It was created in beauty. One October day the temperature drops 50 degrees in four hours, and the sea is as motionless as a mirror. It’s waiting to reflect a wonder of creation. The colds and the sea glide together in a curtain of heavy gray silk. The water grows viscous and tinged with pink, like a liqueur of wild berries. A blue fog of frost smoke detaches itself from the surface of the water and drifts across the mirror. Then the water solidifies. Up out of the dark sea the cold now pulls a rose garden, a white blanket of ice blossoms formed from salt and frozen drops of water.
I’ve wanted to go to Greenland ever since readingSmilla’s Sense of Snow (a gorgeous mystery novel excerpted above that I highly recommend). Today, my wanderlust got a massive boost from Visit Greenland‘s awe-inspiring Flickr account. I have never seen so many gorgeous photos of ice and snow! There are thousands of images of glaciers glowing pink and blue, colorful homes and starry nights, wild foxes and bears and seals, and native people proudly showing off their homes. I picked a few of my favorites, after the jump: Continue reading →
I just spent an hour tracking down the origins of this piece. I first saw the eerily calm, untitled image floating around on Pinterest. It’s by Berlin-based artist Moki, and oh man am I glad I figured that out. Because Moki is amazing. This waterfall sleeper is from the series “How to Disappear,” a name that feels like it was plucked from somewhere inside my ribcage. Her work is amazing—soft, textured, dreamlike. She’s also chosen to remain anonymous, painting under the simple nickname Moki, keeping her real identity hidden. Disappear? She’s already invisible. On her website, she has several other projects, like “Turquoise” and “Caves” and even a series on treehouses. All her work seems to touch on similar themes and swim in that weird place of magical realism. (I know in art it’s called surrealism… but the tone of these images seem closer to a page from a novel—they lack the flatness that so many surrealist images have. They are so layered and human. They tell stories. Damn, even that rock looks human.) So lovely. See more here.
Poor Ophelia. Life wasn’t kind to you. And by life, I mean Hamlet—or rather, Shakespeare, because he’s the one who gave you so few lines to speak, so little personality. Faded, lost, mad, drowned. No wonder painters couldn’t stop painting you—who doesn’t love a tragic ingenue? In the words of your brother: “Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself, She turns to favor and to prettiness.”
Your youth and beauty made madness appealing and your virginity made it all the more intoxicating. Artists went wild, turning your tragic character into fodder for their romantic paintings. This (above) is perhaps the best known Ophelia image, pained by John Everett Mills in 1852. It even inspired my own flower-bathing experience.
Here is Ophelia looking alive and rosy, holding some posies. I love the expression on her face here—she looks strong, almost defiant. This painting is titled “Gather Ye Rosebuds or Ophelia,” which references both the famous Robert Herrick poem and Shakespeare’s doomed character for a lit nerd double-hitter.
While not as famous as many of the other Ophelia depictions, this painting by Arthur Hughes is my personal favorite. She looks so frail and so childlike. Look at that vibrant, sinister, poisonous green! And the cute little toadstool. I find this piece enchanting and strange in a surprisingly modern way (doesn’t it look like it could be by a contemporary artist?). Also, do you ever wonder why Ophelia is always depicted with flowers? It’s not just because she’s a wilted, fragile symbol of femininity…
Ophelia had relatively few lines in Hamlet, but her madness is marked by gibbering about flowers, herbs, and their meanings. She sings and babbles to her brother Laertes:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts… There’s fennel for you, and columbines.—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.—There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.”
There are some modern renditions of Ophelia, but she seemed to be most popular during the mid-1800s, which makes perfect sense. This was a time of Romanticism and Impressionism, of experimenting with new forms while reawakening old stories.
The rich visual language of Ophelia creates an instantly recognizable figure. Who else would be swathed in a white dress, floating in water, surrounded by greenery and flowers? Contemporary artists seem to prefer to photograph Ophelia rather than paint her. It’s an easy shoot to set up, and the results are made all the more dramatic by the literary references. (Plus her fate is really tailor-made for modern feminists, since her madness is predicated by a very real virgin/whore dichotomy set up by her father and her lover. Ouch.)
Admittedly, this last picture has nothing to do with Ophelia, except that it was shot by Claire Rosen (same photographer as the one above) and it is gloriously awesome. Rosen has an entire series of Fantastic Feasts with beasts, as well as a series of fairy tale-inspired images. They’re all lovely. Go take a look.
I spent my entire day styling a photo shoot in Boston and assisting my coworker Nick (who is a fantastic photographer) with all the things that go into making a really good picture (like holding up my jacket to block the harsh sun, and brushing our models hair every three minutes to make sure it looked okay). It was surprisingly exhausting.
