ELYSIAN 2020 Arts & Culture Issue

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ELYSIAN Inspiring Women. Graceful Living.


SNOW ANGEL Deborah Bigeleisen Oil on Canvas 40” x 40”

igifineart.com


STANLEY KORSHAK

SYLVA & CIE

WWW.STANLEYKORSHAK.COM



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in memoriam in memoriam

Nothing could have prepared us for the unexpected toll caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of this publication, the number of deaths are continuing to rise worldwide. Our hearts at ELYSIAN go out to all thattoll have experienced loss of a loved one during this time. Nothing could have prepared us for the unexpected caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of this publication, the number of deaths are continuing to rise worldwide. Our to dedicate issue to lostthis to COVID-19 hearts at ELYSIANTo gothat out end, to allwe thathave havedecided experienced loss ofthis a loved onethose during time. and in honor of our first responders, medical workers and essential workers whotohave been this courageously fighting the frontlines forinushonor all. To that end, we have decided dedicate issue to those lost on to COVID-19 and

of our first responders, medical workers and essential workers who have been courageously We remember loved ones within fighting on thethe frontlines for us all. our ELYSIAN circle . . . STEPHEN BROWN We remember the loved ones within our ELYSIAN circle… TOM CARNEY Stephen Brown DAVID C. DRISKELL PROFESSOR Tom MICHAEL Carney MCKINNELL Professor DavidEILEEN C. Driskell MITZMAN Michael McKinnell JOHN C. “JACK” WEST Eileen Mitzman John C. “Jack” West . . . and the countless more that are no longer with us. …and the countless more that are no longer with us.

We also remember the unfortunate passing of two dear ELYSIAN family members: We also remember the unfortunate passing of two dear ELYSIAN family members: Diane High, ELYSIAN’s Copy Editor, lost her beloved husband, ED HIGH, on April 15, 2020. Diane High, ELYSIAN’s Copy Editor, lost her beloved husband, Ed High, on April 15, 2020. Stalvey, ELYSIAN’s Director Design, lost his loving father, Ryan Stalvey, ELYSIAN’sRyan Director of Design, lost his loving of father, Tommy J. Stalvey, Jr., on TOMMY J. STALVEY, JR., on February 14, 2020. February 14, 2020. This Summer 2020 Issue is in your memory.

This Summer 2020 Issue is in your memory.

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WHAT WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE ONCE ONCE ENJOYED WE ENJOYED WE CAN CAN NEVER LOSE; NEVER LOSE; ALL ALL THAT DEEPLY THAT WEWE DEEPLY LOVE BECOMES LOVE BECOMES A A PART PART OFOF US.US.

””

—HELEN KELLER —HELEN KELLER



ELYSIAN Volume 5 • Issue 2 • été 2020

Un-Daunted Vision

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58 Windows

The stark compositions and genius of Louise Nevelson. BY LAURIE BOGART WILES

Soul

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The unsettling masks of the artist known as Damselfrau. BY DEBRA SPARK

After the

Curtain Call

A former professional ballerina captures the essence of a moment like few photographers can. BY TATYANA LEONOV

FEATURES

to the

Inspiring Women Marie Benedict page 102 Tuliza Fleming page 108 Mary Alice Monroe page 114 Jiha Moon page 120 INTERVIEWED BY KAREN FLOYD


Marie-Antoinette dit à la Rose by Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

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In the footsteps of Marie Antoinette by Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

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women&art

The garden of earthly delights. BY LATRIA GRAHAM

food&travel

130

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Breaking the golden rule. BY MARY ROGERS McMASTER

fashion

A well-traveled closet. BY KATIE WEISMAN

philanthropy literature art&culture

138

Restoring the heart of female painters. BY PAGE LEGGETT

144 change creator

150

Toni Morrison. BY LATRIA GRAHAM

DEPARTMENTS

32 wellness

Travel through wine. BY PAIGE FARRELL

Art on-demand. BY MAKAYLA GAY

Carla Contreras is not a machine. BY JEAN LI SPENCER

health&médecine

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Sexual wellness. BY DR. KATHERINE BIRCHENOUGH

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166

expanding the circle

Summer 2020 - ELYSIAN Ignite Virtual Series: Connecting Women in a Time of Disconnect

behind the scenes / the cover

Carla Contreras photographed on location at MINT Gallery in Atlanta, GA by photographer Allie Hine/retoucher: Liya Embrace.


E publisher

Karen Floyd editor-in-chief

Abby Deering

managing editor

/

arts

&

c u lt u r e e d i t o r

Hannah Shepard

c r e at i v e d i r e c t o r

Ryan Stalvey

Rob Springer

director of finance

Rod Reyes

editorial director

Rita Allison

e ly s i a n i m pa c t d i r e c t o r o f p h i l a n t h r o p y

Kelly Nichols

inspiring women

Karen Floyd

graceful living

Rhonda Fischer l i t e r at u r e e d i t o r

Kathie Bennett

style

&

beauty editor

Trish Carroll

wellness editor

Martha Wiedemann columnists

Dr. Katherine Birchenough, Mary Rogers McMaster senior writers

Laurie Bogart Wiles, Latria Graham contributing writers

Paige Farrell, Makayla Gay, Page Leggett, Tatyana Leonov, Debra Spark, Jean Li Spencer, Katie Weisman, Ulrike Woolfson

copy editors

Diane High, Hadley Inabinet, Baker Maultsby, Phil Randall director of web design

&

development

Elliot Derhay

d i g i ta l s a l e s d i r e c t o r

Don Bailey

client services manager

Dillon Bond

s a l e s r e p r e s e n at i v e

Stacy Arena

p r o j e c t c o o r d i n at o r

Sophia Tan

post-production supervisor

Elise Rimmer

d i g i ta l a s s i s ta n t

Sara Jarrell

comptroller

Anna Christian

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ELYSIAN Magazine is published four times per year by Palladian Publications LLC, 113 W. Main St., Spartanburg, SC 29306. For subscription information, call 888-329-9534; visit subscriptions@elysianservice.com; mailing address: Subscription Service, Elysian Magazine PO Box 2172, Williamsport, PA 17703 All rights reserved. Printed in the USA.

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The ELYSIAN team successfully stayed in touch while working remotely. • From top to bottom, left to right: Abby Deering, Executive Editor • Kathie Bennett, Literature Editor • Rob Springer, Media Director • Hannah Shepard, Managing Editor / Arts & Culture Editor • ELYSIAN’s Publisher, Karen Floyd, during an ELYSIAN Ignite Virtual Series event • Don Bailey, Digital Sales Director • Elise Rimmer, Post-Production Supervisor • Ryan Stalvey, Creative Director • Stacy Arena, Sales Representative • Jean Li Spencer, Writer • Sophia Tan, Project Coordinator.

media director


15 Years of San Francisco Style. — CHRISTIAN DIOR

azaleasf.com


FORGED OUR OWN PATHS, “ WHILE WE HAVE EVERYBODY HAS STRUGGLED.

It

NOW, WITH BOTH PARTNERS WORKING FROM HOME, FAMILIES ARE GETTING TO SEE THE RESPONSIBILITIES WOMEN SHOULDER. EVERYONE IS FORCED TO REEVALUATE. —MARIE BENEDICT

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR & INSPIRING WOMAN 2020

is our hope that the pages of ELYSIAN offer women of all ages a place to connect and find reprieve during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our issue’s focus, Arts and Culture, allows you to be encouraged by inspiring interviews, captivated by beautiful images and bold stories and motivated by time-sensitive philanthropy. Our daily routines have changed, perhaps forever. Being confined to home, experiencing measures to reduce the spread of the virus and suffering great loss have consumed our collective thoughts and conversations. In this season of reflection, I began evaluating the many ways in which women have adapted and overcome. This led me on a personal journey, a generational self-analysis. Most women my age had parents with defined roles; women stayed at home and raised children while their husbands went to work. In the ’60s, revolutionary women—like my mother— began to push for equality, but the infrastructure to support their dreams had not been built. I am the daughter of a woman who could not reach her dream. She was too tightly bound by the traditions of the 1950s. Many of my professional colleagues and close friends were raised much like me. We were told by both our parents—who followed the traditions of the time—that we could do anything we set our minds to doing, be anything we dreamed. In hindsight, it is strange to think we took the challenge with absolutely no example or road map to follow. Our mothers were navigating their unique paths through those changing times, but balancing the demands of high-intensity work and family was not on their radar. Ideas like wellness and self-actualization were seen as trivial or even self-absorbed. It was not until I was in my 40s that I began thinking about the divide and discrepancies between what my contemporaries and I were told by our parents and the reality we actually faced. These discrepancies created a generation of women that embraced the concept “chin up,” because if you whined too loudly you were left behind. We were headstrong, overachieving, disciplined and demanding—more of ourselves than others. The rules were simple: never complain and work twice as hard as the competition. It was sheer luck that I discovered the world of marketing and publishing, the work I have come to love. And though I eventually left the formal practice of law, I am grateful for both what I learned from those intense years and for finally realizing where my true passion lies. As we realign our daily order, women are at the forefront of the new normal. No two experiences are the same, and yet women are facing this adversity with character and strength. I think about the homebound, young professional mother with a sick child or those with parents in nursing homes they cannot hug, touch or even visit. While some face isolation and loneliness, others are inundated by family members—homeschooled children, college students with online courses returning home, homebound parents, unemployed spouses . . . all piled into spaces that were never intended for so many. For many women the work environment is equally unsettling, even if they are forced to work remotely. The upheaval is disconcerting and their productivity is marginalized. The end result is simple. We must adjust, adapt, nurture and persevere. At ELYSIAN, we will also change. Our print and online presence will adapt, as will our video series, to meet the demands of a changing world. These are times that mandate innovation and creativity, and we are up for the challenge. I am proud of all women, particularly those in their 40s and younger, for discovering their voices and sources of strength and courage. Ironically, because these are unprecedented times, once again there is no road map. While the unknown is troubling, this time we are forging new beginnings and accomplishing the untenable. And we are doing it together. Finally, it is our hope that as our partners and families recognize the breadth of responsibilities women are shouldering, those women will be empowered to redefine their purpose and find deeper meaning as they reevaluate their path forward.

In Closing

ELYSIAN was created to inspire and connect women. If you find yourself discouraged and disconnected in the face of the coronavirus, we invite you to engage with us. The epitaph of the pandemic should not be “surviving” or “weathering,” but rather “conquering” and “redefining.” Stay safe, be strong and thank you for taking the journey with us.

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Karen Floyd Publisher

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PHOTOGRAPH BY LUKE BEARD

Making Atlanta A Destination For The Arts MINT is a non-profit art space that shows work outside of commercial constraints that may otherwise go unseen. Visitors engage with experimental and contemporary talent through work that is often innovative, interactive, and ephemeral. It’s light-filled warehouse space provides a dynamic and artful setting for a range of private events, including weddings, meetings, classes, and dinners.

4 Galleries • 18 Studios • 7,300 sq. ft. • 375 Person Capacity • Built-in Bar • Retractable Garage Door • A/V • Tables & Chairs • Ample Parking

mintatl.org


women&art

Rebecca Louise Law’s installation, titled Community, at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, in 2018.

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The Garden of earthly delights BY LATRIA GRAHAM

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Portrait of the artist at work surrounded by piles of dried flowers. To date, Law has amassed over 1 million dried flowers in storage. PHOTOGRAPH BY FABIO AFFUSO

Opposite page: The Womb, created at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in 2020.

alking through British artist Rebecca Louise Law’s installations is an exercise in experiencing the sublime. Known for her site-specific creations, the artist uses dried and fresh plant material to turn public spaces into immense, immersive indoor gardens in a bid to get viewers to contemplate the relationship between man and nature. It’s a type of magic she’s performed over and over at museums, art galleries and public spaces all over the world—inviting viewers into her monumental colorful artworks, simulating the feeling of walking into a vivid, aromatic painting. For the installation Prometheus, she had hundreds of lilies hanging in test tubes from the ceiling of a giant warehouse. “You could smell the artwork from the street,” she says. At the La Monnaie opera house in Brussels, a curtain of 5,000 blue-and-green hydrangeas hung from the performance stage, creating waves of color. Law has created installations in New York City’s Times Square, at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Chandran Gallery in San Francisco, as well as the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Royal Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum, all based in London. Her works often verging on the surreal, Law

specializes in the minimalist arrangement of delicate flowers, which, when gathered, create an overwhelming, maximalist effect, often invoking the image of a field of flowers frozen in time. For her installation at the Toledo Museum of Art, she studied the natural history and landscapes of northwestern Ohio. On her first visit to the city, she was struck by the warmth of the locals and decided the theme of the installation would be community. Community was her largest installation to date, and was, as many of her pieces are, a massive undertaking. Utilizing 140 species of plants and flowers, 520,000 plant elements were bound together with copper wire, including 10,000 live flowers from a local greenhouse. Nineteen local organizations contributed 1,650 volunteer hours to make Law’s vision a reality, and it took 17 days to install the immersive sensory experience, and Community became a statement on the connectivity of local and global communities. The idea of plants as three-dimensional art is in Law’s blood. She has spent her entire life surrounded by greenery. Her father was a gardener for the National Trust, and she comes from six generations of horticulturalists. Her great-greatgreat-grandfather was a gardener at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire around 1840-50. On her mother’s side, she is a seventh-generation artist. Her childhood memories are filled with flowers like the oxeye daisy and gerbera, but an experience from her youth continues to inform her work.

