books · culture · reading list · relaxation · words of wisdom · writing

Writers Wednesdays: What I’m Reading This Month

Happy Black History Month! I know I’m a bit late with this post, but I’ve been trying to get back on track with my writing and filming schedule (no easy feat, but I’m getting there!)

I posted a video on my YouTube channel last week, discussing the Black authors that I will be reading this month (I originally had five hardback and paperback books, but also added some digital books to the mix, just in case I finished before the end of the month). I’m focusing on reading up on a few different topics (not just self help!) and branching beyond American-centered stories, which is new for me.

Here is my book list for the month: I’m looking forward to diving into these.

I Am Your Sister by Audre Lorde is the book I’m reading first. You all already know about my love for Audre (I posted some of my favorite Audre quotes a few years back). This book is DENSE, so I already know it’s going to take me a bit more time, and a subsequent read (or two, or three . . . ) to get a good grasp of what she believed and taught. After I finish that, I’ll dive into Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I’ve heard the title before but I’m completely unfamiliar with the plot of the book so I’m really looking forward to this one.

It wouldn’t be my book list is I didn’t include at least one self-help/advice book. Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu promises to show me how to achieve more while doing less. Less effort, more results? Sign me up!

The next two books are about the history of Black entertainment in the US. The Power of Pride by Carole Marks and Diana Edkins spotlights the superstars of the Harlem Renaissance, including some lesser-known luminaries of note. Then, I’ll be enjoying Brown Sugar by Donald Bogle which focuses on Black actresses, singers and other entertainers from the 1920s to 1970s. I’m really excited for both of these books, since I’m in love with all things vintage.

*If* I can get through the main book list, then I have a few others that I can read, that should cover me until the end of the month. The first is The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison, a book that I purchased last year in anticipation of a book club meeting that I planned – and failed – to attend. In any case, I’ve always loved Toni Morrison (I’ve posted about her here and I also wrote about her here, after her passing) and enjoyed her works immensely, so this should be a great one.

Finally, I have one more book that made it onto my back-up list: Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler (I previously read Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind, in this set: “Seed to Harvest: The Patternist Series“). As a huge Octavia Butler fan (I posted about her ages ago), I’ve been eager to get back into reading her books, and Clay’s Ark was next on my list. And, since March is Women’s History month, I can always continue my reading streak and carry this book and the Toni Morrison one into the next month, if I run out of time in February.

That’s my reading list for the month: I’m looking forward to each of these! Do you have any books you’re reading this month? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below. Also, here’s my YouTube video, discussing these books a bit more:

(This post contains affiliate links)

art · hollywood glamour · life curation · luxury · relaxation · style

An Inspired Environment – Vintage Home Decor Inspiration

I mentioned last year that I wanted to start decorating my house in a style that reflected my personal tastes. For reference, I love old-fashioned decor, especially anything pre-1940s. The occasional mid-century modern touches are charming (my home was built during the mid-century period, so some of these features show up in its architecture) but I have a soft spot for Victorian, Art Deco and Art Nouveau interiors. There’s something so indisputably glamorous about the fabrics, textures, colors, and furniture used during these periods.

On a recent trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (one of my favorite places to go for creative inspiration) I saw a recreation of the bedroom of Arabella Worsham Rockefeller (yes, those Rockefellers). No expense was spared in creating a decadent room for Mrs. Worsham Rockefeller to retire. The room was originally set up in the Rockefellers’ New York brownstone, but was gifted to VMFA in 2009. The experts at VMFA painstakingly replicated the room, using as many of the original artifacts as available. The end result is a stunningly luxurious, elegant, and warm bedroom: just what I want to recreate.

Here are some pictures from the Worsham Rockefeller bedroom:

I was captivated by all of the fine details of this room: the ornate ceiling, the embellished door, the tasteful sitting area (I’d venture to call this a proper boudoir area, but it retains a certain formality that I wouldn’t expect in a French-inspired boudoir), the harmonious color palette of burgundy, brown, and gold . . . Everything about this room is so carefully selected and perfectly appointed.

art · culture · music

Giving Gladys Her Flowers

During one of my many jaunts down the Google rabbit hole, I found myself in 1930s-40s-50s Black American music history. I always love looking at the style of clothing, listening to the recordings of the artists, and finding out some of the fascinating backstory that led to their rises to fame and, many times, their untimely and tragic demises.

Every now and then, I find myself in an interesting corner of Black American history. One such corner is the part of history that contains the legacies of LGBTQIA+. In this corner is where I found Gladys Bentley, lesbian icon, trailblazer, and unapologetic star.

