ART STYLE TUNES READS POP CULTURE MUSINGS

  1. Honey-Voiced Goddess Pieta Brown Shines with Latest Album

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    Article: Pamela Guerra
    Photo: Mei-Ling Shaw Williams

    Listening to Pieta Brown, you can’t help but think she’s one of those angelic, ethereal creatures descended from the celestial realm to shed some light and joy in this cold, dark world. After seeing her live, I’m not convinced she isn’t. 

    Brown’s latest album, Paradise Outlaw (out today), features the chanteuse at her finest. Recorded at Justin Vernon’s studio in Wisconsin, Paradise Outlaw feels both intimate and spacious, with vast folk storyscapes contained within three-and-a-half minute microcosms. As with her previous efforts, Brown perfectly captures the essence of her live performances on the album. Her warm, whispery voice floats effortlessly over sparse instrumentation, making you feel as if you are privy to something very special (which you are). The album features several guest musicians, including Vernon, David Mansfield, her father Greg Brown, and Amos Lee, with whom she co-wrote the soulful duet “Do You Know.” Highlights of the record include the delicate ballad “Rise My Only Rose” and the hypnotic “Ricochet,” which was conceived while Brown was on a trip with Joey Burns of Calexico.

    I highly recommend catching Brown on her latest tour, but in case you "live too far away," whatever that means are unable to, a recording of Paradise Outlaw is the next best thing.

     

  2. Reframing the Narrative: Changing the Way We Discuss Violence Against Women

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    Article: Pamela Guerra
    Image: Courtesy of Philly.com

    In a public restroom at the New Haven train station, I once overheard a lady fixing her hair say to a friend who was washing her hands that women give too much of themselves to their husbands. As a young, recently married woman, I have too often received pieces of advice such as this. More often than not, these soapbox speeches head in the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” direction, dispensing heteronormative, gender-binary affirming aphorisms that make my inner feminist puke a little. Even before hearing the rest of her argument, I began formulating my rebuttal. I wanted to get “I believe in the equality of the sexes, and I reject your gendered cultural stereotypes” all over her so-called advice.

    As I am a rather shy and non-confrontational person, I kept my own soapbox speech to myself and continued to listen. What she said next surprised me. So much so that I awkwardly lingered in the bathroom stall to hear her entire spiel. She said, “A woman needs a place of her own. It can be her parent’s place, her sister’s, her brother’s, whatever. She needs somewhere to go if her husband decides to beat her. Somewhere safe he doesn’t know about so he can’t find her. Because if she decides to leave, he will hunt her down.”

    I was immediately reminded of something my mother told me long before I was old enough to fully comprehend her words. She told me to be thankful for my father, since he was kind and provided for our family. But most importantly, she said I should be thankful because he doesn’t beat us. As I got older and began to have romantic relationships with men, I started to understand. More often than not, women are raised to fear men. I have not met a single woman who hasn’t been at least a little bit afraid of someone solely because he was a man. If such a woman exists, she must either live an extremely sheltered life or is lucky enough to be born into a society where women aren’t treated as the second sex.

    When this whole business with the NFL and Ray Rice came about, my immediate thought was, “I am so lucky to have a husband who doesn’t abuse me physically, emotionally, or financially. I am so lucky he isn’t like that.” The more I considered this thought, however, the more problematic it became. I shouldn’t have to feel “lucky” that my husband treats me like a human being. This line of thinking assumes that husbands beating their wives is an unchangeable fact, and you are lucky if you don’t end up in such a situation. This doesn’t apply to just domestic abuse either. Women consider themselves “lucky” if they haven’t been sexually harassed or raped. Since violence against women is so common (approximately 1 in 6 American women have been the victims of attempted or completed rape), we as a society simply accept these things and focus our efforts on how to avoid ending up in these situations—rather than attempting to fix the root of the problem.

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  3. Highlights from London Fashion Week S/S 2015

    Article: Pamela Guerra
    Photos: Courtesy of Simonerocha.com; Courtesy of Marykatrantzou.com; Gianni Pucci

    SIMONE ROCHA

    Simone Rocha: What does a designer do after presenting an absolute knockout of a collection for the previous season? Well, in Rocha’s case, she followed up her Elizabethan-inspired Fall/Winter 2014 line by translating the bare-bones essence of her aesthetic—think layered textures and unfussy, feminine shapes—into a spring collection that finds the intersection of solemn and playful, between dolled-up and undone. The decadent felt and wool creations of last fall find their spring counterparts in lighter but equally luxurious sheer spring pieces, with intricately cut hemlines and abundant appliqués that echo the previous season’s jeweled and beaded details. 

    MARY KATRANTZOU

    Mary Katrantzou: In recent seasons, Katrantzou has been moving away from the bold, edgy prints that launched her career and towards a new phase of storytelling, where symbolism is explored beyond printed textiles. For her Spring/Summer 2015 line, the designer was inspired by the supercontinent Pangaea and the countless tectonic movements that created the geology of the world today. Shifting between nude earth tones and vibrant colors of flora and fauna, the strict geometric silhouettes of the majority of the pieces are often adorned with details in more organic shapes, creating a natural harmony symbolic of Mother Earth herself.

