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Better Homes & Gardens Reveals 2017 Editors’ Choice Awardson January 3, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 3, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Better Homes & Gardens, the leading lifestyle brand reaching 40 million readers a month, has revealed its third annual Editors’ Choice Awards. Chosen by Better Homes & Gardens editors, and technology and digital media expert Shelly Palmer, the Editors’ Choice Awards highlight the best of new and existing home and personal technology.


“Smart technology is now a part of every aspect our homes – from our kitchens and bathrooms to outdoor living spaces and laundry rooms – almost every new appliance is or will be connected,” says Better Homes & Gardens Editor-in-Chief Stephen Orr. “We put an emphasis on products that we believe will help the modern homeowner keep up with the latest developments.”

The 2017 winners combine style and smarts and are proven to make the homes and lives of consumers easier and more efficient.

“It has once again been a great experience working with the Better Homes & Gardens team on this project,” says Palmer. “Together we were able to pick products with benefits that will really help consumers on a daily basis.”

Among this year’s picks are:

  • Google Chromecast Ultra ($79; google.com) – Stream up to 4K Ultra HD & HDR picture quality with Chromecast Ultra, a streaming device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. Mirror your phone, tablet, or laptop to your TV, or stream live sporting events, movies, or music. Don’t have a 4K TV yet? The Chromecast Ultra will automatically optimize its content for your TV’s best resolution.
  • Whirlpool Smart French Door Pantry Refrigerator with Infinity Shelves ($3,799; whirlpool.com) – Say good-bye to a dysfunctional fridge and hello to pantry-style organization with Whirlpool’s Smart French Door refrigerator. Its Infinity Shelves retract in the center to make room for tall items (wine bottles) while leaving half-shelves around the perimeter (no more lost yogurts) clearly visible. You’ll also get grab-a-snack sections, a produce drawer that fits a lettuce tub, and freezer dividers that hold frozen foods upright. An app alerts you to power outages and servicing needs.
  • Savant Remote + Host ($499; savant.com) – Savant Remote + Host is a media-centric home-control system. It controls over 380,000 entertainment devices (streaming, speakers, gaming consoles, DVD players, cable, satellite, and more), plus a super simple set of lamp controllers so you can set the mood for watching TV or listening to music.
  • Amazon Echo Dot ($49; amazon.com) The Amazon Echo Dot does everything the Amazon Echo does plus a bit more. The main difference is the smaller speaker. But – and this is important – the Echo Dot has a 3.5-mm audio output jack so you can attach an external speaker. This gives the Dot the ability to send its output to any audio system you have. It also can transmit sound wirelessly over Bluetooth.
  • Sony Playstation VR ($399; playstation.com) – The PlayStation VR takes gaming to the next level by putting you in the middle of all the action. It turns amazing games into virtual reality creating incredibly immersive experiences.
  • Lutron Caseta Wireless ($99; Lutron.com) – Caseta from Lutron is a lighting-centric control system that will work perfectly with your existing lights. There are both physical and app-based controls, which means you can operate your lights even if you left your smartphone in another room. That also means guests won’t be left in the dark.
  • Samsung Trio ($99 Gear VR; $349.99 Gear 360; Samsung.com) – Samsung’s Gear 360 camera, virtual reality headset and Galaxy smartphone work together in an innovative 3-D system. The phone and VR headset bring to life what you capture on the camera.
  • Canary ($200; canary.com) – When it detects motion, the Canary records HD video and sends an alert to your phone. It’s a great way to know (and see) when your child comes home. But if there’s an intruder, you can sound a siren and call local police. With a 147-degree camera span and night vision, you can always take a peek at what’s going on at home, day or night. It also monitors temperature and humidity.
  • Garmin Forerunner 235 ($269.99; garmin.com) – Serious runners need more than just a fitness tracker. With 24/7 wrist-based heart-rate monitoring, GPS, built-in activity tracking, and connected features, Garmin’s Forerunner 235 is a device built with athletes in mind. Track your distance, pace, time, heart rate, and more, and view all the data in real time. Download workouts and training plans that work best for you, track your progress with the Garmin Connect network, then compare and share with friends and family. It’s everything you need in a convenient watch-size package.
  • Sony 55-inch X930D / X940D 4K HDR with Android TV ($1,499.99; sony.com) – The biggest trend in TVs is 4K HDR (high-dynamic range). These new ultra-high-definition sets – such as this 55-inch Android TV by Sony – give you whiter whites and blacker blacks, they also offer 10-bit color, which displays almost infinite color space.
  • Ford Fusion ($22,120 Starting MSRP, $139 / Mo Lease; ford.com) – You don’t have to buy an expensive sports sedan to get state-of-the-art semiautonomous features. The Ford Fusion will practically drive itself in stop-and-go traffic, and it has adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist, and pedestrian detection.

Additional winners from the 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards include: IT Bed by Sleep Number; Dropbox; LG Signature TWINWash/Washer-Dryer Hybrid; All-Clad 5-Quart Slow Cooker with In-Pot Browning; Apple Music; Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 EX7000; Blue Apron; Uber; Virtru

Full descriptions of the winning products can be found online at BHG.com.


Better Homes & Gardens serves, connects and inspires readers who infuse color and creativity into each aspect of their lives. Reaching 40 million readers a month via the most trusted print magazine, the brand also extends across a robust website, multiple social platforms, tablet editions, mobile apps, broadcast programs and licensed products. Better Homes & Gardens fuels our readers’ passions to live a more colorful life through stunning visuals, a balance of substance and surface, and a blend of expert and reader ideas. Better Homes & Gardens is published 12 times a year by Meredith Corporation, with a rate base of 7.6 million.

Additional information may be found at www.bhg.com | Facebook: facebook.com/mybhg | Twitter: twitter.com/bhg | Pinterest: pinterest.com/bhg | Instagram: instagram.com/betterhomesandgardens.


Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP; www.meredith.com) has been committed to service journalism for 115 years. Today, Meredith uses multiple distribution platforms – including broadcast television, print, digital, mobile and video – to provide consumers with content they desire and to deliver the messages of its advertising and marketing partners.

Meredith’s National Media Group reaches more than 100 million unduplicated women every month, including nearly 75 percent of U.S. Millennial women. Meredith is the leader in creating and distributing content across platforms in key consumer interest areas such as food, home, parenthood and health through well-known brands such as Better Homes & Gardens, Allrecipes, Parents, Shape and EatingWell. Meredith also features robust brand licensing activities, including more than 3,000 SKUs of branded products at 4,000 Walmart stores across the U.S. and at walmart.com. Meredith Xcelerated Marketing is an award-winning, strategic and creative agency that provides fully integrated marketing solutions for many of the world’s top brands, including Kraft, TGIFriday’s and NBC Universal.

Meredith’s Local Media Group includes 17 owned or operated television stations reaching 11 percent of U.S. households. Meredith’s portfolio is concentrated in large, fast-growing markets, with seven stations in the nation’s Top 25 – including Atlanta, Phoenix, St. Louis and Portland – and 13 in Top 50 markets. Meredith’s stations produce nearly 700 hours of local news and entertainment content each week, and operate leading local digital destinations.


Shelly Palmer is Managing Partner at Palmer Advanced Media, a technology-focused strategic advisory practice that helps Fortune 500 companies and growth-stage companies with digital strategy, data science, marketing, branding, and business development. He is FOX 5 New York’s on-air tech and digital media expert and a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow him at @shellypalmer or visit www.shellypalmer.com.

SOURCE Meredith Corporation; Better Homes and Gardens

For further information: Rebecca Zisholtz: 212/551.7087; Rebecca.zisholtz@meredith.com

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Women Are Dieting Less But Eating More Healthy Foods According To New Better Homes & Gardens Food Factor Studyon January 24, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

Women Are Dieting Less But Eating More Healthy Foods According To New Better Homes & Gardens Food Factor Study

DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Better Homes & Gardens, Meredith Corporation’s flagship lifestyle, home and food brand, today announced findings from Food Factor: The Evolution of Eats, a nationwide survey conducted among U.S. women. The study took a comprehensive look at women’s motivations, attitudes and behaviors relating to food including cooking, shopping, and eating.


Overall, the study found that women are moving away from specific diets, trends and tactics to more permanent, healthy lifestyle changes. In fact, while two-thirds of women polled say they and their households are eating healthier in the last two years, just over half say they do not follow a specific diet but have recently made significant modifications in what and how they eat.

“While women continue to be health-conscious, their approach to their diet has changed,” says Nancy Hopkins, Senior Food Editor of Better Homes & Gardens, “These women no longer want short term solutions from diet fads and tricks; they want to make meaningful changes that will last them over the course of their lives.”

This new approach has led to big changes in dieting in the last two years:

  • 63 percent of women are now focusing on eating healthier foods in general – compared to only 50 percent in 2014
  • Only 27 percent of women say they or any household member has followed a special diet in the last year – down 20 percentage points from 2014
  • 64 percent are paying more attention to nutrition than they did two years ago – compared to only 53 percent in 2014
  • 53 percent say they are working to make small, permanent changes in their eating, including:
    • 71 percent of women are eating more vegetables – up 14 percentage points from 2014, while 66 percent of women are eating more fruits – up 19 percentage points from 2014.
    • Half of women are now adding more salad to their diets, and 3 in 5 even grow their own fruits and vegetables.
    • While fruit and vegetable consumption is up, women are eating 33 percent less meat than before, with about 1 in 3 women having occasional vegetarian meals/days.
    • 85 percent say they consider the healthfulness of a recipe before selecting it, and 50 percent have changed recipes so that they’re healthier.

Food Factor: The Evolution of Eats was fielded in July 2016 and, in total, more than 2,000 responses were collected from respondents, U.S. women ages 18+. The 126-question survey was divided into 11 sections, with each respondent completing one to three sections, depending on the number of questions per section. Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level for 400 respondent base per question is +/- 4.9 percent, for total respondent base of 2K it’s +/- 2.2 percent.

This study is the fifth wave of the modern trending research that continues the 20+ year tradition of the Better Homes & Gardens Food Trend Study, providing insights into America’s food shopping, cooking and serving habits.


Better Homes & Gardens serves, connects and inspires readers who infuse color and creativity into each aspect of their lives. Reaching 40 million readers a month via the most trusted print magazine, the brand also extends across a robust website, multiple social platforms, tablet editions, mobile apps, broadcast programs and licensed products. Better Homes & Gardens fuels our readers’ passions to live a more colorful life through stunning visuals, a balance of substance and surface, and a blend of expert and reader ideas. Better Homes & Gardens is published 12 times a year with a rate base of 7.6 million.

Additional information may be found at www.bhg.com | Facebook: facebook.com/mybhg | Twitter: twitter.com/bhg | Pinterest: pinterest.com/bhg | Instagram: instagram.com/betterhomesandgardens.


Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP; www.meredith.com) has been committed to service journalism for 115 years. Today, Meredith uses multiple distribution platforms – including broadcast television, print, digital, mobile and video – to provide consumers with content they desire and to deliver the messages of its advertising and marketing partners.

Meredith’s National Media Group reaches more than 100 million unduplicated women every month, including nearly 75 percent of U.S. Millennial women. Meredith is the leader in creating and distributing content across platforms in key consumer interest areas such as food, home, parenthood and health through well-known brands such as Better Homes & Gardens, Allrecipes, Parents, Shape and EatingWell. Meredith also features robust brand licensing activities, including more than 3,000 SKUs of branded products at 4,000 Walmart stores across the U.S. and at walmart.com. Meredith Xcelerated Marketing is an award-winning, strategic and creative agency that provides fully integrated marketing solutions for many of the world’s top brands, including Kraft, TGIFriday’s and NBC Universal.

Meredith’s Local Media Group includes 17 owned or operated television stations reaching 11 percent of U.S. households. Meredith’s portfolio is concentrated in large, fast-growing markets, with seven stations in the nation’s Top 25 – including Atlanta, Phoenix, St. Louis and Portland – and 13 in Top 50 markets. Meredith’s stations produce 700 hours of local news and entertainment content each week, and operate leading local digital destinations.

SOURCE Meredith Corporation; Better Homes & Gardens

For further information: Patrick Taylor, 212/551.6984, Patrick.Taylor@meredith.com, or Rebecca Zisholtz, 212/551.7087, Rebecca.Zisholtz@meredith.com

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Better Homes & Gardens Magazine Unveils Seventh Annual September Stylemaker Issueon August 15, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

Better Homes & Gardens Magazine Unveils Seventh Annual September Stylemaker Issue

Annual Issue Features Influencers Including Joy the Baker, Lili Diallo and Barri Leiner Grant

DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Better Homes & Gardens (BH&G), the leading lifestyle brand reaching 40 million consumers a month published by Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP, www.meredith.com), today released its seventh annual Stylemaker issue, highlighting creative forces and tastemakers who influence the worlds of beauty, food, home design, and entertaining. The issue is available on newsstands today.

Better Homes & Gardens' seventh annual September Stylemaker issue

The cover features interiors stylist and author, Lili Diallo. Diallo joins 39 other Stylemakers from all ages and walks of life who shape the way we decorate, cook, garden, organize, dress, and celebrate.

“The Stylemakers featured in this issue embody the Better Homes & Gardens brand,” says Stephen Orr, Editor-in-Chief of Better Homes & Gardens. “Just as we do with our own content, these influencers were chosen for their ability to reach, engage with and inspire our readers in various aspects of their daily lives.”

The 2017 BH&G Stylemakers include:

  • Joy Wilson: Food writer and photographer known as Joy the Baker. Her blog attracts over 600,000 unique visitors a month.
  • Helen Norman: Fashion and lifestyle photographer and owner of Star Bright Farm in Maryland.
  • Lior Lev Sercarz: Owner of spice shop La Boite in New York and author of The Spice Companion.
  • Jean Brownhill: CEO of Sweeten, a company founded to help homeowners planning a renovation find the right contractor and navigate trouble spots.
  • Gregg Renfrew: Founder of Beautycounter, a nontoxic beauty brand that aims to get safer products in the hands of everyone.
  • Dallas Shaw: Fashion illustrator, style expert, and author of The Way She Wears It.
  • Kim Ficaro: Prop and interiors stylist who recently launched her own home collection with an e-commerce store, Totem Home, for which she collaborates with artisans in Mexico and Morocco on a range of designs.

