gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Photographer William Eggleston

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I studied photographer William Eggleston in a Photography class in graduate school, and this line from the New York Times Style Magazine featuring The Greats, including William Eggleston, resonated with me as I was reminded of his work:

Eggleston’s images can trick you if you’re not careful. You have to look at them, then you have to look again and then keep looking until the reason he took the picture kind of clicks in your chest. 

The aesthetic value of the photograph might not be immediately apparent, but after looking at it, taking your eyes off it, and looking again, the photograph may start to move you in some way; and it may move you in different ways each time you look at it.

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Arthur Frommer on the healing power of traveling to Europe

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As often happens in my household, old papers, magazines, and brochures pop up because my mom is constantly going through things in an effort to downsize. I recently came across a travel magazine entitled “Planning Your Trip: Europe ’95.” That’s right, it’s from 1995. In it is an article by travel expert Arthur Frommer on his love for traveling to Europe because of its restorative power. I strongly identify with what he has to say, as I also find traveling to Europe rejuvenating, and just a few lines will give you a sense of why:

Some people take pills to restore their energy. I go to Europe. Some people go out dancing to lift their spirits; I go to Europe. To me, a week or so in the Old World is a restorative more powerful than any regiment of diet, medicine or exercise ever devised. It does me good to turn my back for a time on familiar scenes, and head for the gentler, slower, more traditional life of Europe. 

He goes on to talk about the old world charm, which more than simply being an endearing quality of Europe, actually truly connects us with history in a way that we cannot experience in the U.S. because of its young age compared to Europe – “This communing with the past – so much a part of the European travel experience – provides solace, and a sense of human connection and continuity that awes me.”

Featuring a picture of Café de Flore in Paris, one is reminded of the slowness of life in Europe and the afternoons spent at the café with an impeccable espresso or cappuccino and good conversation.

 

Christmas cheer 2016

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Santa babe

Scandinavian mantel decorations

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What a cute couple

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Slouched in slumber after Christmas dinner (btw, our cats love cuddling with these bears…it’s hilarious!)

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Our Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from all over the world

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Swedish horses skirting the tree

Max Ernst

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I’m not too familiar with artist Max Ernst‘s work, but I recently came across a short article by Curator Robin Reisenfeld published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1997 about his body of work, Fiat Modes. This collection includes his prints and illustrated books. There’s a line at the end of the article that struck me as elusive but terribly provocative – “Ernst wryly comments upon what he believes to be a misguided belief in the infallibility of human progress based upon instruments of reason.” What does this mean? What Reisenfeld is arguing is that Ernst essentially makes fun of this belief that human progress, guided by reason, can’t be wrong. He is driving against the notion that reason is all knowing and all powerful and cautions against placing complete trust in reason to guide human progress. Certainly, the mainstream thought is that reason can and should absolutely guide human progress, but perhaps what Ernst is suggesting is a more fantastical, creative, imaginary, dreamlike approach to progress, as he suggests in his Fiat Modes collection. Perhaps we should all take this method with some seriousness and try it out. There’s nothing wrong with a path that’s a little more fantastical than the one we’re faced with…

Cultural divides

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Over the past several months I’ve been conducting oral history interviews with Latino/a artists for one of my jobs. Some interesting and surprising conflicts have arisen that I definitely wasn’t expecting, and am even a bit bothered by. I consider myself a very open-minded person when it comes a variety of things like race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc., but what I’ve learned recently is that sometimes people can view this open-mindedness and willingness to engage with those who are different from us as a negative thing, and even a hostile thing.

To put things more concretely, I was speaking with a young Latina artist in Pilsen, the Latino neighborhood in Chicago, and she was bothered, insulted almost, by the fact that I wanted to explore the neighborhood, meet the locals, and try to have an authentic experience there. She proceeded to tell me that there was no way I could possibly have an authentic experience because I as was not Latina, I did not speak Spanish, and I did not grow up in the neighborhood. She said that the “authentic” experience I was seeking was clouded by any preconceived notions of what I thought her culture was about. She was frustrated that white people were visiting her neighborhood to see it for themselves and then trying to build it up because it was still affordable to do so. She opposed the gentrification process that was and still is happening in Pilsen, particularly in regards to the artist community. The artist community that Pilsen is now known for does not typically include the artists who have been living in Pilsen for decades. She felt as though these artists who have recently been moving into Pilsen are trying to replace the artists who were already there, and then pretending like they own the place. I can completely sympathize with the frustration with this kind of gentrification, but I do not think that someone who wants to explore a neighborhood and a culture with genuine interest should be lumped into the same category.

I countered all of this by arguing that not everyone who visits the neighborhood wants to replace what’s already there or try to change it. Some people are genuinely curious about other cultures, and not only curious but truly eager to learn more, engage with, and try to experience things with the locals. She was still insulted and offended by this proposition, insisting that there’s no way an outsider could have a genuine experience, precisely because he/she was an outsider.