Balthasar Van Der Ast, 2014, Fine Art Archival Pigment Print on Hahnemuhle stock: mixed flowers, shells, model figures, insects, butterflies, props. THIS PRINT IS PART OF A STILL LIFE SERIES COLLABORATION WITH PHOTOGRAPHER TOM HARTFORD. ©TOM HARTFORD

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W

hen I was a teenager, I was struck by the splendor of flowers,” Law says. “The experience of lying in a wildflower meadow, flowers as far as the eye could see and the knowledge that the flowers will pass, and this experience will never be the same.” She works to recreate that experience in her installations but believes that she is “not quite there.” “I’m often in conflict with the boundaries of traditional craft and fine art,” Law explains of her process. When she decided to pursue her degree in Fine Art at Newcastle University in 2003, she went in as a painter but found herself frustrated by the lack of sensory depth in two-dimensional painting. In her early years, she experimented with a variety of materials, like


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Law’s installation, Banquet, created in La Roche Jagu, France in 2019. © JULIEN MOTA

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Left & opposite page: Detail shots of Community created at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, 2018.

plastics, wool and even food to find a way to help viewers experience her meditations on humankind and their surroundings. “I wanted to paint in air,” she says, and coaxing flowers into forms became her way of contemplating temporal beauty. Her work explores the intimate relationship between humankind and nature and the emotions certain flowers can provoke; each plant carries joy and sorrow bound up together in one bud. In our society, flowers have a variety of uses: we have them at weddings as well as funerals. Flowers are symbols that can evoke a variety of emotions and carry weight in rituals and traditions. Peonies, roses, hydrangeas, and rhodanthes—all have their own backstories and meanings, and Law often calls on their symbolism for inspiration. In Japan, she created a chandelier out of yellow chrysanthemums, the country’s national flower. “I want viewers to feel like they’re standing in a diamond,” Law said of her White (2016) installation of all-white flowers, a symbol of purity, created with the jewelry brand Forevermark. The contemporary artist doesn’t do many commercial installations any longer but left an indelible mark with the pink peony garlands and chandeliers she created for a Jo Malone London fragrance launch, as well as her collaborations with brands like Jimmy Choo, Max Mara, and Hermès. Decay is also part of the conversation viewers have about her installations. Over time the floating flowers wilt and begin to dry. The vibrant scent of fresh-cut flowers eventually transforms into the weightier smell of potpourri. “I find the smell comforting—the smell of age, perfume and life,” she adds.

it pushes the art into a place that you could have never imagined … I love being out of my depth and learning a new practice.” She worked with director Mike Sharpe on a short film titled The Death of Albine, which was released in March 2018. The work was inspired by The Sinful Priest by Emile Zola, a book she encountered in college. She was struck by the way the author used flowers to describe human emotion and physicality through words. In the short film, after the protagonist is abandoned by her lover, she goes to the garden—the site of their affair—and collects enough flowers from the place to create her deathbed. Viewers watch lilies and roses decay before their eyes, a fast-tracked version of what happens in Law’s real-life installations, as the protagonist becomes undone. In the end, everything must return to the dust. That notion became the focus of her 2018 exhibition at bo.lee gallery titled DUST: A Solo Show. Law is constantly adding preserved flowers to her collection. At last count, she had over 1 million dried flowers stored in America and 200,000 in Italy. She even keeps the dust from her exhibitions, and the work for the gallery is one of the best examples of her fascination with the genesis, peak beauty, decay, and return to the earth of natural materials. It was comprised of flower petals, dirt and floral fragments from previous exhibitions across Europe, Asia and the United States. Although most of the world’s public spaces and art galleries are closed due to COVID-19, Law is still working on an exhibition titled Seasons for the Compton Verney Art Gallery in the United Kingdom and another work, titled The Journey for The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida. Still one dream evades her: she desires to create an exhibition for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. ■

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he natural withering of the plant material makes her installations time-based and encourages frequent visits to observe the process of drying. As the plants will change form, color, and texture, the installation becomes a meditation on preservation and finding beauty in decay as well as an appreciation for the lifecycle. Law decided she wanted to bring that concept to a new medium—film. “I love a collaboration,” she says. “It’s always challenging, but I feel

Intertwine, created in the Chandran Gallery in San Francisco, was an interactive installation made of preserved flora from Law’s personal collection. © MARIKO REED

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A picturesque, sun dappled panorama of Langhe vineyards, deemed an Unesco World Heritage Site, in Northern Italy’s Piedmont region. STEVANZZ / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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food&travel

travel through wine BY PAIGE FARRELL

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Travel is one of the most delightful ways to experience and learn about wine. I had the opportunity to visit Italy not long ago, although it seems like a lifetime, with importer and distributor Gemma Iannoni of Giannoni Selections. Hers is a tiny, impeccable portfolio and a love song to the producers she supports. The experience brought me to wine’s essence, to its heart and soul: the people, the landscape, the poetry.

y M

“FOR HERE THERE IS NO PLACE THAT DOES NOT SEE YOU.”

mind drifts to the words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke as I stand perfectly still next to a wandering, 70-year-old Friulano vine in the Galea vineyard at I Clivi, a small winery in the sleepy Italian town of Corno di Rosazzo, not far from the Slovenian border in the region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia. Bud break has just begun when I arrive, and the precursor sap still glistens on the vines. I am surrounded by beauty, endless rolling hills—and forever far they stretch, vineyards as well as fruit trees verging on intoxicating bloom. Here, the pace slows, and a pause slides in close and takes hold of your hand, asking you to do the same. Late, beloved I Clivi winemaker Ferdinando Zanusso had a perpetual twinkle in his eyes, and he worked together with his son Mario, who is now at the helm, farming their land of steep slopes and harvesting low yields, which results in wines of precision and lithe concentration. Winemaking at I Clivi is thoughtful and intuitive. The vineyards, which cascade like organized labyrinths around the family home and winery, are planted to white varietals Friulano, Malvasia, Verduzzo, and Ribolla Gialla, and a small amount of Merlot. The I Clivi Merlot is soft and structured, and the whites all have an unwavering backbone and a nervy acidity. The sparkling Ribolla Giala, the ‘R.B.L.’, is racy, with mineral-laced perfection, and its steady effervescence is a mirror of the memory of Ferdinando’s personality. Visiting vineyards, walking with winemakers through their vineyards, meeting the families behind their wines, this is the truest, most genuine way to the heartbeat of wine. Come spring, the

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vineyards are just beginning their cycle, and the winemakers are full of reflection and anticipation as the growing season begins. Spending time in their presence gifts the poetry and passion of winemaking. An opportunity to attend Vinitaly, Italy’s largest and most prestigious wine expo, will be part of this adventure. Wrestling through crowds at a trade show makes clear the difference between wine as big business and winemaking holding court as a labor of love. Trade shows, while educational and opportune, are an alternative experience to visiting winemakers at their properties.

In

Piedmont, we arrive with the snow-covered Alps keeping watch in the distance. We wind up and down narrow looping roads, weaving through vineyards and acres of butter-yellow flowers punctuated by terra cotta rooftops. At winery Eraldo Revelli, perched high above Dogliani in southwest Piedmont, we walk among the vines with Claudia Revelli, who makes wine with her father and uncle. Native red varietal Dolcetto shines here, revealing polish and lush purple fruit. We wear plastic bags over our boots, a common sight in spring, to protect from the thick moist clay soil. The air is full of laughter, and little English is spoken or understood by most, which is common at these tiny wineries and delightful as we rely on pantomime, raised eyebrows and wide smiles. We are joined by her mother, who insists, in rapid-fire Italian, on taking me to the barn to polish off the

clay, which has seeped through the protective bags and caked my boots. Patrizia, Claudia’s sister, arrives with the first of the next generation, baby daughter Ginevra. It’s a family affair, with everyone working some aspect of production and living together on the property. From Piedmont we make our way to the Veneto, the night before the trade show begins. Racing the setting sun, we climb high along the steepest, most sinewy road yet, bathed in wild pink and purple light that casts gold, over the town of Soave, to winery Filippi, where wild mint has found its way into the grass, rendering the herbaceous scent after rainfall intoxicating. Here, winemaker Filippo crafts magic and mystery with his Garganega, the primary white grape of Soave. His single-vineyard Castelcerino is an exceptional pairing wine, with a savory, apple cider-like grip. He is pure jovial rambunctiousness, and with his partner, Paola, offers a mountainous feast that lingers long into the night. The evening includes several visits to the cellar, where unlabeled magnums make their way to the table, often humorously surprising Filippo by what’s inside. On our last morning, we arrive in Verona for a full day at Vinitaly, where 4,000 producers and more than 150,000 wines are holding court. It’s intimidating at first until we run into winemaker Daniele Ricci of winery San Leto in eastern Piedmont and at whose kitchen table we tasted sensuous and quixotic white wines made with Timorasso. He is dressed casually, as he was in the vineyard, and seated quietly at his booth. On the back of his wine bottles are the words poesia, sentimento, cura, dedizione e pazienza; il mio vino: poetry, sentiment, care, dedication, and patience; my wine. We share a collective nod. Even at the cavernous trade show, captured: soul, echoed from soil to vine to grape to the hands that harvest.

Opposite: Importer and distributor Gemma Ionnani seeks out organic/biodynamic producers who authentically interpret their land through minimal intervention techniques and principled winemaking. IMAGE COURTESY OF GIANNONI SELECTIONS

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The Red Vineyards near Arles is an oil painting by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, completed on a privately primed Toile de 30 piece of burlap in early November 1888. It depicts pickers in a vineyard, and is believed to be the only painting van Gogh sold during his lifetime. Like many Impressionist painters, Van Gogh’s scenics are a chronicle of the artist along the countryside of Italy, a sojourn into the heartland of wine.

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Owner and winemaker Filippo Filippi at Vigne della Brà, 60-year old vines grown in sandy, clay-caked soil, 400 meters above sea level. Right: The beginning of a luxurious evening at Cantina Filippi in Soave, tasting wines from Filippo’s cellar alongside a dinner, filled with laughter and camaraderie, lasting long into the night.

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IMAGE COURTESY OF CANTINA FILIPPI

rmchair travel, and its dreamlike stance, can offer a portal into the understanding of a subject on an emotional level, as we allow ourselves to feel the essence of something rather than analyze it. Wine gifts us this effortlessly, yet it is also, in its technical, a complex weave of varietals, styles, regions and countries which they call home. And let us not forget the language used to describe wine and the wine-speak of wine professionals. There are, however, a few tricks of the trade: Old World vs. New World: The Old World refers largely to Europe—for example, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Hungary. The New World references the United States, Chile, New Zealand, Austria, South Africa, to name a few. Generally speaking, in terms of style, Old World wines tend to express terroir, tradition and discretion, while New World wines tend to demonstrative bold fruit, modernity, and, often, higher alcohol levels. A big, buttery, voluptuous, “comfort food” Chardonnay, regardless of its origins, would be considered a New World style, whereas a Chardonnay from the sub-region of Chablis in the region of Burgundy in France—steely, crisp, and lithe and lean like a ballerina—would express an Old World style. Keep in mind that wines can be made—and are—anywhere and in any style, as ultimately it comes down to the winemaker’s intention. The concept of terroir: Terroir is a French word that means a sense of place: the composition of a wine/grape/vine’s origin, the climate in which it thrives, and the soil in which it grows. When a wine speaks of its terroir, it is offering and honoring the truth of its birthplace and upbringing. How to navigate grape to place: While many grapes are grown all over the world, particular varietals traditionally tether them to certain regions. This is most common in the Old World. Take Italy, for example: White varietal Garganega is synonymous with the appellation of Soave in the Veneto—which is to say to ask for a white Soave, the wine will be made with Garganega, and vice versa. In the region of Piedmont, red varietal Nebbiolo is the grape permitted in the powerful, aromatic and ethereal wines from the appellations of Barolo and Barbaresco. Earthen, rustic, red varietal Sangiovese calls Tuscany home. In the appellation of Chianti Classico, 80 percent of the wine must be made with Sangiovese. A Super Tuscan, on the other hand, can be made with any number of red varietals, and Sangiovese doesn’t have

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to be a part of the blend. The Super Tuscan movement was Tuscany’s quite successful attempt at crafting bolder styles to appeal to a global palate in the 1970s, when Californian superstars were beginning to rival European wines, and the appetite for powerhouse wines was taking hold. Rosé: Rosé, that pink beauty for all days, is a veritable chameleon. It can be quite dry, tremendously aromatic, fruitforward (perceived as sweet), pensive, and just simply quaffable. Rosé can be made with any red grape and with some white or grey grapes, such as Pinot Gris. Since color comes from the grape’s skins, for rosé wine, while the grapes are crushed, the juice stays in contact with the skins, just as in the making of red wine. The color—rosé comes in many hues—depends on the length of time the skins macerate with the juice and the varietals selected. ■ Wine, knowing it well has a reputation for being elusive. Let us honor the muse, then, and surrender, raise a glass, and take our cue from William Faulkner, who wrote:

“MEMORY BELIEVES BEFORE KNOWING REMEMBERS. BELIEVES LONGER THAN RECOLLECTS, LONGER THAN KNOWING EVEN WONDERS.”


An endless sweep of vineyards planted to white varietals Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, at winery I Clivi, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM.VACCARO / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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Terra cotta rooftops and the forever cascade of light, the backdrop to the vineyards of Soave in the Veneto, home to indiginous white and chameleon white varietal Garganega. AVATAR_023 / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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wellness

Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Gustav Klimt, 1907

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Breaking the Golden Rule

BY MARY ROGERS McMASTER

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he expression ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ is one of those old sayings of kindness used as a North Star for relationships everywhere. You probably heard it on the playground when you were small, you probably hear it now from friends and coworkers, and there is good reason it has been around forever. This idea is packed with good intentions, is easy to remember and relatively easy to enforce. Treat others the way you want to be treated feels natural—after all, we spend so much time with ourselves, we know precisely how we’d like to be treated. The irony of this approach to relationships is that the way we want to be treated has absolutely nothing to do with the person we are interacting

with. In fact, it’s quite likely that we are ignoring that person completely. Research has shown that this golden rule of relationships is actually counterintuitive to true connection. If we are so concerned about how we wish to be treated and are replicating that behavior, we are essentially ignoring all of the verbal, physical, and emotional cues from the person we are interacting with. It is very possible that by enforcing this golden rule we are, in fact, missing opportunities for connection through accidental self-assertion. We want to connect with each other. We are biologically hard wired for it; we need it to survive. We search for connection and stories everywhere, from the shape of the clouds to our dog’s inner monologue. We are endlessly searching to assign value with the world so that we can feel connected to something. So why do we feel so disconnected? Perhaps because we are treating others how we want to be treated instead of paying attention to their needs.

So how do you pay attention to someone else’s needs? You listen.

How do you do that?

You spark a romance with silence, and then invite her into every interaction. My romance with silence takes many forms, from allowing pause to infuse into my conversations, to walking in the yard and smiling at the sun, to something as simple as not reacting to the ding on my phone. By falling in love with silence, I have been able to naturally reconfigure my body’s internal ecosystem simply by being unafraid of what the pause brings. When we are silent with ourselves, we start to hear all of the activity going on in our minds. We start to see how the inner monologue never takes a lunch break and our anxieties and insecurities are using our hearts for storage. Once you begin to court with silence, all of that unnecessary mental activity comes to the surface. When you are able to enjoy silence’s company, your stress hormones relax and your chatter begins to fade. When you really fall in love with silence you are able to hear what you need. Learning to really listen to yourself is perfect training for listening to another, and true listening is the foundation for connection. Once I started living with this awareness, I began to see how much excess energy I had been throwing away in interactions. I realized that I was treating others how I wanted to be treated, and that was met with resistance. Of course it was, because I was acting like they were another version of me. By inviting silence into my daily life I have realized I can meet my own needs on my own time. I am no longer hoping the person I am speaking to will be the answer in some way, and with this grand hope diminished I am able to experience each person as they are. People are fascinating and they will tell you everything about themselves if you give them the space to. You can get truly connected to another if only you are available to listen. Are you? When we get connected to ourselves, the world opens up. When we are connected, we can form deep love, and where that love grows, everything follows. ■

The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze, Gustav Klimt, 1909.

ABOUT MARY ROGERS McMASTER Mary Rogers is a holistic wellness coach with over twenty years of acting experience. Her work in personal wellness spans many forms including chakra work, energy healing, Alexander technique, leadership training, executive coaching, fitness, dance, talk therapy, and emotional release. She is based in New York City.