To celebrate the issue, Better Homes & Gardens is hosting its sixth annual Stylemaker event at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on September 28th. Over 80 top influencers and tastemakers are expected to join for a day of classes, workshops, and panels.

“Stylemaker is an annual event that brings to life the pages of Better Homes & Gardens with a day of thoughtfully curated panels and activities,” says Stephen Bohlinger, Group Publisher. “We pride ourselves on our ability to reach a wide audience who trust us for guidance on everything from decorating, gardening and food to health, beauty and fashion. Stylemaker is a way for us to showcase our strengths across all those verticals.”

Sponsors of the event include Bertolli, Gymboree and Torani.

For more information about Better Homes & Gardens Stylemaker go to: www.bhg.com/stylemaker


Better Homes & Gardens serves, connects and inspires readers who infuse color and creativity into each aspect of their lives. Reaching 40 million readers a month via the most trusted print magazine, the brand also extends across a robust website, multiple social platforms, tablet editions, mobile apps, broadcast programs and licensed products. Better Homes & Gardens fuels our readers’ passions to live a more colorful life through stunning visuals, a balance of substance and surface, and a blend of expert and reader ideas. Better Homes & Gardens is published 12 times a year by Meredith Corporation, with a rate base of 7.6 million.

Additional information may be found at www.bhg.com | Facebook: facebook.com/mybhg | Twitter: twitter.com/bhg | Pinterest: pinterest.com/bhg | Instagram: instagram.com/betterhomesandgardens.


Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP; www.meredith.com) has been committed to service journalism for 115 years. Today, Meredith uses multiple distribution platforms – including broadcast television, print, digital, mobile and video – to provide consumers with content they desire and to deliver the messages of its advertising and marketing partners.

Meredith’s National Media Group reaches 110 million unduplicated women every month, including 70 percent of U.S. Millennial women. Meredith is the leader in creating and distributing content across platforms in key consumer interest areas such as food, home, parenting and health through well-known brands such as Better Homes & Gardens, Allrecipes, Parents and SHAPE. Meredith also features robust brand licensing activities, including more than 3,000 SKUs of branded products at 5,000 Walmart stores across the U.S. Meredith Xcelerated Marketing is an award-winning, strategic and creative agency that provides fully integrated marketing solutions for many of the world’s top brands, including The Kraft Heinz Co., Benjamin Moore, Allergan, TGIFriday’s and WebMD.

Meredith’s Local Media Group includes 17 television stations reaching 11 percent of U.S. households. Meredith’s portfolio is concentrated in large, fast-growing markets, with seven stations in the nation’s Top 25 – including Atlanta, Phoenix, St. Louis and Portland – and 13 in Top 50 markets. Meredith’s stations produce 700 hours of local news and entertainment content each week, and operate leading local digital destinations.

Meredith introduces an updated market positioning and logo that reflect the strength of Meredith's national and local consumer media brands as well as its expanded portfolio of marketing solutions. (PRNewsFoto/Meredith Corporation)

SOURCE Meredith Corporation; Better Homes & Gardens

For further information: Rebecca Zisholtz, Senior Publicist, 212-551-7087, Rebecca.Zisholtz@meredith.com

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Better Homes & Gardens Unveils Eighth Annual September Stylemaker Issueon August 21, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

Annual Issue Features Influencers Including Ayesha Curry, Barrie Benson, Lauren Goodman and More

DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 21, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Better Homes & Gardens (BHG), the leading lifestyle magazine reaching 40 million consumers a month, today released its eighth annual Stylemaker issue, highlighting creative forces and tastemakers who influence the worlds of beauty, food, home design, and entertaining. The issue is available on newsstands today.

The cover features cookbook author and television personality, Ayesha Curry. In the issue, Curry talks about balancing her roles of wife, mom, and businesswoman – all while finding time to put nutritious, high-flavor meals on the table for her family.

Curry joins seven other Stylemakers from all ages and walks of life who shape the way we decorate, cook, garden, organize, dress, and celebrate.

“Stylemaker is our favorite issue of the year because we get to take our readers into the lives of the trendsetters we are fascinated by on social media and see how they cook, garden and decorate in real life,” explained Stephen Orr, Editor in Chief of Better Homes & Gardens.

The 2018 BHG Stylemakers include:

  • Ayesha Curry – Author, New York Times best-selling cookbook The Seasoned Life and host and executive producer of ABC’s upcoming Family Food Fight
  • David Lebovitz – Cookbook author and former pastry chef
  • Barrie Benson – Charlotte-based interior designer
  • Lauren Goodman – Fashion stylist
  • Paloma Contreras – Award-winning interior decorator, tastemaker, and design blogger
  • Nick Olsen – Designer
  • Grant K. Gibson – Interior designer

To celebrate the issue, Better Homes & Gardens is hosting its annual Stylemaker event in New York City on September 27th. Over 80 top influencers and tastemakers are expected to join for a day of classes, workshops, and panels.

“Stylemaker is an event that we look forward to every year,” said Stephen Bohlinger, VP/Group Publisher of Better Homes & Gardens. “It is such a unique experience that manages to bring the best in home design, gardening, and food together with Better Homes & Gardens, the most respected authority in those areas.”

Sponsors of the event include: Garnet Hill; Maybelline New York; Royal(R) Basmati Rice; Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

For more information about Better Homes & Gardens Stylemaker go to: BHG.com/Stylemakers


Better Homes & Gardens serves, connects and inspires readers who infuse color and creativity into each aspect of their lives. Reaching 40 million readers a month via the most trusted print magazine, the brand also extends across a robust website, multiple social platforms, tablet editions, mobile apps, broadcast programs and licensed products. Better Homes & Gardens fuels our readers’ passions to live a more colorful life through stunning visuals, a balance of substance and surface, and a blend of expert and reader ideas. Better Homes & Gardens is published 12 times a year with a rate base of 7.6 million.

Additional information may be found at www.bhg.com | Facebook: facebook.com/mybhg | Twitter: twitter.com/bhg | Pinterest: pinterest.com/bhg/ | Instagram: instagram.com/betterhomesandgardens.


Meredith Corporation (NYSE:MDP; www.meredith.com) has been committed to service journalism for more than 115 years. Today, Meredith uses multiple distribution platforms — including broadcast television, print, digital, mobile and video — to provide consumers with content they desire and to deliver the messages of its advertising and marketing partners. Meredith’s National Media Group reaches 175 million unduplicated American consumers every month, including 80 percent of U.S. Millennial women. Meredith’s Local Media Group includes 17 television stations reaching more than 11 percent of U.S. households.

SOURCE Better Homes and Gardens

For further information: Rebecca Zisholtz, 212/551.7087, Rebecca.Zisholtz@meredith.com

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6 Emerging Designers to Know This Fashion Monthon February 12, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments
Credit…Portrait by BFA/Zach Whitford. Photo by Hatnim Lee.

Kenneth Nicholson, 37

Kenneth Nicholson debuted his namesake brand in January 2016, with an offering of subtle, nontraditional men’s wear: sand-colored linen tunics, wide-cut white linen trousers and billowy cotton button-downs in soothing earth tones. This week, he showed his first women’s pieces with a joyful mixed-gender runway show in New York. “From the beginning, women have bought some of my men’s pieces,” he says, “So it was a natural evolution.” Nicholson, who is based in Los Angeles, grew up in Houston, Texas, and knew from a young age that he wanted to be a fashion designer — although he arrived at this goal by an unusual path. After studying at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, he joined the U.S. Navy in 2004 and worked on a military base in Afghanistan for a year; he later spent a brief spell in Phuket, Thailand, where he worked as an interior design consultant. These travels have deeply influenced his men’s wear, which has become known for its loose silhouettes, soft hues and fluid interpretation of masculinity. Nicholson’s new women’s pieces, which demonstrate his taste for unusual textiles, include a draped one-shouldered top made from soft-pink terry cloth patterned with white stars, a flared knee-length khaki skirt finished with a fringe of wooden beads and a matching white mesh top and skirt trimmed with a shaggy high-pile fabric that resembles upholstery fabric. The collection, which explored notions of home and heritage, was appropriately titled “From Grandma’s Couch.”

Wei Ge, 26, and Aoyu Zhang, 35

The idea for KEH was born in 2017 when friends Wei Ge and Aoyu Zhang were waiting in line at the opening of the Dover Street Market boutique in Singapore. The long queue gave the duo, both designers, a chance to discuss the next steps in their respective careers — and their shared ambition to start their own label. They’d met five years before at the Academy of Arts and Design, Tsinghua University in Beijing. Ge went on to become an assistant designer at the popular Chinese label Zuczug while Zhang earned a master’s degree in business from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. After two years of development, the pair launched their own brand — choosing the name KEH simply for its pleasing sound — in New York in March 2019. From the beginning, they wanted to create gender-fluid clothing that represented what they and their friends wanted to wear. As Ge says, “KEH deconstructs and mixes elements from both men’s wear and women’s wear.” The brand’s fall 2020 collection, which the designers showed in New York this season, was inspired by the photographer Nick Knight’s surreal images of roses and includes tailored garments made from environmentally friendly cotton as well as a cape constructed from pieces of mottled gray wool arranged to resemble the petals of a flower.

Claire McKinney, 26, and Sophie Andes-Gascon, 27

Claire McKinney and Sophie Andes-Gascon both moved to New York in 2011 to study fashion design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. McKinney grew up in Portland, Oregon, where, as a child, she would make costumes using pillowcases and blankets borrowed from the family’s linen closet. Andes-Gascon was born in Manaus, Brazil, but later moved to Maryland, where her father taught her how to sew and knit. For a time, the two classmates shared an apartment, and in 2015 they both landed jobs as design consultants for the brand Maryam Nassir Zadeh, where they still work. They each continued to create their own clothes on the side and eventually formed a partnership; in 2019, they launched SC103, which specializes in custom dyes and handcrafted elements, with a runway show in downtown Manhattan that was, in a departure from the traditional fashion presentation format, open to the public. “We reject the idea of exclusivity and embrace an open and democratic policy,” says McKinney. “We want to share this experience with people outside the fashion world.” The name SC103 is a nod to the pair’s personal bond: It’s derived from the first letters of their names, combined with the building number of their first shared apartment and studio. For fall 2020, the designers will show brightly colored hand-knits paired with workwear-inspired trousers, armor-like garments made from linked leather panels, and shrunken sweaters and pants designed to mimic ones that have been washed on too high a heat.

Nensi Dojaka, 26

Nensi Dojaka graduated from Central Saint Martins less than a year ago but is already presenting her third collection in London. She was one of five designers selected by Fashion East, a nonprofit organization that cultivates and promotes young brands. Born in Tirana, Albania, Dojaka grew up with a deep-rooted love of art; her family didn’t live near institutions with regular exhibitions, so she created her own imaginative drawings. Those early works tended to depict colorful panels arranged in puzzle-like formations, and you can see traces of similar abstract patterns in her clothing today. Dojaka moved to the United Kingdom in 2009 to attend high school and later studied at both the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. Last March, her graduate collection — which comprised deconstructed dresses made from layers of different types of sheer fabrics — caught the eye of the Canadian luxury retailer Ssense and, with the store’s encouragement, Dojaka decided to continue and build her namesake label. “My woman is complex, she embodies a perfect marriage of severity and delicacy,” says Dojaka of her ideal wearer. “I try to translate this idea into my clothes, creating delicacy from severity and vice versa.” Her fall 2020 collection will include draped black jersey dresses cut to give them a subtle movement, and a series of mini dresses with thin straps and cutouts. The designer frequently turns to ’90s-era magazines for inspiration and nods to that decade will be as present as ever this season.

Amy Trinh, 28, and Evan Phillips, 28

Since meeting at Central Saint Martins, Amy Trinh and Evan Phillips have built impressive resumes: Trinh interned at Louis Vuitton, Craig Green and Stella McCartney; Phillips assisted Richard Quinn with his first collections before working on development at Simone Rocha. Both of their careers shifted course, though, when Trinh got engaged in 2018 and discovered that the type of unconventional wedding dress she wanted didn’t exist. “I realized there was something missing,” she says, “namely, dresses that could be worn more than once.” She reached out to Phillips to help her create a dress, and that conversation became the starting point for their bridal-inspired ready-to-wear label WED, which debuted last year. The pair’s goal is to create garments that can be worn both on and long after a person’s wedding day. “It’s about making bridal wear more sustainable and changing the mentality that a wedding dress should be boxed up and never worn again,” Phillips says. The pair also want to reimagine what wedding attire means in a world where the concept of marriage is changing and becoming more inclusive. Their new collection, which will be their second to date, will be shown by appointment in Paris. “The garment drapes are based on a swirling movement,” explains Phillips of the pieces, which include an A-line taffeta skirt with a dramatic spiral-like silhouette. This season, the designers have also collaborated with the 300-year-old English mill Stephen Walters, and have repurposed many of the company’s dead-stock fabrics, from a quilted jacquard to a striped satin.

Shuting Qiu, 25

Shuting Qiu was born in Hangzhou, China, and began dreaming up ideas for fantastical garments as a young child. Hoping to make those early designs a reality, she moved to Antwerp at 18 to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts. There, under the instruction of the designer Walter Van Beirendonck, the head of the school’s fashion department, she cultivated her eclectic tastes and love of unusual combinations of colorful prints. The collection she presented at the end of her bachelor’s degree in 2017 — defined by extravagant silhouettes and loud clashing patterns — was selected by the online fashion platform and store Vfiles to appear in its spring 2019 runway show during New York Fashion Week and she launched her own brand not long after. If there is a common theme between each of Qiu’s collections, it is references to travel and the traditional clothing she’s seen in parts of Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Accordingly, her prints — which range from floral motifs to vibrant checks and plaids — come in rich contrasting colors and are often finished with intricate embroidery. She will show her latest collection, which will include faux fur, by appointment in Paris.

