gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Foreign

Ukrainian artist Konstantin Kalinovich

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I went to the Ukrainian Institute of  Modern Art during Open House Chicago this year and I saw some lovely prints by Konstantin Kalinovich that I just fell in love with it. I loved their ambience and cozy feeling. And of course the detail and skill. They were part of the Contemporary Ukrainian Graphics exhibit, which is still up until December 9th. Sneak in there while you have the chance! 

I’m having a hard time finding a lot of information about him because it’s mostly all in Ukrainian, but Arthive, Warnock Fine Arts, and the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers have some basic information about him, as well as images of his works. I love Ex Libris because they are small and whimsical, and it seems like he does a lot of those. Take a look at them!

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Present vs. Past

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Ok one more shout out to The New York Times Style Magazine Letter to the Editor…for now at least! “Present Tense” by Hanya Yanagihara spoke to me because in it she discusses how different the sense of history is in the U.S. versus other parts of the world. She mentions Rome specifically and its deep history that is literally alive all around you. Growing up in Rome I had the unbelievable fortune of experiencing this everyday, without realizing the magnitude of it at the time.

Any first-time (or hundredth-time, for that matter) traveler to Rome can’t help but marvel at how lightly, and with what matter-of-factness, the Italians live among antiquities: A walk down the street is a stroll across thousands of years; the 2,000-plus-year-old Largo di Torre Argentina, excavated in the late 1920s, was where Caesar died, but it is also where the city’s cats congregate for a sun-drunk loll. Other cities would have placed such a monument in a museum, behind walls and off-limits — here, though, there is so much history that such an approach is impossible. Instead, the Italians have learned that every building, every structure, is a palimpsest, and that their lives within it, superannuated or brief, contribute another layer to its long narrative.

It’s true that Romans walk around their city with ease  and a nonchalantness about their surroundings. I mean how lucky are they to have been plopped there by birth and can call that parcel of this world their home. How lucky was I?? And as Yanagihara points out, Romans contribute to their long, ancient history, in whatever finite way possible.

The oldness of a place like Rome, and the newness of the U.S. is apparent in the way that we, as Americans, approach our daily life, versus the Romans. The impatience and instant gratification of American culture is a testament to this. We don’t have a long history to look back on, and therefore looking forward, with a sense of restlessness, is the only way we know. Romans, on the other hand, take life as a stroll, literally and figuratively. They have such an extensive history to look back on and to reflect on how they got to where they are  now, that they are not in a hurry to go anywhere. I think this is true in the larger scheme of things, but it is also apparent to anyone who visits Rome and has to slow down their pace to match that of the Romans. While this may be frustrating for Americans, I think slowing down is only a positive practice.

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:

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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.

The second Chicago Architecture Biennial

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The Architecture Biennial has graced Chicago twice now – the first time in 2015 and most recently this past Fall of 2017. It went down in January, and of course I waited until the last week to go see it. I wish I would have gone earlier so that I could have gone back to see my favorite things a few times. The theme for this most recent installation of the biennial was “Make New History” and it featured 141 architects, theorists, designers, etc. from 20 + countries. So it really is a global event, housed at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center in the heart of the loop. These are pictures of some of the displays that most caught my eye.

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This is a model of Yves Saint Laurent’s salon…isn’t it glamorous?? So full of art…

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I loved these white trees!

Interiors have always held a special place in my heart, so I liked this exhibit entitled “The Room of One’s Own”, which included several drawings of singular interior rooms.

I work at a kitchen & bath showroom, so I was pretty amused by this miniature pink bathroom.

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This room was very cool with about 10 or so models of fictional skyscrapers. As you can see how they compared in size to a person, they were towering!

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Looking forward to the next Architecture Bienniale in a couple years from now!

The connections between

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Every motion in the world taken separately was calculated and purposeful, but, taken together, they were spontaneously intoxicated with the general stream of life which united them all.

Doctor Zhivago

I’ve had a special place in my heart for Russian literature ever since I took a Russian literature class my freshman year of college, which I kind of fell into by accident and it turned out to be one of the best things that’s happened to me. I needed to fulfill a writing credit, as well as a philosophy credit, and there happened to be two classes taught in tandem, an introduction to philosophy and Russian literature (which fulfilled the writing credit), so I took advantage of killing two birds with one stone. They were both taught by incredibly smart, kind, and genuine women who I admire dearly. I also happen to have known them since I was a child because they were friends with my parents, which made having them as professors extra special. It was because of this class and how inspired I was by the philosophy professor that I went on to major in philosophy and took most of my classes with her. She really became like a mentor to me.