Prior to this year, I was completely unfamiliar with Ms. Bentley’s story. However, when I read about her, I made sure to jot her name down so I could write about her when I had the chance. I’m fortunate to be able to discuss her life and legacy now. When I saw a photo of her, I was immediately struck by her impeccably tailored white suit (at least, I think it was a white suit: the photo was in Black and white, after all), her matching cane, and a white top hat worn at a jaunty angle. Everything about her screamed stylish and confident star.

But it was her story that made me want to both cheer and weep. Ms. Bentley was a cross-dressing star during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of time that embrace the avant garde and brilliant creative endeavors of Black performers. During this time, she thrived due to the novelty of her act, but her talent is what kept people hooked on Gladys. She could sing well, play piano, and work a crowd like no other. Her song selections were risque and fit the vibe of the smoky speakeasies where she performed. She didn’t try to pass as a man: she made no attempt to hide her full bust or wide hips. She achieved major success for several years, and she lived luxuriously during this time.

Sadly, her story had a heartbreaking beginning and a tragic end. Ms. Bentley was initially rejected at birth by her mother, who wanted a son. While her mother eventually started to care for her a few months after her birth, the trauma (and, no doubt, toxic messaging that was doled out over time) lingered and was what she believed was the root cause of her sexual orientation. Years later, as her career declined, she tried to live as a heterosexual woman, marrying and divorcing twice. She eventually died at the age of 52 from pneumonia. She claimed to have been “cured” of her homosexuality, with her cure curiously coinciding with the McCarthy Era. This is just my humble opinion, but I suspect that the claim of a “cure” was probably Ms. Bentley’s way of protecting herself from additional harassment and potential abuse. But that’s just a speculation.

I had a chance to check out some of her discography, and I enjoyed listening to Ms. Bentley’s full, resonant voice. Anyone that has listened to recordings from the first half of the 1900s knows how difficult it is to enjoy some of the songs. The recording quality, as well as the style of singing preferred by the public, is quite different from the music preferences of the past 30 years or so. That being said, I found that her voice was closer to being “timeless” than some other artists of that period. If any of her original records could be digitally enhanced, I’m sure that many of her songs would have experience a revival of sorts, becoming popular with a new generation, nearly 100 years after she first sang them.

I wish Gladys Bentley was more well-known today, and I sincerely hope that this post, though simple, honors her memory. Instead of focusing on the tragedy that she experienced, I will share the gift of her music with you all. Here is a YouTube video of one of her songs. Enjoy.

art · culture

Welcome Back, Smithsonian Institute!

I’m finally writing a post that I’ve wanted to write for weeks now: welcome back to the Smithsonian Institute! During what is officially the longest shutdown in US history, visitors had to go without this cultural treasure.The Smithsonian Institute (SI), along with the National Gallery of Art (NGA), are finally running again after shuttering their doors at the end of December. Even when several other federal agencies were furloughed, SI and NGA both made sure to continue operating until the end of the calendar year.

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It’s this commitment to the American public that really distinguishes these fine organizations. No one is happier to welcome them back that I am.

You’ve been missed.

art

Art and its Appreciators Suffer During Government Shutdowns

Happy Thursday, friends! I hope that this Thursday sees you in good health and fantastic spirits. I wanted to post a quick update because, as you all may recall, a few weeks ago I posted about Smithsonian exhibitions that were scheduled to leave the museums in January 2019. I wanted to make sure you all knew the exhibitions that would be leaving soon so that you could take advantage of these before they left DC.

However, my post about the exhibitions came right before the government shutdown. I was not aware that the shutdown would be affecting  the Smithsonian Institution as well as the National Gallery of Art. As a federal employee, I’m aware of what a shutdown can do. I’m also aware that the Smithsonian is part of the federal government.  Despite knowing these things, I did not know that the shutdown would happen for such a long period of time. I also didn’t know to the extent that the Smithsonian would be affected.

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The Smithsonian Castle

Regrettably, while the shutdown continues, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art are not available to serve the public who have funded them throughout the year. I regret that so many people will not be able to enjoy these fine museums until the government is up and running again. Fortunately for us, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art have made many exhibitions viewable on their respective websites.  Yes, I know that websites don’t compared to viewing these treasures in person, but until the museums reopen, we’ll have to make do with what we have.