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The Many Lives of Marc Jacobson February 12, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments
A portrait of Marc Jacobs, taken for T, on set at the Sun and Surf Beach Club on Long Island.Credit…Roe Ethridge

The Many Lives of Marc Jacobs

Through the fashion designer’s various identities and struggles, two things have remained consistent: his ability to predict a cultural moment and the pure emotion of his work.

“THE DRIVING FORCE in my life is fear,” Marc Jacobs said.

It was a November day in New York. I sat in Jacobs’s SoHo studio, in a room lined with oversize books about the history of fashion. The designer, 56, sat facing me, wearing black boots with platform soles as high as pylons. In his hands, fingernails encrusted with green and sapphirine rhinestones, he held a vape module — the Smok G-Priv — that looked like a piece of military equipment. His longish black hair was pasted down with gel and held in place with two barrettes. The extreme care with which he was dressed — black wool pants, a blue silk Hermès scarf tucked beneath the charcoal collar of his Celine pinstripe jacket — seemed, like the bright colors of certain animals, to be in part an armor against a hostile world, in part an invitation to draw closer. Against the somewhat stern aspect of strong classical features — a prominent jaw and nose, a short black beard — his hazel eyes were tender. My first impression was of both defiance and vulnerability. His candor was disarming; he was prepared to talk about all aspects of his life — “You can ask me anything,” he said — which made me wonder if he had given too many interviews, or whether, beneath his air of nightclubs and after-parties, hotel rooms and private planes, he had developed rich inner resources, the kind that have insulated him from the overexposure of being famous virtually all his adult life.

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The models Elibeidy Dani and Janaye Furman wear Marc Jacobs’s spring 2020 collection.CreditCredit…Roe Ethridge

THE JACOBS I felt I already knew struck me as that rare breed of designer whose talent has long intersected with the spirit of an age. If the reason for the emergence of such a figure every 25 years or so is always a little mysterious, it is because no one can anticipate the work they do until they have done it — think of Yves Saint Laurent putting women in trousers on the eve of the women’s liberation movement in 1966 — and yet, in retrospect, nothing seems more obvious. Jacobs belongs to that small tribe of people (as does, say, the director David Lynch, or the artist Lynda Benglis) whom the world initially greets with puzzlement, but whom, having proven themselves forerunners to so much else in the culture, no one can imagine the world without. He has lived so many lives, adopted and discarded so many avatars, that the poise and flamboyance of his persona make it easy to underestimate him. And yet, before the prurient self-regard of our present time, with its interlinked obsessions with reality TV, social media and auto-fiction, here was a man who understood the power of the projected self. Like a novelist who divides himself among his characters, one Marc Jacobs toiled away at making the clothes that would change fashion, even as another Marc, with the help of his former business partner, Robert Duffy, 65, transformed the business of fashion.

Jacobs was just 29 when, in 1992, he showed his infamous grunge collection, which recast streetwear as luxury. The sight of flannel shirts remade in Italian silks and polyester baby-doll dresses in silk chiffon was provocative enough to get Jacobs fired from his role as creative director of Perry Ellis (then known for its clean-cut American sportswear). That transformation of grunge into high fashion — complete with Kate Moss in combat boots — was only one of many instances when Jacobs would display his almost uncanny ability to identify the mood of a time, to give shape and form to what was yet unvoiced. It was on the strength of that collection that Jacobs and Duffy, who had formally established their company in 1984, debuted Jacobs’s own line a year later, forging one of the greatest collaborations since Saint Laurent met Pierre Bergé at the Cloche d’Or in 1958. In 1997, Jacobs was appointed the creative director of Louis Vuitton — a reign that lasted 16 years — thereby pioneering another dichotomy that is now commonplace, in which he simultaneously ran his namesake label while heading a large European house. Jacobs not only introduced women’s clothing to what was previously a traditional luggage brand but seamlessly blended art with fashion, collaborating with artists such as Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince on accessories that remain highly coveted to this day. His tenure reimagined a heritage brand in a manner that was as irreverent as it was confident. Its success suggested that faithfulness for faithfulness’s sake might be respectful — but it was also dull.

Throughout it all, he consistently managed to capture new moods that were just around the corner, creating pieces women never knew they needed until the clothes went down the runway: a bibbed, tea-length, Peter Pan-collared dress in a deep cerulean lace (fall 2004); a buckled, square-heeled Sun King court shoe (fall 2012); a short-sleeved pajama shirtdress, covered in iridescent pink sequins (fall 2013). He made American luxury newly relevant while also making it accessible. When he and Duffy launched their immensely lucrative Marc by Marc Jacobs label in 2001 — a lower-priced line of basics like army jackets, cotton prairie dresses and souvenir items such as logo T-shirts, as well as key chains and tote bags — they expanded the business to encompass both high and low. This was, in part, an appeal to prospective buyers of the company, but also a prediction of the direct-to-consumer retail experience that would later flood the market.

But Jacobs’s influence extended beyond the business of fashion, affecting how it was presented to us as well. For him, a runway show wasn’t just a means to an end: It was a foretaste of today’s immersive theater, the audience packed with celebrities as diverse as Beyoncé and Lady Bunny. And although now every big house, from Gucci to Prada, produces experiences equal in scale and spectacle, few replicate Jacobs’s emotional intensity. “When one thinks of all the years and all the productions, and the music and the scenes, and how he’s able to evoke so much emotion, season after season, year after year, it’s very hard. And he always, always does it,” said the photographer Steven Meisel, who has collaborated with the designer for more than a decade. Jacobs was aware that people leave his shows “feeling something.” A mood, a spirit: the menacing shadow a bolero hat can cast on a spot-lit model’s face; the commanding, heart-stopping regality of a hyper-ruffled, puffed-up blood-red taffeta sleeve; the romantic loneliness of a single feather bobbing atop a knitted cap accompanying a gown made entirely of ocean-gray plumes. “I don’t know how it happens,” Jacobs said to me. “I can’t weave joy into a cloth. I can’t drape joy into a jacket. But I think there’s something within the process where the energy continues to grow and is somehow amplified and transferred within those seven minutes.”

JACOBS EXUDES THE intimacy of a man for whom all forms of dressing up — preparing, as T.S. Eliot put it, “a face to meet the faces that you meet” — have always, quite literally, been a show, suggesting that if there is a true life to be had, it is backstage. His natural state, one suspects, is one in which he sits with an old friend in a post-show glow, his mood one of mingled exhilaration and fatigue, toes nibbling the edge of the sofa, tea and cashmere at hand, the conversation drifting between self-examination and gossip. When we met, we slipped quickly into a freewheeling conversation about the old Upper West Side (where I now live), his grandmother Helen, his first kiss (as a middle schooler, with a girl named Lauren Bongiorno at camp, which was more to impress the other boys: “The queen amongst you has become king amongst you!”), drugs, orgies and the Grindr-driven need for sexual novelty that can make gay life in New York so arid. But most of all, we circled around a primal wound inflicted on Jacobs as a child by his mother’s mental illness, which left him with a taste for high emotion and a heightened instinct for self-protection.

Jacobs’s mother — his sole legal guardian after the death of his father, a TV agent at William Morris who died of the chronic bowel disease ulcerative colitis when Jacobs was 7 — had bipolar disorder. “I saw things no child should ever have to see,” said Jacobs, referring to episodes when his mother would go off her medication. Sometimes he would wake up to find her catatonic and bloodied; other times she was being carted off to the emergency room. Running alongside these darker moments were terrific highs, which Jacobs, who has inherited his mother’s disease (along with his father’s ulcerative colitis), confessed he half loved. He would see her dressed up before going out, “wearing drag-queen-type makeup.” She once came home high with a boyfriend and they painted a mural on the bathroom wall, onto which she glued clumps of her boyfriend’s pubic hair. In another instance, in the grip of chemical enthusiasm, she decided they would open a modeling agency with her new boyfriend, whom she planned on marrying; she had already designed towels embroidered with her new initials. “I was, like, ‘O.K.,’” Jacobs said tentatively, and even in his retelling, one could feel all the alarm and wonder of a young boy growing suspicious of the pathological intensity of his mother, from whom he remained estranged until her death in 2011.

In the end, it was too much. The oldest of three children, he was forced to be a parent to his siblings. “It was not a job I wanted,” he said. “I did not want to be mother and father to my sister and brother in any way, shape or form.” When Jacobs was in his early teens, he went to live nearby with his paternal grandmother, who had an apartment in the Majestic, a twin-towered Art Deco building on Central Park West (his siblings, with whom he does not have a relationship, were taken into foster care). “It was the beginning,” he said, “of the life I loved.” Grandma Helen, who adored Jacobs, brought rules and decorum to his life. Spring and autumn clothes, with matching shoes and bags, were brought out and put away as the seasons changed. With some outfits she wore only black gloves, with others only white. She taught her grandson the virtue of owning one nice sweater rather than 10 not-so-nice sweaters. These early lessons in style, alongside her complete belief in Jacobs — she went about the neighborhood telling everyone that her grandson, who had already shown more than a practical interest in clothes, was going to be a famous designer one day — gave him the stability within which his own Dionysian nature could flower, safe from the danger of self-immolation. His grandmother was the first in a series of guardians, or protectors, that Jacobs would find — and need — throughout his life. “I always found my space,” he said. “I believed that I could create the world I wanted to live in.”

This world was invariably an enclosed one, governed by its own laws, in which the consolations of beauty and art could shut out the chaos beyond, the way a sudden downpour can put the roar of a city at a distance. What Jacobs seemed always to be in search of was a world within a world — a framing device, if you will — into which he could pour his reserves of creativity and emotion. Ricky Serbin, his friend and roommate while he attended the Parsons School of Design, and now a dealer of high-end vintage fashion, remembers an 18-year-old Jacobs, put in charge of a party for the Japanese avant-garde designer Kansai Yamamoto in 1981, renting a fish market on Canal Street. “Everyone,” Serbin said, “was given necklaces with clear plastic bags in which there was a live goldfish.” That playfulness, or “whimsy,” as Duffy described it, is at the heart of Jacobs’s work, and it is, in fact, a very serious thing. Like the Surrealist Salvador Dalí, who replaced telephone receivers with lobsters, Jacobs creates a hilarity that can also be philosophical. And in a business that takes itself as seriously as fashion does, this kind of wink reminds us that beneath the splendor of it all — the great sets, the beautiful models sparkling in their jewels and raiments — it is all vanity, all dross.

Gray and checked peak-lapel wool blazers with oversize patch pockets and heavy stitch embroidery, along with matching wide-leg trousers, leather boots and grosgrain-trimmed wool fedoras. All looks from Marc Jacobs spring 2020. All hats are Stephen Jones for Marc Jacobs.Credit…Photo by Roe Ethridge. Styled by Carlos Nazario
From left: an ocher-colored wool cropped-sleeve jacket with a sequin lining over a matching straight skirt; a canary-yellow peak-lapel blazer, vest and purple mock turtleneck blouse with matching wide-leg trousers. Both looks worn with floppy-brimmed hats.Credit…Photo by Roe Ethridge. Styled by Carlos Nazario

IF THERE IS one single attribute that elevates Jacobs out of the world of clothes and into the world of art, it is his process. This is a man who, armed with only the grain of an idea — what Henry James calls the “windblown” seed — lives for weeks in a state of formlessness. He recognizes from experience that the discomfort of that bit of grit lodged in his imagination is creativity, but that is all. He has to live with that and wait for it to reveal its inner promptings. Ever since he was a child, he has understood the relationship between chaos and form, when he fashioned realms of order and beauty that protected him from the disorder and violence of his domestic life; he knows that he must wait in a state of heightened anxiety and concentration for that first glimmer of inspiration to show itself as something real.

The first sign of articulation announces itself as color and fabric. Still, he has no real sense of what goes where. The story we are told of men like Valentino or Halston is of the designer sitting at his “very chic” desk, Jacobs said, making “lovely drawings, which he hands over to some assistant, who in turn gives them to the woman who’s going to drape them, or the man who’s going to do the tailoring. They go off, a muslin comes back. There is a fitting where a bolt of fabric is thrown over a model.”

“And that’s just not the way it is!” Jacobs said emphatically. “Or at least, it’s not like that here.” Instead, Jacobs and his team sit around a table for two weeks to a month. A process of collaging then occurs, in which his team goes out and collects fabrics from vintage clothing stores and couture mills. There are no directives. During this period, Jacobs doesn’t know if anything is right or wrong, and the eyes of those around him are as important as his own. “Because in his head,” Duffy said, “there is a vision. He hasn’t articulated it to anybody in the room yet. He hasn’t even articulated it to himself yet, but I see it coming together as he’s putting things together.” Throughout this process, Jacobs will maintain fixations: with forms, textures and fabrics. For his spring 2020 collection, for instance, he became obsessed with variations of 1960s-style high-waisted three-piece suits. Once the broad contours of his vision are determined, Jacobs goes, like a queen bee in her hive, to the other departments — hair, makeup and shoes — pollinating their imagination with the mood or feeling with which he’s been living. If things cohere, it is because a massive collaborative energy has swept through the office, cross-fertilizing the different departments. Speaking of the joy and abandon manifest in his spring 2020 collection, Jacobs said, “I woke up one day in Rye” — the upstate New York town where he bought a Frank Lloyd Wright house in 2019 — “and I remembered this song ‘Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.’ I watched the video from [the 1971 musical comedy by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, based on the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew] ‘Godspell.’ And it’s so great. Because all these people are leaving their jobs. This model throws away her wig and portfolio; this ballerina is flipping down the street … and another guy is walking by. It’s the feel of ‘Godspell.’”

From left: a check suiting double-breasted belted long jacket with an enamel buckle and buttons, and matching pleated-front high-waisted trousers, silk blouse, wool sweater and forest-green fedora; a leather trench coat draped over a fitted vest and pleated trousers and a brown wool cowboy hat.Credit…Photo by Roe Ethridge. Styled by Carlos Nazario
A ruffled floral dress, with a guipure collar, in dusty hues of peach, green and burgundy; heart intarsia tights, ’60s quilted mules and a floppy straw hat.Credit…Photo by Roe Ethridge. Styled by Carlos Nazario

The resulting collection was a maximalist explosion of color and nostalgia. Here were tangerine dresses covered in crocheted white flowers, yellow stockings, floppy ’70s sun hats and red bowlers and great gowns covered in blush, pink and orange dahlias made from fluttering organza. Models had Raggedy Ann eyelashes, or glittery, beetle-green shadowed lids, or Elton John-style glasses with rims shaped like butterfly wings. It was a spring so euphoric that it felt as though Carmen Miranda had gone for a stroll along the sea floor and emerged with sponges, sea lilies and anemones clinging to her petticoats.

Jacobs became philosophical as conversation turned to the subject of a designer’s relevance and longevity. “This is where it’s all going to go dark,” he said, speaking of the cycles all designers go through. He raised the possibility that every creative person has a moment, and that maybe he has had his: “People want newness, and they want it from a new person. I understand that I’m not the 25-year-old who was given this incredible job at Perry Ellis, or who created the grunge collection, or who was the bad boy of the 1990s,” he said. “I am a 56-year-old man who still has the privilege of doing a collection.” But his voice was calm as he said this, full of acceptance and experience.

There is a side of Jacobs, no doubt a consequence of the trauma of those childhood scenes with his mother, that is drawn to the allure of personas and the refuge of fictitious selves. “There’s a part of me,” he said, speaking as if he was spectator unto his own life, “that would have been a great performer: I love this idea of creating identity, of playing roles and, you know, playing a part in this movie that’s my life.” One criticism often leveled at Jacobs’s work is that there is no signature. Yet there is: The signature is him. His emotional development, which has coincided with the arc of gay culture in this country, is the common thread running through his work.

LONG BEFORE INFLUENCERS and social media managers, Jacobs knew the importance of becoming a brand. Over the years, he has embodied a dozen sociologies related to gay culture, from the embrace of the body beautiful in the mid-aughts, when he famously shook off his chrysalis of flab and long, unkempt hair to reveal the hard sinew of an Instagram-ready body, of sex-positivity, of rehab and wellness, of marriage, and now, with his jewel-encrusted nails and rhinestone hairpins, of gender fluidity.

Jacobs said he was “never in,” though he couldn’t remember ever sitting anyone down to come out. He rode the bus to Parsons with the actress Maureen Stapleton and the milliner Mr. John, who made hats for the Duchess of Windsor. Dressed in button-downs and tiny bow ties, Jacobs began going to Studio 54 when he was 15 and was soon dating Robert Boykin, who was 17 years his senior and the owner of Hurrah, the first rock and new wave nightclub on the Upper West Side. Through Boykin, Jacobs got to know Debbie Harry, David Bowie and Andy Warhol. “He was practically a savant,” Serbin, who shared a fourth-floor walk-up downtown with Jacobs in the 1980s, told me. “He knew everything about fashion and knew everyone in fashion.”

In the late 1980s, Boykin was diagnosed with AIDS, and Jacobs, who by then had been with him for nine and a half years, watched him go home to Alabama to die. The era of sexual decadence was ending. Everybody had been taking drugs and having random sex, when, as Jacobs put it, all of a sudden, “Oh God, there’s this thing and a group of our friends are already infected with it, and it’s spreading, and you can’t behave that way anymore.”

During this period, Jacobs was, Serbin said, “decidedly unglamorous,” but by the aughts, after a period of careful eating and exercising as a way to treat his ulcerative colitis, he went from 21 percent body fat to 6.5 percent. “You could see my abs,” Jacobs said, “and I could flex and there would be a little bit of a bicep, and, all of a sudden, guys in the gym started paying attention to me.” He enjoyed the attention, too. But then a Jacobsian cycle, whose spiraling excesses I was beginning to recognize, ensued. Soon, he was on steroids and partying at clubs in Ibiza, where he would stay up all night on MDMA. “That started the whole Grindr thing,” Jacobs said. “I wanted more Grindr dates and better-looking Grindr dates. I didn’t really care about them. I just wanted sex.” He dated beautiful Brazilians, such as the entrepreneur Lorenzo Martone and the adult film star Harry Louis, whose best work, available online, shows Louis valiantly perfecting the yogic art of bottoming while simultaneously sloughing off the tyranny of the gag reflex. But last year, Jacobs married his longtime boyfriend, Charly Defrancesco, 36, a model, interior designer and entrepreneur. “I didn’t really care about marriage,” he said, but through the course of the five-year relationship with Defrancesco, “I realized how important marriage was to Charly.”

“Happiness” was a word that Jacobs’s friends and colleagues often used when discussing him. Everyone spoke of how happy he is now, how much easier in his skin. “Sober, settled, happily married,” Duffy said, adding of the designer’s life in Rye: “I never in my life thought Marc would be moving to the suburbs.” (Jacobs still keeps a Manhattan residence.) The word came up so much that I began to feel I was listening to a version of what the critic V.S. Pritchett once wrote of the personal happiness Edith Wharton found after marriage: “That happiness, it now seems, dulled her talent.” But no. Katie Grand, the house’s stylist since 2013, assured me that the moment Jacobs walks through the door of the seventh-floor studio on Spring Street, “all the Rye-idyllic happiness” falls away and “the anxieties hit, the insecurities hit.” And there are other anxieties, too: about money — Jacobs had recently sold more than 50 works from his personal collection of contemporary art, including one by John Currin and an Andy Warhol, at Sotheby’s — and about age, about the industry’s relentless pursuit of the new. “His creative process hasn’t changed, whether he’s been happy in relationships or unhappy,” said Grand. “His drive is still in his head to go and create something.”

From left: a shrunken men’s vest, matching pleated pants and a silk button-down blouse, worn under a gabardine trench coat and paired with quilted mules and a felt fedora; a fitted blazer, vest and matching Swarovski crystal-embellished pants with a silk button-down blouse, a wool bowler hat and white wedge mules.Credit…Photo by Roe Ethridge. Styled by Carlos Nazario
A red feather headpiece with a Dahlia and Blades gown made of blush pink and orange organza.Credit…Photo by Roe Ethridge. Styled by Carlos Nazario

“I TRY TO enjoy everything I have for the time I have it,” Jacobs said. “But there’s this dancing-as-fast-as-I-can fear that I have only got so much time, and I’m not going to get to enjoy this forever. Either someone will take it from me, or it will get lost, or I’ll lose it. So, impending doom and chaos is always there. That’s what I grew up with.”

At Marc Jacobs, the past five years have been difficult. The departure of Duffy in 2014 brought to a close one of the most creatively fecund and successful business partnerships in the history of the industry. A year earlier, Duffy and Jacobs ceded control of Marc Jacobs to LVMH in a restructuring deal that nearly coincided with Jacobs stepping down as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton. The company had more than 250 stores worldwide, along with a cosmetic and fragrance business, a men’s and children’s line and a bookstore. Duffy found himself sidelined. It was decided that almost everything except the women’s runway collection would be discontinued or scaled down: Away went the secondary Marc by Marc Jacobs line, with its popular candy-colored handbags and flared blue jeans and irresistible trinkets. “I didn’t understand that decision,” Duffy said with exasperation. “Why are you throwing away all the things that make money?” Duffy bought a house in Rhinebeck, in the Hudson Valley, where he spends his weekends. He’s now raising two children; Jacobs is the godfather to both.

Since Duffy’s exit, the brand has had two C.E.O.s: Sebastian Suhl, who came from Givenchy, and Eric Marechalle, who came from Kenzo and was appointed in 2017. Marechalle’s first big hire in February 2018 was John Targon, the co-founder and former co-designer of the American ready-to-wear sportswear brand Baja East, who was brought on to help Jacobs and his team design Marc Jacobs runway looks. Three months later, he was gone. Perhaps the only “name” designer at Marc Jacobs can be the man himself.

What’s certain is that the age of excess that witnessed the rise of Marc Jacobs — the person and the company — has now passed. In this new sober time, Jacobs’s career, with all its emphasis on joyful self-aggrandizement, feels a little like a cautionary tale of exuberance shading into shrinking profits, shop closures and a melancholy, if amicable, divorce from Duffy. Today the company maintains only five stores: three in New York, one in Los Angeles and another in Paris. Yet there have been moves to correct course, including the recent one-off Redux Grunge Collection 1993/2018, an almost verbatim 26-piece reissue of Jacobs’s show for Perry Ellis, released for the 25-year anniversary of the seminal collection. A resurrection of Marc by Marc Jacobs in the form of The Marc Jacobs — a mix of revived basics and new collaborations (the filmmaker Sofia Coppola, for example, helped Jacobs pick some of the pieces to bring back) — launched in May 2019. His past three runway collections have been hugely acclaimed, and critics speak of Jacobs once again as the face of New York fashion. They are reminders of how Jacobs’s shows have long been one of the main reasons European editors fly to New York for fashion week, where they once were kept waiting for hours for them to start. (These days, the shows mostly start on time.) As other brands — including Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra and Tom Ford — have experimented with presenting their clothes in Europe or in California, Jacobs has remained true to his city. His is always the last big show on the New York fashion week calendar, and his runway, though more austere now, resonates with the power of an older master — “venerable,” as he likes to say — one still able to arouse passion, still able to read the mood of the time.

And yet, one returns to Jacobs not out of nostalgia but from a curiosity to see how this man of prodigious talent, now shorn of the infrastructure of self-enlargement, is faring in a time out-of-joint. “When I think of American designers, there is a certain spirit that is inherent in American design. There’s tenacity, there’s a sort of can-do attitude, and Marc represents the best of that,” said co-chairperson Julie Mannion of the fashion public relations firm KCD and a longtime collaborator of Jacobs. “There’s that fearlessness of not being too pigeonholed by tradition.” Jacobs the artist is remarkable in his sensitivity, in his ability to pivot and meet the needs of a new era. For more than 10 years, he presented his collections at the Beaux-Arts brick fortress of the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, but in 2014, Jacobs moved west to the Park Avenue Armory, a Gilded Age building on the Upper East Side once known as the home of the “silk stocking” regiment for the high number of Roosevelts and Vanderbilts who served in the local militia. He has remained loyal to this venue, with few exceptions, ever since. His shows are now as spartan as they once were baroque: just the models, the clothes, the viewers and the building’s uneven matchstick wooden floors. For the spring 2018 season, Jacobs showed his intensely beautiful ’60s-style tunics, pinned turbans and one-shoulder gowns cut from batik-like fabrics and pastel florals in complete silence. The 460 onlookers, seated in uncomfortable metal folding chairs around the perimeter of the 55,000-square-foot room, heard only the beat of tinseled and jeweled sandals strutting and the swish of clothes heavy with sequins and beading. The effect was powerful in its simplicity, and in its suggestion of an older artist freeing himself from the noise and clutter of a younger self.

IT WAS A bright December afternoon, a week or so before Christmas, when Jacobs and I met for the last time. I waited in the reception area of his atelier next to a sculpture of Neville, Jacobs’s bull terrier, whom I had recently begun following on Instagram (he has over 200,000 followers). I thought I could finally understand why Jacobs commands such devotion from those around him. He exudes a precariousness that is deeply affecting to anyone even dimly aware of the mysterious connection between creativity and tragedy. If he attracts protectors, it is because one cannot speak at any length to him without feeling that, as Oscar Wilde wrote about his titular character in “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “a note of doom runs like a purple thread” through “the gold cloth” of his talent. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful man,” Jacobs’s friend, the filmmaker Lana Wachowski said. She told me that during one of Jacobs’s “post-art-done depressions,” she gave him a copy of Albert Camus’s 1942 philosophical essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” which led the designer and the filmmaker to get matching tattoos.

Earlier, Jacobs had shown me a slide of himself with his grandma Helen in Capri in 1980; it was encased in the red plastic of a vintage photo viewer. The slide was a stark contrast to the hard, distancing glamour of his appearance now; together, the two images of Jacobs were like the two panels of a diptych denoting innocence and experience. Peering down the viewer’s small convex lens, I saw Jacobs — gangly, laughing, 17 — standing next to his white-haired grandmother, herself the picture of bourgeois Upper West Side elegance. She was wearing a Claude Montana knit dress, with broad stripes of silver across a white background, which Jacobs had made her buy. He, in turn, had saved his earnings as a stock boy at the now-defunct Upper West Side clothing store Charivari to buy the men’s sweater version of the dress, which he wore with white trousers. To see the teenager with his chosen protector, the pairing of sweater and dress a proof of their bond, was to be reminded of the matching tattoos of Sisyphus that Jacobs would get decades later with Wachowski. The myth of the man condemned for eternity by the gods to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again has long attracted those who know the solitude and futility of creative life. In the version of the myth inscribed on Jacobs’s and Wachowski’s forearms, five tattooed words of hope allow for human communion as a refuge in the enveloping loneliness. They simply read: “I will if you will.”

Models: Janaye Furman at the Lions and Elibeidy Dani at IMG. Hair by Akki at Art Partner. Makeup by Susie Sobol at Julian Watson Agency. Set design by 
Andy Harman at Lalaland. Casting by Midland. Manicure: Dawn Sterling at Statement Artists. Production: Hen’s Tooth. Lighting design: Jordan Strong. Photo assistants: Ariel Sadok, Kaitlin Tucker and Shen Williams. Digital tech: Jonathan Nesteruk. Stylist’s assistants: Raymond Gee and Erica Boisaubin. Tailoring: Thao Huynh. Hair assistant: Rei Kawauchi. Makeup assistant: Sasha Borax. Set design assistant: Lee Freeman.

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The T List: Five Things We Recommend This Weekon February 13, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

Welcome to the T List, a newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. Each week, we’re sharing things we’re eating, wearing, listening to or coveting now. Sign up here to find us in your inbox every Wednesday. You can always reach us at tlist@nytimes.com.

