This has been a weekend of sauntering–through luscious Stitches East, where those who knit, crochet, and weave are in paradise, to the creative paradise of City-Wide Open Studios at New Haven’s Armory to the cultural paradise of New York City, whose heart was captured momentarily by Oscar Wilde.
Stitches East is the huge show that takes place somewhere in the western US and for the eastern half in Hartford. It’s a place where everyone is your friend, and the textural stimulation and color palettes can be pleasurably exhausting. I went home with yummy cashmere to work up.
Julie and I tasted a different kind of yummy at the Armory. Rather than try to see it all, we lingered with just a few artists to hear their stories. Wonderful museum educator Jaime Ursic also makes enchanting prints. Hearing her talk about her work makes the abstraction come alive with narrative. We sauntered along with Jaime on the streets of Florence and the beach and…
Jeanne Criscola makes family recipes as way to connect to her family stories and identity. Love how she shot a close-up video of the recipes being cooked and blew up those grainy photos of our childhoods. She told us how many people and experiments were needed to get an Italian sugar cookie just right. Just like my grandmother’s humantashen, although no one has ever captured it. Jeanne’s cookie was dime-sized and melted on my tongue.
She calls the work an oral history project, but that’s really more for the future, as she and her art partner Joan Fitzsimmons grow the project to include all of us interactively, with photos, recipes, and stories. Too delicious.
Oscar Wilde sauntered his aesthetic way through New York City, and we followed in his footsteps through Madison Square, Gramercy, Union Square, and the West Village. Along the way, we met Washington Irving and lingered by Pete’s Tavern, where O’Henry wrote “Gift of the Magi.”
But Wilde was our focus. That ‘Midwife of Modernity.’ Only intending to stay for a few months, his lecture tour was such a smash that he stayed a year, in 1892, spreading the aesthetic of the aesthete. His long hair and smooth cheek were avant garde in bearded Gilded Age New York. The trip was sponsored by D’oyly Carte, promoting their new show Patience and its aesthete character.
Wilde cultivated his look and image, basically inventing the modern celebrity–famous simply for being famous. On his trip to NYC, he had a series of 30 photos made by Napoleon Sarony. Thievery of those photos for ads for cigarettes and clothing and postcards in shop windows, all capitalizing on Wilde’s fame, led Sarony to sue. This wasn’t the first time for such piracy of Sarony’s works, but Wilde’s fame helped his cause. When the Supreme Court found in his favor, copyright protection for creative works was born.
Although he had only self-published a book of poetry at this point, Wilde’s lectures sold out. Although we undereducated Americans apparently couldn’t understand his lecture on the English Renaissance and how aesthetics affect all forms of art. I don’t think he cared much, although he did deliver a dumbed down version. At $1 admission each, and an audience size of a thousand, Wilde got rich.
Newspapers tracked his movements and published his poetry and selections from his talks. Cartoons made fun of his effete manner. At the male bastion Century Club, he was called a charlatan, a slur as a Charlotte Ann.
Yet he dined at the most fashionable houses, a man with “simple taste in food, satisfied by the very best.” Bessie Marbury became his literary agent, and first woman agent, who also had what Henry James called a Boston marriage with interior designer Elsie DeWolfe. So another literary connection, as the latter was launched by Edith Wharton’s wildly popular book, The Decoration of Houses. New York is so tiny.
Wilde made the lily and sunflower the emblems of the aesthetes. What fun to meet artist Mark Venaglia on the tour. He’s famous for his sunflower paintings, selling to Julia Roberts and Wall Street types. Today’s aesthete?
Photos of the day:
There’s no day when the Flatiron fails to please…
From the Flatiron to irony: