Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack O'Lantern

It is the eve before Halloween and there is a palpable excitement in the air. The barricades are being positioned along 6th Avenue for the annual parade, gruesome costumes are appearing on the street and the kids are already in sugar overload.
Not coming from a Halloween background, I was intrigued by the history of pumpkin carving and the definition of a "Jack-O-Lantern". Interestingly, the whole concept is derived from an old Irish folk tale. There are many versions, but the most popular relates the tale of how "Stingy Jack", a most unsavory character, tricked the Devil by sending him up a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up there, Jack carved a cross into the tree's bark which prevented the Devil from coming down until he promised to leave Jack alone and not claim his soul when he died. Soon after, Jack died and went to the Gates of Heaven. He was refused entry because of his treachery whilst alive. So he went to visit his old Friend in Hell and again was refused entry because the Devil kept his word and would not claim Jack's soul.
This left Jack in a dark and terrible place, so the Devil gave him a glowing ember to light his way. Jack placed this in a hollowed-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern" and then simply "Jack O'Lantern".
On all Hallow eves, the Irish made their own version of Jack's lantern using hollowed out turnips, gourds or potatoes to ward off Stingy Jack and other evil spirits. It wasn't until the Irish came to America and realized that pumpkins were more readily available and easier to carve, that this became the common form of Jack-O-Lantern.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paper Bag Princess

I was browsing through the September issue of W today and came across this stunning shoot by Craig McDean. Can't believe I had missed it! For me, it sums up everything about New York's current attitude to fashion in this economic climate; fashionistas don't want to give up their high-end brands, but also don't want to look too overtly rich with so many unemployed. Did you know that there was a moment when Hermes shoppers were asking for their purchases to be placed in a brown paper bag?!

Images: Craig McDean for W

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The humble gumboot no more

I love it when it rains in New York. Whether it's a drizzle or a downpour, suddenly the streets are full of gumboots! Now where I grew up, gumboots were seen solely in winter on the farm. They were usually black and if you were really stylish, you could find one with a red stripe around the base:

Here, gumboots or "rain boots" as they are called, are a fashion statement. Farewell poor old black rubber boot, and hello plaid, stripes, fluoro and leopard print. You can choose from a high heel boot, platform or flat. There is lace up, zip up or buckle up. Rubber, patent or PVC. And don't even THINK of purchasing them from a grain store. Why not own a pair from your favorite designer? Gucci, D&G, Chloe and Dior all offer very stylish options - at a price of course. Even famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo collaborated with Hunter this year to design a mock croc boot! Yours for the bargain price of US$395.

I guess we can thank our fashion icon Kate Moss for bringing the humble gumboot back into the spotlight. Who can forget that shot of Kate looking effortlessly chic in her Hunters at Glastonbury:

It's all in how you wear them. So next time you see me jumping over a puddle in Fifth Avenue, I might be wearing one of these:

Burberry: US$195

Chloe: US$195

DKNY: U$125

Gucci: US$270

Dior: US$445

Stuart Weitzman: US$95

Target: US$19.99

Images: net-a-porter, bluefly, Bloomingdales, Target, DKNY,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Milkmaid

What I love so much about my job is that I get free access to most of the major New York museums. This means if I want to only see one favorite painting, I can run in and out and not have to wait in those dreaded queues (which, happily for the cultural institutions, tend to be never ending on the weekends).
So yesterday, I took a friend to view Vermeer's Milkmaid. It is the first time this painting has been in New York since the early 1900's and is here to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's historic journey to Manhattan from Holland. Nothing prepares you for the vibrancy of the color or the size of it. Like the Mona Lisa, you expect it to be a huge canvas as you have seen it reprinted so often. But it is actually very small and very intimate. And the most extraordinary thing is Vermeer painted this when he was only 25!

According to the very helpful background the Met provides, milkmaids and kitchenmaids were renowned for their amorous dispositions and were portrayed as such in art in the two centuries leading up to Vermeer. There was often also suggestive imagery of meat on a spit or more mundane kitchen items in the background such as jugs and open utensils. In the case of Vermeer's milkmaid, he was more subtle with his message. Whilst this looks like an ordinary daily task taking place - making porridge perhaps - the milkmaid is supposed to be an object of attraction for the male viewer, whilst she too, is having amorous thoughts. This is reinforced very subtlely by the image of a cupid on the wall tile in the bottom right corner.

This painting and others by Vermeer are on view until November 29th. Thank you to the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam for this temporary gift to the city!

Images sourced from 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

New York has gone "Wild Things" crazy this past week. To coincide with the new Spike Jonze movie, there have been book readings around town, an exhibition of Maurice Sendak's original drawings at the Morgan Library (another often overlooked museum) and a selection of his lithographs and drawings for sale through the Animazing Gallery in Soho. This book was always a favorite of my family's - as it was for many families. I wanted to buy a lithograph for my niece, but they all sold on opening night!

I went and saw the movie last week. It is extremely beautiful although a little slow. Every shot is like a piece of art and it was filmed in Melbourne and South Australia! So the landscape is so familiar and yet foreign as well, as you witness the beasts rumpus through the eucalypts and along the coast.

Images: Animazing Gallery,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From Klimt to Klee

There are a couple of beautiful museums/ galleries in New York that are often overlooked for the larger and more well known museums. These include the Frick, Whitney and Neue. The latter is a gallery devoted entirely to early 20th Century Austrian and German art and design. It was started by Serge Sarbasky and Mr Ronald Lauder - son of the late Estee Lauder - and is housed in a magnificent building on the corner of 86th St and Fifth Ave. It is home to the famous Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer which was purchased by Mr Lauder for a well publicized price in 2006.

The permanent collection also includes exquisite brooches by Joseph Hoffman and furniture by Adolf Loos:

Anyway, the point is, today I went to their current exhibition "From Klimt to Klee, masterworks from the Serge Sarbasky Collection". It includes paintings and works on paper from Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emile Nolde, to name a few. Some works have been shown in other shows and others have been rarely seen. If you are a lover of this period of art, it is a wonderful exhibition. Below is a sample of what you will see:

Egon Schiele: Wally in a red blouse with raised knees

Paul Klee:The sick heart

The exhibition runs until Feb 15th 2010. If you are visting New York, do yourself a favor and see it. Even if you come after Feb, put this gallery on your list of "must do's".

Images: sourced from

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Village

I live in the beautiful part of Manhattan called the West Village. I chose it because it reminded me of Potts Point in Sydney and because there are no high rises. It is full of cobblestone streets, brownstones with their famous "stoops" and trees overhanging the road. It has a wonderful history of writers, artists and musicians. It is also full of tucked away restaurants and bars, funny little independent shops and heaps of bookshops. Here are some shots of what I see every day

This is my street

This is what I pass on the way to the subway

This is the famous Waverly Inn

And this is my favorite fragrance store "Aedes de Venustus"

More on the Village to come!