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Credit…© Undine Pröhl

The Mexico City-based hotel developer Grupo Habita has long been known for its modern, design-savvy lodgings in unexpected places and its newest property, Escondido Oaxaca, set in a 19th-century colonial-style house in Oaxaca, is no exception. The architect Alberto Kalach kept the original frescoes and redesigned the property’s communal spaces around the central courtyard, including a rooftop pool and bar, a library and lounge, an Italian restaurant by the chef Saúl Carranza and four bedrooms, each with exposed concrete walls, pinewood furnishings and cement floors covered in handwoven petate mats. He also constructed a contemporary tower in an adjacent lot to house an additional eight rooms, all of which have a balcony or a patio. To fill the onetime house, Cecilia Tena and Lucía Corredor of the design studio Decada selected found objects like 1970s-era Miguelito chairs first made famous by the architect Luis Barragán, contemporary dining sets by the emerging local designer Taller Nacional and palm weavings and barro negro clay pots made by local artisans. The result is a hotel that feels like a home and is, as Corredor says, at once “timeless and true to Oaxaca and its artistry.” From $180, escondidooaxaca.com.

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“All the chefs eat here.” That’s how a friend described C.A.M. Import Export, a small-plates restaurant on the edge of Paris’s Marais district that feels like the polar opposite of the glossy, hi-fi bistros that suffuse the city. It was hands down the site of my most thrilling dining experience from last year. Located in an old Eiffel Tower souvenir shop (hence the name), the minimalist space is appointed with assorted houseplants and a rack of indie magazines. It first opened as a restaurant in 2017; less than a year later, its Korea-born, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Esu Lee, left to study at the temple of the famed Buddhist monk and chef Jeong Kwan in Korea. C.A.M. reopened toward the end of 2018, and its new menu deftly weaves between Korean, French and whatever other flavors Lee feels inspired by on any given night; that might mean crisp daikon fritters in Sichuan pepper sauce, silken tofu served with hunks of Brie and salty pops of salmon roe or a melting chocolate bar sprinkled with olive oil and gochugaru. C.A.M. also has a tight wine list that you could drink through in a single evening (I did). Consider it an anti-bistro bistro. 55 rue au Maire, Paris.

See This

The octogenarian artist Ben Sakoguchi was only three years old when he was separated from his parents who were incarcerated during World War II at Poston War Relocation Center, a Japanese-American concentration camp in Arizona. This month, Ortuzar Projects in New York has mounted an unprecedented exhibition of his paintings. The show includes early work from the 1960s along with selected pieces from Sakoguchi’s “Orange Crate Label” series from the ’70s and ’80s that have a Raymond Pettibon-esque punk-rock quality to them. Most astounding, though, is a group painting called “Towers” (2014) that depicts scenes of various Japanese-American concentration camps, as well as a group portrait of residents of Poston’s Block 13 that includes Sakoguchi as a little boy in the front row. Sakoguchi said he only began painting the camps after the death of his parents, who had struggled to regain their life after the war; his mother had returned to their grocery store in San Bernardino with $1,000 she had hidden in her belt throughout her imprisonment. The painting has a surreal quality that is both devastating and matter-of-fact. “Ben Sakoguchi: Made in U.S.A.” is on view through April 4 at Ortuzar Projects, 9 White Street, New York, ortuzarprojects.com.

Wear This

In the world of men’s accessories, everything from sneakers to bags to wallets is touted as customizable; when it comes to watches, however, personalization has been limited to engraving and interchangeable straps. Enter Baume, the Swiss luxury brand that lets shoppers build their own timepiece online. There are four different models to choose from: Automatic, which is self-winding; Retrograde, with day and date indicators; Moonphase, which shows the lunar cycle; and Small Seconds, with a subdial for the second hand. Customers can then select the case size and finish, dial and hand color and strap material. (There are over 2,000 different possibilities in all.) Comfortingly, Baume uses recycled and upcycled materials like discarded skateboards and plastic retrieved from the ocean; next month, it will debut its second collaboration with the French ski brand Zag, featuring two new models with casings made from wood thrown out during ski-making and straps created from reused plastic. From $560, baumewatches.com.

Know About This

Taylor Patterson, the founder of the Brooklyn-based floral design studio Fox Fodder Farm, first started to think about a retail experience in 2017: “I wanted a space for people to breathe,” she told me. Come Friday, Patterson — whose wild arrangements are often found in the boutiques of the designers Ulla Johnson and Carolina Herrera — will open a full-fledged shop in a quiet section of South Williamsburg. Patterson worked with the landscape artist Brook Klausing on bringing the outdoors in, installing concrete flooring, brushed plaster walls, timber shelves and a bluestone fountain inspired by a Delaware creek near her hometown. While bonsais and premade bouquets are available, shoppers can make their own arrangements in hourlong sessions from a variety of blooms like poppies and flowering quince branches; for vases, they can choose from natural-toned ceramics by the Seoul-born artist Yoon-Young Hur or vessels from the Massachusetts-based one-man brand Pete’s Rocks, made with stones sourced from the North Atlantic coast. There’s also a broom for customers to sweep up their mess — as Patterson said, “It’s a work space, and things are going to get dirty.” 45 South Fourth Street, Brooklyn, foxfodderfarm.com.

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The Rise of Palestinian Foodon February 13, 2020 at 3:26 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

THE CARROTS, KNOWN as jazar ahmar, are stocky and rugged, as dark as wine, shading from red into purple. This may be the closest they get to the color of their ancestors, the primeval carrots that were first cultivated about a thousand years ago in what is today Afghanistan and later sown throughout Arab lands. A 10th-century Baghdadi cookbook dedicated to the food of the caliphs quotes the poet Kushajim rhapsodizing about a cold dish of carrots, cut into coins, as “dinars of carnelian.” Raw, they’re dauntingly tough, as hard as beets.

The Palestinian chef Joudie Kalla, who was born in Syria and now lives in London, inherited a recipe from her Teta Najla (her maternal grandmother) for jazar ahmar stuffed with cinnamon-scented ground lamb and rice, simmered in tamarind and lemon and given a lashing of garlic oil suffused with dried mint. But when Kalla first tried to recreate the Gazan dish for her 2018 cookbook, “Baladi,” she found the carrots almost too dense to core. (In the book, she cautions, “This is going to take a while.”) Her mother revealed the secret: Teta Najla would take the enormous red carrots to a local electrician and ask him to hollow them out with a power drill.

This is not an ancient technique. But the dish that winds up on the table — whether made by Palestinian cooks in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon or, like Kalla, in the West — is still true to its roots, bracingly sour and sweet. If cooking is in part an act of preservation, a way to sustain cultural identity across time and distance, it is also an art of resilience, demanding the ability to adapt. The very endurance of the dish may be counted as a victory: Six years ago, Vivien Sansour, a native of Beit Jala, a small town next to Bethlehem in the West Bank, feared that the indigenous jazar ahmar her mother had always stuffed were disappearing. She could no longer find them at markets and was repeatedly told that they were unavailable, until one day a vegetable peddler showed her a stash hidden under a tablecloth, promised to other buyers. She persuaded him to sell her two carrots, took them home, put them in the ground, waited for them to flower and harvested their seeds — among the first in an archive for the future, a project she calls the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library.

These days, Sansour travels the West Bank with a street-cart-size wooden kitchen that she sets up in the middle of villages, where she hosts meals and gathers stories of vanishing ingredients: strains of wheat like kaf al-rahman (“the palm of the merciful”) or abu samra (“the dark and handsome one”), which yields a bread as rich as cake; drought-resistant watermelons from Jenin in the West Bank, in whose fields people took refuge during the Six-Day War of 1967, and distant cousins to the watermelons of Gaza that are roasted unripe over open flames — in a communal process “that can take more than half the day,” according to Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s 2013 cookbook “The Gaza Kitchen” — and mashed to make fattit ajir, a salad strewn with scraps of qursa, unleavened bread baked in the fire’s embers.

Palestinian food is still rare in the West, at least under that name. Often it’s subsumed under the oversimplified label of “Middle Eastern” — a broad sweep from North Africa to Central Asia — or the more euphemistic “Mediterranean,” invoking the familiarity and safety of Italy and Spain to deflect from negative Western stereotypes of Arabs. Certainly it has kinship with other culinary traditions of the Levant, with meals built of dishes meant to share, at tables set with bright salads of just harvested vegetables and khubz (flatbread) baked that morning, alongside bowls of cooling yogurt, olive oil and za’atar, a wild herb that is ground with sesame seeds and sumac in a blend that’s deeply floral and sour. But the particular contours of the cuisine come from the natural bounty of the land between the Jordan River and the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, today designated as Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Therein lies the difficulty. Before Kalla’s first cookbook, “Palestine on a Plate,” was published in 2016, prospective editors were worried that the title might be taken as a provocation, by asserting Palestine as a literal place. (“The Gaza Kitchen” and Christiane Dabdoub Nasser’s 2001 “Classic Palestinian Cuisine” were early outliers, issued by small presses dedicated to international issues.) There are those for whom the word “Palestinian” is already a stance, as if simply pronouncing it constitutes an attack on Israel’s right to exist. Some insist that, historically, there was no Palestinian culture distinct from that of their fellow Arabs in the region — since Palestine was for centuries part of Greater Syria, under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire — a largely academic argument that fails to answer the question of what, then, to call the people who lived in the territory before 1948. They are not merely Arab any more than the French are merely European. In any case, if they did not have a fully formed identity under the Ottomans, they certainly do now, defined in part by the land they have lost.

Kalla persisted with her book, and since the publication of “Palestine on a Plate,” each year has seen a new addition to the Palestinian culinary canon: Reem Kassis’s “The Palestinian Table” in 2017; Kalla’s “Baladi” in 2018; last year’s “Zaitoun,” by the British writer and human rights activist Yasmin Khan; and this spring’s forthcoming “Falastin,” by the Jerusalem-born, London-based chef and restaurateur Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. Still, for each, the problem remains: How to speak of the cuisine, given the political context? Alongside recipes, must there be testimony to the daily tolls of life under Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of local olive trees over the past half century? Should there also be an acknowledgment of the rockets lobbed into Israeli territory by Palestinian militants, or the rallying cry of Hamas, the party that controls Gaza, for a free Palestine “from the river to the sea,” tacitly wiping out the country that lies between, or the rise of anti-Semitism in the Islamic world, or any of the countless accusations and defenses that can make a case for suffering on both sides?

In the end, these are cookbooks, intended to be a celebration — of a rich and storied cuisine whose history extends much further than the past seven decades. Some of the writers use their pages to chronicle the current Palestinian plight while others focus on the food and pass over the conflict in silence; both approaches have been criticized. But if to say “Palestinian” is in itself a political act, then each author is, in effect, an advocate. And all are united in the hope of making readers see Palestinians as “ordinary human beings with needs and wants,” as El-Haddad says: as a people like other peoples, whose name can be spoken.

The Palestinian cookbook canon includes Joudie Kalla’s “Baladi” (2018).Credit…Photo by Joshua Scott. Courtesy of Interlink
Yasmin Khan’s “Zaitoun” (2019).Credit…Photo by Joshua Scott. Courtesy of W.W. Norton

IN A 1986 INTERVIEW, the Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said recounted a conversation with a friend over a breakfast of yogurt cheese strewn with za’atar. It was a breakfast that, Said mused, existed “all over the Arab world”:

But my friend said: “There, you see. It’s a sign of a Palestinian home that it has za’atar in it.” Being a poet, he then expatiated at great and tedious length on Palestinian cuisine, which is generally very much like Lebanese and Syrian cuisine, and by the end of the morning, we were both convinced that we had a totally distinct national cuisine.

Without the anchor of a name and a place on a map, what are the markers of Palestinian identity? To eat za’atar is to remember the land from which the herb was historically gathered. So, too, with spiky akoub, a tumbleweed as tender as artichoke inside its armored buds; and iron-rich loof, the leaves of the black calla lily, which are toxic when raw and must be carefully cooked.

Around 1.9 million Palestinians live within the borders of Israel, 2.8 million in the West Bank and 1.8 million in the breathlessly crowded 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip. Six million, nearly half the total population, make up the diaspora. They are a people who have no country to call their own, like the Basques in Spain, the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Roma in Eastern Europe and, for millenniums, the Jews. But while a country is demarcated by official borders and governing laws, neither is prerequisite to a nation. What binds a people is a collective repository of memories and a consensual commitment to a way of life — a commitment that is not only sustained when they are sundered from their ancestral lands but arguably grows all the stronger for it.

Declaring allegiance to a nation need not be intrinsically political, then, or even a conscious choice. In keeping with the British social psychologist Michael Billig’s notion of “banal nationalism” — that nationhood is most powerfully reinforced not through grand gestures but the small, mundane repetitions that slip under the surface of conscious life — it might be as simple as the prosaic affirmation of beginning the day with a bowl of tahini drizzled with grape molasses, at once earthy and sweet; of aunties arguing over how much cinnamon to put in the rice. This is how a nation survives, in its most taken-for-granted details.

FROM THE PRIVILEGED vantage of the West, the true culinary revolution of our time is a return to the particular. Globalization has brought wider access to foods from around the world but it has also homogenized and elided them. Where Western cuisines were always granted minute distinctions (Tuscan versus Piedmontese, say, or the thousand gradations within American barbecue), “foreign” cuisines were perceived as monoliths. Only in recent years has the once countercultural and now mainstream concern over where our food comes from gone beyond the simple trajectory of farm-to-table to a deeper sense of terroir, encompassing the history of both the land and the people who live on it.

Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s “The Gaza Kitchen” (2013).Credit…Photo by Joshua Scott. Courtesy of Just World Books
Kalla’s “Palestine on a Plate” (2016).Credit…Photo by Joshua Scott. Courtesy of Interlink

This helps explain why Palestinian food is starting to find an audience in the West, in cookbooks and at restaurants like Qanoon in Manhattan, Beit Rima in San Francisco and Reem’s California in Oakland, all opened in the past few years. (Reem’s has drawn protests because it features a mural of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian activist who was convicted in Israel — some believe wrongly — for involvement in a 1969 bombing that killed two university students.) For while Palestinian cuisine may be “generally very much like Lebanese and Syrian cuisine,” in Said’s words, specific ingredients and culinary techniques shift with each microclimate, from the verdant Galilee in the north to the rolling hills of the West Bank to Gaza’s arid coastal plain, where chiles come pounded raw with tomatoes and dill in dagga, a hot, bright salad, or are left to ripen and then crushed and fermented to make shatta, a condiment of forthright flame.