In the Russian literature portion of the class we read Fathers & Sons by Ivan Turgenev, short stories by Nikolai Gogol, A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov, Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and of course Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. We didn’t read Doctor Zhivago, but it’s something I’ve been reading on my own after watching the 2002 TV Mini-series and loving it. It’s definitely become one of my favorite things to watch around Christmas time; not that it’s particular festive, but there’s something about the wintry atmosphere that it makes it feel appropriate to watch around the holidays. I don’t read nearly enough anymore, but thinking back on these classes inspires me to cuddle up on a cold day and get lost in a book for the afternoon.

I love this quote because for me it summarizes how I feel about the string of events that make up our lives. I don’t think of these events as isolated from one another, but rather very connected in a way that we might not be able to grasp. I often wonder why related things seem to pop up around the same time and I find it hard to believe that it’s just a coincidence. So I have to believe that the way things line up in life is tremendously important and somewhat out of our hands.

 

Space & identity

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My way of expressing myself is to build my own universe, and in doing so, he added, I create my own self.

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I really enjoyed this article by Tom Delevan about Oliver Gustav‘s apartment in Copenhagen in the March edition of The New York Times Style Magazine. I was initially drawn to it for a couple of reasons – the gray color palette, which happens to be one of my favorites; and not necessarily for interior spaces, but more so for clothing. I seem to have an infinite supply of gray sweaters and I’m only in my 20s. Gray is not a drab grandma sweater! I was also drawn to the article for its location. I have had a fascination with Scandinavia for a while now, so my interest is definitely peaked whenever I come across something related to that cold, dark, dreary, but comfortable and cozy part of the world (or at least this is how I picture it).

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Gustav is a creative based in Copenhagen and New York who works with art and interiors, and his apartment in Copenhagen reflects his passion for both. Reading about the historic structure (built in 1734!) was fascinating because of its eccentricities since it’s so old. The minimalist design and subdued color scheme is evident in the pictures, but what struck me more were Gustav’s thoughts about his space – that in creating the space around him he concurrently creates himself. I can completely identify with this, since I too find great parallels between my space and myself. I also admire his love of collecting because I also like to collect (but on a much smaller scale of course) and I have boxes of things in the attic that I’ve gotten over the years that I’m just waiting to find the right spot for.

I have a love affair with things…I just want a beautiful life.

While this may sound superficial and materialistic, I do think there is something to be said for having a certain eye and taste for things when it’s connected to a deeper cultural or intellectual interest, which it is for me and I’m sure for Gustav as well.

Delevan, the author of the article, is a very talented interior designer in his own right, which is beautifully exemplified on his website. Just so clean and effortless…take a look!

 

“But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

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“I looked around at the stately villa, the murmuring fountains and, yes, even at the overgrown grass. Rome had its issues. The degradation was real. But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

I have to remind myself to admire the beauty in my surroundings, even if it’s not always initially apparent to me. I also have to be reminded to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that I might encounter unexpectedly. This New York Times article about Rome by Jason Horowitz resonates with me since I was born in Rome and lived there for the first eight years of my life. But I have to say, in disagreement with the author, I always found it beautiful and never wanted to leave. Rome was the best playground a child could ask for. But I will say, now that I live in Chicago, IL, I resonate with the author’s notion that we must seek to see the beauty even in the chaos or dilapidation that’s around us. I love Chicago as a city for all that it has to offer, but at the same time, the city just gets me down on a daily basis. Relying on public transportation for your commute isn’t easy, especially in the dead of winter. The hustle bustle lifestyle with everyone scurrying around in a hurry and forgetting to be nice to one another just isn’t for me. I find myself craving a much more laid-back kind of life. The architecture downtown juxtaposed next to Lake Michigan is beautiful, but other parts of the city that tourists don’t see where the average Chicagoean actually lives can be dirty and graffiti-stricken. So, faced with all this unpleasantness of city life, I often struggle to find the beauty that I once so admired about Chicago.

Horowitz’s evaluation of various neighborhoods in Rome as he searched for an apartment all over the city reminded me to try to appreciate the little intricacies and charms that each neighborhood of Chicago holds, especially since I don’t get to see them everyday. I like how different each neighborhood is and how diverse the city is. So maybe what I need to do, taking a lesson from Horowitz, is take the time to visit different neighborhoods, as he explored Rome, and experience each one for the unique things it has to offer. And maybe I just need to take a harder look at the small things in my everyday encounters with the city to remind myself what makes Chicago the beloved city that it is by so many.