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LAVINIA FONTANA (Bologna 1552 – 1614 Rome) Portrait of a Noblewoman Oil on canvas, 45 ¼ x 34 ¼ inches (115 x 87 cm) Robert Simon Fine Art specializes in Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and has led collector interest in the field of female Old Master painters. The gallery has brought to light and placed important paintings by Elisabetta Sirani, Lavinia Fontana, Ginevra Cantofoli, Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Barbara Longhi, Suor Plautilla Nelli, and Angelika Kauffmann in major American museums and private collections.

22 EAST 80TH STREET, FOURTH FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10075 BY APPOINTMENT: SATIS HOUSE, 53 TOWER HILL ROAD EAST, TUXEDO PARK, NY, 10987 www.robertsimon.com rbs@robertsimon.com t: (212) 288.9712 f: (212) 202.4786

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fashion

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a Well-

Traveled Closet

BY KATIE WEISMAN

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A black floral blouse by Simone Rocha paired with an oversized shell choker by Prada. Below: Jacquemus Les Tatanes check mules made of 100% leather. Opposite & previous pages: Channel Marie Antoinette in a floral-print tulle ruffle dress from Simone Rocha, designed with multiple ruffles, a split top layer and puffed three-quarter length sleeves.

last fall, fashion designers showed their collections for spring-summer 2020 on runways in New York, London, Milan and Paris. The fashions were gorgeous, and there’s a good chance you’re itching to get out of your athleisure to buy some new duds. But the Covid-19 curveball means that the way to shop varies largely by region and state. One great option is Farfetch.com, the international online store that features luxury and high-end fashion and accessories—along with less-expensive options—from 700 stores worldwide. This platform, which also boasts a luxury pre-owned department, allows you to shop safely from your desk, lap, or bed, enabling you to refresh your wardrobe and look amazing with brands from as far away as Australia for the hot and hazy days of summer. Farfetch’s Senior Womenswear Editor Celenie Seidel is excited about two contrasting trends for summer: romance and the ’70s. “The first [trend] is overtly romantic—think Simone Rocha, Cecilie Bahnsen, Molly Goddard. Big frothy dresses, soft layers, pastel palettes, embossed and embroidered fabrics,” Seidel observes. “Concurrently, there is quite a slinky, ’70s mood—think Jacquemus and classic Missoni. Print-embracing, figure-hugging, a real summer-of-love throwback.” Irish designer Simone Rocha launched her first collection in London

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10 years ago. Her fashion has an edginess that is softened by layers of beautiful, embellished fabrics of varying textures. For this summer, she showed floaty dresses in layers of tulle printed or embroidered with a delicate floral design. The florals are reminiscent of patterns on 17th- and 18th-century wallpaper or hand-painted porcelain. Seidel also likes Rocha’s more simple silhouettes. “Rocha has been serving up the perfect cloud dress for years—Her floaty, romantic pieces are ones to cherish forever,” says Seidel. The exuberant femininity has also been served up by a host of other designers and labels. Zimmerman, from Australia, has ruffles and floral prints galore. The U.K.’s Needle & Thread features dresses and separates in delicate layers of lace and embroidery, which extends to its bridal collection if you’re planning for a rescheduled summer wedding. And, Xu Zhi, from London-based Chinese designer Xu Zhi Chen, has a handful of delicate, floaty tops and dresses alongside its traditionally edgier aesthetic. Head to the South of France, however, to discover the laidback vibe of Simon Porte Jacquemus, who launched his signature collection in 2009. Along with flowing maxi dresses with spaghetti straps, Seidel loves Jacquemus’ summer knitwear, including the very ’70s fine knit short-sleeve bodysuit. That ’70s vibe extends to Australia’s She Made Me, a resort and swimwear label that has stand-out crocheted items, including dresses and pants, for this summer. Of course, the retro floral prints from Tel Aviv-based actress and designer Dodo Bar Or perfectly capture the heady era. The theme of sustainability has been infiltrating fashion headlines more frequently than ever before. In that vein, vegan leather has become a hot-ticket item for accessories and apparel. While not romantic at all, Seidel likes the vegan leather shorts from Nanushka, a Hungarian designer who shows during New York fashion week. “Nanushka has really been at the forefront of developing pieces in some of the best vegan leather the market currently has to offer,” Seidel says. “(Her) knee shorts are a new, elegant wardrobe staple.”


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For summer shoes, Seidel points to the evolution of the hiking sandal— you know, like the originals from Teva—into a fashion staple. “Cecilie Bahnsen, in collaboration with Suicoke, took the classic hiking sandal and turned it into a shoe that thrillingly combines function and femininity in equal measures,” Seidel remarks. The feminine details are the yellow or blue floral embellishments on the sandal straps. Meanwhile, Teva has come out with its own fashion-forward versions of its popular hiking sandals. Arizona Love, from Paris, has a pair of such sandals embroidered with real seashells. Other accessories highlighted by Seidel include the new interpretation of a shell necklace from Prada and the woven leather pieces from Daniel Lee, the British creative director of Italy’s Bottega Veneta. “A long way from the shell necklaces bought on beach holidays and lost in the sand, Prada’s playful version supersized a classic and turned it into one of the key jewelry pieces of the season,” says Seidel.

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ome women are already experts at shopping online for luxury fashion. It’s so much easier to try things on at home and see how they look with your current wardrobe, notes Seidel. You don’t need a pandemic to start. If you’re new to the game, one of the keys to successful online fashion shopping is to properly take key measurements of your bust, waist, hips, and inseam with a tape measure. If you can’t do it yourself, enlist a friend. Also, don’t be fixated on size numbers. What you think of as your size will not be the same number across different

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labels. Farfetch features fashion from designers all over the world; the sizing varies from country to country, and different labels scale their sizes differently. Farfetch, however, has a few tools, including a size conversion chart, to make finding your size easier. “A really handy feature on Farfetch is fit prediction—as you shop on Farfetch, the system begins to ‘learn’ your best size and surfaces a sizing suggestion based on the fit of the piece,” Seidel explains. “This is super useful as Farfetch offers such an international selection of brands, so whether the sizing is Italian, French, U.K., U.S., Australian or Danish, the Fit Predictor will help do the hard work for you.” Again, for the sizing tool to be accurate, you have to know and be truthful about your own measurements. Many fashion websites now include the length of items as well as the height of the model wearing the piece and what size the model is wearing. Compare your measurements with all the information you are given, and chances are you will be able to order properly fitting clothes. “Online shopping provides us with so much more choice than we can access locally,” Seidel boasts. “It quite literally unlocks the world.” ■ Editor’s Note: Farfetch has many options for delivery, with most items arriving within 3-7 days of a customer’s order. Some items are eligible for same-day delivery, depending on where they are located and where you live. The company offers flat-fee shipping costs based on order amount minimums. Deliveries to the U.S. of non-American goods might be subject to value-added tax, and that is disclosed at check out. Returns within 14 days of delivery are free if you have followed Farfetch guidelines.

Bottega Veneta cassette padded crossbody bag in powder blue.

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In the footsteps of

Marie Antoinette Loved & hated even beyond death, somehow she continues to intrigue & fascinate.

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Petit Trianon’s winding garden mazes, one of Antoinette’s favored cloistered refuges, in the warmer months. V_E / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

ay 14, 1770, 14-year-old Austrian-born Archduchess Marie-Antoinette Habsburg Lorraine arrived in Versailles to marry Louis XVI and become the Dauphine to the throne of France and, four years later, the last Queen of France. A daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie-Antoinette grew up in sumptuous palaces and had spent her summers at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, strangely evocative of Versailles. But despite being used to a luxurious life, no doubt arriving at the Château de Versailles must have been extraordinary, even for an already quite spoiled royal bride-to-be. In my search for the places that had an impact on Marie-Antoinette, and on which she had an impact, I wanted to start at the beginning: in Versailles, a

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mere 10 miles from the center of Paris. The Château of Versailles is one of the world’s grandest palaces and one that held an enormous number of people. It was not simply home to the king and queen, but also the seat of the French government. It was the daily playground of thousands of courtiers and hangers-on as well as the countless staff it took to look after them. It is estimated that some 3,000 courtiers, ministers and servants lived permanently in its 700 rooms, but the palace could play host to some 20,000 people and often did. Reportedly, palace life was a shock to Marie-Antoinette. Despite having several rooms within the palace to herself and entertaining herself by hosting glittering parties and enjoying becoming a fashion icon, she seemed to find it difficult to adapt. A young teenager who until then had been an indulged child, she suddenly had to adjust to life in the public eye, the demands of an equally young and inexperienced husband, the court and its constantly gossiping courtiers, and the restrictions that her new station brought with it. To escape the daily hustle and bustle of court and government life, MarieAntoinette spent a lot of time at the Petit Trianon, which had initially been a gift from Louis XV to his mistress Madame de Pompadour and was gifted to Marie-Antoinette as a private refuge. Nearly three kilometers from

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Petit Trianon was lavishly decorated to suit the taste and entertainment needs of French aristocracy. The music room, pictured here, was quite suitable for a fashionable young queen. JACKY D / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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The Swing (Les Hasards heureux de l’escarpolette) is a Rococo masterpiece by French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Created in 1767, it is widely believed that Antoinette was the elegant young lady who served as the inspiration, if not the model, for Fragonard. COMMONS.WIKIMEDIA.ORG

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the main building, through the maze of the enormous gardens, even today it feels like a retreat. Fit for a queen. To allow Marie-Antoinette to get even further away from the pressures of the court, she had her own hamlet created within the palace grounds. Complete with thatched cottages, a pond, a working dairy, chickens and flocks of sheep, it was rumored that she had it built to get closer to “her people,” but visiting this picture-postcard Petit Hameau, I can see why people were appalled by her “playing at” being a commoner. Real peasants endured a very different pastoral life and started to resent the self-indulgent royals. Apart from her farm hamlet, one of Marie-Antoinette’s favorite spots in Versailles was the Queen’s Theatre, which she commissioned even though the palace already had its own opera house. She wanted a personal playhouse to indulge her fondness not only for watching plays but also for dabbling in amateur

Marie Antoinette’s idyllic and charming farm hamlet, which was certainly a world apart from “her people.” SERGEY DZYUBA / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

dramatics herself. Seating some 250 people, the little theatre is today the only 18th-century theatre in France still intact and fully functioning. Marie-Antoinette’s love for the theatre gave me the jumping-off point for searching out places that she would have frequented in Paris, such as the splendid Palais Garnier. Often secretly escaping the palace to drive into Paris, which would have probably taken her an hour’s fast carriage ride, she visited the gilded Palais Garnier with its grand hall, which in my mind is even more sumptuous than the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, to see plays. On a tour through this magnificent theatre, it is not difficult to imagine a giggling Marie-Antoinette sitting in one of the sumptuous red velvet-clad boxes. But Paris offered so much more than theatrical relief from Versailles. Marie-Antoinette’s favored dressmaker, Madame Rose Bertin, had her boutique first along Rue Saint-

Petit Trianon at Versailles Palace, the Pavilion and the Rock of Marie Antoinette. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / LOC.GOV


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Palais Garnier, Opera National de Paris, was a favorite destination of the theatre-loving queen. JULIE MAYFENG / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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E Honoré, still a fashionable hangout today and a joy to window shop on. Later, Madame Bertin’s boutique Au Grand Mogol moved to Rue Richelieu, although the number 13, which was supposed to have housed her atelier, seems to have disappeared. Instead, I pop into the Louvre to see some works by Marie-Antoinette’s personal portraitist, Elisabeth Vigée le Brun (1755-1841). In Versailles, I had already seen some of her work, but to continue the trail, the Louvre is an appropriate royal setting. Elisabeth Vigée le Brun beat the odds to become the artist who would paint 30 portraits of Marie-Antoinette, despite being not only a woman but also a commoner.

Stohrer is the oldest patisserie in Paris and was established by King Louis XV’s pastry chef, Nicolas Stohrer, in 1730. It is located at the famed rue Montorguiel. Opposite: The Chantilly baba is a staple of French bakery Stohrer. It is soaked in a delicate rum syrup with delectable vanilla Chantilly cream.

merging from the Louvre, I search out the location where the Tuileries Palace would have been, the Paris home the king and queen relocated to in 1789 after the storming of the Bastille—and the one they tried to flee from when history took a sharp turn, not in their favor. Alas, all that remains of the old royal and imperial palace today is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the arch that

stands in line with the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs Elysees and La Grande Arche de La Defénse. This smaller arch was once the gate to the palace that stood at the entrance to the Tuileries, with the gardens as they are now toward the back of the building. Wandering through the Tuileries Gardens, I marvel at the genius of André le Nôtre (1613-1700), the gardener who originally designed the gardens of Versailles and the Tuileries, plus other notable gardens such as Chantilly,

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PHOTOGRAPH BY GÉRALDINE MARTINS

Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau. Only the best for the royal family. It was that sort of thinking, though, that eventually spelled the downfall of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and French royalty. After their two failed attempts to flee from Paris in 1791 and 1792, they were captured, tried and condemned to death. The First French Republic was declared in September 1792. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were first imprisoned together in the ancient Tour du Temple, of which only

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Fans from Musée d’éventail (The Fan Museum), where the fans for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette movie were created. From left to right, Comedia dell’Arte (1775-1780), 1172 Le Dejeuner (1750) and Hymne aux fleurs (1900).


