I’m feeling the ceiling today. Of place. Of profession. Of person. Coming across Richard Wentworth’s “False Ceiling,” a site-specific installation at the Istanbul Modern in Turkey, gives me hope that I can decide my ceiling's texture. His is one of cultural and intellectual commentary: the books, sourced from Eastern and Western cultures, rest just beyond reach, removed from their purpose as portals to knowledge, removed from the act of reading. His barrier of distance nullifies any of the information printed on their pages. These are books closed to learning, eroded of authority. No longer tomes of truth, they become merely material, forming a permeable, symbolic surface. This Love Moschino dress seems like an exuberant complement to Wentworth: Channeling the pop pows of Roy Lichtenstein, the words stand less for meaning, more for pattern and visual exclamation. Maybe these Wows will inspire you too.
Sans kids, the festive nature of Easter has lost some of its luster. Hoping to reclaim a bit of that wonder, I looked for places with unique Easter celebrations. In the central highlands of Guatemala, Antigua – a UNESCO World Heritage city founded in the 16th century with the Italian Renaissance in mind – expresses Easter in an entirely different palate – vivid and vivacious (like this Mara Hoffman mini). The sensory spectacle begins by carpeting the streets in color; residents spend hours funneling dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles, fruits and vegetables into alfombras, which serve as route markers for religious processions. Every Lenten Sunday, the faithful traipse through the city, razing the rainbow in a riotous parade of floats, costumes and brass music. Ephemeral, elaborate, extraordinary: an indelible Easter experience.
Log cabins and cowboy hats are part of the visual vernacular in Wyoming, my interest in them diluted by their ubiquity. This Joshua Tree installation arrests my ambivalence: Phillip K. Smith III modified a 70-year-old cabin with mirrors and LED lighting to create the illusion of transparency, particularly profound in the arid expanse of scrub brush and desert sand (a profundity referenced in the installation’s name, Lucid Stead). This organza frock channels the installation’s colorful translucence and calm amid extremes. Even though Lucid Stead is no longer open to the public, Smith is busy working on other ambitious artworks: this Friday at Coachella, he unveils Reflection Field, a more elaborate light installation involving five massive, mirrored volumes of light. Computerized color progressions will make the sculptures disappear into their dramatic surrounds. Lucky Coachellians.
Over time, wind and weather will erode Desert Breath, a breathtaking land art installation in the eastern Sahara desert. Sited at the meeting of mountains and sea, Desert Breath is a monumental meditation on infinity made by D.A.S.T. Arteam – installation artist Danae Stratou, industrial engineer Alexandra Stratou and architect Stella Constantinides. The team spent two years sculpting a pair of interlocking spirals formed by 178 conical mounds and depressions, precise inversions of positive and negative space radiating from a vessel of water. From above, the work presents a visual image, but on the ground, it becomes a physical experience as visitors walk the spiral pathway. So far, Desert Breath has survived seven years of desert conditions, still “becoming through its slow disintegration, an instrument to measure the passage of time,” D.A.S.T. Arteam writes (for a complementary timepiece, this Shinola wrap watch – intrepidly handcrafted in Detroit – seems like the perfect way to mark such stunning temporality). “The project is rooted in our common desire to work in the desert,” D.A.S.T. continues. “In our mind’s eye the desert was a place where one experiences infinity. We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind."
Alchemy is at work in New Orleans in the form of a community arts project called Dithyrambalina. Part sonic playground, part performance venue, part conceptual laboratory, Dithyrambalina nurtures musical architecture in NoLa. What is musical architecture? When community arts org New Orleans Airlift first explored the concept through The Music Box: A Shantytown Sound Laboratory, the Smithsonian Magazine offered a defining description: “Rigged by a team of musicians, artists, inventors and tinkers to coax novel sounds from salvaged building materials – musical architecture.” The Music Box embedded instruments within the splintered walls of shacks; imagine playing loose planks like organ keys. The magical miniature village, built by more than 25 artists, electrified the neighborhood: 70-plus world-class musicians played the architectural orchestra, for an audience of more than 15,000 visitors. Critics sung its praises: “A breathtaking feat of DIY engineering, a living, breathing, sound-making member of the neighborhood” (ArtNet); and “Bravo to all of the brilliant builders, musicians and visionaries. The Music Box is many dreams come true” (New Orleans Times –Picayune).