Let’s all send good vibrations to the hard-working staff of the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art, who will not receive compensation while the shutdown is occurring. Let us also send good vibrations to the legislators who are trying their best to resolve the shutdown issue with as little negative impact to the workers as possible.

art · international

Review: The Horse in Ancient Greek Art Exhibit at Virginia Museum of Fine Art

This summer, I spent several days at different museums taking in the exhibits. While I wrote about most of the exhibits that I enjoyed, I had a couple of exhibits that I haven’t yet discussed here. I opted to wait on this one because I thought I’d have a chance to check it out again before I left. Alas, time got away from me and I didn’t return before the last day of the exhibit. However, I have a sufficient amount of photos, and I’m familiar enough with the subject matter to do a decent post. So, let’s discuss horses in Ancient Greece, shall we?

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Way back when I first started studying art, I took an art history course and I fell in love with Greek art. Something about the draped garments of the kore and caryatids seemed ethereal to me. I was officially in love when I first saw the Nike of Samothrace – Winged Victory – statue. Headless and armless, she still seemed so dynamic and magical and that was the kind of thing I regularly saw when I looked at Greek art. Power, motion, and magic, all bundled into singular pieces of art.

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Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace, The Louvre Paris

This exhibit, The Horse in Ancient Greek Art, was shown at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA. The exhibit highlighted the horse’s significance in the social hierarchy and cultural landscape of Ancient Greece. Horses were valued possessions, and were a luxury not afforded to the average man. The cost of horse maintenance meant that only the wealthiest and most powerful people in Ancient Greece could afford to own and care for these beauties.

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The exhibit featured a lot of vases and urns, which were decorated with paintings of horses. Horses were featured prominently on coins and monumental plaques, as well. It was interesting to see how the depictions of horses changed over different historical and artistic periods.

Being a wine lover, I can appreciate any of the vessels used to hold the nectar of the gods. Naturally, I was entranced by the choes and oinochoes. The Greeks loved combining beautiful presentation with practicality just as much as we do today.

So I learned more about Greek art, the significance of horses, and the many kinds of vases in Ancient Greece. It was a great experience, and my only regret is that I didn’t visit it at least twice before it left. I seem to do this with almost every visiting exhibit – will I ever learn? Anyways, that’s all for today. I hope you all enjoy your Saturday. Talk to you tomorrow!

 

art · international

Art at the Embassy of Haiti

Hey friends! I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, but I had some distractions on my end that prevented me from focusing for a bit. However, I’m back, I have a bit more time, and I can finally share some of the artwork that I loved at the Haitian Embassy.

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Murat Saint Vil, Islande of La Tortue

As you recall, I went to the Haitian Embassy last month, and I enjoyed a fun evening of music, food and fun personalities. While I don’t consider myself particularly social, I loved having the opportunity to get out for a bit and do something different from my ordinary routine.

Manes Descollines, Odette; Raymond Olivier, Green Light

I’ve mentioned several times before that the Haitian Embassy has an impressive art collection featuring works created by Haitian artists exclusively. The embassy is a mashup of a museum, an office, a library, and an elegant mansion. This is the kind of over-the-top grandeur that I LIVE for!

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Wilson Bigaud, The Healers (1973)

So the embassy is 3 stories high, and on the walls lining the stairwell, as well as all of the corridors, there are endless photos and paintings capturing the vibrant and beautiful energy of Haiti. I’ve visited Haiti and fell in love with the beautiful landscape and people. Visiting the embassy is the closest I can get to the island for now, and I’m thankful for it.

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Yves Michaud, And God created Women

There were so many great paintings to see, and I wish I could have had the whole day to look at them all and ask questions. Sadly, I was only there for a little while: the event was in the evening and there was so much other fun things to check out at the embassy that learning more about the artwork simply wasn’t possible.

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Saint Louis Blaise, Interpellation (1980)

The crown jewel of the embassy was the only known painting of the royal issue of the first king and queen of Haiti. Three of the children of King Henri I and Queen Marie-Louise are depicted in the painting. This precious and significant artwork has been in private in hands for many years and has finally made it back to the people of Haiti. It was my privilege and joy to see it in person. If you would like to know more about the painting, click here. Please disregard the mislabeling presented in the article: this is the crown prince and his sisters, not the king, queen, and one of the princesses.

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Unknown, Prince Victor-Henri, Princess Amethyste and Princess Athenaire

This is just a soupcon of the breathtaking art I saw while at the embassy. I can’t wait to return and see what new art they will have on display! I hope you all enjoy – talk to you all tomorrow!