Place de la Concorde is now a scenic destination, but it was once the sight of Marie Antoinette’s beheading at the hands of revolutionists. NETFALLS REMY MUSSER / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

a historical marker survives on Square du Temple in the Marais. Several months after Louis’ execution, MarieAntoinette was taken to the women’s prison within la Conciergerie, the rather beautiful former royal palace on the Île de la Cité, steps away from Notre Dame. There she stayed until her execution by guillotine on the Place de la Révolution, now called Place de la Concorde, on October 16, 1793. After exploring the underground prison cells of the Conciergerie, then strolling through the Tuileries again toward Place de la Concorde with its obelisk, fountains and grand hotels, I walk up to the Madeleine church and stroll toward Rue Pasquier, near the famous department stores on Boulevard Haussmann. The small square was once the graveyard of the Madeleine and the spot where in 1813 Marie-Antoinette’s body was discovered and exhumed. In 1826, the neo-classical Chapelle Expiatoire was built in her honor on the very spot. Marie-Antoinette’s remains were taken

to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, now a suburb of Paris. There, in the royal necropolis of the basilica, she was reburied next to her husband and together with the rest of the kings, queens, princes and princesses of France. Her statue is appropriately grand, befitting her life and lifestyle. I, after considering so much death and sadness, felt I should finish retracing Marie-Antoinette’s footsteps in a manner she no doubt would have appreciated: I walk down Rue Montorgueil and stop at Patisserie Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris, dating back to 1730, founded in 1730 by her father-in-law King Louis XV’s pastry chef, Nicolas Stohrer. This patisserie baked the sweet things Marie-Antoinette so loved. But while she certainly indulged in pastries and viennoiseries, her notorious quote, “Let them eat cake,” has never been proven true. Still, nothing wrong with eating some cake, especially if accompanied

by some royal tea. So, I also pop into Nina’s at Place Vendôme to buy some of the queen’s preferred tea, which still to this day is flavored with fruit grown within the royal vegetable garden in Versailles, the recipe unchanged from Marie-Antoinette’s days. My tour through Versailles and Paris has left me intrigued by this young queen who was spoiled beyond measure and lived a lifestyle that simply laughed in the face of her struggling nation. Yet, her life was fascinating and her fate tragic, and the allure of MarieAntoinette is evident everywhere in Paris and Versailles. ■

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One corner filled with marble horse statues at Versailles Palace (Château de Versailles). The destination was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979. WALTER_G / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM


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Marie Antoinette’s remains are buried at the large medieval abbey church of Basilica of Saint-Denis in the Saint-Denis suburb of Paris. CAPTURE 11 PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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Untitled (Louise Nevelson, 1977) by Hans Namuth. COURTESY CENTER FOR CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA © 1991 HANS NAMUTH ESTATE, COURTESY CENTER FOR CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY

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UNDAUNTED VISION

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LOUISE

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Nevelson (1899-1988) is widely considered the leading American sculptor of the 20th century and the originator and principal proponent of environmental art. Most closely allied with the Cubist movement of modern art, she was the original trailblazer in a world where no woman was deemed the equal of men in the visual arts. Indeed, a male reviewer of Nevelson’s 1941 exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery wrote, “We learned the artist is a woman in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed these sculptural expressions as by surely a great figure among moderns.” Indeed, contemporary artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns blatantly kept her at arm’s length and out of their inner circle. Was it jealously? Resentment that a woman had broken the glass ceiling of the international art world? Or could it be that Nevelson’s unlimited energy and uncompromising commitment to her work was like a tsunami, too much of a force to be reckoned with? The fact is Louise Nevelson was a risk-taker who allowed nothing to stand in the way of the originality, vision, and truth she brought to her work. Her art, she maintained, was the manifest outward expression of her personae, and in this vein, she made order out of chaos and found beauty in discarded objects. Yet, this innovative, stunningly creative, wildly independent, vibrant woman professed her art was “a matter of survival” in a society that was superficial, corrupt of spirit, and depravingly insincere. She came upon the art scene late in her life, at a time when contemporaries such as Picasso (who she credited “for giving us the cube”), Matisse, Braque, and Kandinsky were at the height of their fame. Not until 1958 did fame finally come to Nevelson, with her first one-

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woman exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “You must create your own world. I am responsible for my world,” she said. And that’s precisely what Louise Nevelson did.

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orn September 23, 1899, in that part of Czarist Russia that today is Ukraine, Leah Berliawsky was the third of four children of Minna Sadie, a housewife, and Isaac, a contractor and lumber merchant. In 1902, immediately following the death of his mother, Isaac emigrated to America to join his brothers and sisters, who had fled their homeland after 1880 to avoid Jewish and political suppression. As the youngest, it had been left to Isaac to remain behind to care for their aging mother, and Minna and their three children moved to Kiev to wait for Isaac to make enough money to support a new life for the family in America. Little Leah was so distraught over the separation from her beloved father that she did not speak for six months. Three years later, in 1905, the family was finally reunited, having made their home in rural Maine, where Isaac had found employment as a lumberjack. The following year, Lillian, the fourth and last of their children, was born. Ambitious and determined to give his family a secure and comfortable life, Isaac soon opened his own lumberyard and became a successful businessman and real estate agent. Wood, Nevelson’s medium of choice from the outset of her career, is testimony to the boundless love she had for her father. Little Leah likewise adored her mother. It had been a difficult transition for Minna to move from Jewish neighborhoods, in which she had lived


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Profile of the artist in her winter furs. Nevelson was known for her unpredictable and outlandish wardrobe. PHOTGRAPH BY PEDRO E. GUERRERO / GUERREROPHOTO.COM

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62 Nevelson with charred rafters from St. Marks in the Bowery. Center: Nevelson at the Lippencott Foundry, B&W #14.

her entire life, to suddenly being the only Jewish family in down east Rockland, Maine. To clothe her insecurities and alleviate the depression she now suffered, Minna dressed in elaborate outfits and heavy make-up. “She should have lived in a palace,” Nevelson would later say of her sophisticated mother. “It was her art, her pride, and her job.” Louise would adopt her mother’s dramatic flair for clothing after she became a divorced single mother, and throughout the rest of her life, creating a singular look that was as innovative as her art. “Every time I put on clothes, I’m creating a picture,” she said of her “petite yet flamboyant” style. And just like her art, there was nothing predictable about her dress. On one occasion, she wore a plaid man-tailored shirt under a lavish and suffocatingly large mink coat, an enormous necklace of her own making, and her trademark Russian peasant scarf, which entirely concealed every strand of her thick head of short-cropped hair. Most striking was the tuft of thick false eyelashes she had made from mink fur and cloaked her eyelids. As wild as this may seem, it did not detract from her natural beauty but accentuated it. As a young woman, she bore a striking resemblance to Greta Garbo. Those high cheekbones, sculpted jawline, strong nose, and sparkling eyes gave her a beauty that never abandoned her over the years. “I never feel age,” she once said. “If you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.” Toward the end of Nevelson’s life, designer Arnold Scassi created her wardrobe. When the expressionist portraitist Alice Neel asked how she dressed so beautifully, Nevelson, who was known to be sexually liberated, replied, “Fucking, dear, fucking.”

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEDRO E. GUERRERO / GUERREROPHOTO.COM

evelson led a normal childhood in Rockland, Maine. She attended public school, where she learned English (Yiddish was spoken at home), played basketball (she was captain of her team) and frequented the Rockland Public Library. There on display was a plaster cast of Joan of Arc, which so enthralled her that she determined that one day she would become an artist. “In the first grade, I already knew the pattern of my life. I didn’t know the living of it, but I knew the line. From the first day in school until the day I graduated, everyone gave me 100-plus in art. Well, where do you go in life? You go to the place where you got 100-plus.” After graduating from high school in 1918, she took a job as a stenographer in a local law office and there met Bernard Nevelson, a successful Jewish shipping businessman and partner with his brother, Charles, in the Nevelson Brothers Company. Bernard introduced Louise to Charles, and in June 1920, they married. Their wedding reception was held at the extravagant Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. It soon became clear to Louise that she did not fit into the mold of a wealthy Jewish housewife and socialite. “My husband’s family was terribly refined,” she said of her wealthy, high society Jewish in-laws. Within their circle, you could know Beethoven, but God forbid if you were Beethoven.” The couple moved to New York City, and Louise’s disappointment in her marriage was distracted by the energy she absorbed from the greatest city on earth. She flung herself into studying art, took acting, singing, and dancing lessons, much to the disapproval of her husband and in-laws. In 1922, she gave birth to her one and only child, a son, Myron (later called Mike, who himself would become a sculptor), and in 1924 the family

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63 Nevelson with Edward Albee. PHOTOGRAPH BY PEDRO E. GUERRERO / GUERREROPHOTO.COM

moved to Mount Vernon in Westchester County, a wealthy commuters’ town just north of Manhattan. Feeling cut off from the artistic environment she had so enjoyed as a city dweller, her home life began to suffocate her. After eight years of marriage, Louise was determined to be true to herself, and in the winter of 1932-1933, at the height of the Great Depression, she left her husband, taking her son with her. With no financial support from her husband, she found lodgings in a rat-infested neighborhood in lower Manhattan. “The freer that women become, the freer men will be. Because when you enslave someone, you are enslaved,” she said. The couple divorced in 1941. Nevelson took comfort in living in squalor rather than compromise her independence. She was so poor that at night, holding her young son by the hand, she combed the wintry streets collecting fragments of discarded wood that she could burn for heat. She found beauty in some of those castaway pieces and began to create wood sculptures. For the rest of her life, she would explore abandoned factories, derelict buildings, and construction yards to find raw and discarded materials for her sculptures. “I was the original recycler,” she said of herself. “Anywhere I found wood, I took it home and started working with it, to show the world that art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.” Years later, when she finally achieved international fame and had made millions, she said, bemused, “It gave me great pleasure to think that I could take wood, make it good, and make people like Rockefeller buy it with paper money.” Unable to support her son and pursue her career as an artist at the

same time, Louise sent her son to live with her family in Maine, sold the diamond bracelet her husband had given her as a wedding gift, and set out for Munich, Germany, to study under the abstract expressionist painter Hans Hoffman. Later, she would speak of her guilt over abandoning her son for art, even admitting she should never have become a mother. Two years later, Nevelson returned to New York and was reunited with Hofmann, who she continued to study with at Art Students League. There she met Diego Rivera, a superstar Mexican painter and founder of the Mural Movement, and began working with him on his mural, Man at the Crossroads, at Rockefeller Plaza. They had a short-lived affair that abruptly ended when it became known to Rivera’s wife, the fiery artist Frida Kahlo. Nevelson embarked upon a new path and began studying sculpture under Chaim Gross. During this time, she also experimented with lithography and etching, but more and more her passion for sculpture overshadowed even her drawing and painting. In 1941, she held her first solo exhibition as a sculptor at the Nierendorf Gallery, until the death of the gallery’s owner, Karl Nierendorf, in 1947.

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olor was an important, even vital, component of expressionist art, and yet Nevelson chose to use none. Black, white, and the natural color of wood and metal were her palette; once, she painted an unnamed wooden sculpture teal blue; in the early period, when she experimented in prints and drawing, she incorporated red in her otherwise tonal, trademark palette.

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Installation view of Louise Nevelson: Black & White. 537 West 24th Street, New York, NY. February 1 – March 3, 2018. PHOTOGRAPHY KERRY RYAN MCFATE, COURTESY PACE GALLERY © 2018 ESTATE OF LOUISE NEVELSON/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK

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I think most artists create out of despair. The very nature of creation is not a performing glory on the outside, it’s a painful, difficult search within. “But when I fell in love with black,” she said, “it contained all color. It wasn’t a negation of color. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors. Black is the most aristocratic color of all. You can be quiet, and it contains the whole thing.” When it relates to paint, the textbook definition of black is “the presence of all color” and white, “the absence of all color.” Nevelson interpreted this in its simplest form. Following her death, Washington Post author Paul Richard wrote that she “preferred to work, as witches do, in the dream-time before dawn. She kept her windows shuttered. Her house was mostly black. The polished floors were black. The table in the dining room, that cat and kitchen sink were black. The matte black sculptures in the largest room, the space she called ‘the forest,’ made the dim light dimmer still. Nevelson—who brought dead wood junk to life—ruled that dark and labyrinthine realm like some grand queen of the night.” [April 19, 1988.] There was a complex order that ruled over her realm. She committed herself mind, body, and soul to sculpture and sought a form of minimalist truth in shape, line, texture, and form. Louise Nevelson birthed her own movement as if from her very loins. This was a woman of vision—a vision that never wavered over the many years of her work. “My eye has a great many of many centuries,” she said shortly before her death at the age of 88.

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he war years were a dark time for Nevelson. Though her work received major attention from the press, her earnings were paltry, and she continued to live in squalor. “And I saw darkness for weeks,” she reflected on those times. “It never dawned on me that I could come out of it, but you heal. Nature heals you, and you do come out of it. All of a sudden, I saw a crack of light . . . then all of a sudden, I saw another crack of light. Then I saw forms in the light. And I recognized that there was no darkness, that in darkness there’ll always be light.” This began Nevelson’s cubist period. She continued to collect discarded items from abandoned places. “When you put things together, things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life—a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created,” she maintained. In 1943, the Norlyst Gallery held an exhibition of her sculptures called The Clown at the Center of His Work. The poor reception did not deter Nevelson, and she entered a period of surrealism, guided by her friend, Salvador Dali. It was then, in the 1950s, that she found her signature style. “I make collages,” she said of her wood sculptures. “I join the shattered world creating a new harmony.” Throughout the 1950s, Nevelson exhibited her work extensively, but still, despite her growing popularity and critical acclaim, continued to struggle financially. To make ends meet, she taught art in Great Neck, Long Island, as part of a community art education program. Later, during another period

of financial stress, she relocated temporarily to San Francisco to teach art. “I’ve taught,” she reflected, “and the first thing I did when I taught art was not to teach art.” In 1954, the Kips Bay neighborhood of New York faced demolition, and Nevelson was a familiar figure among the ruins, picking up scrap material. From this came some of her most notable mid-century works: Bride of the Black Moon, First Personage, and Moon Garden + One, which were exhibited at the Grand Central Modern Gallery.

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y 1957, while financial recognition still evaded Nevelson and she subsisted on “cans of sardines and handfuls of raisins,” her big breakthrough finally occurred. She was made president of the New York chapter of Artist’s Equity (later elected national president) and joined the Martha Jackson Gallery, where her work sold out at spectacular prices. On top of all this, she was photographed for the cover of Life magazine. In 1960, she gave her first one-woman exhibition in Europe, at the Galerie Daniel Cordier in Paris. Following that, a collection of her work, called “Dawn’s Wedding Feast,” was included in a group show called “Sixteen Americans” at the Museum of Modern Art. Curated by pioneering MoMA curator Dorothy Miller, Nevelson was the only woman in an all-star group that included Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. “I’m a workhorse,” Nevelson admitted in one of her many recorded interviews. “I like to work. I always did. I think that there is such a thing as energy, creation overflowing. And I always felt that I have this great energy, and it was bound to sort of burst at the seams so that my work automatically took its place. With a mind like mine, I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to work. I’ve never had a day like that. And I knew

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Woman, Child and Cats, Louise Nevelson, 1946, oil on canvas. COURTESY FARNSWORTH ART MUSEUM / FARNSWORTHMUSEUM.ORG

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Studio Marconi and Gianni Ummarino. Louise Nevelson with Giorgio Marconi at Studio Marconi in Milan, Italy, circa 1973. LOUISE NEVELSON PAPERS, CIRCA 1903-1988. ARCHIVES OF AMERICAN ART, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION


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that a day I took away from the work did not make me too happy. I just feel that I’m in tune with the right vibrations in the universe when I’m in the process of working. In my studio, I’m as happy as a cow in her stall.” In 1962, Nevelson made her first museum sale, to New York’s Whitney Museum, and in 1967, the Whitney hosted the first retrospective of her work. Featuring over 100 pieces, from drawings she made in the 1930s to her most recent sculptures, it was a huge success. In 1964, Nevelson created two of her most famous works: Homage to 6,000,000 I and Homage to 6,000,000 II, a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust in World War II. Now her work was represented across the country and the world, and the money poured in. At the age of 65, Nevelson had finally arrived.

