Azure clouds hover above the southeast entrance of Central Park. No, this is not a meteorological phenomenon, but rather a public art installation, a playful inversion of blue sky, white clouds. The plump aluminum panels, perched atop 35-foot-tall steel ladders, are the doing of artist Olaf Breuning in conjunction with the Public Art Fund. Installed in March, Clouds initially offered a color infusion as winter dragged on, and now, as trees bud nearby, the sculpture inspires wisps of wonder and humor. Clouds is based on a photograph Breuning staged in 2008 in Italy. Using cherry pickers and cardboard cutouts, he created a quick installation and documented it on film (for me to borrow, six years later). Keen to reconceive the image, he designed a new cumulus outcropping minus the climb-able cranes. Why clouds? In conversation with Vogue, Breuning suggested, why not? Everybody likes clouds. “There are those moments on a summer day when you’re lying on the grass and you look up and there are clouds,” he said. “I didn’t really think about the clouds; I could have prepared a lot of things to say, but I just now that clouds are recognizable and each person has their own thoughts about them.” Clouds invite the mind to wander, aloft, untethered. And by painting them blue, he channeled an age-old abstraction, the childhood instinct to scribble blue clouds against white skies. “See, my work is as simple as possible,” he said. “When you are a kid, you draw a cloud, and you make it blue. I don’t know why. I think it’s a design thing, and after I made it, I realized, Oh shit, clouds aren’t really blue. But it looks nice, the different colors.” The color puffs on this dress look nice too, camouflaged to a leisurely stroll past public art (before Clouds closes August 24).
Trees remain on my mind, although technically, this forest outside Kyoto, Japan is not striped by trees, but rather grasses, bamboo. Pathways cut through the swaying stalks, inviting people to stroll or cycle, and discover the small Nonomiya Shrine nestled within. Now is the time to visit: the cherry blossoms pop in April, making for a flora fantasia in Arashiyama. If like a spirit animal, I could have a spirit material, it would be bamboo, and my spirit pattern would be stripes.
Earth Day calls for an eco-minded pairing. No place better fits the bill than Treehotel, an enchanted forest of five treehouses suspended in the conifers of northern Sweden. Inspired by the documentary “The Tree Lover,” Treehotel assuages the modern disconnect from nature by returning guests to their childhood roots of climbing trees and playing in treehouses. Nature, ecology and contemporary design meld in this otherworldly refuge, grounded by a spa, 50s-style pensione and green utilities like hydroelectric power and combustion toilets. Each pod, designed by an acclaimed Swedish architect, offers a unique aesthetic experience: the Mirrorcube epitomizes the minimal environmental footprint of the entire project by being camouflaged in mirrors (an infrared film keeps birds from careening into the walls). I would spend my stay taking in the panoramic views of the Lulu River valley and the cubist kaleidoscope slicing through the treetops, the latter reminiscent of this Helmut Lang sheath.
Before I bid farewell to wine for one week, I wanted to indulge by exploring Ensenada, the wine country of Baja Mexico, conveniently located 90 minutes away from the San Diego airport. Overlooking the vine-rich Valle de Guadalupe, the Encuentro Guadalupe Antiresort immerses guests in nature and culture. The experience begins with 20 luxury bungalows staggered amid boulders, cantilevered from the secluded hillside, each outfitted with minimal but high-end amenities including a wood terrace with a chiminea, perfect for wine drinking at dusk. The “eco-lofts” share the 40-acre property with Vinicola Encuentro, a rugged mountain vineyard and winery bottling Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Blanc and Nebiolo (only sold onsite). Encuentro guests are encouraged to patron the bar, cellar and Origen restaurant– a locavore open-kitchen concept offering cooking classes and dinner service on a terrace overlooking the valley. Ever ready to go glamping, I could pack this Mum & Co suede backpack in a matter of minutes, leaving room for wine of course.
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.
Marble laces the pages of the most recent New York Times T Magazine. The marble vein begins with a photo collage tracing the metamorphic muse in architecture, design, fashion and nature (hence Chile’s Marble Cathedral and my literal pairing with Rachel Comey's maillot). In a profile of lone-wolf sculptor Hanna Eshel, the marble slabs she hoisted by crane into her SoHo loft – photographed in all its light-washed glory – speak to her indomitable spirit. Eshel discovered marble after realizing that she felt confined by both her painting and her marriage. “I needed a material with its own soul, one that I could love,” the octogenarian said. Marble also fills an aesthetic need for French architect Joseph Dirand, who welcomed the magazine into his personal Parisian experiment in livable minimalism. “I like to look for materials that express a lot of disorder,” he said of the exquisite slabs paneling his bathroom and kitchen. Marble expresses self-reliance in the article on self-taught artist Alma Allen, who has carved a remote refuge for himself out of the Joshua Tree desert. Soul. Love. Disorder. Art. These references embrace marble’s metamorphic origins, the fiery folding of rock and time and talent.
Seasonal submergence. My kind of cleanse. Every spring, snowmelt from the Karst mountains in Austria swells the Grüner See (Green Lake), flooding the park that rings the lagoon. For most of the year, visitors can stroll across bridges, sit on park benches and jog along footpaths. Not so from mid-May to June: the park becomes an underwater wonderland populated by waving green grass, wildflowers and leafy trees. Swiss scuba diver Marc Henauer spent a week exploring the magical expanse in his scuba gear, snapping light-dappled photographs. This Zimmermann one-piece seems suited to the park’s bifurcated existence.
A tiresome day of (tax) tasks leaves me feeling like I’m climbing, always climbing, destination unknown. Instead, I’ll imagine ascending these millennia-old stairs up Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in the Anhui Province of southeast China, in this stylishly reversible Nobis coat. The moody mist would pull me out of my cloud.
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."
In plotting my return to urban life, I’m scouting escape routes: accessible adventures doable over weekends. Steep Revine Cabins belie their proximity to the Bay Area – only an hour’s drive north – by offering seaside seclusion in Mount Tamalpais State Park (only reserved guests know the gate code). I love camping sans tents; each of the 10 cabins offer a table, benches, sleeping platforms (akin to two doubles), a countertop, closet and – best of all – wood-burning stove (all for $100 a night). Crashing surf, crackling fire, bundling up in big sweaters as the sun falls away: perfect weekend wilderness.
After hermitting most of the winter, I look for ways to transition outward, away from quiet living into the more boisterous vibe of summer. This Dome in the Desert seems like the perfect launch pad for a mellow/loud hybrid, for exploring by day and nesting by night. Sitting only miles away from the town of Joshua Tree and the national park, the dome’s interior and exterior amenities feel like a bespoke fit for me: inside, there’s a wood burning stove, board games and books, and a collection of coffee makers; outside, there’s 800,000 acres of cactus-speckled wilderness, with trails to hike and rocks to scramble. I picture coming home at night, mind full from peak climbing and petroglyph spotting, and cooking a big fresh meal in these wacky jeans, a palimpsest of patterns, like the desert itself.
It’s been years since I climbed a tree – a confession that, once made, must be remedied. This NoCal treehouse – wedged within a mighty eucalyptus tree – beckons the all-too grounded (me). Weathered stairs lead three stories up to a bi-level cabin bracketed by bark. Neighbors include horses, a barn beloved by the Grateful Dead, and a cozy wine-country town. But I would leave all that below and nest – wrapped in flannel, with a book or New Yorkers, falling in and out of naps, writing some, sans cellular. Suspended.