“A recipe might be known in one area and totally unknown in another,” said the artist and chef Mirna Bamieh, who grew up in East Jerusalem and Ramallah and now travels around the West Bank and Israel, meeting with the oldest generation of Palestinians — those born before 1948 — and documenting oral cooking traditions, which she later recreates in elaborate meals open to the public, under the aegis of the Palestine Hosting Society. One meal in 2018 offered kofta (meatballs) of minced fish, a reminder of the bounty of Gazan waters before Israel limited fishing to as little as three nautical miles from shore. (Last year, the zone was extended to 15 nautical miles, then repeatedly reduced and restored in response to demonstrations.)

Kassis has written about the comic frustration of trying to coax precise measurements out of home cooks who’ve only ever worked by feel: “I cannot tell people to ‘add flour until it’s soft like your earlobe.’” There is an urgency to these recent cookbooks to tell the full story of Palestinian food lest it disappear, from its most famous dishes — mussakhan, chicken rubbed with sumac, roasted among gilded onions and served, in a spill of spice and juices, over flatbread from the taboon (clay oven), and maqluba, scented rice layered with meat and vegetables and flipped over on a plate in a great shaggy mound — to ones more difficult to replicate outside of the region, requiring ingredients like kishk, hand-cut wheat soaked in yogurt, left to ferment, then shaped into rough orbs and dried for weeks in the sun.

Some of the threats to Palestinian cuisine also apply to other indigenous populations around the world: Modernity is championed over traditions dismissed as “primitive”; hybridized seeds displace heirlooms. When the Utah-born artist and chef Amanny Ahmad visits her family’s village in the West Bank, she milks goats alongside a neighbor who is one of the last in the community to make her own goat cheese. Meanwhile, the popularity of a local Chinese restaurant delivery service has prompted Ahmad’s aunt to add spring rolls to the catering menu she offers during Ramadan. This is enterprising and adaptive. Still, Ahmad expresses concern about all that might be lost in the embrace of the new.

Reem Kassis’s “The Palestinian Table” (2017).Credit…Photo by Joshua Scott. Courtesy of Phaidon
Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley’s “Falastin” (to be published in April).Credit…Photo by Joshua Scott. Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

But the most dire and immediate threats are political in dimension. A 2019 United Nations report on conditions in the occupied territories described ongoing “loss or depletion and endangerment of natural resources” under Israeli control, with land seizures, the over-extraction of Gaza’s coastal aquifer and 85 percent of Gaza’s fishing waters placed off-limits. Palestinian farmers have been separated from their fields by barrier walls; the flow of water is restricted and Palestinians are currently forbidden to dig or restore wells without a permit, which is hard to obtain. Exporting food products is tricky, making it difficult to earn a livelihood from agriculture, which once made up a third of Palestinian gross domestic product but by 2018 had sunk to less than 3 percent. Laws against foraging, purportedly intended to protect the environment, have made it a crime to pick akoub, meramiyeh (sage) and za’atar. Power cuts in the West Bank and especially Gaza cause spoilage. And travel between Gaza and the West Bank is practically impossible, fragmenting the population and disrupting the oral traditions that keep the culture alive.

To Sansour, the problem goes beyond daily hardship to the metaphysical: “Israel is always stealing our time.” Palestinians wait for hours at security checkpoints; when they travel internationally, those without Israeli papers have to fly out of Jordan, which requires more hours waiting at a border crossing. The slow labor of cooking becomes a way of reclaiming time, of letting herself imagine an abundance of it.

TO A NUMBER of Palestinians, there is another threat, one that is subtler and more abstract but no less potent. Like the controversy invoked by saying “Palestinian,” it centers on the problem of a name: “Israeli cuisine,” which in the West has come to signify the likes of hummus, falafel, labneh, tabbouleh and shawarma, dishes long part of Arab tradition.

In its most basic definition, Israeli cuisine is simply what the people of Israel eat, brought to the newly founded country in the midcentury by Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe and Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This might include everything from cheese blintzes and goulash to cakes of almonds and whole oranges, boiled and pulped, from a recipe that’s six centuries old. But as the British cookbook writer Claudia Roden notes in Trevor Graham’s 2012 documentary “Make Hummus Not War,” many Jewish migrants “wanted to forget their old food because it reminded them of persecution.” In the food of their Palestinian neighbors, they found a connection to the land and their ancestors.

It’s worth noting that the term “Israeli cuisine” is of fairly recent vintage and appears to have more currency outside Israel; the American chef Ari Miller, of Musi in Philadelphia, spent a decade living in Tel Aviv and said that he never heard it until he returned to the United States in 2013. The Israeli journalist Ronit Vered, who writes for the newspaper Ha’aretz, suggested that because the country is so young, “we don’t know yet what is Israeli and what is just part of the region’s diet” — but there is a willful refusal by some Israelis, she said, to acknowledge Arab influences.

At issue is not the right of Israelis to eat hummus and falafel. “I have never said, ‘Don’t cook this food,’” said Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, a molecular biologist and the first Arab-Israeli (and Palestinian) to win Israel’s reality TV competition “Master Chef,” in 2014. For her, the problem is a denial of origins, as if these dishes were wholly unique to Israel: “I am asking for modesty.” Ahmad goes further, saying that it’s “psychologically dissociative” for Israelis to embrace the daily food of a people whose name is rarely spoken within the country: “It’s taking what you want and rejecting the rest.” In 2015, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs began flying in renowned chefs from around the world to attend the annual Round Tables by American Express culinary festival, as an opportunity for them to explore local cuisine while also sharing their own, a campaign that Ahmad calls “culinary whitewashing” — promoting the pleasures of food to distract from the grim consequences of the government’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

Food may be the most effective form of propaganda. It humanizes: When we dine with strangers, we learn something of who they are. The fear for Palestinians is that as dishes labeled Israeli grow increasingly popular in the West, their Palestinian counterparts — and, by extension, Palestinians themselves — sink out of view. They are rendered invisible.

Consider maftoul, often called Palestinian couscous, although it’s molded not with semolina but bulgur, from hard winter wheat berries that have been boiled until on the verge of bursting, then sun-dried and cracked. The broken pieces are soaked in water and coated in wheat flour, a process done entirely by hand, pinch by pinch, turning them into tiny orbs. Beyond shape, maftoul has little in common with what has been marketed in the West as Israeli couscous but is known in Israel as ptitim (“little crumbles” in Hebrew) or, more colloquially, as Ben-Gurion rice, named after former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who in the 1950s, during a time of austerity and rationing, asked Osem, a local company, to come up with a cheap, machine-extruded alternative to rice. It’s perhaps inevitable that a factory product, easy to replicate, would gain ascendance in the world over a handmade one; but for Palestinians, it can feel like erasure just the same.

IN 2015, ATAMNA-ISMAEEL started the A-Sham festival in Haifa, Israel, to highlight Arab food — A-Sham is the Arabic name for the Levant — and to pair up Arab-Israeli (Muslim and Christian, Palestinian and those with roots in other lands) and Jewish-Israeli chefs to cook traditional dishes. As portrayed in Beth Elise Hawk’s documentary “Breaking Bread,” which premiered in Haifa last fall, the festival is an exuberant success: One chef, the son of a Jew and a Catholic, says cheerily, “Even my godfather is Muslim”; another, a Jaffa, Israel-born Palestinian, reminisces about his multicultural childhood: “In our neighborhood, we spoke Arabic, we laughed in Hebrew, we cursed in Romanian.”

Still, there are hints of discord: A Palestinian chef and his Jewish wife explain that when their son joined the Israeli military, they asked him to take a naval post so he wouldn’t wind up in the West Bank; they didn’t “want any aunts to bring him food from the wrong side of the barrier.” On camera, Atamna-Ismaeel laughs over “what is politically correct to order” when an Arab salad of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onions is listed on the menu as an Israeli salad; but in a more recent interview, with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in October, she was more vocal about the discrimination she’s experienced as an Arab in Israel, adding, “And now they come and also take my food.” Last year, the festival was suspended after local government funding was cut.

El-Haddad questions the “feel-good, hummus-kumbaya narrative” of bringing together Palestinian and Israeli chefs without addressing the underlying inequity between them, arguing that such gestures are mere optics because the situation on the ground doesn’t change. “Who doesn’t want to move forward and forget what happened?” she said. “It’s like white people [in America] saying, ‘Why are black people so angry?’”

At the same time, candid dialogues between Palestinian and Israeli chefs are beginning to take place. In 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosted a dinner and discussion with El-Haddad, her co-author Maggie Schmitt and Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israel-born chef who is a partner in the Ottolenghi delis in London with the Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi. Last year, Kassis cooked alongside the Israel-born chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia, the chef perhaps most identified with Israeli cuisine in the United States and a friend of hers. The event, at the James Beard House in New York, bore the title Breaking Bread (no connection to the film), with proceeds going to an organization working toward reconciliation, made up of Palestinian and Israeli families whose loved ones have died in the conflict. “I don’t think either of us think that we will break bread and then there will suddenly be peace,” Solomonov said. “But we can start with the bread.”

“There are other ways to raise awareness — to spread your culture and have people know you as a person,” Kassis said. “I want our recipes and our stories to speak for themselves.”

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A Sculptor of the Female Gazeon February 13, 2020 at 9:54 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

CONSIDER THE ROOSTER. The cockerel — vigilant herald of sunrise, barnyard strutter — has a long iconographic history, appearing on things like weather vanes and churches (as an emblem of St. Peter) and French soccer jerseys (as le coq gaulois, the unofficial national mascot). In the Chinese zodiac, the rooster symbolizes honesty, fidelity and protection. In art history’s vast bestiary, the rooster appears most famously in Pablo Picasso’s 1938 “Le Coq,” its rainbow-colored strokes of pastel expressing the chicken’s movements, its irascibility and (fittingly, for the artist) its virility.

Katharina Fritsch’s rooster is above all that. Over 14 feet high, with luxuriant plumage a shade of ultramarine blue Yves Klein might have envied, the polyester-and-fiberglass sculpture could be found in London’s Trafalgar Square, perched high on the square’s fourth plinth for the nearly two years it was there (it is now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), piquant company for the traditional statues of self-serious heroes of history — King George IV, Maj. Gen. Sir Henry Havelock and Gen. Sir Charles James Napier, who occupy the other three. (A second rooster is in the sculpture garden of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; a third will be shown this month at Matthew Marks Gallery in Los Angeles, accompanied by two other sculptures.) When the Trafalgar Square rooster was unveiled in 2013, then mayor Boris Johnson noted the irony that an unofficial emblem of France had taken roost in a place commemorating a British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. Fritsch’s cock, however, knows no nation. “The French think it’s their rooster; the Minnesotans think it’s their rooster. It’s everyone’s rooster,” she says with equanimity. Detached from its expected scale, context or hue — here is a chicken, it is blue — the animal seems to have flown in through a rift in the cosmic fabric, evidence of a sprightlier, less pedantic universe.

The dream life of things — animals of all kinds, but also lanterns and shells, strawberries and umbrellas, figures of saints and the Madonna — are what preoccupy Fritsch, a German sculptor famous for her eerily smooth, outsize polyester-and-fiberglass sculptures in bright, matte, addictive colors. All of us bring a set of private associations to our surroundings, and Fritsch’s work operates upon and expands this relationship, revising reality just enough to unsettle us and make the subliminal feel real and graspable and even weirdly covetable. The initial visual startle of her work quickly becomes subcutaneous in feeling: the realm of fantasy and superstition. Much of her work plays with recognizable imagery — especially that of Catholicism and the Brothers Grimm — but presents it as if pulled from some half-remembered illusion. Some of her early work is more overtly about subconscious fear, such as her 1993 sculpture “Rattenkönig (Rat‑King),” a circle of 16 rats over nine feet tall with a knot of entangled tails, which enlarges a spooky motif to its symbolic proportions.

More unfinished sculptures in Fritsch’s studio, including one of her signature roosters. She works in polyester and fiberglass with acrylic paint or industrial lacquer.Credit…Bernhard Fuchs

What does it mean to see our fears and dreams take up physical space? Fritsch’s major 1988 work, “Tischgesellschaft (Company at Table),” features 32 blankly impassive, seated men, a nightmare vision of “identity dissolving in an infinite space,” as the artist described it in 2001, or what it might look like if all of my exes were invited to the same dinner party. As one draws closer, the men turn out to be all the same man: her boyfriend at the time, Frank Fenstermacher, of the German new wave band Der Plan. Since then, Fritsch’s oeuvre has expanded to increasingly ambiguous tableaus. In the Museum of Modern Art sculpture garden in 2011, she placed a set of stylized figures, including a 5-foot-7 cadmium yellow Madonna; a trio of saints in cobalt violet, green and black; and a giant gray primeval man with a club. A black snake slithers in front of them. The piece is indicative of Fritsch’s larger role as an artist: This is sculpture not just as allegory but as performance, almost a kind of postmodern stand-up — and a potent exercise in what Susan Sontag called “radical juxtaposition,” surrounded, as it is, by works from the more famous men of sculpture, such as Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin and Picasso.

It can be difficult to locate what it is Fritsch’s sculptures are trying to say, exactly — but this isn’t a criticism. They seem familiar — the rats and succulent-looking fruit plucked from a long-lost fairy tale, the fluorescent Madonna and skulls pulled from an obscure passage of the New Testament — and yet the pieces refuse to supply an identifiable critique of or statement about the tropes we are so used to seeing contemporary art address: consumerism, gender and racial identity. (They certainly spark a certain desire to have them or to be near them that seems intentional — the weird, product-like quality a strawberry might attain when enlarged, cushily recumbent and colored blue.) But in their unknowability, in making us search for answers again and again to no avail, Fritsch has created a remarkable and unique body of work. It provokes sensations of nameless dread or desire rather than a clear reaction, a kind of working lexicon not of the things that haunt us but rather of what it is like to feel haunted.