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nspiration, emotion, the overpowering feeling that you understand what an artist is trying to say through her work does not come easily to many who view Nevelson’s work. What everyone can appreciate is that she made order from chaos. By taking random, disassociated pieces and combining them into one fluid form, Nevelson was able to produce a single statement. No one sees the same thing in a Nevelson work, and many see nothing at all. To appreciate Nevelson, you must look beyond the surface. “A white lace curtain on the window was for me as important as a great work of art,” she once pointed out. “The gossamer quality, the reflection, the form, the movement. I learned more about art from that than I did in school.” It is this minute ability to simply observe that is essential to appreciate

Nevelson and her genius. That Nevelson believed herself to be a great artist cannot be argued. “There’s no denying that Caruso came with a voice, that Beethoven came with music in his soul. Picasso was drawing like an angel in the crib. You’re born with it.” And Nevelson was, too. In 1969, Nevelson completed her first outdoor sculpture, a commission from Princeton University in New Jersey. “Remember,” she said in an interview at the time, “I was in my early 70s when I came into monumental outdoor sculpture. I had been through the enclosures of wood. I had been through the shadows. I had been through the enclosures and come out into the open.” Coming out into the open also opened the sculptor to new materials— Plexiglas and corten steel among them, which she proclaimed was “a blessing” in her work. And there was never an end to it. Barbarlee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a New York talk show hostess, who called Nevelson “the doyenne of American sculptors,” and commented that “her work pours forth with uninterrupted regularity.” The height of her career came in 1975 when Nevelson accepted the commission to design the chapel of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in midtown Manhattan. The design of the sculpture, architectural ornaments, and even the vestments was a total expression of Nevelson’s soul. Confronted during one interview about a Jew designing a Lutheran church, she commented that her work transcended all religious barriers. The chapel is entirely white. White, Nevelson said, “summoned the early morning and emotional promise.” Sometimes she spent years creating a work, as she did with Sky Cathedral, and Sky Cathedral: Night Wall, which took 13 years to build in her New

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7 1 Orfeo Throne, Louise Nevelson, 1984, silkscreen on fabric.

COURTESY FARNSWORTH ART MUSEUM / FARNSWORTHMUSEUM.ORG

Opposite: Two Women, Louise Nevelson, 1933, cast aluminum sculpture on wooden base.

COURTESY FARNSWORTH ART MUSEUM / FARNSWORTHMUSEUM.ORG

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American sculptor Louise Nevelson in her SoHo studio, New York, New York, 1979. PHOTOGRAPH BY BROWNIE HARRIS/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES


7 3 Ava Gardner Park premiere. ARCHIVE PL / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

$450 for this image

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Basil Langton. Louise Nevelson, ca. 1979. Louise Nevelson papers, circa 1903-1988. ARCHIVES OF AMERICAN ART, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

I have made my world and it is a much better world than I ever saw outside.

York studio before finding its home in the collection of the Columbus Museum of Art. “This is the Universe, the stars, the moon—and you and I, everyone,” she said of the masterwork. But the one place of all where Nevelson’s work best belongs is New York City, a virtual garden of Louise Nevelson sculptures— enormous, towering structural works such as Night Presences (1972) on Park Avenue at 92nd Street, Shadows and Flags (1977) at the Louise Nevelson Plaza, Sky Gate, New York (1977-1978) at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Untitled at Riverfront Apartments at 420 East 54th Street. Nevelson’s public artworks can be found in museums, art centers, universities, and performing arts centers in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Washington D.C. (Smithsonian Institute), Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York State, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Nevelson was the subject of great photographers, including Richard Avedon and Robert Mapplethorpe. In 2000, the United States Postal Service released a series of commemorative postage stamps in her honor. She was bestowed honorary degrees by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Brandeis University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and was presented the 1985 National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan and the Edward MacDowell Medal for her contribution to American culture and the arts. The Farnsworth Art Museum in her hometown of Rockport, Maine, houses the second largest collection of her works, which includes one-of-a-kind jewelry. In 2002, the late, great actress, Anne Bancroft, was set to star in “Occupant,” a biographical play about Nevelson written by her

friend, playwright Edward Albee (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”) However, Bancroft was diagnosed with pneumonia, and the play never made it past preview performances until it was resurrected by the Signature Theatre Company in 2008. The woman who suffered guilt over being a mother in fact gave birth to the Feminist Art Movement. “Another thing about creation is that every day it is like it gave birth, and it’s always kind of innocent and refreshing. So, it’s always virginal to me, and it’s always a surprise. Each piece seems to have a life of its own. Every little piece or every big piece that I make becomes a very living thing to me, very living. I could make a million pieces; the next piece gives me a whole new thing. It is a new center. Life is total at that particular time. And that’s why it’s right. That reaffirms my life.” Her life ended April 17, 1988, when she died in her SoHo apartment at the age of 88 after several months of illness. Until the end Nevelson maintained, “I still want to do my work. I still want to do my livingness. And I have lived. I have been fulfilled. I recognized what I had, and I never sold it short. And I ain’t through yet.” She isn’t through yet. Nevelson will never be through yet. Her spirit, her example, lives on. “In Nevelson’s case,” Don Bacigalupi, former president of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, wrote, “she was the most ferocious artist there was. She was the most determined, the most forceful, the most difficult. She just forced her way in. And so that was one way to do it, but not all women chose to or could take that route.” Choose. Learn. Persevere. Follow your own route and stay the course. Louise Nevelson did. ■

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Damselfrau found her source of inspiration on the seductive dance floors of London nightclubs and in vintage designer stores. Miir, 2017. Opposite page: Niitinn, 2019. COURTESY OF THE DAMSELFRAU

windows to the soul

Damselfrau The unsettling masks of the artist known as

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agnhild Kennedy’s elaborate masks are deeply unsettling yet exhilarating: wholly unusual, wildly imaginative, and vividly colored. They seem to combine elements of high fashion (with its joyous embrace of extremes), burka- or veil-like head coverings (with their power to efface women), or tribal masks (with their spiritual force). And, yet, Kennedy says, “I’m not particularly inspired by burkas or anything like that. Not inspired by masks, either. I just work on a piece of cloth that has an identity you can choose to put on your face.” Unintentionality was there from the start. Which is only to say the Norwegian Kennedy didn’t plan to make masks-as-art objects. Instead, the idea developed after she moved from Oslo to London and started clubbing. She had wanted to leave Norway since her teens. Back then, images in a 1994 issue of the British cultural monthly The Face Magazine made her choose London as her eventual destination. Clearly, great things were happening in the city, and she wanted to be a part of it. Thirteen years later, she made the move. In her early London days, Kennedy made outfits for clubbing. While out, she observed other do-it-yourself efforts: “What someone could whip up from some egg cartons, tape, and paint was impressive, making something out of material that you wouldn’t expect in the context of the fashion clubbing experience.” Though nights found her at places like BoomBox or Ponystep, she worked days at a small vintage designer shop in Islington, learning about the collection and sewing during slow hours. Back home, she’d watch YouTube videos to learn stitching techniques. Self-training was in her DNA, in a sense. Though she never attended art school, Kennedy’s father is a sculptor, and her mother is a painter. Her family was always making art. “We looked a lot. They taught me how to tune my eye,” she says. Kennedy’s medium solidified in 2007 after she made some masks for a New Year’s Eve party. She remembers those first efforts as “classical lace, ‘sexy time’ types. Far removed from what I do now.” At present, she considers the mask as a “space” for working with materials that interest her, especially items with a history. “I’ve used everything from old dish rags and plastic bags to 100-year-old Geisha hairpieces and antique Victorian bodices that a friend of mine used to wear to raves in the ’90s,” she says. Friends bring her treasures like “doilies, old twine they found on the road, necklaces from street vendors, dry twigs. A lady up in the North of Norway was reminded of some local fish by one of my masks, so she tanned fish skin in her kitchen and sent it to me in the post. I try not to use materials from animals, but this was the most beautiful and considerate gift.”

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ennedy’s professional name is Damselfrau, a word that was originally her Skype handle but came to be aligned with the mask project. “The name has a duality in the same way the masks do,” she explains. “The name that masks itself. Unmarried and married woman. To me, it has come to mean something like married to oneself.” Damselfrau often begins her projects by searching through her rummage boxes, which are full of tactile, brightly hued materials like pom-poms, tassels, fringe, sequins, broken jewelry, and ribbons. Then, she says, “I make a sketch with materials on a mannequin head and start sewing from there. Easy.” The results are lavishly decorated. In one green mask, a feminized face is covered with what appear to be red beads, gold leaves, and old jewelry, and then the face is augmented with multi-colored strings that hang down from the cheeks in the manner of a curious beard or scarf fringe. Another piece uses tribal forms for a textured sable surface, ornamented with bells, beads, tufts of hair, and a stripe of

Pha, 2018. COURTESY OF THE DAMSELFRAU


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The masks of Damselfrau as works of high art on display in the Damselfrau lll exhibition held at Dalston Pier in London, 2017. Presented in a vacuumed gallery space, Damselfrau’s masks take on an added dimension without their human wearers. PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX CHRISTIE

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The name has a duality in the same way the masks do,” she explains. “The name that masks itself. Unmarried and married woman. To me, it has come to mean something like married to one self.

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Ventua, 2018. COURTESY OF THE DAMSELFRAU


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A parade of blacks masks in the Damselfrau lll exhibition accentuate the diversity in shape, texture, and material used. She has worked with everything from fish skins to hair to glass beads. PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX CHRISTIE

fabric with hearts over the nose. Still another has strings of pearls looping down in front of a semi-translucent white veil that is topped by something like bunny ears or butterfly wings, themselves covered with more pearl-like beads and tufts of red and pink material. Though Damselfrau is not particularly interested in masks per se, she is very interested in her materials. “They evoke strong emotions in me,” she says. And, then, “The materials come together in this space between wearer and viewer. Everyone projects their experience on it, and that is the space where the mask lives.” To keep that relationship pure, Damselfrau doesn’t particularly like to say who wears her masks, though some very famous people (Beyoncé, Mø) have worn her masks in their music videos. That’s public knowledge. But, otherwise, Damselfrau purposefully doesn’t name customers, as she doesn’t want the work overly connected with a particular individual. Nor does she want to label the masks or explain them for others, beyond saying that “the surface is my work environment and where I play best. I decorate a surface. It’s really very easy and uncomplicated for me, and it’s important for me to keep it that way to maintain interest in the work.” That said, she allows, “People often make better sense of what I do than I can. People see with the information that they have, and what they choose to see is none of my business.”


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hough Damselfrau exhibits her work, and people buy or commission her masks, her end goal is not simply the mask, but an image of the mask. When she is through with a piece, she shoots an iPhone image of herself wearing the item. This photo includes the mask and some piece of cloth—an antique sari, old French tablecloth, or bed linen—that drapes and hides her body. Once she has posted the photo online—the general public can see the results on Instagram—she has finished her piece. Or as she says, “From there, the masks make their own way and do their own communication. They don’t need me anymore then, and that’s a relief.” ■ Editor’s Note: Readers can find Damselfrau’s work on Facebook, and at Instagram @damselfrau, damselfraublogspot.co.uk, and damselfrau.com. She also shares her inspiration at Instagram @puttingcase.


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Viir, 2018. Opposite page: Stikker, 2012. COURTESY OF THE DAMSELFRAU


Private ballet photoshoot with Ksenia Zhiganshina, a soloist dancer with the Bolshoi Theatre.

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picturesque city on the Amur River in Far Eastern Russia, she began dancing at the very young age of 3. “I grew up in an artistic family, with Mum and Dad both working as drama performers,” she recalls. “It was my mother who sent me to dance school. I was a very active child, and dancing offered a way to burn all that energy.” Interestingly, ballet was not Darian’s first dance class. As a three-year-old, she excelled in ballroom dancing. But from seven onwards it was all about ballet, even though she dabbled in both folk and contemporary dance in later years. “Ballet became my favorite dance form,” she says. “Classical-style dance is understood

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hen we admire photos of ballet dancers, we are usually met with images of ethereal beauty and elegance—graceful bird-like creatures with legs high in the air, elaborate tailor-made tulle dresses, and muscles so toned they make you swear off ice-cream— images that whisk us into the dreamlike world that is a ballet performance. Darian Volkova takes it one step further. A former professional ballerina, she captures the essence of a moment like few photographers can. “I truly love and am inspired by my job every day,” she says. “I burn for photography.” In a way, Darian was destined to work in the creative space. Born in Khabarovsk, a

Self-portraits by the artist in celebration of her birthday. Opposite: Volkova demonstrates what she would like to see in her photograph by posing for Alena Grivnina in a shoot for Ballet Foot Stretch. Below: Volkova shows her model the photos from their shoot.

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Volkova captures the stage as a backstage ballerina behind the folds of the curtains.

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to be the most difficult genre to dance, and it’s generally considered that those who are accomplished ballet dancers can master any dance style.” Darian emphasizes that she did not always love ballet, and the tasks sometimes proved extremely demanding. “When you’re a child, you don’t necessarily understand why the exercises have to be so complicated, but I loved the feeling that performing on stage invoked in me. For that feeling, I was prepared to work,” she says. “With time, my love and respect for ballet grew. I began to understand how to work with the body, how to progress, and ultimately what to strive for. Ballet … dance … movement … it became the most important thing in my life.” At the age of 19, Darian left her family and friends behind and moved to St. Petersburg, where she began attending the prestigious St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts. “I really struggled with the change because of my strong family connections,” she recalls. “I spent a lot of time with my parents, grandparents and friends when growing up, so leaving everyone I loved was devastating. It was very hard for my mum, too, and for a year we cried on the phone every day together.” Life in St. Petersburg danced to a different beat, and it took more than a year for Darian to become accustomed to her new surroundings. Nevertheless, she made friends quickly and found the beautiful, grand city inspiring. “The university was very new and very big, and I found everything about it interesting,” she recalls. “I also spent a lot of time immersing myself in culture, visiting museums and theaters, and admiring the architecture of St. Petersburg’s historical buildings.” Even with all the excitement that moving to a new city brought, coming home to see family and friends during vacations was a highlight for Darian. And it was during one of those

return visits when she met the man who was to become her husband, Sasha. “I was 19 years old when we met, and my husband was 17 at the time. It was Sasha who gifted me my first camera, a Canon EOS 3000. Since the very first day we met he has been my biggest support in all aspects of my life. I don’t know who I would be now without him,” she says.

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arian’s love of photography quickly flourished as she learned to navigate both the camera and her subjects. Still, to this day, she doesn’t excessively focus on the equipment, instead thinking more about light and angles and how to capture the essence of a moment. “For me, the camera is a tool that simply helps me convey the message I want to express, and not vice-versa,” she explains. “There’s a Russian joke about a cook who enquires what saucepan was used to make a delicious soup, assuming it was an expensive one. The joke is that whatever saucepan was used, it’s not important. What is important is who cooked the soup.” Soon after completing her university studies, Darian began traveling for ballet performances, and travel quickly became another of her passions. “I toured all around Europe, and although it was challenging at times, I became accustomed to a new theater, a new stage, and a new audience every day.” The time away also allowed her to explore different aspects of her photography. She started with behind-the-scenes photography, but then the scope of her work broadened. “I began to set up my own shoots with theater

“The legs of my muse.” Volkvova captures Anna Ol, the principal dancer with Dutch National Ballet, as she flutters her feet.

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It’s very difficult psychologically to retire from a profession you have given everything to at the young age of 35. And it’s so hard when you continue to love ballet, but you are unable to dance professionally.

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Backstage with Volkova from a photoshoot for Gazprom in the Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg.

