Friday, March 29, 2013

Art Fashion

For years I've been firmly in the camp of people who believe that fashion is art. Debates as to whether the work of fashion designers should be shown in art museums simultaneously enrage and bore me (if such a seemingly contradictory thing is possible--which it is). But I'd say that, in general, my interest in fashion ebbs and flows with the time and tide. Sometimes I'm super excited about it, but at other times different matters pull my attention more. Just lately I've found myself drawn back to the subject, particularly as it intersects with other artforms. For instance, above, Cindy Sherman in Chanel,

or Cecil Beaton's fashion shoot in front of Jackson Pollock paintings,

or really pretty much anything by Alexander McQueeen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Another Poem in the Ongoing Series About the Winter of 2006

January 26, 2006
I’ve been meaning for weeks to put down

the flowers we had at my birthday party
and the glass vessels we put them in

I’m usually not much a one for flowers in glass
but these worked out gorgeously

Dark pink peonies
in a big square-sided glass jar in the hall

pale pink tulips
in a squat round jar in the living room

and bright pink cherry blossom branches
in a milk jug in the bedroom

image by Kari Herer

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NYC Paper Products Shopping

I make no promises, mind you, but I think this is the last post I will be doing about this year's New York trip. Above, a selection of paper products, gift formats, and other non-book items I bought around town the other week. These goodies were gleaned from the New York Public Library gift shop, BookMarc, the MoMA bookstore, and Project No. 8.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cocktails I Have Named

The other Friday afternoon a nice coworker of mine who sits two desks away decided to throw a little desk-side party round about 4:30. A cocktail was devised from what could be found on hand in people's desk drawers and the office fridge and the vending machine--

Bulleit Bourbon
A squeeze of orange juice with the wedge thrown in
Rhubarb bitters (from the cookbook editor, natch)
A floater of ginger ale
All served over ice in coffee mugs

Tasty! Winning enough to require a name. And here's something you might not know about me: I love to name cocktails. Let's see, we said, it's kind of like a Manhattan except with orange, rhubarb, and ginger instead of a cherry. Manhattan but with veggies. Like a mix of the city and the country. Hmm. Ah ha! Got it:
The Urban Garden.

A few other drinks I have named over the years that have yet to catch on (though no doubt that day is coming soon!): The Bramble (like a Mimosa or Bellini but with blackberry nectar in place of the OJ or peach); The Nineteenth Hole (an alcoholic Arnold Palmer--someone had to explain a number of golf references to me before I could arrive at that one, but once I did I was quite pleased with myself); The Shirley Temple Black (a Shirley Temple all grown up--aka, with booze in it). I've been thinking lately I might do a little project of drawing illustrations for these beverages. Either that or interviewing people about their morning coffee routines and drawing that. Not that I'm really much of an illustrator, but it would be fun.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Museum Visiting Girl

Mabel is a child who always knows what she would like best to do with a free afternoon or morning. If you ask her "what should we do?" sometimes she will want to stay home and color or paint or read or get out every toy in the toy cabinet, other times she will want to go to one of several various playgrounds nearby, and sometimes she wants to go to a museum. Such was the case the other weekend when we went to go see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the Asian Art Museum. She looks so small in the photo, but really she was being a very big girl, walking around and looking at things and engaging in chit chat about what she'd seen with some friendly docents.

Special thanks, as always, to my father for his continued willingness to scan all these many many polaroids I keep taking of this sprite.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New York Art Looking

In addition to the art fairs, I went around and saw a bunch of other cool art as well when I was in New York last week. Here are some highlights.