IN THE DAYS before I met Fritsch in her studio in Düsseldorf, Germany, last fall, as the artist was preparing for her show at Matthew Marks Gallery, one of her animals in particular troubled me: the poodle. Popularized in part by Albrecht Dürer and Francisco Goya, who featured them in their paintings, the breed became the dog of choice for early 19th-century French prostitutes and later a fad among teenage girls of the 1950s, who put poodle appliqués on their circle skirts. When I lived in Berlin in 2010, standard poodles had become ironic pets among a certain arty crowd, disturbing in the way that only a living creature employed as a fashion accessory can be. In 1996, Fritsch completed “Kind Mit Pudeln (Child With Poodles),” in which four concentric circles of dogs surround a Christlike infant. The absurdity of the animal itself, with its kitschy pompoms, contrasts neatly with their menacing arrangement, which calls to mind the orgy scene from “Eyes Wide Shut,” with a hint of the final moment in “Rosemary’s Baby,” when the coven converges on the cradle.

“I hate poodles, I must say,” Fritsch says over breakfast at her studio, a vast skylit space not far from a large park that was once home to Düsseldorf’s zoo, which was bombed in 1943. Her upstairs atelier overlooks the rail yards. Fritsch is 64 but looks a decade younger; she has a wonderfully mordant, expressive face and a brainy gameness, and is wearing a beautiful shirt of creamy chamois yellow corduroy that once belonged to her father, an architect. Two assistants, young men, say hello; when I turn to greet a third, bent over a worktable, he turns out to be a sculpture. “Ideas emerge from my subconscious all the time,” she explains, sometimes when she’s in transit, in a car or on a train; others originate in her sleep. “I think everything can be a sculpture for me. From the beginning, I wanted to create a kind of middle world that took you behind the object again by yourself, a world that really surprises people like they haven’t seen the object before.”

Achieving this effect depends entirely on perfection of form. In the two-and-a-half-year-long process of creating the rooster, Fritsch moved the tail three times; the chest was especially difficult to get right, as she didn’t want it to resemble the proud chest of Germany’s imperial eagles, nor did she want “a weak chicken.” Since 2006, Fritsch has used a computer at different stages in the development of her prototypes — scanning an object, making a plaster cast she then painstakingly reshapes and remodels, then rescanning and reworking several times to get the shape and detailing precise. To rely simply on a scan, she says, results in work that is “completely flat. I don’t want to be sentimental about this, but to me it has an effect. You lose this third dimension and the sensuality of the materials, the smell and everything. You need that.” When I ask her how casting in polyester works, she opens a can of the viscous stuff and shows it to me, inhaling. “The smell is amazing,” she says.

In trying to pin her down on the various sources of her iconography, I soon feel uncomfortably like a Jungian analyst. One of my favorite of Fritsch’s sculptures, “Oktopus (Octopus)” (2010), which features a small deep-sea diver clutched in one of the creature’s long orange arms, has its origins in childhood fever dreams and Jules Verne, she tells me. When Fritsch was a child, her father liked to tease her by whipping open an antique encyclopedia to the page with a terrifyingly detailed octopus illustration, but now she greatly admires and even identifies with the intelligent animal. “They are like artists, because they can change their skin within seconds to reflect their environment. I think this is so incredible,” she says, explaining that when she embarks on an animal sculpture, she first learns everything she can about it from books and documentaries and even natural history experts. But creating an octopus prototype proved to be a major design challenge. “First, I tried to make a scan of a real one — we bought it from the fish shop — but you can’t scan flesh because it’s always moving. And so I had to be the octopus. I was the octopus. I was really feeling the movement, and I knew it had to be like this,” and here she imitates the ungainly cephalopod’s sideways slump, the extended arm, and all at once, I catch a glimpse of how Fritsch transmits an abstract idea into form.

Fritsch mixes her own pigments; downstairs, there’s an entire room for spray-painting. She’s secretive about exactly how she creates her colors, which are brought to a paint factory to make an industrial lacquer, but the color selection process is entirely intuitive — “I visualize it immediately,” she says. For decades now, she has worked within a recognizable palette, one that might feel ironic in the hands of another artist but here, applied to her identifiable yet enigmatic imagery, feels more sinister: In addition to her iconic celestial blue and a black so dense it seems to suck color from its surroundings, she often uses cobalt violet, calamine pink, cadmium yellow and a particular unearthly blue-green — a color scheme reminiscent of Prada ads from the mid-aughts. How completely a simple change of hue shifts our perception, I realize as we flip through one of her catalogs together.

Part of Fritsch’s genius is how her work seems to beg for interpretation. Is her octopus a self-portrait, an earnest re-creation of her girlhood nightmares or an attempt at taming those fears by making the creature tenderly comic? The sculpture is sensual enough that I can’t help but identify with it; at the same time, I begin to imagine what it might feel like to have one of those chubby arms hold me in its grasp. This kind of ambivalence, the search for deeper meaning and its almost inevitable unraveling through the sheer literalness of Fritsch’s creations — her “Rattenkönig” really is just 16 rats in a circle — is part of the experience of viewing her work, which is confounding, frustrating, funny and ultimately moving because of the search itself, the matte porelessness that resists, refuses, interpretation. And yet they are far too fine in their detail — and too affecting — to be anything close to kitsch.

Her sculpture of a pale pink cowrie shell, for instance, over nine feet tall and sweetly creepy, resembles a colossal vagina dentata, I unoriginally point out. “You can see it like this. I see it as a shell,” she replies.

Fritsch’s “Hahn (Cock)” (2013), in London’s Trafalgar Square.Credit…Fiberglass, polyester resin, paint and stainless steel © Katharina Fritsch/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Ivo Faber
One of Fritsch’s most famous works, “Tischgesellschaft (Company at Table)” (1988), which features 32 seated men.Credit…Polyester, wood, cotton and paint © Katharina Fritsch/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Nic Tenwiggenhorn

“AT 5, IT WAS clear to me that I would be an artist,” Fritsch tells me over lunch at an Italian place in Oberkassel, a bourgeois neighborhood on the other side of the Rhine where the experimental artist Joseph Beuys lived before his death in 1986. Fritsch’s maternal grandfather was a salesperson for Faber‑Castell, and his garage was filled, tantalizingly, with art supplies. “It was a paradise,” she recalls. “I was always fascinated by the pencils with all the colors.” Growing up in Langenberg in the 1950s and in Münster in the ’60s, both near working-class Essen, in the heart of the Ruhr valley, Germany’s heavy industry heartland, art wasn’t an obvious career path. “Maybe my parents were secretly afraid of my never making any money, but they really encouraged me to do that, to paint and to draw,” she says. “My childhood was very sensual. It was a very artistic atmosphere.” And a little gothic: Fritsch kept her religious maternal grandmother company on her many tours of German churches, including the famous 13th-century crypts at Bamberg cathedral. “It’s very impressive when you go as a child into the Catholic churches and you see these figures, and there’s something that’s very cruel about what you see, and I was completely attracted by that,” she says. “Bodies dangling from crosses and skeletons in glass tombs?” I ask. “Yes,” she laughs. “You have nightmares, but it’s so impressive, so strong.” At the same time, American culture, its music and tacky consumer products, was conquering West Germany. “I was a big fan of Mickey Mouse and Barbie,” she says. “Some parents would never allow their children to have that, but my parents or my grandparents, they were not so afraid of things like that. We — my friends and I — all wanted to be more American.” After her application to the Münster Academy of Art was rejected, she instead studied history and art history at the University of Münster. “Art history was terrible for me. It was dusty and lifeless. Art should be alive,” she says. The people at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the famous art school whose students had included Beuys, as well as Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer, “seemed to be much cooler,” she adds.

One night in 1978, Fritsch went to Düsseldorf to see a performance by Beuys and the video art pioneer Nam June Paik, who, like Beuys, was teaching at the Kunstakademie at the time. The occasion was a memorial tribute to George Maciunas, a leading figure of Fluxus, the multidisciplinary art movement that fostered experimentation — initially in the form of radical performance — while also stressing the value of art’s role in everyday life. “It was something,” she recalls. “We went there in a little car with six people and the area around the Kunstakademie was pretty crowded. It was this new wave and punk thing that was going on there.” Carmen Knoebel, who was married to the artist Imi Knoebel, ran Stone im Ratinger Hof, a music venue that, much like New York’s Mudd Club of the same era, attracted the art crowd; there, the likes of Sigmar Polke and Beuys listened to Krautrock bands like Neu! and Kraftwerk. Fritsch applied to the city’s Kunstakademie, Germany’s best art school, and got in.

Thanks in part to Beuys’s legacy, Düsseldorf in the ’60s and ’70s represented a place of radical liberation, becoming an essential force in contemporary art. (Beuys was dismissed from teaching in 1972 after he admitted 50 students to his class who had been rejected by the academy.) His influence lived on at the school in its notable painters, like Kiefer and Richter, but also touched Fritsch’s generation of students, among them the photographers Candida Höfer and Thomas Ruff, the latter a good friend and frequent collaborator of Fritsch’s. Beuys believed that everyone not only could be but already was an artist. But this everything-goes attitude was as much about the tumult of postwar West Germany as it was a reflection of Beuys’s own philosophy. This was a generation of artists born into a chastened, broken Germany in the aftermath of World War II, yet who came of age during the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle, in which the industrial Ruhr area played a central role. The country’s re-emergence as a modern industrial superpower with an uneasy relationship to its recent past defines the art of this period, which didn’t so much address this identity crisis as simply embody it, resulting in one of the most thrillingly innovative periods in contemporary art. As Beuys, whose most famous work includes planting 7,000 oak trees around the industrial West German city of Kassel in 1982, once wrote: “Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline [sic].” All German artists of Fritsch’s generation, in one form or another, have long been preoccupied with the question of what art should be and who gets to decide, and their work reflects profound ambivalence about the human-made world and consumer culture.

In straddling a line between the symbolic and literal, living things and objects, Fritsch’s art is itself an ambivalent comment about the elevation of the everyday to a higher realm and the fruitless search for identity and truth in a rapidly changing world. But her very particular aesthetic has always felt larger in scope than the postwar milieu that fostered her, and her work seems to suggest references of all kinds, from René Magritte to Kazimir Malevich — and, of course, a certain essentially punk desire to provoke. When she first entered the Kunstakademie in the late 1970s, painting still dominated, and Fritsch found freedom in the sculpture department, as well as a mentor in the artist Fritz Schwegler (who had been a colleague of Beuys’s) and many friends whom she credits as inspiration, including the Minsk, Belarus-born sculptor Alexej Koschkarow, with whom she’s exhibited work on several occasions. She attributes her initial interest in multiples and industrial processes to her grandfather back in Langenberg, not Andy Warhol. At first, she experimented with ready-mades, spray-painting flowers and toy cars with automobile paint. It was in 1987 that she made her breakthrough work, the life-size cadmium yellow Madonna, which became one of her first public works when the Catholic city of Münster installed it in a town square that year (the sculpture subsequently had its nose broken and body graffitied a few times). “When I first painted the Madonna yellow, it was really something,” she says. “Now everyone is doing things like that, but at the time, it was really a kind of invention.” Fritsch, who recently retired as a professor of sculpture at the academy, where she taught for nine years, laments the loss of that kind of low-stakes improvisation and openness to new ideas, new forms and new names. The Germany she lives in now more or less stands alone as the leader of a fraying democratic Europe, which only enhances some of the mysterious drama of Fritsch’s sculptures. What does a Christian symbol mean at a time when much of the developed world is turning away refugees and imprisoning asylum seekers? What is a fairy tale if not a desperate search for home? Fritsch’s art raises these questions but refuses to answer them. In the same way that her work defies interpretation, the artist herself doesn’t read too much into her formative years, which she sums up as lean and filled with exhilarating, if toxic and rash-inducing, material experiments. “Back then, everybody lived in very bad circumstances and the market wasn’t so strong,” she says. “We didn’t care so much; nobody had any money. It was an innocent time. We were innocent creatures.”

DEPENDING ON ONE’S mood, the odd sense of dislocation that Fritsch’s work evokes might strike you as irreverent, cleverly transgressive or something more insidious. But the longer I’m in its presence, the more I sense a kind of moral intelligence in her objects, which distance us from our well-worn perceptions and feelings. Then there’s the implicit feminism in a female sculptor looking at men — still, oddly, something of a rarity in contemporary art. Fritsch’s men — which have included, over the years, a monk, a doctor and a be-toqued chef — call to mind, respectively, Caspar David Friedrich, Faust and an employee of a Bavarian beer hall. They are not in any way erotic. She uses friends as models, men with a certain kind of vanity, she says; the newest work she’s preparing for the upcoming show includes two male figures holding mobile phones. The models were the art historian Robert Fleck and the artist Matthias Lahme, and the piece is a reflection of Fritsch’s increasing concern about the disconnections and false promises of a digital age — our total absorption into unreal realms and the particular seductiveness of this form of consumption. We peruse the internet for things that we probably shouldn’t: homes, partners, employment, an unnamed and impossible fulfillment. The oblivious blue men clutching their phones are unsettling not because they look so different from us but because they are exactly the people who surround us, who perhaps are us.

“I must say that this generation of mine, we were the power women of the 1980s, and we wanted to be strong and straightforward. But then the generation afterward wanted to be feminine, to look nice and to have children, and they also wanted to have a big career. It’s such a pressure,” she says, referring to the ongoing debate about gender roles in Germany, where women occupy powerful positions in politics but are far less prominent in art and business. While Fritsch is single and has neither children nor poodles — she spends much of her days happily occupied with running her large studio — she’s surrounded by a circle of artist friends and is very close with her mother and sister. Sculpture, in particular at this kind of scale, demands very hard physical labor, and casting her molds also involves contracting with industrial workshops staffed exclusively by men: “You get more and more conscious of that, how they treat you and how they often don’t listen to you.” The fabricators, she explains, will often speak to her male assistants instead of to her. “And then I say, ‘Look, please, at me and talk to me. I’m giving the order, I’m paying you.’ Only then, you are in the stupid position — then you are the old bitch.”