 

 

A little voyage to Paris

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“Three Perfect Days in Paris” by Boyd Farrow

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I was on a plane last week, one of my least favorite places to be since flying makes me anxious, but this article about Paris that I came across in the Hemispheres magazine made it much more enjoyable. And although flying makes me nervous I have to say I love watching the landing as we’re approaching the destination and I don’t think it’s necessarily solely because I know I’ll soon be safely on the ground; it’s just such a cool view from up there. Anyway, I was completely engrossed in this article and the flight was more pleasant because of it. I went to Paris one summer when I was in high school and it is every bit as magical as Boyd Farrow recounts in his travelogue. It definitely transported me back to my visit there and makes me want to go back to go to some of the places he mentions. And how about the photographs…I especially like the one of the three Parisians basking in the light of their beautiful city. They look like characters from a French movie (Jules et Jim by François Truffaut,  The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci, and Band of Outsiders by Jean-Luc Godard come to mind). I’m just waiting for them to break into that infamous dance scene at the cafe in Band of Outsiders. 

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These are some of my favorite quotes from the article to give you a sampling of the delight that’s in store for you:

“I sit down with my giant cheese and watch as people file in and light votives or stealthily angle their phones for the ultimate shot: a selfie with Jesus.”

“By the time we leave, I’m so relaxed I hail a cab standing in the middle of the street. The driver looks terrified. Now, if I could only remember where I put my room key.”

“Everywhere here has a real community feel. You tend to keep an eye on your neighbors’ kids; you know your butcher, baker, and florist. In most big cities, people don’t live like that anymore.”

“In Jacques Genin’s showroom-size chocolate shop on lively Rue de Turenne, a loved-up couple agonizes over a chocolate display as if choosing an engagement ring. I’m agonizing too, over how many kirsch caramels I dare take from the sample jar.”

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And I just love the way the article ends, tying in the iconic kiss photograph by Robert Doisneau. So romantic…

“As I thread my way through the crowd, a young Frenchwoman bumps into me, spilling wine down my shirt. Being English, I apologize. She smiles, kisses my cheek, and disappears. Okay, so it’s not a Robert Doisneau moment, but it’s not a bad way to say goodnight to the city—the Eiffel Tower to the west, its sparkling light show reminding us that the clock has just struck 12.”

I’ll stop here so that you actually read the full article because it’s such a treat! Thank you, Boyd, for transporting us to the magic that is Paris.

 

The Devil’s Mistress

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The Gene Siskel Film Center is currently running a Czech Film Festival, which is exciting for me because my mom is Czech. The other night I went to see The Devil’s Mistress, which is a true story about a Czech actress who goes to work in Germany and has an affair with Hitler’s right-hand man, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler’s character is, of course, frightening and awkward, but well-played. The movie is melodramatic, but the starlet, played by Tatiana Pauhofová, is stunning and charming. Her flirtatious spirit is disturbing at times, as she knows she can use it to get what she wants, and the way she falls in love with Goebbels is shocking given his political affiliation and stature. I have to say I much prefer the actor she has a passionate affair with who she leaves for Goebbels, but the heart wants what it wants I guess…

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The setting of all the scenes is beautiful, as well as the scenery, especially the modern house Lida buys for her parents. All based on true events, it was an interesting historical lesson for me, in addition to being entertaining and visually engaging. Hearing the Czech language was so nostalgic for me and I was surprised by how many words I could understand based on what I’ve picked up listening to my mom speak to my grandparents over the years. I only wish there had been a little less dialogue in German and a little more in Czech!

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Paris Can Wait

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Can Paris wait? I think most of us would agree it cannot. This consensus that I’m assuming is shared among those in the plot of the new movie starring Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait. Reminiscent of another travelogue starring Lane, the popular Under the Tuscan Sun, this genre really seems to suite her well. She is a classic beauty and there is a carefree, sexy ease about her that makes her the perfect travel companion, even if only through a screen. You hardly see any shots of Paris but at the very end because the movie traces the fragmented journey to Paris, but the places they stop along the way are points of interest in their own right. Lane’s trip to Paris is not with her husband, as one might imagine, but with her husband’s business partner who happens to be a Frenchman, played by Arnaud Viard. Need I say more about the fact that he’s a Frenchman and all the stereotypes that go along with that…he is charming, flirtatious, spontaneous, a womanizer, and let’s just admit, a little selfish. Despite all this, there is a genuine connection between him and Lane, which makes her feel appreciated and desired in a way that she hasn’t felt by her husband in a long time. Classic…

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The movie is full of scenes of delectable food and artistic shots of whatever Lane sees that she’d like to capture with her old school digital camera. She certainly does have an eye for composition of the unique things she comes across on her trip. There are sad moments as you learn more about Lane’s life, and there are funny moments as she saves the day when their car breaks down on the way to Paris. What I particularly liked was her relationship with her daughter (who we never actually see) because it reminds me of my relationship with my parents – we share the same name, we are both only children, and we are both very close to our parents.

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The movie definitely accomplishes evoking travel envy, as I left wanting to take a similar trip, even full of all the obstacles. I also love Lane’s summery linen outfit (seen in all three of these pictures), as well as her seductive evening dresses. Usually Paris can’t wait, but I suppose it can if it means going on a spontaneous adventure like this one.