 

art · international

My Top Picks from Christie’s Asian Art Week Auctions, Part II

Happy Wednesday, friends! This is my final Asian Art auction post, and yes, I’m discussing the second half of the auction events happening at Christie’s. These auctions are happening on September 13 and 14, which will conclude the week of Asian art-themed auctions held by Christie’s Auctions.

September 13 begins with Masterpieces of Cizhou Ware: The Linyushanren Collection Part IV at 10 AM. This auction is small – it’s only featuring 41 lots –  but the pieces being sold are part of an exclusive private collection featuring pieces created with a Cizhou kiln. These ceramic items were once common in the 11th to 14th centuries but are treasured now for their fine detail and enduring beauty. My favorite piece of Cizhou ware is this polychrome censer (incense burner). The polychrome factor makes it unique from most of the Cizhou ceramics, which were mostly done in black-and-white. I love the rarity and the colorfulness of this adorable piece. I don’t burn incense very often, but if I had this censer, I’m sure I would be compelled to do so more often! This little rare beauty could go for $3,500 or more to one lucky bidder.

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A Very Rare Cizhou Polychrome-Glazed and Sgraffiato Censer

The Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art is a massive auction to be held over two days – both September 13 and 14 – and will feature nearly 300 lots. Since this auction has so many pieces, you can bet that the auction will be dizzying. From this auction, my pick is the rare pale greyish-green jade “peach” box and cover. This charming little box is an unusual shade and the finely detailed carving on the box make it a true treasure. At a little less than 6 iinches across, it’s also large enough to hold some treasures, too. The estimated selling price is between $12,000 and $18,000: this will make someone very happy should they win the auction.

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Rare Pale Greyish-Green Jade “Peach” Box and Cover

The showstopping auction is the Qianlong’s Precious Vessel: The Zuo Bao Yi Gui auction on September 13. This auction has one lot but it’s quite a beauty and it is estimated between $4,000,000 and $6,000,000. This vessel is over 3,000 years old and the bronze is well preserved. If there is any auction that you should attend, this is the one. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see an item this significant be sold to the public.

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The Zuo Bao Yi Gui (Early Western Dynasty, 11th – 10th BC)

 The last auction to discuss is the Fine Chinese Jade Carvings from Private Collections on September 13. As it just so happens, I love jade and selecting just one item from the 107 lots available was a tough task. My choice was made a bit easier when I laid my eyes on the White Jade Butterfly Plaque. The impeccably preserved plaque has lots of fine carving and the milky colored-jade catches the light beautifully. The lovely butterfly has an estimate of $4,000 – $6,000. 

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White Jade Butterfly Plaque (18th – 19th Century)

Well, that concludes Asian Art Auction week’s top picks. I hope you get a chance to view some of the auctions scheduled and see what items you are drawn to. You can learn a lot about yourself – and art in general – just by listening to your personal tastes and exploring those notions, hunches and inklings further.

Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

art · international

My Top Picks from Christie’s Asian Art Auction, Part 1

Happy Monday, friends! Of all of the Asian Art Week auctions being held during the first half of September, no single auction house has as many events as Christie’s. Christie’s is having eight events – far more than I could comfortably put in one post. I will be breaking my top picks into two different posts, as there is no way that I can adequately discuss all of the events without separating them a bit.

Christie’s kicks of Asian Art Week with one auction on September 11 and three on September 12th. The first auction is Fine Chinese paintings, with pieces created during multiple dynasties and previously held in prestigious private collections. This one has 132 lots: a substantial amount for an auction that leads a week of activity. My favorite piece from this collection is Traveling in Autumn by Li Xiongcai (1910 – 2001). Whenever I think of autumn, I think of vividly colored trees and a tinge of warmth in the landscape. However, Xiongcai’s work evokes the feeling of late fall: cooler temperatures, barer tree, and only glimmers of the copper-hued leaves that were in place just weeks prior. This more somber depiction of autumn is unique and refreshing, and, since it could easily sell for over $15,000, it’ll probably be a popular painting among the bidders.

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Li Xiongcai (1910-2001), Traveling in Autumn

After a full night’s rest, bidders can get ready for some whirlwind activity on September 12, when Christies will be hosting three Asian art auctions. The first auction – South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art – starts at 10 AM, and it sure to bring out some unique buyers. With a little less than 100 items up for auction, this sale may be brief but it will no doubt also be impactful, as the items being auctioned reflect a typically underrepresented group of artists and artisans. My favorite piece from this collection is Untitled (Street Scene) by Syed Haider Raza (1922-2016). While Raza was born in India, he spent most of his adulthood in Paris. I saw shades of Post-Impressionism when I looked at the setting and brushstrokes features in this painting. This painting could easily sell for $35,000 or more.