In the market, her work does not sell in the same league as Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, whose careers have, at times, seemed to parallel hers: Fritsch made the Madonna in 1987; that same year, also in Münster, Koons installed a statue of the traditional German figure of the Kiepenkerl, a traveling merchant; she completed “Tischgesellschaft,” the large-scale work featuring Fenstermacher, in 1988; Koons debuted his series of sculptures and paintings featuring himself with his lover, the porn star Cicciolina, “Made in Heaven,” in 1989. Fritsch weathered the art world’s rapaciousness in the 1980s, refusing to churn out work too fast or under pressure: As such, she never turned cynical. She rarely speaks to the press. But she is understandably disappointed that she isn’t spoken of in the same breath as some of her male counterparts nor widely credited for her influence on turn-of-the-century sculpture. At the same time, her unwillingness to please has, she believes, protected her from a factory mentality she sees in male celebrity artists, from a “heaviness” that isn’t just about literal weight.

With this in mind, I ask her if she thinks her work has shifted in meaning through the years, as the art world has changed, not to mention the larger world around her, drowning, as we are, in images of things, from memes and emojis to styles that quickly disseminate and dissipate. It hasn’t, she tells me. “The first picture I have in my mind is still the one that is important.”

I think of this a week later, back home in Chicago, touring future kindergartens for my 4-year-old, when I observe a classroom of young children Magic Markering identical photocopies of a rooster. As they carefully fill in the cartoonishly thick black outline of its body — this is the kind of school at which staying in the lines is encouraged — I wonder if this will become the prototypical notion of “rooster” that sticks, the picture that springs to mind when they hear its name. (Few of these urban preschoolers are likely to have spent much time around live chickens.) What could this picture possibly mean to them? The coloring-book rooster is merely an echo of an echo, a signifier absurdly distant from the hectic, strident reality of the animal itself, so incidental, in this context, to its own representation. Once upon a time, our forebears gathered around a fire to tell stories; they painted the bison that sustained them, lining cave walls with animals and hunting scenes filled with tenderness and meaning. In doing this, they created what was, for them, a resonant collective iconography; now, of course, these prehistoric paintings are touching in a different way. This, I think, is why Fritsch’s work continues to unsettle: Its distance from reality feels unnervingly reflective of the way we live today, increasingly remote from our own animal instincts, our original fears, hungers and joys — the sacral coding that helped remind us, before we made art or commerce of identity, of who we were.

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A Painter Who Wants Art to Shockon February 13, 2020 at 10:05 pm

Posted on February 20, 2020 By In Uncategorized With no comments

The painter Lisa Yuskavage, who grew up a truck driver’s daughter in what she describes as the “hardscrabble” Juniata Park neighborhood of Philadelphia, now lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband, the artist Matvey Levenstein, and their cockapoo, Phillip. But for the past 10 years, Yuskavage, 57, has made the daily journey to a quiet corner of Gowanus, Brooklyn, where she keeps her studio, a cavernous 4,000-square-foot space in a low-rise brick building that she has cleaved down the middle with a 40-foot-long wall. She compares the two sides to the two halves of her brain. In the back room, spare and suffused with northern light, Dionysian Lisa lets her “id run amok” on the canvas; in the bookshelf-lined front room, Apollonian Lisa — “rational, logical, organized” — tends to the big business of being a successful contemporary artist. “I have to be pretty un-self-conscious when I’m working,” Yuskavage says one January afternoon. “And then later I become extremely conscious.”

If you’ve seen her outré canvases, you understand why she has to shed her inhibitions. Yuskavage, a masterful colorist, makes lush, luminous, intentionally — and delightfully — gauche paintings that unsettle facile notions of misogyny, femininity and the female gaze. Her “Bad Babies” series, Technicolor studies created in the early ’90s of plaintive Manga-like pubescent girls depicted naked from the waist down, earned her a reputation as a provocateur when she was just a few years out of Yale’s MFA painting program. Another early work, “Rorschach Blot” (1995), encapsulated Yuskavage’s psychosexual shtick in a single image: a cartoonish blonde, knees splayed, reveals the entirety of her nether regions, rendered by the painter as a sort of lewd exclamation point. For a later series done in the late ’90s and early 2000s, she mined Bob Guccione’s ’70s-era Penthouse pinups for source material, a choice she says she may never live down (it’s a sticky fact people tend to associate with her: “‘Isn’t she the chick that does the Penthouse paintings?’” she mimics). The market for her work is robust, and many critics are in her corner, but detractors tend to be vitriolic. A 2007 headline in the Washington Post framed the debate in no uncertain terms: “Lisa Yuskavage: critiquing prurient sexuality, or disingenuously peddling a soft-porn aesthetic?”

In an earlier iteration, the large canvas was predominantly gray and, to Yuskavage’s eye, lifeless. Then, she had a flash of inspiration to paint over the existing image in Old Holland Cadmium red purple.Credit…Jason Schmidt
Yuskavage collects images of artists in their studios, like this photograph of George Braque, which is taped for reference above a small study of the larger red painting.Credit…Jason Schmidt

Her latest show, then, is a bit of a plot twist. In 2018, Yuskavage mounted an exhibition of small paintings at New York’s David Zwirner gallery, and on a lark, included some landscape studies she had made over the years and stuffed away in a drawer. That show led to her latest museum exhibition, “Lisa Yuskavage: Wilderness,” a survey of the artist’s little-highlighted landscape practice, which goes up this month at the Aspen Art Museum before traveling to the Baltimore Museum of Art in September. The show includes a few seemingly earnest “Sunday painter”-style sunsets, but most of the other works openly toy with rigid notions of genre. There’s a series of early watercolors, “Tit Heaven” (1991-1994), in which Yuskavage camouflaged female body parts into dreamy deconstructed still lives so that breasts and noses rise like landmasses from surreal jumbles of flowers and fruit. She’ll also show a number of more recent large-scale paintings in which, inspired by the freewheeling cartoonish tableaux made by the abstract expressionist Philip Guston late in his life, she’s liberated her subjects, once trapped in tightly cropped close-ups, to wander in acid green fields and misty clearings. These can be read as mindscapes as much as landscapes, seemingly populated by elements of Yuskavage’s psyche: Her id-like nymphets bump up against censorious, finger-wagging brigades of peasant women and occasionally men — hapless tourists who have wandered into the wide shot. The survey’s newest work pulls back further: “Landscape Painting” (2019) depicts the interior of a room where a small framed pastoral scene hangs behind a busty woman, her nakedness amplified by her dangling necklace and lurid tan lines. She’s giggling, as if to say, “Don’t confuse this for a landscape painting!”

Yuskavage, ever mischievous, calls it “a shot across the bow.” Dressed in black, her hands smeared with paint, she sits in a dingy white armchair in the rear of her space, gazing at the canvas she’s been toiling over. Very large, very red, it depicts a studio scene, in which a shadowy naked male artist figure attends to a spot-lit female nude, possibly molding her into existence. The picture just clicked after months of giving Yuskavage trouble. “Painting isn’t like ice skating, where I’m trying to figure out how to do a triple axel,” she explains. “I have to make up a new step and then figure out how to land it.” As the elevated F train, almost close enough to touch, rumbled by her window, Yuskavage answered T’s artist’s questionnaire.

What’s your day like? How much sleep do you get and what’s your work schedule?

I sleep more or less eight hours and wake up around 7:30. We have this enjoyable routine where Matvey gets up first and makes us espressos, and my dog, Phillip, who sleeps at the foot of the bed pretends to keep sleeping. Then Matvey gets back into bed and Phillip — surprise! — wakes up. He runs over to Matvey and kisses him on both cheeks. It brings me so much joy.

We spend a little bit of time reading the newspaper. I do my exercise first thing in the morning, or I won’t do it. Pilates twice a week and yoga. It keeps me from hunching over, which I need because I stand to paint.

I come to my studio every day I can and want to. I almost always feel like it, even if getting over here is a bit of a psychic schlep. I might come for as little as three to four hours if that’s all I have, but I prefer to have longer because there is such a long period of warming up. There’s a shyness that I have about being around my work, where I need to get connected to it again.

How many hours of creative work do you do in a day?

Eight to 10 hours if I can sustain it. But I often solve the problems of my work when I’m not in front of the paintings. You never know when something’s going to click. You can’t force it; you have to hold it like a bird, gently.

What is the first piece of art you ever made?

A painting, “Once Transient” (1983), that I made during college at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. I made art before that but I was fulfilling assignments. That was the first time I broke away and made a small thing that surprised me. I think making art is creating your own riddle. You create your own idea of a society, the way things will work, hierarchies. The utter freedom can be paralyzing. You have to create limits for yourself. Each artwork cannot be everything.

What is the worst studio you ever had?

Around 1990, Matvey and I lived on Ludlow Street. We call it the bad old days of Ludlow Street. I used the living room as a studio. Every day at 4 o’clock, which even now is when I really get going, the woman below us would start cooking. She used rancid cooking oil, and the smell was so overwhelming. I didn’t know what it was until later but it became the smell of my own anxiety. I also hated working at home because I had no privacy. I like to work alone. I don’t want anyone to see what I’m doing unless I want them to see what I’m doing.

What is the first work you ever sold and for how much?

I had a B.F.A. thesis show at Tyler and it did extremely well. My dentist came and bought a big painting. I was kind of amazed. The painting is of a girl sitting at the bottom of some steps with her legs spread, and you can see her underpants. In the distance is a man sitting on a couch, and the pattern on the underpants and the pattern on the wall behind the man’s head are the same. My dentist said, which I had not considered, “the guy looks like your father and that looks like you.” I turned bright red and then he handed me a check for $350.

When you start a new piece, where do you begin?

That is always changing because I don’t have a formula for how I work. That’s what keeps it interesting, and that’s what keeps it difficult.

How do you know when you’re done?

I know I’m done because the end is so much fun. I’m just tightening things, loosening things, and then suddenly there’s nothing left to do.

How many assistants do you have?

I have a number of people who work on my database and on my website remotely and part-time. And I have two assistants who work part-time: Lisa D. and Julie. Lisa D. was washing my brushes for seven years. In order to get this kind of color, you have to go through a lot of brushes. She got sick of it and was probably going to quit, so I said I’ll hire somebody to do the things you don’t want to do. I call Julie Lisa’s assistant. I don’t know when Julie will get sick of washing brushes.

Have you assisted other artists?

I worked for one afternoon for a sculptor named Maryanne. My husband had the job and he got sick, so I showed up. I hated it. She was a nice lady, but I thought her work was terrible. I was outside uncoiling the stuff they use for suspension bridges. I was getting hurt, I was freezing cold. Meanwhile, I could see her puttering around in her townhouse. I was like, why aren’t you doing this?

When did you first feel comfortable saying you’re a professional artist?

I think it was when I started to have to pay taxes. Early on, one of my art dealers said to me, “What a great thing to have made money and to have to pay taxes!” That was probably around ’96 or ’97. But I think I truly felt like a professional when I got my first museum show at the ICA in Philadelphia. I really believe in showing in museums, because it was important to me to wander into museums when I was growing up. The randomness of seeing certain things that way changed my life.

Is there a meal you eat on repeat when you’re working?

I’m not a vegetarian, but I like to eat like a very small vegetarian lunch. I call it my stupid vegan soup. I learned that if I eat protein in the middle of the day I don’t have as much energy to work.

What’s the weirdest object in your studio?

I have a toilet paper cozy in my bathroom, which is essentially a Barbie doll stuck through the middle of the roll with a hand-crocheted skirt that goes over it. I guess it keeps it warm?

What do you do when you’re procrastinating?

I read The New York Times online a lot, but I had to curb that habit because I was getting way too anxious. Now, I do the crossword puzzle on my phone. I also love to watch Johnny Carson YouTube videos. He was just so funny. Johnny Carson with animals? Highly recommend.

What is the last thing that made you cry?

I went to get a massage at a place that I’ve been going to for years. I was having some tightness in my painting arm. The masseuse used her elbow, which is apparently a big no-no, and she crushed my radial nerve. My hand was just drooping and not responding. It took three full months for it to come back. It was like a lesson from the universe about how precious our bodies are and how quickly everything can be taken away.

On a shelf in the bathroom, an extra roll of toilet paper wears a hand-crocheted doll cozy made by Yuskavage’s childhood next-door neighbor in Philadelphia.Credit…Jason Schmidt
A recent small painting, “Swingers I” (2019), hangs on one wall.Credit…Jason Schmidt

What do you wear when you work?

I have a coat that my friend who is an oncologist gave me when he left Memorial Sloan Kettering. It’s his doctor coat. He’s a lot taller than I am, so it covers me really well. I have also learned that I can only wear these really flat Adidas sneakers, otherwise my feet and legs get tired. It’s a very unattractive look.

What do your windows look out on?

I have a 360-degree view. I like that I can see life going on: people riding the subway, a traffic jam on the Gowanus freeway, the air traffic coming in to LaGuardia, which looks like a string of pearls. There’s a tree that I’ve watched grow and that is now probably on its way to die. I’ve seen Downtown Brooklyn spring up. It wasn’t there; now it is. I get to see things but also be left alone.

What do you bulk buy with the most frequency?

Bounty paper towels. They’re a big part of my process. My watercolor students — early in my career I taught continuing education classes — used to laugh because they would try to buy another brand and I would say, “No, it really is the quicker picker upper.”

What is your worst habit?

Picking at my cuticles.

What embarrasses you?

I’m not easily embarrassed. I’ve worked really hard on that. I try to embarrass everybody else. It’s part of my job description. But my struggle with my weight has been a source of embarrassment. Over the years I’ve dealt with it and focused on staying healthy, but people are very unsympathetic to the disease of obesity. I was very overweight for a while, and I know how shallow people are because I saw how they were suddenly nice to me when I was lighter.

What are you reading?

I’ve known Cyrus Grace Dunham since they were a little kid, and now I know them as this fully formed, amazing adult, and I’m completely blown away by their memoir, “A Year Without a Name.”

What’s your favorite artwork by someone else?

When I was a little girl, I happened to wander into the Philadelphia Museum of Art and see “Étant donnés” by Marcel Duchamp. I thought the girl in the work was me because I had a weird thing happen to me as a kid in Fairmount Park where I came across a serial killer and got away. I would say that piece was ground zero for my sense of shock about art. I always want to feel shocked by art, or to make art that people feel on their toes about.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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