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I left this encounter feeling so frustrated because I felt like she was prejudice against me, while I was not at all prejudice towards her. I was left feeling like there’s no way that two people who are fundamentally different from one another ethnically, which is out of their control, can come together and learn from one another. It was as if she encouraged segregation between cultures and as if she didn’t want to share her culture with anyone, nor learn about another’s culture. This was very frustrating to me because while I am a white American female, I was born in Europe and grew up there for the first eight years of my life. My mom has taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to people from all over the world for many years, and I myself am now teaching ESL as well. I also volunteer at a non-profit that helps Spanish speakers with a variety of things, where I help with their citizenship classes. I have friends from diverse cultures, and in fact I prefer to surround myself with people who are different from me because I feel that there is so much to learn from them. I definitely have a genuine interest in exposing myself to different cultures and experiencing things as they do the best that I can. So I too was insulted by her for not understanding this genuine interest of mine in wanting to explore her neighborhood and do as the locals do.

Although frustrating, this was interesting perspective to be confronted by, which made me think more about what I was trying to accomplish by surrounding myself or exposing myself to other cultures. Despite her pessimism and unwillingness to accept me into her neighborhood, I’m still all about mixing cultures because there is truly so much learn.

An experiment with Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy

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As a Philosophy major as an undergrad, I read a little bit of Simone de Beauvoir, so when I saw this article about someone recounting their journey in her footsteps, I was definitely inspired. I’m not sure I could hike in the Alps for seven days in espadrilles…but this just proves how much of a badass she was. The author explains Beauvoir’s philosophy of not letting “her ideas succumb to reality” and that we can create what we want for ourselves and actually make it happen. She doesn’t agree with Beauvoir entirely in this respect, but she does acknowledge that it’s an interesting way of life to try for a short time:

It is a delusion to think that life has no wills but your own, or that you can thrive without the care and concern of others. But sometimes you can engineer a temporary condition, and produce a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance that uplifts you.

The ever elusive search for authenticity

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As a graduate of the University of Chicago, I receive the University of Chicago magazine, and there was an interesting read about authenticity in the latest Fall 2016 issue. The quest for authenticity, or even just trying to decipher what authenticity is and means, has been a recurring struggle for me, as I think it is for most people. It’s really at the helm of why we are on this planet and I think it’s something that we are continually striving for. Perhaps we will never achieve this authentic status that we picture for ourselves, and maybe that’s ok. Maybe we just need to realize that the constant pursuit of authenticity is an authentic state in and of itself.

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According to David Grazian, “authenticity is a figment of our collective imagination.” So maybe this notion of authenticity that we so eagerly chase after isn’t even a real thing at all. The article spanned from his love for penguins and the manufacturing of authenticity in zoos, to his research on blues clubs in Chicago. In regards to blues clubs, he thinks: “The authentic blues club of his dreams was full of tourists who were chasing the authentic blues club of their dreams.” If we look at it this way the quest for authenticity is essentially a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse. So chase away!

“Picture, if you will, Spain”

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To be a traveler  in the 21st century is to sometimes feel a sense of loss even before one leaves the house: The planet has been mapped with such an oppressive exactitude that it can often seem as if we’re living at a time when everything is knowable.

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This quote from a piece in the November issue of The New York Times Style Magazine struck me for its accuracy, but also its sadness. Social media, especially the rise of Instagram, allows people to snap and post pictures like it’s their job (myself included, I must say). While this gives individuals a great amount of creative freedom and allows their viewers to share in their experiences and see things they might not otherwise be able to see, it also robs people of having unique experiences of their own because they’ve already seen these amazing things and shared in your experience before having their own.

“Swiss Army Man”

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I recently saw Swiss Army Man with Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano, both of whom I really like (especially Daniel Radcliffe). It was a classic Indie film with bizarre and morbid humor. Much of the film is silent, from a dialogue perspective, but there are interesting sound effects to suggest what Radcliffe’s character is thinking or doing, and the music is happy and uplifting. There are scenes of utter playfulness, like when Dano rides Radcliffe as if he were a whale and when they play with puppets that represent their lives in the forest. There are also moments of utter embarrassment, like when Radcliffe learns about the nature of his male reproductive organ.

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There are also moments, particularly those related to Radcliffe’s consciousness, that are compilations of moments in life, tiny moments that we take for granted in and of themselves, but when strung together with other moments, they create some sort of meaning for us. For me, this served as a reminder that we can’t forget the little moments in life and sacrifice them for big exciting moments, because without the little things, the big moments wouldn’t even be possible. The cinematography and the way the movie is filmed make the little moments in between the big ones very evident in a way that is almost dreamlike, which only amplifies their endearment.

Musings from a recent New York Times Style Magazine

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Perusing through The New York Times Style Magazine is always treat for someone like me who loves all things related to aesthetics. These are some of the pieces and design ads that I most enjoyed in the September 25, 2016 issue!

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Marianna Kennedy

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Gan Rugs – design from Spain

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Cabins in the Woods

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Artists in Postwar France

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Bover lights from Barcelona

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Ikea Forever