The day I met Paige Powell and the thoughts that followed, Part 1

This week, an opportunity arose to visit the Portland Art Museum to tour “The Ride” – an exhibition of archived photography and video by Paige Powell – led by the woman herself. Normally, I pass on things that cut into the work day, but something in my gut told me to just go.

Side note: one of my non-resolutions this year was to say “yes” more often.

I walked over with a friend of mine and we met up with a larger group and Paige. After introductions and (not-so) secretly Snapchatting her outfit, we  headed over to the building where the exhibit is housed.

The entrance to “The Ride” is very unassuming; a large black wall with plain white text and a photo of Andy Warhol beside it. Around that wall, however, is a hallway plastered on both sides with floor-to-ceiling stills from the Factory. Very immersive and impressive. Through that hallway, Paige led us to the main exhibit where, in an alcove, hundreds of printed photos covered surface. The floor, ceiling, and three walls were papered with her memories and stories of friends, contemporaries, and people she met. Warhol, Basquiat, Keith Haring, Madonna, Grace Jones, the drag queens of the NY ballroom scene, the Fab Five. The contrast between how we see those same people and how she saw them was stark.

“Did you realize you were taking such iconic photos?”

“Not at all – we were just hanging out.”

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She graciously answered our questions and recounted the places and people in the pictures we pointed out. She spoke about the residents of Harlem in the 80’s and how much the neighborhoods have changed; how much New York has changed. I could hear the disappointment in her voice as she talked about places she’d documented that no longer exist. At that moment, I realized that I was standing with a direct link to a past that I romanticize. The more she spoke, the more common and everyday everyone seemed. As revered as Basquiat and Warhol are, to see them hanging out and having fun, not as artists but as Jean-Michel and Andy doing  cool things with their friends, was relieving in an odd sense. At that moment, I saw all of these iconic people as just people.

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On a wall outside of the photo room are three videos that play within a large projection of Jean-Michel watching television in the back of a limousine. One is of Andy Warhol, one of Keith Haring painting the massive papier-mâché elephant, and one of a group of people hanging out at the Factory. I didn’t catch much of these videos, but plan to go back to view them.

I wonder if the weight of maintaining a persona ever became too much for the artists that recur in the exhibit. Then I wonder the same thing about all of us. There isn’t much of a difference between what Paige did then and what we do now, save for technology, immediacy, and the breadth of distribution over social media…I wonder how much we consciously put on our “Warhol suits” in order to maintain the narrative of who others think we are (or what we want them to think we are) and how that affects us. Is anyone really real or is this all performance art?

It’s late and this all feels very meta.

 

 

On Coats

Emerson Fry Coats

EMERSON FRY High Neck Shell and Ryan Coat

If the Pacific Northwest has taught me anything, it’s the value of a good coat. In my former life, when 60 degrees was considered cold and umbrellas were a thing, outerwear was for look only. Deep into my second winter here, function is really what I’m after (with a considerable portion of form).

I don’t have a ton of coats (read: long-ish, keeps me warm and/or dry, not made of leather) and half of them are made by Emerson Fry. I’ve mentioned the brand a few times before over the years and still consider them a favorite. Reasons? Their girl always looks great, quality is amazing, they produce their clothes in the US, and they have amazing sales. Case in point, I got both of these for around 70% off retail.

If you haven’t already, get on their mailing list. The patient will be rewarded with notifications from the online outlet store and end of season closeout deals.

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Thoughts to Think

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BRIXTON hat, HASSANI HAMILTON bomber jacket

The consumer marketplace encourages us to live by a utilitarian calculus, to satisfy our desires and lose sight of the moral stakes involved in everyday decisions. The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths. We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character.

David BrooksThe Road to Character

2015 in Review

5 Stages of Grief by Nayyirah Waheed

The Five Stages of Grief by Nayyirah Waheed

2015 was an extremely trying and bittersweet year. There were some highs and plenty of lows. I found a new appreciation for lipstick and supporting small businesses.  My boy turned 4 and I saw a lot of nature things. Made new friends and built with old ones. I read a pile of books and placed a pen to journal pages with some regularity. There was a lot of crying and clothes shopping and abstaining from clothes shopping. I decided to make room for magic and yoga and weight-lifting and good food and bad decisions. I sucked at relationship mending but learned how to say no. I attempted to not be passive and failed many times. Sometimes I succeeded. I learned that I often don’t like hearing the truth as much as I enjoy telling it.

If I made resolutions, my single one for next year would be to make it look nothing like this one.

Happy New Year, everyone. Onward and upward.