almost preferred Houston, which I’m scared to admit because I feel like Austin is thought of as a really fun, hip city in Texas and Houston is not…haha. I just really liked the museum district in Houston, Hermann Park, Rice University, and Discovery Green. Next time I go to Austin, I would want to see San Antonio because it’s so close, and definitely go to Waco again!

Magnolia Market / Waco, TX

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So I had one of the best days of my life this past Saturday…at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas! Honestly, I think it’s the happiest place on the planet. Everyone there is just so happy to be there, and the employees are very friendly. I have found that to be true of all the people I met in Texas actually (but I can’t speak for all of Texas of course). Anyway, back to Magnolia…I went to Austin to support my friends who were riding in the BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin and took advantage of Austin’s proximity to Waco. I mean, I couldn’t be so close to Waco and not go! More about Austin and the bike ride in my next post.

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We arrived to Austin late Friday night after our flight was delayed a couple of hours as we just sat on the tarmac due to a disgruntled passenger. We got to our hotel around 1 in the morning, at which point the hotel no longer had a room for us because it was too late and they had to ship us to a different hotel. We finally got to the bed around 2 and had to get up at 5:30 to catch the 7 AM bus to Waco. Needless to say we tired, but getting up wasn’t hard because we were so excited to go to Magnolia. My mom went with me, which was really special because Magnolia is a place that exudes family.

We only had 3 hours in Waco before catching the bus back to Austin so we used our time wisely. We didn’t go to their new restaurant, Magnolia Table, because it’s a three mile shuttle ride away from the main complex and the wait time can be long. Oh well, next time! So we had breakfast at the bakery and the cupcakes were amazing! The outdoor seating area is very pleasant and reminds you of a French cafe.

After breakfast we went to the main store and spent about an hour there. It’s big, with two floors and lots and lots of people. So it takes a while to go through all of it, take everything in, and make final selections for what to buy. There were definitely some things I picked up right away, but others that I thought about while walking through and went back to pick up (which is not easy because there is a bit of path/flow that people follow throughout the store). I obviously got one of their signature Linen candles, a few wooden kitchen things, a T-shirt (super soft!), a beautiful little necklace made by an artisan in Nashville, TN (which I’ve worn everyday since I got it), the Spring issue of The Magnolia Journal, a couple body products, and a cute little metal Magnolia sign.

Then we went to the Seed + Supply store, which is much smaller and less crowded, but still adorable. They have several food trucks in the big outdoor area and my mom and I got crepes!

Sadly, it was time to go. I was so so happy to be there and it was absolutely worth the trip from Austin, even if just for a few hours. It’s definitely not my last time there and I’d love to see it decorated for Christmas. I also want to explore more of Waco and drive around to see the various houses that Chip & Joanna have renovated. Until next time, Magnolia!

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Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl

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I went to see Hurray for the Riff Raff this past weekend with a friend at Thalia Hall in Pilsen, and we actually saw them at the same venue last Spring about this same time. They were just as good as last year, and their performance of this song particularly spoke to me. I like the idea of a woman being in command of herself, standing her ground, and sticking to her guns! It’s a practice I’m trying to be more mindful of.

I love going to concerts but they can be an isolating experience…you’re surrounded by a crowd of people, so in some ways it’s a collective experience. But each person in the audience is also having a unique experience because the way that music makes us feel is so personal. Whatever thoughts or emotions music elicits in us is specific to us, so in this sense it’s a totally individual experience…it’s a bit sad that you’re with so many people, yet alone. But of course it’s still fun to experience the music, nonetheless.

Sentimental

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A couple definitions that pop up when you search for the word sentimental (adj.) in the dictionary are:

expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia

weakly emotional; mawkishly susceptible or tender

I know I’m definitely a sentimental person and I’m not going to apologize for it. I may be weakly emotional and nostalgic, but I would rather be that than not feeling enough. I think having too many feelings and being able to express those feelings, although sometimes with great difficulty, is one of life’s beautiful tragedies. Beautiful because what are we but feeling beings at every turn and therefore have no choice but to express ourselves, and tragic because sometimes those feelings are not well received or returned.

Nostalgia is a funny thing because we know it’s pointless to reminisce the past and hope to return to a happy time, but those daydreamin’ minds like mine almost have no control and keep dreaming away. But can we be blamed for reminiscing happy times simply for the pure appreciation of those happy moments? I don’t think so. It’s heartening to know that we’ve experienced such happy moments and we must be grateful for them, because life is not always rainbows and butterflies.

So fuck it…we have the feelings we have and we just can’t help it. So keep on having those feelings and sharing them. In the spirit of Lorde (who I recently saw in concert and was absolutely amazing):

I am my mother’s child, I’ll love you ’til my breathing stops
I’ll love you ’til you call the cops on me

Poet/visual artist Cecilia Vicuña

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I had the pleasure of seeing a talk/performance by Chilean visual artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña at the Neubauer Collegium at the University of Chicago last week. She began by walking onto the stage holding large colorful paper glasses up to her face and hummed for a couple minutes. She then began to speak about her life with a biographical chronicle of events of her time as an exchange student in Chicago while in high school. There was a poetic manner in which she spoke – the way she broke up her sentences into shorter phrases, sometimes whispered (which was frustrating at times because she was hard to hear) and then raised her voice surprisingly quickly for the next line. She was so cute and fragile, and yet full of wisdom, assertiveness, and passion.

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She spoke in detail about a practice in which she breaks down the syllables of a word to identify the meaning of each syllable and how they relate to the meaning of the word as a whole. For example:

Palabrarma

Palabra – word; arma – weapon

Meaning – words as weapons

Granted, this is a word she has made up, but she does it with actual words as well. I think it’s fascinating to break a word down to discover that each of its parts means the same thing, or something similar, to the word in its entirety. She delved further into the philosophy of language and argued that it primarily analyzes western beliefs and the western structure of thought and speech, and it fails to take into account eastern thought or any other systems of language.

She talked about our powerlessness in the control that we have over our lives – not that we can’t have autonomy over our actions, but that there is something greater than us breathing life into us, and we can’t take credit for that. In fact, we have to understand and respect it. She also brought our attention to Hindu beliefs regarding breath that I wish I could remember, but she was just so full of insightful anecdotes that I couldn’t catch all of them. I wish I could have recorded her performance and play it back when I’m in need of some encouragement. She was wonderful.