    CHRISTOPHER KANE

    Christopher Kane: Dedicated to his late mentor, the legendary Professor Louise Martin of Central Saint Martins, Kane’s latest collection certainly seems subdued, proper almost, in light of his deliciously unapologetic and iconic past efforts. Beneath the primness of tea dresses and twin sets, however, his irreverence still lurks; the madness has been contained—for now—within periwinkle pops of color that seem both girlish and octogenarian and a curious, eye-catching rope motif that was influenced by his long-standing interest in the work of erotic photographer Nobuyoshi Araki

     

  4. Midlife Crises, the Wedding Industry Complex, and Beyoncé at the 8th Annual Brooklyn Book Festival

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    Article: Pamela Guerra
    Photos: (above) Courtesy of the Brooklyn Book Festival; (below) Pamela Guerra

    "I love going to these things," a little white-haired man said to me. We were both waiting for the Daniel Kehlmann and Zadie Smith panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival. “I like to be reminded that other people like to read too.” He nodded towards the number of folks behind us, in a line that seemed to grow tenfold by the minute.

    While many congregated just a few miles away for that other small gathering happening that day, a smaller but no less committed contingent descended upon the Brooklyn Borough Hall area to hear about and discuss social justice, identity (or lack thereof), race, craftsmanship, comedy and countless other literary concerns. There was no shortage of events either, with over 250 authors participating, in addition to an all-day book fair that featured dozens of publishing houses, publications, and booksellers for adults and children alike. With so many things going on, it was rather difficult to choose which events I wanted to attend. A panel on facts or a conversation about faith at 11 a.m.? ”Storytelling and the Black Experience” or “This Woman’s Work” at 2 p.m.? Fiction with Joyce Carol Oates or playwriting with Annie Baker at 3?

    I eventually did have to make some tough, tough decisions (with a little help from my friends Eeny, Meeny, Miny, and Moe) and attended three stellar talks in full. Read on for a recap of the Kehlmann and Smith conversation, as well as highlights from a panel about bucking traditional female expectations and another discussing the feminist movement of today.

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  5. Photo: Courtesy of The Independent

    On Saturday, Emma Watson spoke at the United Nations HQ in New York, calling on men to help end gender inequality. The UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador gave the speech to launch the "HeForShe" campaign, a worldwide initiative that focuses on men and boys to advocate for gender equality. See the full video of the speech on YouTube.

     
  6. Dinner Party favorite (and friend!) Bea Troxel in her hypnotic Ballard Sessions video.

     
     
  7. Congratulations to graphic artist Alison Bechdel for winning a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant! You may be familiar with Bechdel from her eponymous test, coined in her 1985 comic strip, “The Rule.” The test asked three simple questions of a film to set a baseline for the inclusion of women in any significant way:

    1) Does the film have two female characters?
    2) Do they talk to each other?
    3) Do they discuss something other than a man?

    The test may seem to ask so little from today’s cinematic offerings, but a surprising number of films fail the test. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, females comprised only 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and a mere 30% of all speaking characters for films released in 2013. Yes, I said 2013.

    So kudos to you, Alison, for the Bechdel test, as well as your pioneering work that encapsulates the experiences of women in the lesbian community through your careful, nuanced storytelling and compelling memoirs. May you continue to be an observant and critical voice in today’s cultural landscape.

     
     

  8. Killin’ It: Stilettos, Pumps, Wedges, and Platforms at the Brooklyn Museum

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    Article: Pamela Guerra
    Photos: Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum (see below for full credit lines)

    I recently bought a pair of teal dyed pony hair pumps to wear to a friend’s wedding. I barely made it out of the chapel after the ceremony when I peeled the heels off my feet, opting to walk the half mile to the reception barefoot. I attempted to wear the shoes again a few weeks later, this time during a girls’ night out at Marquee. I paid good money for those pumps, and I sure as hell needed to try and get my money’s worth. Forty-five minutes in, and I was whipping out the ballerina flats—despite sitting down for almost half that time.

    Unfortunately, this is an all-too common occurrence for me. I’ve got a bad, bad habit of purchasing heels that I know I’ll only wear for an hour—max. So bad that after the pony hair pumps incident, my husband more or less placed a moratorium on my shoe purchases. Harsh, I know, but after seeing my twice-worn Louboutin mary janes frowning back at me from my shoe rack, I knew it was for the best. 

    So imagine my delight when I heard about Brooklyn Museum’s Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe. With over 160 high-heeled beauties from the seventeenth century to the present to gaze upon, I knew this would be a guilt-free way of indulging myself. The exhibition includes a handful of lust-worthy treasures from the very recent past such as Prada’s flame wedge sandals from Spring/Summer 2012 and Louboutin’s dizzying stiletto heel Printz (above). Rare historical treasures are also on display, such as a Manchu woman’s shoe from the 19th century (below).

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    Read on for more about the stunning exhibit, as well as photos of some gorgeous shoes.

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  9. Elizabeth and James Spring 2015

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    Article: Pamela Guerra
    Photos: Paul Maffi for Elizabeth and James

    When it comes to edgy takes on wardrobe staples, Elizabeth and James consistently delivers, offering high-quality pieces that bridge the gap between designer and contemporary. Their Spring 2015 line certainly follows suit, with its sophisticated, “surf-meets-street” vibe. Taking a cue from casual West Coast attitudes, designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen put their own spin on some of Spring 2015’s hottest trends—classy overalls, windowpane check, and the eye-catching palm motif that is taking the runway by storm. And, of course, no Elizabeth and James collection would be complete without the brand’s signature sharp tailoring and clean, feminine silhouettes. (We’re looking at you, cobalt blue trouser suit.)

    Check out the rest of the collection after the jump.

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    Image: Pamela Guerra

    From the front row at the Betty Tran Spring 2015 show. Check out our coverage of the show, as well as other favorites from the Fashion Palette Evening & Bridal presentation, right here.