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Syed Haider Raza (1922 – 2016), Untitled (Street Scene)

If contemporary art isn’t your cup of tea, bidders can check out The Ruth and Carl Barron Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles: Part VI. I’m not a huge fans of snuff bottles but I can appreciate the artistry of them. My favorite is the Molded and Carved Biscuit Snuff Bottle featuring an elaborate dragon carving on the exterior. The dragon is depicted as it catches a flaming pearl in its mouth, and its body and tail are set against a carved background of clouds and fire. It’s quite an eyecatching piece, and is estimated to be auctioned somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000.

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Molded and Carved Biscuit Snuff Bottle (Wang Bingrong, Jingdezhen Kilns, 1820 – 1850)

Finally, the auction activities on September 12th end with the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art sale starting at 2 PM. The lot that made me swoon was the Gilt and Polychrome Wood Book Cover. I love any and all things book related, so it should be no surprise that this book cover was my favorite item of this auction. The fact that it came from Tibet – a country that isn’t featured as much in the popular auctions – made me love it even more. This 800 year old treasure will be the crown jewel of someone’s Asian art collection – I can feel it!

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Gilt and Polychrome Wood Book Cover (Tibet, 13th Century)

That’s it for the first half of my Christie’s art auction picks. Look out for Part 2 coming soon!

art · international

My Top Picks from Bonham’s Asian Art Auction

Happy Saturday, friends! I’ve got more of my top picks for Asian Art Week. Today’s post is all about Bonhams Auctions. Bonhams refuses to be left out of the Asian Art Auction fun: the auction house will be having three auctions featuring Asian art exclusively. Just like in my last post, I’ll be focusing on just a select few items from the sales that caught my eye.

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The first auction is on September 10 at 10 AM EST. The sale – Chinese Works of Art and Paintings – features just a little less than 300 lots covering several different historical periods. I swooned when I saw these stunning silk robes. The vibrant hues and intricate detailing are the things that dreams are made of. Every now and then, I want to rock the traditional dress of a different country, so this is right up my alley. I love both the blue and red robe, and I’d gladly wear both! The robes could easily sell for more than $5000, per the auction estimates.

Two Han Lady ‘s Embroidered Silk Informal Robes

The other two auctions will occur on September 12. Earlier in the day, the Ancient Skills, New Worlds: Twenty Treasures of Japanese Metalwork auction will occur (starting at 10 AM). This carefully curated selection of 20 pieces from a private collection will sell quickly but the items are all distinct and unforgettable. The piece that I adored is this iron and gold miniature cabinet. This cabinet is a marvel: the perfect blend of strength and style, it is one of the most ornate pieces in the collection. This shiny jewel could easily sell for more than $30,000.

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Komai Otojiro, Iron and Gold Miniature Cabinet

Finally, at 1 PM on September 12, Bonhams will have its last Asian-themed auction, the Fine Japanese and Korean Art auction. Kudos to Bonhams for being one of the few auction houses to have a sale devoted exclusively to art originating from outside of China. While I love China and Chinese art, I enjoy browsing a collection that focuses on different Asian countries. This auction is predominantly Japanese art: out of 307 lots, roughly 10 of them are Korean.  From the Japanese art, I found I was smitten when I saw the small lacquer writing box. I loved its elegance and the fact that this beautiful box held writing instruments. Even though I won’t be bidding on this beauty (it could sell between $4,000 to $6,000+ at auction), I love the notion of having a luxurious container to hold your writing utensils. That’s an idea I may have to try for myself.

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Shiomi Masanari, Small Lacquer Writing Box

When it came to the Korean art in this auction, I really liked the calligraphy attributed to Kim Jeong-Hui. There’s something minimalist but still very lavish about this fine piece. The timeless nature of this piece is especially impressive when considering the fact that is is over 200 years old. Also, the simplicity of the design means that it could hang in any room of a home with ease. Prices for this one could soar over $4,000, and it’s easy to see why.

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Calligraphy Attributed to Kim Jeong-Hui

Those are my top picks from Bonhams’s Asian Art Week. This auction house has fewer pieces overall but the focused themes make Bonhams’s events stand out among the other auctions occurring during Asian Art Week. Be sure to check out their catalogs and see if anything catches your eye!