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The bowed head of ballerina Aizgan Mucatova of Astana Ballet Theatre.

friends, then started developing ideas for various staged projects,” she says. “I have also been in a very privileged position with access to the stars of the ballet world.” The next logical step for Darian was to share her photographs with the world, and Instagram appeared to be the right vehicle. She first started playing around with the medium in 2011, and by 2013 her photographs of ballet dancers had a fan base. With each photo she posted, her follower numbers grew. As her passion for photography developed, Darian found that she was spending more time behind the lens and less time on stage. But she welcomed the change, realizing that it could, in fact, be a blessing. “I was 25 when ballet began taking a backseat, but I recognized that I would need to retire from ballet someday, and I wanted to leave in my own time or on my own terms— and painlessly. I have many former colleagues who were not ready to finish their ballet journey when it was their time, and nor did they have anywhere to go. It’s very difficult psychologically to retire from a profession you have given everything to at the young age of 35. And it’s so hard when you continue to love ballet, but you are unable to dance professionally.” Whether she planned to initially or not, Darian has carved out a niche for herself. Now 30 and living in Moscow with Sasha, she can continue to be part of the ballet world. “I am very fortunate,” she explains. “I’ve physically left ballet, but I continue to live and breathe ballet, just in a different capacity. I am a ballet photographer who understands all the complexities that ballet involves, so I’m able to photograph in a way not many others would be able to.” These days, Darian uses a Sony Leica for most of her work—but she stresses again that the camera doesn’t have much to do with the finished art piece. For her, the connection she makes with ballet dancers when working, and the understanding that comes from having been there herself, is what helps create that perfect shot.

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“If the situation calls for it, I ask the dancer how things are in the theater or at rehearsals and keep the conversation flowing. It’s important that we connect and that the subject is able to relax in front of the camera,” she says. “But, of course, it varies from shoot to shoot. Sometimes I try to control the process, other times I improvise and go with the flow, sensitive to the mood of the dancer. With behind-thescene shoots, in particular, I try to be invisible to the artists and capture the story that way.” Even with all the best intentions, Darian has days that don’t flow as well as others. But she is realistic about her own expectations and understands the ebb and flow that comes with any creative work. “Sometimes, like any artist, I have predicaments and think everything I’ve done is terrible. But then I allow myself to stop and I relax—go to museums, watch movies, read books. It’s important to devote time to calm the mind and find a balance within yourself.”

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arian’s philosophy clearly works. Her photography of ballet dancers not only conveys a story but also pauses it for fans so that they, too, can grasp the moment captured and inhale it slowly. Most of her images portray the beauty that ballet is renowned for, but there are many photographs that show the challenges that come with the art form— photographs that display bruised and battered toes or ballerinas flopped down on the ground exhausted at the end of a rehearsal day. In a way, it’s a reflection of the ballet world exactly as it is—beautiful, raw, and like nothing else in the world. Darian is just one of the lucky few. She’s able to live and breathe her passion, and she can share the intricacies of ballet with the world. ■

• été 2020 • readelysian.com


W INSPIRING WOMEN Our Inspiring Women have been selected because each has carved out a unique path through life that is recognized by others as exceptional. You will see a commonality in the interviews. These remarkable women have achieved greatness by following their internal compasses while facing the circumstances they are dealt in life. None had a road map.

I N T E R V I E W S B Y K A R E N F L OY D

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For video interviews, visit elysianwomen.com • printemps 2020 • readelysian.com


TULIZA FLEMING Born: Washington, D.C. Resides: Falls Church, Virginia

MARIE BENEDICT

Born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Resides: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of hidden historical stories of women to reveal their contributions; Former lawyer for over ten years at two of the country’s premier law firms; Library Reads Hall of Fame Author.

Interim Chief Curator of Visual Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Served as the Lead Curator for the museum’s inaugural exhibition Visual Art and the American Experience; Former Associate Curator and head of the Department of American Art at The Dayton Art Institute.

MARY ALICE MONROE

Born: Evanston, Illinois Resides: Tryon, North Carolina, and Isle of Palms, South Carolina

New York Times bestselling author; Published over two dozen novels and 7.5 million copies worldwide; Inducted into the S.C. Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame; Awarded the S.C. Award for Literary Excellence, RT Lifetime Achievement Award and the Southern Book Prize for Fiction; Active conservationist and volunteer; Serves on multiple conservation boards.

JIHA MOON

Born: Daegu, Korea Resides: Atlanta, Georgia

Multi-media contemporary artist; Recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, the Artadia Award, the MOCA Working Artist Grant and the Trawick Prize; Acquired by the High Museum of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian Institute.

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marie Interview Date: May 6, 2020

Raised in a traditional family, MARIE BENEDICT followed the socially acceptable path and entered law school at the young age of twentyone. She excelled as a successful litigator for over ten years at two of the country’s premier law firms–but, Marie knew this was not her true calling. The skills she learned on this path were invaluable and taught her how to artfully construct a narrative out of fact, a talent that led her to become a New York Times bestselling author. A masterful storyteller, Marie weaves together complex and fascinating true stories of women throughout history who have demonstrated uncompromising courage, bringing their contributions into the light of present-day.

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I was recently asked why we created ELYSIAN and what was the publication’s purpose. I explained that our mission is to show women there is no one path in life’s journey, and sometimes, it means we take the road less traveled. I love your work Marie. Whether Carnegie’s Maid, The Other Woman in the Room, The Other Einstein and now, Lady Clementine, your books are about women who have ascended, survived and even thrived in complicated situations, often, not of their making. They are all brilliant characters, caught in exceptional and challenging webs of life, and each finds her unique path.

I love your mission. We are basically the same person separated at birth.

Whether Clara Kelly (Andrew Carnegie’s maid), Mileva Marica (a brilliant scientist and Albert Einstein’s first wife), Hedy Keisler (known as the famous actress Hedy Lamarr) and Lady Clementine (Winston Churchill’s wife), your novels tell stories of uncompromising courage and perseverance despite heartache and trials.

Thank you so much for reading these stories. Your take is exactly right. I feel in some ways, these women’s stories are all our stories, which is why I tell them.

Are your characters “self-actualized” despite the circumstances life dealt? Is there a lesson here?

Several years ago, there was a wonderful publication called More Magazine, and it had a section called Second Acts about women. I loved that section because it was about reinventing ourselves as women. And part of reinvention is listening to who we are to begin with or circling back to our original selves, and in some ways, that is what my characters do.

I am really proud of you. I think your career is on an amazing trajectory. And with your recent novel, Lady Clementine, you have achieved a long-deserved recognition and therefore success.

I hope so. It’s an honor to tell these women’s stories, and I feel an enormous responsibility to them, to make sure that a wide audience knows about their contributions.

What advice would you give your younger self ?

I would tell my younger self that you are smarter than you think, and you are better than you know. I would tell my younger self that you are brave. Harness the power that bravery gives you, and do the things that are hard for you. When I was 21 years old, I entered law school, having gone straight from college where I was a history major. Everyone asked me, “What are you going to do with a degree in history?” So, I followed the socially acceptable path of going to law school. I was good at law, excelled and began a legal career in New York City where I was hired by one of the biggest law firms in the country. My success continued as I climbed that ladder, but I was never happy. I knew it was not what I was called to do. To find my calling, I had to circle back to my middle school and high school years and the thing I was passionate about as a much younger woman. I would tell that young woman, my younger self that was climbing the corporate ladder, to listen to her younger self. You do not have to follow a path that someone else sets for you. When your younger self tells you that you can forge a brand-new path retelling stories about historical women and inspiring other

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women to reclaim their own power and their own path, listen to her. You can do it. I feel like I had to circle through that period of my life to learn that lesson. But gosh, I wish I could fast forward through those years as a lawyer. Eleven (11) years as a lawyer is like living through dog years; it felt like seventy-seven years. It felt like an eternity for me.

You were a litigator?

I was. I was a commercial litigator for two of the country’s largest law firms, and then I went in-house to a Fortune 500 company, and I ran their large-scale commercial litigation. I kept shifting in that world hoping to find a fit between my interests and my skill set. I certainly learned a lot as a lawyer. I learned how to advocate, and I learned how to construct a narrative based on the facts, all the skills I use today. But I was not using them for what I was meant to be doing. Inside, I knew that from an incredibly young age, but it took me a long time to act on it.

I am curious about your personal life. Do you have any siblings?

I do. I am the oldest of six with 14 years between us. We were taught that we can do whatever we set our minds to doing. Consequently, we ended up with a huge variety of professions and passions, which is really fun.

What was your father’s profession?

My father, like his father, was a lawyer. When I finished college as a history major, everyone was asking me what I would do with that degree. There was a societal voice that was saying women should try out law school. Part of the draw came from thinking about my own father and grandfather and the work that they had done. My grandfather had been a town attorney in the small town in Pennsylvania, and my father was an attorney in Pittsburgh until he eventually became a commercial real estate developer and switched over to the business side.

Did your mother work?

My mother did not work outside of the home. I think for her, having six kids was working enough.

Do you think it odd that your father raised very independent, selfactualized women, and yet, your mother was a traditional homemaker? Please do not get me wrong, being a homemaker is the most difficult, but just the dichotomy between his wife and daughter . . .

Absolutely. I was just talking to one of my sisters about that the other day. My sisters have very demanding careers. One of my sisters is a senior executive at Instagram/Facebook, and another is a midwife in charge of education for a national organization. Despite their having seemingly traditional roles, my parents were able to impart the message that, whatever path you chose, whether it was a homemaker, which is incredibly demanding, going out into the world or whether it’s doing both . . . those are paths that are available to you. It is interesting because what we were told was not exactly what we saw, right? We saw a much more traditional role model. Yet somehow that message resounded in each of us. We went after the same goal, just a little differently. Parenting and working are different from the model and the message that I grew up with.

Bestselling novels by Marie Benedict, including Carnegie’s Maid (2018), Lady Clementine (2020), The Other Einstein (2016) and The Only Woman in the Room (2019). Opposite: Marie on the set of Dana Perino’s Book Club when she was selected for her novel Lady Clementine in March 2020.


Is it attainable to do both?

This is a question I’ve been discussing with groups of friends that have really materialized in the pandemic, several groups of friends from college and high school and then friendships I have developed over the years working. The message that we received when we were in college and law school and starting work was that women could have it all. We could work and parent and have a family. It is true you can, but the message and the reality are quite different things. I think each of my friends who are doing both, working and raising their families, are finding different ways to cross that divide. The message wasn’t delivered as evenly I think for the male population. The infrastructure, both in our society and in our workplaces, has not caught up with the message that we received. It has been really interesting to watch how differently women in my groups deal with this issue of having it all.

Do you think that it led to some disappointment?

Oh, absolutely. One of my friends is the president of a fortune 500 company, and one is a stay-at-home mom. While we forged our own paths, everybody has struggled with this issue. Now, with both partners working from home, families are getting to see the responsibilities women shoulder. Everyone is forced to reevaluate and pitch in. I am seeing that among my friends as well.

How do you do it?

I am a masterful multi-tasker, but if I was not capable of that, I could not manage. Just take a day in the life of the pandemic: I answer my sons’ virtual schooling questions, then turn my attention to editing a paragraph in a book that I have coming out, and then take calls, and then take an interview… all within the space of an hour. Take one hat off, put the next hat on, one right after the other. Not missing a beat. If I could not wear all those hats, I would not be able to do it.

What is the qualifier for success in this balancing act?

For me, there are so many factors in play. In part, I think it is the career path you choose. In part, it is support you have at home and with the care-taking of your children. Your ability to multi-task can come into play. I have a friend who is an executive at a healthcare company. She acknowledged she is not great at multitasking and is really struggling in this pandemic because she is having to wear different hats, one right after another. She is better off going into an office environment, very structured, wearing one hat, then taking it off coming home and just being a mother a hundred percent. For me, that was not the right path.

I could not bear to be separated from my children for those long stretches and not have as much control over my schedule to be available. My husband has a job where he works long hours as well. I wanted one of us to be able to be more physically present for our family while pursuing our careers.

Where did you meet your husband?

I met my husband in the Hong Kong Airport passport control line. He was going there for a year to work for a start-up tech company, and I was going to visit my brother who was living there. Ironically, we were both on the same flight from New York City. We happened to be on the upper deck of a 747 where he noticed me. I first recall seeing him when we were standing next to each other in the passport control line and we just started talking.

You have two children? Yes. We have two boys.

How are you able to get into a “creative zone” needed for writing and then come out and balance that more traditional calling of motherhood?

I wish I had a formula because I think I could sell it! I try to take advantage of a good chunk of time when my children are in school from 9:00 until 3:00. It is my writing time. I have an office in my house with all my research materials. I tap into that historic world and that particular women’s world. But that is not to say that I am not constantly shifting back and forth taking phone calls about kids’ schedules or doing some random thing like taking a questionnaire for one of their teachers. My kids are 10 and 13, and I am still trying to put boundaries around those other obligations.

Do you ever feel like you just have to get away…to escape?

I am lucky because as my books have become more and more successful, I am invited to do more and more speaking engagements. And while it is work, it is also an escape.

Do you like that?

I do. I actually love to speak to groups. As I was telling a group earlier today; writing is an isolated activity. It is just me, my computer, my imagination and my research material. Yet one of my missions is to connect with my stories with modern readers, both women and men. Effectively, I am writing to people that I cannot see and cannot hear most of the time. To actually have the experience of talking with readers about my work and seeing how it speaks to them, how it reverberates and really reaches them in their modern day lives, is especially important. So, I do love the travel, but it is hard for the family and I dislike being away from them. Tell me about your recently published and lauded book, Lady Clementine. The book is the story of Clementine Churchill, Winston Churchill’s wife. I have an antenna for these hidden women and I discovered her as I was doing the research for the book The Only Woman in the Room, which is about Hedy Lamarr, a Hollywood star and Jewish refugee, and the work she did to ultimately lead to the creation of Wi-Fi. I was deep in the research about World War II, and of course, Winston Churchill is incredibly iconic, with that cigar and the hat and all his supposed contributions to the war. And as I often do, I started to wonder, “Where are the women?” I knew he had been married for over three decades. Where was his wife? What is she doing through all these world-changing events? And as I went down the rabbit hole, where I like to live to research the past, I uncovered all the work that he was involved in from World War I through World War II. She was there beside him every step of the way. I discovered she was a politician’s wife, a prime minister’s wife in a way that had never been envisioned before and probably has never happened since. She was his

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To purchase Agent 355?

You have to go on Audible to order it.

HOW CAN I BEST FULFILL AND SUPPORT MY PURPOSE? THIS QUESTION IS SOMETHING I ASK MYSELF EVERY DAY. I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW HOW I AM DOING AND WHAT I COULD DO BETTER.

advisor. She was his moral compass. She was his confidant. She was his support. She was everything. And she also had her own endeavors, which are very often attributed to him.

Sir Winston Churchill’s love of art stemmed from …

From her. In the 1930s, after World War I, he really receded from public life. He was still writing and involved in his own way. In particular, he sounded the bell for the rise of Hitler and for people to be on the lookout. However, people did not want to hear that after the devastation of World War I. He was lost, and she kind of steered him in the direction of another outlet he had developed earlier, which became his painting. She was this constant, I should say, graceful force in his life.