In order to create the picture, we had to buy around $100 worth of flowers, a task I loved. Ever since I was a kid, annoying my mom by picking yucca blooms of the neighbor’s plants, I’ve wanted to pick all of the flowers. When I was little, I would make “perfume” out of lilac blossoms by boiling them down in water and adding mint leaves. It eventually rotted and smelled terrible, but for a few sweet hours I felt like I had figured out the secret of being a lady. (I didn’t know then that there are so, so many secrets to being a lady that I will never figure them all out).
It’s probably because I have seen one too many pictures of Ophelia, floating around all romantic and dead and tragic, but I have always wanted to swim in flowers. So tonight, when I was finally done with work, I took all the beheaded flowers and threw them in the bathtub. It was weird, impractical, messy, and absurdly satisfying. When you’re a kid, you think the oddest things are just so cool. Like braces on the pretty girls, or the only boy in your neighborhood who can throw up on command, or even more questionable things, like Pogs or Tamagotchis. I always thought excessively long hair was so, so cool. And flowers. As a result, I had hair down to my butt and annoyed the neighbors.
My hair is a lot shorter now (I can’t sustain long hair) but I still want to be covered in petals.
Paper is amazing. It’s an amazing material. Think about it. Until we had screens, we needed paper to transmit our information. It is the surface on which people write great novels, scribble sappy love notes, paint touristy scenes, and jot down ever-vague notes-to-self (I am particularly guilty of this last one). Paper is also one of my favorite materials when it comes to creating art. Cut paper pieces are simply gorgeous, and the shapes that can be made from plain cardstock never cease to blow my mind. I could write an ode to paper—a careless person might say that I am, right now, composing an ode to paper, but nope, it’s not a poem so it’s not an ode, okay?—but I think it’s better to just show you what can be done.
This is what Yuko Takada Keller does with cut paper. She takes these little shreds and turns them into flowing water, cascading light. In her installations, paper denies the laws of physics and takes on any form it pleases (air, water, even fire). The many little pieces work to form something greater, something that breathes motion and mutability.
And, thanks to her eye for color, they’re also just so peaceful to look at. Light greens and clear blues. In an artist statement, she said “I hoped my works would remind the viewer of something pure and natural in this world,” and oh, it does.
I need more art on my walls, but purchasing originals is out of the question. Instead, I’ve become addicted to sites like 20X200 (now sadly defunct) and Society 6 to fill my visual hunger. Here are a few prints from Society 6 that I’m crazy about right now. I’ll probably buy one of them before the day is over…
I’ve been eying this one for a very long time. How nice would it look blown up huge on a stretched canvas over my dark blue couch? Really nice. Winter Horseland by Kevin Russ.
This is another one that I would want to order in the largest size possible. It feels a little bit abstract, but calm. Layers by Cameron Booth.
This little lady I would want teeny tiny, in a small white frame. If I had a kid, I would hang it in their room. So cute! Fawn by Emily Hamilton (her other work is great, too).
This is my favorite one. The problem is, I don’t want it in a frame. I want it huge! And they don’t offer it in larger sizes. It’s so dreamy and gorgeous. It seems like my bedroom is all green and gray, and this would be a nice touch of color. Summer Reflections by Oliviia Joy StClaire.
And last but not least is this image by David Fleck. I don’t know where it would fit in my house, but I love all his work. He has a great style, and a propensity for hot air balloons. I love hot air balloons.The Start of Something by David Fleck.
I find it endlessly fascinating how people around the globe have created folklore and mythology that falls along the same basic narrative structures. People as beasts, beasts as people. Spirits that need to be appeased, and sacrifices that must be made. The dead who walk again, and the living who wander into the twilight land between. These stories are told again and again, from language to language and mouth to mouth. It’s beautiful, if you think about it. We’re all beasts, inside. Wild men, in the words of photographer Charles Freger.
Freger captures the wild men of Europe in their various costumes and headdresses. With a few simple materials, the human body is transformed into fantastical shapes, shaggy creatures of imagination and deep symbolism.
Looking at his photographs, I find myself feeling an odd envy. I have never enjoyed Halloween and the skimpy outfits it seems to inspire, but I would love to turn myself into a fearsome (yet wooly) creature, a brute straight out of a fairytale.
Alternatively, it would be nice to go around Europe snapping pictures of these colorful rituals. Feed your own envy here.
“April is the cruelest month” said Eliot, but I think he’s full of crap. February is the cruelest month. It’s brutal and harsh and lacking in color. I feel starved for yellows and pinks and dark, lush greens.
To combat my winter blues, I’ve started buying fresh flowers every week. These are the ones that seem to stay the best (I can never remember their name) and though not normally my first choice, I’m coming to appreciate anything alive and blooming and these bloom forever. Like that rose in Beauty & The Beast except for instead of keeping some monster prince alive, they keep me sane—at least until the snow melts.