The Music Box has since closed, but this year will see its resurrection in Dithyrambalina, a roving village made up of five playable houses set to visit neighborhoods around the Big Easy and beyond (the ultimate goal: to find a permanent site). The first new house is slated to open by late April, hopefully in time for my first-ever trip to New Orleans. I’m packing this Kaarem dress, a piece channeling the alchemic nature of musical architecture.
Who knew SOUL was a partial anagram of LOUISANA? Neon designer/artist Evan Voyles deconstructed an old highway sign announcing the southern state, reimagining the letters as the SOUL that shines above the pool at the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, TX. Designer Liz Lambert has transformed the old Victorian house and grassy property into a design oasis in downtown Austin. Drawing inspiration from Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music and poetry, Lambert created a rich aesthetic that DesignSponge described as “Old World European taken over by rock n’ roll decadence.” Vintage finds and a vibrant palette – cobalt walls, red Chesterfields, white leather headboards – embolden the space, and hipster amenities – every room boasts record players and bookshelves stocked with poetry, art and music titles – complete the experience. These Arielle De Pinto tangled drip earrings would suit the rockstar royalty vibe.
In college, I wrote my senior thesis – a collection of interrelated short stories – on self-taught/outsider/naïve artists (all those slashes attest to this spectral category of creativity). Such artists share an irrepressible drive to visually express themselves, an instinct epitomized by Leonard Knight. A Vermont native, Knight had been a welder, handyman, auto body mechanic, guitar teacher and painter before he decamped to Slab City, a squatters’ colony on a former military base several hours east of LA. In this lawless land, he built a three-story monolith to his faith, Salvation Mountain – a terraced rainbow made of adobe, straw and umpteen gallons of paint, cloaked in Bible verses and crowned with a cross. He shared his creation with others; visitors summit Salvation by following a golden path. Knight died last month at age 82. Without him, his mountain may languish; the site requires constant maintenance to combat the harsh conditions of the Colorado Desert. Can words help save Salvation Mountain? In 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as “a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure... profoundly strange and beautifully accessible.” I want to go (in this omniscient dress) and add my voice to its preservation.
As the World Design Capital 2014, Cape Town will be awash all year in design projects aimed at transforming the city. With more than 470 initiatives in the works, the city will live out design as a way to reconnect, reconcile, communicate, transform, solve and inspire. An ambitious mission to be sure, every creative in Cape Town seems to have rallied behind the cause, making 2014 the year to visit Cape Town. Some hotels are helping their guests tap into the creativity coursing through the city: as the New York Times reported yesterday, the One&Only Cape Town is organizing tours of the Lalela Project’s arts education program in the Imizamo Yethu settlement, as well as curator-led tours of contemporary galleries in the city, with stops including Whatiftheworld, a gallery set in a decommissioned synagogue specializing in emerging artists. I’m going; all I needed was a deadline.
With pillows of fresh snow outside, I’m dreaming of the desert – the light, the heat, the sand, the expanse. For years, Marfa, Texas has topped my travel list, but I have yet to go. Familiar with the rustic edges of ranching, I want to see a world where working the land lives in harmony with land-based artists. El Cosmico seems like the perfect place to site my daydreaming with its hammock grove, outdoor bathing and porches aplenty. Choosing between trailers, tepees or tents sounds like a fun breed of free will to me (made all the more fun in this Free People frock).
It’s dusk in Beijing. I lie on the floor of an ancient Buddhist temple, exposed sky above. The last colors of the day melt over me. Bats dash across the ceiling cutout. A star blinks. James Turrell, a reclusive genius with light, traveled to China to fine-tune “Gathered Sky” at the new Temple Hotel. I imagine his astonishment at the calm achieved within the restored grounds, within the cacophonous capital – a site symbolic of the city itself. Built in the mid-18th century, the temple became a factory after the Cultural Revolution, churning out bicycles, medical supplies and black-and-white TVs (the latter: a stunning foil for Turrell’s profound palette). I shall visit, wearing Holst + Lee’s Somewhere in the Indian Ocean necklace, a handmade collar echoing the fans of color inside the temple.
Maybe it’s because I live in winter, awash in white and ash. Maybe it’s because I miss the brocade of Brooklyn. Or because I still think in Vietnamese and imagine an alternate life abroad. Or the way my writerly mind works, constantly crafting characters and scenes. For these reasons and a myriad more, I’m always scheming where to go next, and what to wear when I’m there. So to exer(or)cise my sartorial wanderlust, I present Wear + Here.