Beautiful too.

Gorgeous, refined, brilliant and firm. She had her own set of convictions. Contrary to the norms of her social set, she was a suffragette and an advocate for any cause having to do with citizens’ rights. At the same time, she was always watchful for him. Guiding him and supporting him in all his decision making and doing it in the most graceful way which, again, was the antithesis of Winston and his sort of bombastic personality.

Never, never, never quit.

Never. The world would be a different place without him, but at the same time, it required a lighter touch as well, which she had.

You have three books in the works. Can you give us a quick overview?

Around July 4th, I have a novella releasing on Audible. If you’re familiar with Audible audio books, they do a program in which they release a free audible original novella to members, which is available for purchase afterwards. This novella is called Agent 355 and you’ll see why the release is tied to July 4th. It is the story of the only female spy in George Washington’s spy ring, and explores the work that she did behind the scenes. She was integral to winning the American revolution and also to topple Benedict Arnold’s treason.

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The second book?

In January 2021, I have a book coming out called the The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, the story of Agatha Christie. As with all the women I write about, I see her as a heroine with incredible contributions. This is about her actual disappearance for 11 days when she was a relatively young woman in her thirties. She was on the rise as a novelist and disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Her car was found running on the edge of a cliff and the largest manhunt in England’s history was conducted to find her. Then she mysteriously reappeared on the 11th day. This is the story of what I think happened to her during those days and how it was transformative in her becoming this powerful woman writer. I believe it is an incredible story of a woman rewriting herself back into history, reclaiming her own power. It is written like a mystery novel, so it’s a little bit different.

That is a very ambitious schedule. What about the third book?

In June of 2021, I have a co-written book coming out called the Personal Librarian. My co-writer is Victoria Christopher Murray. This is the story of the famous financier, JP Morgan who has an incredible institution in New York City. called the Morgan Library. It is also a museum and has one of the world’s best collections of ancient manuscripts and books. JP Morgan hired Belle Da Costa Greene in the early 1900s to become its librarian and curator. She became the most successful career woman in the world during the decades of her running that institution. But the only way she was able to have the success that she did was by hiding her identity as an African American woman. She was very fair, so she passed as being Caucasian. She came from a lineage of people who were very educated, very successful. Her father was the first African American to graduate from Harvard. He was an advocate for the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which if it had not been overturned by the Supreme Court in 1890s would have meant we never had segregation. She came from a lineage of people who were really determined to advocate for equality. Because those efforts had failed, she had to live as a white woman to succeed.

Is this the first time that you have co-authored?

Yes, and it’s been an amazing experience. We are in the editing stage right now. We co-wrote it, just met with our editor and now are in the editing phase. We literally talk to each other every day and go through it, chapter by chapter. It has been rewarding both in terms of growth as a writer and as a person considering issues about race. To study how it all started and how it has evolved over time with a woman of color and to see her perspective—and to really carve together this powerful woman who had a foot in both worlds—has been a gift.

How did you two find each other?

It began when I knew I wanted to write about Belle Da Costa Greene, who was on the long list of women I want to write books about. I knew I wanted to write her story with a woman of color, because even though I write fiction and have imagined myself as all sorts of women, I wanted to include the voice of a woman of color along in my journey. I read a wonderful book that my co-writer Victoria Christopher Murray wrote, called Stand Your Ground, which is the story of the killing of a young black boy. The story is told from the perspective of the boy’s mother and from the wife of the white police officer. The way in which she so compassionately


Marie speaking at The Charleston Library Society where the pre-publication event was held to release her latest book, Lady Clementine.

looked at this really difficult issue from different points of view really captured my imagination. I felt like she was looking for answers and perspectives and trying to create a fresh lens through which to look at these issues, much like I am. I just knew she’d be a great partner for this project, and the experience has exceeded my expectation.

Marie, who is your reader?

My readers come from a variety of backgrounds but are predominantly women. I think women are interested in identifying, recognizing and owning the contributions that they have made. They do not want to be marginalized anymore. They want to look at the world around them and say, “Hey, a woman made that,” or, “I only have this right today because a woman fought for it.” I think that is very appealing. That said, I wish I had more male readers because my overarching mission is to really change the lens through which we look at the past and then shift that lens to the present and the future. The more men that read those stories, the more beneficial it will be for all of us. Back to the women, many who read my books do so in group settings, like book clubs, because my books lend themselves to a lot of textured, nuanced, sometimes

argumentative conversations. My reader is a variety of ages, from women in their twenties and thirties into their eighties and nineties. I love to hear the different reactions. The reaction I hear from an 80-year-old about Lady Clementine is quite different from a woman who’s in her thirties because of their life experiences. For example, the older women who are reading the story of Lady Clementine are happy that a woman is recognized for supporting her successful political man. Those women know how much work they did to support their partners’ success and appreciate the acknowledgement of those efforts they’ll find in Lady Clementine. Whereas a woman in her thirties might say, that is terrible. She should have been able to run for office. Both perspectives are true. It is possible for you to see the injustice in Clementine Churchill’s position and also acknowledge the incredible contribution she made. That is what I love about the broad age range of women who are reading my books. But, I would say my readers are mostly women.

If you can ask God one question, what would it be?

How can I best fulfill and support my purpose? This question is something I ask myself every day. I would love to know how I am doing and what I could do better. ■

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tuliza

Interview Date: May 13, 2019

TULIZA FLEMING’S earliest memories take place at the Smithsonian

Institution with her parents, which ignited in her a lifelong fascination with history. Her father was a ground-breaking museum director who led the development of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. He left big shoes for her to fill, but Tuliza certainly rose to the occasion. On her quest to become a museum curator, she earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in American Art History from the University of Maryland, under the tutelage of the late David C. Driskell. Life came full circle for Tuliza, who now acts as the Interim Chief Curator of Visual Arts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) of the Smithsonian Institution, where she successfully built the museum’s foundational American art collection.

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You attended college in Atlanta. What was that like?

It was one of the best experiences of my life. As a senior in high school, I visited a variety of northeastern schools. However, my visit to Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts school, made the greatest impression. During my time there, I sat in on a class where the professor discussed the famous educator, Booker T. Washington. I had never experienced a class like that before, where the history of African Americans was the primary subject of the class. There was this idea of comradery, learning more about the black experience. I had attended private schools prior to this, but it was different. At Spelman, you were able to take leadership roles. It wasn’t about sexism or racism. If you got a bad grade, you earned that bad grade. If you didn’t get along with the professor, it wasn’t because you were black. You could have any leadership position on campus and being a woman made no difference. It was really a lovely experience.

Do you remember your first seven years being raised in Washington D.C?

I have plenty of recollections. I was a very precocious child. My parents took me to the Smithsonian Institution at a very young age, and some of my earliest memories stem from those visits. I remember being fascinated by the Foucault pendulum at the American History Museum. I remember the elephant at the National Museum of Natural History and going to the National Zoo. I recall always looking at these small statues of stylized women with canonically shaped breasts at National Museum of African Art. Years later, when I started working on my PhD, I minored in Yoruba art. It was at that time I discovered that the sculptures I loved as a child were Yoruba Ibeji twin figures, which are carved to honor and memorialize twins when they pass away. I loved going to the Smithsonian. I also remember the time I spent at Howard University. I was almost raised on Howard’s campus, as both of my parents went there for graduate school. My mother would take me there and I would attend dance classes while she was in class. These are some of my earliest memories, and it is like going home when I step on Howard’s campus. What was it like growing up with a formidable influencer like your father? We didn’t see it that way. He was just dad. He could be silly, he would play with me, he liked to cook, he would take us on picnics, and he loved flying kites with me and my sister at the park. As you know, in addition to being my father, he was also a groundbreaking museum director. My sister and I always had to go to museum openings. We went to all the events at the museum, which we sometimes resented. I never really thought of him as someone important. He was just my father who punished us when we did something bad and rewarded us when we did something good. His career was not foremost in our minds, except for having to go to history events all the time. Every time we went on vacation, we had to do things like visit historic plantations or go to a museum which, you can imagine, children don’t generally love to do.

Who has influenced you the most professionally?

There were so many people that helped me during my career, but two women really gave me the courage to become a museum curator. When I was working as a summer intern at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, a woman named June Powell, who worked in the Education Department, gave me some sage advice. At that time, I was waffling between majoring in law and art. I told her that I was scared to make the decision to major in art. She said to me, “If you give a hundred and fifty percent, then you will always be okay because most people do enough just to get by.” The other person was Varnette Honeywood, who I got to know while she

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was an Artist in Residence at Spelman College. She is probably best remembered for her collaboration with Bill Cosby on the characters for the Nick Jr. children’s television series, Little Bill. I would go to her on-campus residence to chat and hang out. She would give me art supplies and talk to me about being an artist. She also encouraged me when I changed my major. I was an art studio and art history major, and planned to be an artist as well as a curator. She said, “If you go into art history, you’ll never really do art again.” I didn’t believe her, but it was true.

You have mentioned Bill Cosby. He notably impacted our world. What happened? Do you think that the world changed and people like Mr. Cosby did not change with it? In what way?

The “norm” of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s are drastically different from today where women are self-actualized. Not to mention the fact that the MeToo Movement came into its own. What was considered acceptable and unacceptable has changed, particularly in terms of men’s treatment of women.

I think the world always changes. The way that society operates changes throughout history. For example, the Roman Empire. People would fight in the coliseum sometimes to the death. We would never do that now. That is not acceptable. Wars have changed. People’s value on human life has really shifted including women’s rights. So, now we talk about the MeToo Movement. But think about the fact that in the 19th century, when a woman married, she and her children became the property of her husband. The woman’s money became her husband’s property. That wasn’t that long ago. If the domestic situation went badly, and the woman wanted to leave, she would be forced to leave everything behind. In some cultures, even today, the woman cannot go back home to her family if she decides to divorce. I think what we’re experiencing now is just another level of societal change, and it goes back and forth over time. That is what history is, right? You relive certain things. Human behavior might shift, but sometimes things unfortunately stay the same.

Your first “paying job” was an internship. You have been quoted saying that internships have “served you very well.” Why?

I encourage all students that I meet or people who want to go into the museum world to participate in an internship program.


A Master’s Degree and a PhD from the University of Maryland. David C. Driskell was your mentor?

Yes, we are very close. The first time I met him was when I was a student at Spelman College. I attended a lecture that he gave. We watched a BBC documentary that featured him and his career, and then he talked about it afterwards. He was an artist, an art historian, a professor and a curator. I was blown away. I wanted to be just like him. I went to the head of my department afterwards, and I asked, “Where is he? Where does he work?” The director told me he worked at the University of Maryland. That’s why I applied to the University of Maryland for graduate school.

What did he say that resonated or connected to you?

I don’t recall what he said. I think it was his demeanor. I think it was the fact that he did this really famous exhibition that changed the way museums viewed and interpreted artwork by African Americans.

Did you enjoy your time at the University of Maryland?

It was a little tough coming from a small predominately black women’s college. Being one of the few African Americans in the University of Maryland’s PhD program for American art history took a bit of getting used to. I was very young, maybe 20, when I enrolled. It was a real adjustment coming from a very supportive college community that was insulated from racism and sexism to the real world, where not everyone was invested in your success. Many people were very supportive, but I think that there was a bit of a culture shock for me. However, I made it through. I’m still friends with many of my former classmates and professors to this day.

From the University of Maryland, where do you go?

I interned at a variety of different areas in the museum, and it really helped me decide what I wanted to do. I think this is true of other careers as well. By way of example, many people study law but the experience of becoming a lawyer is very different. If a person decides to specialize in corporate law, they might be surprised how different corporate culture is from the experience of attending law school at a University. It’s the same thing for the art history. Education alone does not prepare you to become a curator. The museum field is difficult to break into, and curatorial positions are very competitive. Interning gives you insight into the field and teaches you how to become a museum professional. My experience of interning in history and art museums has been invaluable. Of course, not all of them were exciting. I remember doing an internship where I sat in front of the Xerox machine all day long, filing and doing other clerical duties, but on the whole, those experiences really helped me decide what I wanted to do.

Tuliza Fleming and Clayton Daniel Mote Jr. (former President of the University of Maryland, College Park) at David C. Driskell’s retirement party at Driskell’s home in Hyattsville, MD. Standing next to Tuliza is her mother, Dr. Barbara Fleming. 1998. Above: David C. Driskell and Tuliza in the Visual Art and the American Experience Gallery. 2007.

The Dayton Art Institute. Well, initially, I went home because I was studying for my oral exams and I ran out of money. I remember trying to get a job at a temp agency. I was grossly unqualified to do anything but Microsoft Word, so I was not hired. The only place that was willing to hire me was Macy’s, as a salesperson. Luckily, I also went to the Dayton Art Institute just to see what positions they had available. In those days, they only had one page on the website that listed the hours of operation and had a picture of the museum. So, I went to the museum in person and explained to the two ladies at the information desk that I had a master’s degree and was ABD, (which means all but dissertation), and that I was interested in a position at the museum. They told me that the cafeteria may be hiring, which I found very disappointing and dismissive. So, I left, and then I called HR where I learned they did have a position open for assistant curator of American Art. I applied for that job. It was a rigorous interview process, and despite the fact that I was naïve, the interview went well. I remember the director, Alex Nyerges, asking if there was anything I would change. I suggested that the museum should collect and display more work by African American artists because even though the Dayton population was about 40-45 percent black at the time, very few artists of color were represented in the museum. I also told him about my experience with the information desk. I explained that a lot of African Americans feel uncomfortable going into predominantly white art institutions because of negative experiences such as mine. I suggested that this needed to be worked on. Thankfully, that institution has changed. We had the most diverse curatorial staff in the country at that time. Alex really took a chance in hiring me to oversee the American Art Department. I was in my late 20s at the time and probably looked like I was about 21. I think that the combination of my race and my age took people by surprise. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I think the experience gave me the necessary skills to succeed at the Smithsonian.

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Life is a series of circles . . . The Dayton Art Institute prepared you for your work at the Smithsonian. Your father was also instrumental in the US Congress passing the enabling legislation which set aside major funding for this museum, many years prior. How did the circle close?

Yes, it goes back to my father, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Presidential Commission of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Plan for Action. Although I did not know of his official involvement in the project at that time, I remember my father being really interested in having this museum be a part of the Smithsonian museum and feeling strongly that it should be located on the Mall. There were town hall meetings about the museum project held across the country, and people were invited to share their input and vision for this institution. I attended two town hall meetings. What really impressed me was how passionate and meaningful the creation of this museum was to the general public, and for African Americans in particular. It’s very hard to explain, but the meetings served as a catalyst for my future career goals. Just watching people at the microphone talk about what they wanted for this museum, what this museum would mean to them, made me want to be a part of that vision. I followed the museum’s process and progress. One day, one of my classmates from the University of Maryland said that they were advertising a job. The application submission was almost closed when I found out. I said, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” but I applied anyway. At that time, we didn’t have electronic applications. I wrote my letter and faxed in my resume, and then I got a call back. I interviewed with Lonnie Bunch, with the chief curator, Jacquelyn Serwer, and with the deputy director, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, among others. After a series of personal interviews and phone interviews, I was offered the job.