At the MoMA:

At other museums:

And at the galleries:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Next in the Ongoing Poem Saga of Winter 2006

January 25, 2006
Sometimes I wonder what the hell is wrong with me

that I would rather see
a purple “admit one” ticket lying on the sidewalk
or the tiny brown and white chocolate dogs in the chocolatier’s window
than see a familiar face on the street

Of course you never really wonder something like that
without also secretly taking a sort of semi-sick pride in it

image source is here

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

NYC Book Shopping

Another one of the great many things I did while in New York was shop. Here are the books I bought (I also bought a whole bunch of published items that are not books per se, but will save those for another day):

They Called Her Styrene by Ed Ruscha

Draw it With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment by Paper Monument

Bridges by Nigel Peake

Art History: A Very Short Introduction by Dana Arnold

On Booze by F. Scott Fitzgerald

All these volumes share some qualities I love--both in the books I buy and the books I work on: they are artful and beautifully designed, full of fascinating content packed into a relatively small, affordable, jewel-box-like package, and they all just have that alchemical magic--that je ne sais quoi that makes them call out to you from a shelf or a table in a store and say "me! pick me!". So I did.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

All This Senseless Beauty

The first time I went to New York I was thirty years old. And I was profoundly, foolishly, disillusioned to discover that it did not look like the movies. So many grubby little nondescript street-level storefronts, so much that was utilitarian and didn't care how it looked. Over a fun but disorienting weekend I came to  the conclusion that New York City wasn't beautiful. Seven years later on, I now look back on my younger self with the pitying tenderness we reserve for the colossally misinformed. Of course there is beauty there. So much beauty--indeed, so much everything--that it's pretty much ridiculous. Yet another reiteration of the paramount lesson of my entire adult life thus far: to try and try and try again to stop seeing what you think should be there and start seeing what actually is. The rewards of doing so being virtually infinite. So here are my Instagrams of just a small fraction of the moments and places of beauty I saw in New York at the age of thirty-seven. (If you want to skip directly to the celebrity sighting--and it's a good one!--that image is all the way at the bottom of the post).

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Want a Banana Because I'm So Hungry!

The essential beauty of polaroids, for me, is how they capture light and gesture. Sure they're often blurry, or under- or overexposed in places, but I know of nothing else that can as accurately convey the dreamy milky quality of early morning weekend winter light, or loose-limbed ease of a two year old eating a banana on the sofa in her pj's.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Armory Show & Scope Art NY

When people in New York asked, as they inevitably did, what I was in town "for" last week the answer could have been something complicated about talent scouting and "networking" (bleh) and inspiration gathering and keeping my fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist and taking loads of meetings and running around town in the snow like a maniac. But more often I used the simple answer: I was in town for the art fairs. I spent Friday wandering the halls of the ginormous Armory Show and it's little sister Scope. It's one of those experiences where you can never hope to see or take in or remember even a fraction of what's there. Rather you just drift around letting the visual stimulation crash over you in waves, retaining bits and pieces here and there but mostly just soaking up a general sense of awe and wonderment.

Anyhow, here's a bit of what was at the Armory:

And at Scope:

Most of these photos are my own, some art images are lifted from the artists' or galleries' websites, the bottom two photos on the second panel are borrowed from online image archives

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Continuing Poem Saga About the Winter of 2006 Carries On Like This

January 24, 2006
Here are some things about structures

Yesterday morning it was really sunny
and as I walked across the open stretch of pavement
near the shut-up florist on market street
I could see the building with the finials
that I was telling you about the other day
reflected clearly one of glass block towers across the street

The finial building was behind me
the glass building in front of me
both shimmering away together in my field of vision

Then when I was leaving work last night it was still sunny
and I noticed at that same corner
a little statue of a heroic looking lady up on top of a pillar
silhouetted to black against the luminous evening blue

And I remembered that I had seen a similar phenomenon
with the heroic lady up on the pillar in the middle of union square
one evening last week

It’s at that point just now where
if I leave work right on time I walk home in dusky daylight
but if I’m even a few minutes late I walk home in dusky dark

In the mornings I also often see
the great green glass bulk
of the huge craggy edifice
they are building down at the end of jones street
a new federal building I hear
like an iceberg

image source is here

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Books, At Retail

[blanket warning for this entire post: one big shameless self-promotion alert!]

