main: June 2011 Archives

Today, at our lovely local Sundance cinema, I saw a film that really moved me:  the documentary "Bill Cunningham New York," about the longtime fashion photographer and commentator for The New York Times.  Cunningham's two photo columns sum up the highlights of New York street fashion and the gala set.
 

Though I've enjoyed his columns for years, I never knew much about Cunningham himself--though, in that respect, I'm not much different from most in the fashion world.  The film reveals Cunningham to be steadfastly private and governed by a deep sense of personal morality.  His egalitarian spirit and humility exist alongside sheer, exuberant joy in what he does.BCNY.jpg

I don't review films, but seeing this movie made me wish I had brought along my notebook; there were so many memorable observations from Cunningham that I wanted to remember.  Among them [to paraphrase]:  "Lots of people have taste, but few dare to be creative."  That fashion, rather than frivolity, is a kind of armor that makes our daily lives bearable.  And, perhaps most important, "Those who seek beauty will find it."


That last line, part of his remarks while accepting an honor from the French Ministry of Culture, seemed like the ultimate summation of Cunningham's approach to life.  Part of what appeals to me so much about Cunningham is, quite simply, attention:  his rapt attention to something that feeds his mind and his soul.  Nowadays, that's rare, due partly to omnipresent technology.


While at first Richard Press' documentary seems to have little to do with the subject of this blog--about the arts in smaller U.S. communities--it finally occurred to me that it does.  While every bit a creature of New York and a brilliant chronicler of urban life, Cunningham has an attitude that suits him well wherever he goes.  He doesn't assume that something bigger and grander will necessarily be more imaginative.  Something spotted on the street any given day might leave a more lasting impression than the latest couture show.


It's this kind of attitude that I think informs the work of artists, writers, actors and others living in smaller cities and towns.  Creativity and daring are not what someone else tells you they are; they're where you make it or find it, and sometimes that's in the most unlikely places.


If you have a chance to see this film, by all means, do, whether or not fashion interests you.  Cunningham's joy in his life's work is something from which we can all draw inspiration.


[Photo credit for image above:  First Thought Films / Zeitgeist Films]

June 30, 2011 9:00 PM |

L.A., you're in for a treat.  Madison-based artist Jennifer Angus is currently exhibiting at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles.  Angus' show, "All Creatures Great and Small," runs through Sept. 11, 2011.  Her main medium?  Bugs, and lots of 'em.


Angus is one of a number of Wisconsin artists doing intriguing work that bridges art, science and the natural world (others include Martha Glowacki, whose long-running installation at the Milwaukee Art Museum, "Loca Miraculi / Rooms of Wonder," is a must-see.)


Angus, who teaches textile design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is fascinated by patterns and the cultural meanings they convey.  As she told me in a 2007 interview for Isthmus, "Pattern is a sophisticated, wordless language which we understand regardless of learning or awareness."


Her unusual medium is beautiful, colorful, and walks a fine line between mesmerizing and repellent (at least for many of us raised in bug-phobic cultures).  She re-uses her specimens from one installation for the next.  This was my favorite quote from our chat:  "The bugs are very individual. I'll be putting a weevil on the wall [during an installation], and I'll be like, 'I remember you!'"

And here's an interview done with Angus by the Museum of Art and Design in New York in conjunction with the 2010 exhibition "Dead or Alive":



If you're near L.A., don't miss her show.

June 28, 2011 12:57 PM |

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