If a book editor ever tells you that she no longer gets excited about seeing the projects she worked on featured prominently in snazzy retail environments, I would advise you to strongly suspect that this person is full of it. Personally I find that it never gets old--that thrill of seeing something only you and a handful of others worked so hard on for so long, now come to fruition in the public sphere, looking sharp and insouciant next to other books you admire. Heck, it's just great. So in addition to many other things I was doing in New York last week, I was gleefully snapping photos whenever I spotted one of my titles front and center somewhere.

Above, The Where, The Why, and the How at the New York Public Library gift shop.

Sky High at the MoMA bookstore.

Pantone: The 20th Century in Color at the Strand.

100 Girls on Cheap Paper on the Rizzoli  bookselling table at the Scope Art fair.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


My trip to New York last week was so full of visual excitement and inspiration that it's almost hard to know where to begin. Almost. For this California girl, however, the most beautiful part of the trip was really quite clear--the sight of snow falling outside her hotel window on Friday morning. I think I can say in honest truth that I can quite literally count on one hand the times I've seen snow falling out of the sky. And it is so so so so so freaking pretty! The quite drifting magic off it. It even smells good! And I must say that I'm super proud of the fact that I even walked several blocks amongst the flakes, on un-shoveled sidewalks, without falling down on my butt (those who know me, and my innate clumsiness, well will readily appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment), all due to this handy diagram I happened to see before leaving, about how to walk on ice by imitating a penguin. It also turns out that falling snow is maddeningly hard to photograph. But here are my few best efforts anyhow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

New York, New York!

Having just returned from my first ever solo trip without the Mabel--to New York for a week for business--I am naturally put in mind of last year's New York trip when Bill and Mabel came along. She was a wee year-and-a-half year old and it was hot in May, as witnessed by the short sleeves and sunhats above, as opposed to the snow and rain and very cold temperatures I encountered this March. About which trip there will be more to come, you can rest assured.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hanging Out At the Intersection of Art, Photography, Fashion, and Your Life

A kind of a crazy thing happened the other day--a friend sent me a message on Instagram "@watsonpayne I'm pretty sure this is you!" and when I went to the image what did I find but, yes indeed, my very own backside walking down the street. Crazy! The person (a fashion stylist, no less!) who had taken the photo was very sweet and complimentary about my outfit. For a minute I couldn't get over it--the fact that someone had seen me and liked my clothes and photographed me, and then the perhaps even weirder fact that my friend had stumbled upon it. So funny, the world we live in. I guess some people might be freaked out by this, but I have to admit I was just hugely flattered.

Way back when Mabel was a tiny baby we used to use this perhaps rather chic blue rucksack as a diaper bag when we had her in the baby carrier--and once Bill was stopped in Union Square by the street fashion blogger from BoyishTV who asked to take its photo (if you look real close you can see Mabel's yellow sleeve and orange hat peeking around from where she's positioned on Bill's chest).

Another time I was visiting Street Fashion Style, the site of some authors of mine (whose book on how to take street fashion photographs is coming out this Fall and is going to be [self promotion alert] amazing!), and who should happen to be the very first pic at the top of the page that day but my adorable pal Amy.

Years back, when I first discovered the Sartorialist, I could not get enough of shots like the one above (no one I know)--regular people looking both really chic and gloriously real. I'm less interested in the off-duty-models and outside-the-tents shots that dominate most street style blogs today. And I've now realized the reason--a big part of the magic of street fashion photography, for me, is the intersection of art and life inherent to it. High-flown things like fashion and photography interconnected with pedestrian things like city streets and, well, pedestrians. Not just that it could be you or someone you know who gets photographed, but the fact that any regular (ie non-fashion-insider) person who has their face and clothes and body photographed on the street is simultaneously living their normal life and engaging with these other discourses of visual expression that we tend to think of as residing above us rather than among us. Love that.