What do you enjoy the most about your position as the Curator of American Art at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) at the Smithsonian Institution? What has been the biggest challenge?

I am very blessed because I love every aspect of my job. I love researching, writing and curating. I mastered those skills before I took the position because I completed a number of exhibitions at my prior institution. What I did not learn at Dayton Art Institute, since it had a very good and well-established art collection, was to cultivate donors who collected art by African Americans. Building a donor base from scratch has been the most challenging aspect of my career here. My previous work at predominately white art institutions with collections that mostly featured white male artists did not prepare me for the challenge of building this collection. I did not know very many people who were collectors of work by African Americans. Consequently, when I started here, I didn’t have a roster of donors. It was very challenging. We were asked to amass a collection of art created by African Americans from the turn of the 18th Century to the present. I slowly began to meet people who collected. I learned that people who collect art know other people who collect art and they would introduce me to their colleagues. It is a specialized area of interest. I would come into their homes and explain to them how we planned to exhibit art and how our museum was going to interpret it differently, even though we were not an art museum. I then gave them our perspective. I explained that we would not talk about race unless it was germane to the artwork or important to the artist. That was an important point for most collectors as many of them were weary of the way most art museums racialized work by black artists, regardless of the subject or style. I was very enthusiastic about the museum because most people don’t expect an art gallery to be in a museum of history and culture. People didn’t know what to think, but they believed in the museum and they believed in our vision for the art gallery.

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Is the differentiator that the artwork (and therefore artist) is seen foremost as creating American Art . . . which is exhibited in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)?

Yes. It has always been important to define art by black artists as American art, as opposed to “black art.” Far too often, when African American artists were featured in an exhibition, the descriptor label would identify that artist as black. Conversely, when work by white artists were exhibited, the race of the artist was never mentioned. These types of classifications based on race bothered and continues to bother many artists because they wanted to be evaluated on the merits of their artwork, as they should be. They are American citizens. African Americans have been in this country longer than most Americans and in many ways our history and our struggles define what it means to be an American. When I spoke to these collectors, it was what they wanted to hear, and they would allow me to choose the work for the gallery.

How do you select art?

We had an outline of the types of works we needed to fulfill our narrative for the inaugural art exhibition, Visual Art and the American Experience. If we weren’t able to purchase the work, I worked with donors to assist us with filling in the gaps. I met one collector who told me that he heard that I was the curator who, “tells people what they’re going to donate and does not accept what you want to give.” I explained it was true and that we never wanted to acquire art from someone’s home that we really didn’t feel was right for us, and then I proceeded to tell him the artwork that I hoped that he would give. After much time and deliberation, he did donate the piece that I thought was best for our museum, a Parisian landscape by Lois Mailou Jones.

What makes a collection and exhibit successful?

Having great passion for this museum and a strong mission is important. Working with donors who support this museum is critical to the growth of our collection. Our collectors are not shy about calling other collectors. In terms of what makes a collection great depends on the goals of the museum. For example, our goal was to create a representative sweep of the depth and breadth of art by African Americans over time. We also wanted to lift up the profile artists who have been ignored by the greater art world due to racism and segregation. Additionally, we wanted to align our collection strategy with the goals and objectives found in other areas of the museum. That is our museum. Other institutions have their own mission and ways through which their collection strategy and exhibition style is determined. If the viewer and the staff of the museum both feel that those objectives have been met, then for me, that makes the collection and exhibition successful.

Can you describe the job of the Curator of American Art?

The curator is responsible for overseeing the collection, purchasing artwork, working with donors, researching the collection, selecting art for exhibition, developing an exhibition narrative. Interpreting the artwork via label and wall text is the curator’s responsibility as well. A great curator, in my opinion, is someone who can create an exhibition where expert and novice alike can visit and leave saying that they learned or saw something new and interesting. It is someone who can make the specific universal and convey a sense of relevancy to the visitor, no matter the subject or field of the exhibition.

What’s your greatest accomplishment to date and why?

My greatest accomplishment is being part of this museum . . . to build a collection when we did not have a collection and to be part of this. While I always knew it was an important museum, I never knew it was going to be so important until I saw the public’s reaction and the fact so many people are now exposed to the arts. I was able to start with very little and create a vision, my vision, in a Smithsonian Institution. Who cannot be proud of that?


What has been the most difficult thing for you to overcome to stay on your career trajectory?

I suppose it was the fear of investing so much time and money into my education and not being able to make a decent living once I entered the job market. I remember being tired and “burnt out” in grad school when I read an article about compensation for certain jobs in New York City. It was the 1990s, and I remember seeing that in New York, an administrative assistant to a CEO of a major corporation could make upwards of $100,000 a year and a manager at Burger King could make $57,000. I was killing myself to get a PhD and going into debt for the chance that, if hired, I could earn the average curatorial salary of $45,000. When I read that, I seriously considered throwing in the towel. I suppose that I told my father about my feelings because not long afterwards, he sent me a handwritten letter telling me why I shouldn’t leave the field.

What was in that letter?

I don’t recall what he said, but I thought it was interesting that he wrote the letter. He had gone through the same thing while he was in school. It was a challenge entering a field where you’re not necessarily wanted, and you’re doing it in an area where there are very few people of color. Knowing that, when people look at you, they assume, with or without malice, that you are not as good or as intelligent as your colleagues or peers. People of color spend their lives having to prove they are good enough. Whereas, if you are a white male, you have to disprove people’s presumptions of excellence. It was difficult for me to move into that space. One of the reasons I did my dissertation on the subject that strongly intersected with the history field, in addition to art history, was because I needed to hedge my bets. I never knew if I was going to get a job in an art museum. It made me sad about this field. It was difficult to really make that decision and get through that period of my life. What piece of advice relating to your life’s journey can you give a young woman? I tell people never to enter a PhD program without a fellowship because it’s very difficult to pay those student loans back. It costs as much money to be a medical doctor as it costs to be an art historian. You really need to have financial support. I also tell people not to go into the field unless you love it. If there’s anything else you can do that you can love as much, don’t go into this field. But, if you can’t do anything else, then this is the field for you. I cannot imagine doing anything else, and most people who are in the field can’t imagine that either. You have to have a passion for it and not because it’s cool or you’ve seen somebody on television who is an art dealer. It is a difficult field to enter, to find a job and to live on the salary. People do this work because they love it, and that’s the only reason to do it.

Is that a metaphor for life? Only do things if you love them?

No. Some people have responsibilities which make them do things they are not passionate about. I think that the idea that people should pursue their dreams is false. If you have children, you might have to pursue a career that you don’t love. You can’t do everything that you love, but I think you should have something that you do in your life that you love. ■

Tuliza looking out towards the Washington Monument from the NMAAHC, where she holds the position of Interim Chief Curator of Visual Arts.

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mary alice Interview Date: September 12, 2019

MARY ALICE MONROE lives by the guiding principle, “If they

care, they take care.” For her, this exemplifies her mission as an author: to help readers become aware of the issues facing endangered species. Mary Alice has felt an inherent bond with animals and a passion for nature since childhood, which she uses to craft captivating stories that identify important parallels between nature and human nature. Under a rigorous writing schedule, she has published over two dozen novels and has had more than 7.5 million copies published worldwide. All the while, the prolific author is an active conservationist and has volunteered with the Island Turtle Team for over twenty years. Her most recent novel, On Ocean Boulevard, released on May 19, 2020.

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You are the third born of 10 children, five girls and five boys. Is this the origin of your love of the outdoors?

My five brothers played sports, baseball and football, but honestly, it wasn’t my calling. I only played just to play games. I was outside to sing to the trees, look for fairies and elves. I loved flowers, trees, birds. I was always interested in nature, even as a little girl.

There is a consistent element of nature in all your work. Why?

There is. A few years ago, I went to go see the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy. I have always loved St. Francis. I remember when I was young, I used to pray to Saint Francis all the time because the statue always had a bird in his hand. I loved the stories of how the animals loved him. Yes, from very early on, my love of animals and my wanting to make a connection with them was always there.

Your father was an interesting man. He was a physician?

Yes. A pediatrician, and there have been jokes about his 10 children . . . populating his own practice. My father was born and raised in Germany and came in the 30s, before the war. His talents were always in music, which was his true passion. He was a concert-level pianist. When he was young, he had short pants and a strong German name, Werner, which didn’t go well in the ‘40s in America; I think he was beaten up regularly at school. He told me that “one of his big days” was to own long pants. He played the organ in the church and participated in many activities that would probably label him a “nerd” today. He was always involved with music and science and philosophy. I think of my daddy as a Joseph Campbell kind of a man; he made a living being a physician, but he was much more of a philosopher.

You attended a girls’ boarding school, outside of Notre Dame, for three and a half years? Yes, it was the motherhouse for the Franciscan nuns.

Was there an epiphany of sorts that you had?

Indeed. We started each day with mass. And we went with the nuns to the grotto at 5 o’clock, where we said our afternoon prayers. It was outdoors, and beautiful. There was a clarity of spirit at that time, and I remember a feeling of serenity that I wanted to hold onto. I still seek the quiet moments where you feel that you hear the wind, hear the water, and can smell the blossoms. That is my definition of a state of grace.

And you’re married to an atheist?

Well, not quite an atheist. He says he’s a Taoist, but he’s not declared himself. Let’s put it that way. He believes in a higher power, but I don’t know if he’ll admit to a faith. But he has been very supportive of my faith, which is important.

Because your faith is central to who and what you are? It is.

How much “alone” time do you need each day?

I spend most of the day alone. I have a very rigorous writing schedule in order to make the deadlines for a book a year. But I always have my animals with me. I have a coterie of dogs and canaries; I need their presence. I would feel alone if it weren’t for animals. My husband takes care of me now that he’s retired, and he’s my best friend. But he stays away while I’m under deadline because an interruption of thought when you’re writing can set you back for hours.

Can you describe the day-to-day discipline of writing?

There is a lot of pressure when I’m under deadline. There are two stages of the writing schedule. When I’m under deadline, like

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I am now, a writer is either working on the story or thinking about the story. Days can go by before I will leave the office. I’ll roll out of bed in the morning, feed the canaries and the dogs. In turtle season, I often get called out to the nests. By 9 o’clock, I’m in the office. And if I’m under deadline, I will not—and this is hard—go online for emails and check all the social media because that’s a time-suck.

How long do you sustain that deep focus?

Three, four hours at a time. If I hit the “zone,” I call it “plugging in,” I just let it go on. I work 24/7. But I can’t sustain that for long. In the beginning of a story it’s like chiseling rock. I get up and walk around. I will work from morning to dinner with breaks to get up every hour or so to just walk or to take the dogs, to water the flowers, just to get my blood moving. But later on, in the story, I will work till midnight. It’s that intense.

How long can you sustain that regimen?

I work every day for a varied number of hours. But that intense period is usually two months.

You have written and published over two dozen books, which is effectively a book a year, so it’s two months of just sheer focus.

When people say, “It took me 10 years to write a book,” I am envious of that. You get to pull it out and dust it off and think about it. But they’re not writing with the schedule I am. I am in the zone for two months where I don’t even go to the grocery store. I am just in the book’s story. Once the first draft is done, I begin revision. That too, is intense. The editor usually wants it back in short order. At this point I pull out the tool belt and use my craft. I revise the manuscript four or five times before it goes out to the public.

Do you ever take serious breaks from writing?

I need to and I’m trying. I have a house in North Carolina now. I bought it to escape from the yearly hurricane evacuation. It’s become a place of solace and recharging batteries.

You have experienced loss with the death of two authors and friends: Dorothea Benton Frank, and Anne Rivers Siddons.

Dottie’s death hit very hard because it was so unexpected, and she was so alive. No one saw it coming. We knew Anne was ailing, but still, her death hit hard. There are two kinds of reflections that go through one’s mind on the loss of a friend. First, of course, is that I’ll miss her. The second is to remind me to pay attention to the quality of my own life. I wish Dottie was given time to spend with her children and grandchildren, who she adored. And they adored her in return.

What is your goal for your career?

There are two. Number one was defined 20 years ago. I made the decision when I was on the turtle team - I still am by the way. I was mentored by the great Sally Murphy, so I was aware of what was happening on the beaches with sea turtles. I was a successful author and decided to use my books as a force for good. To help readers become aware of the issues facing endangered species, and more, to care. Because if they care, they take care.

How did that manifest?

Beyond my dreams. The first book I wrote was The Beach House. That little book caught on like wildfire. Old school. There was no internet, just word of mouth. It was my first New York Times bestseller and more, it greenlit my ability to continue in the genre I’d created. And it showed that I was right; people do care.

What is the “why” of your writing?

To bring awareness of not just endangered species but

ELYSIAN Publisher Karen Floyd and Mary Alice share a laugh together during the interview.


our connection to them and to nature as a whole. And once we connect to nature, we are connecting with the most fundamental part of our souls. And it is in that quiet that we hear God. We react viscerally. If we can hold power inside of us each day, we have better relationships, we remain more centered, because we’ve gone beyond the petty into something so much bigger. If we can get people outdoors to connect to nature, I believe their lives will be enhanced.

What is your preference . . . the beach or the mountains?

I could have easily answered the beach before, but I’m really in love with mountains too. We had a family farm up in Vermont. I spent summers there with the children. If you ask them what their best childhood memories are, they’ll always go back to Vermont. I taught them the names of the plants and the flowers, the wildlife and the birds. To be back in the mountains now is being back at that place. Trees have power.

Trees have great power.

Yes. And so, does the ocean. But it’s different. I don’t get inspired as much in the ocean.

It’s calm. Exactly. More relaxing. Staring at an ocean vista is like

pushing a delete button on my worries.

And the forest is fierce?

More creative. Like compost. It’s organic. You can almost smell it.

Of the books you read, what is your favorite?

Always a tough question. My all-time favorite novel has to be To Kill a Mockingbird. But there are others. Pat Conroy’s

Beach Music is one of my favorites. Shogun is another, because it connects to my background in Japanese-Asian history.

What book did you write that you consider your favorite?

The Beach House. It was a book of my heart. I wrote it for no other reason than I thought I could make a difference. I put everything I had into it. I even changed the manner in which I wrote a book. I had never read a book like it, nor had I written one like it. When I finished and submitted it to my publisher, it was a little mass market. Nobody, not even my editor, knew what to do with this book set on a beach with nature. I just wanted it out there. The rest is history. I knew I’d created my own genre, and because of the book’s success, that book was the basis for everything I’ve written since. Is it the best book I’ve ever written? I don’t know. But it is very dear to my heart for that reason.

Did you spend more time on that book than other books?

No, I think it does not take a long, tedious amount of time to write a novel if you truly feel it. I knew the story in my bones. It had been simmering for a long while. It’s always this way. I choose a species first. Then I do an academic study, I talk to the experts, then I roll up my sleeves and work with animals. The story is organic to my experiences.

How did The Summer Guests begin?

The Summer Guests began with the horses. I started working with rescue horses near Tryon and Campobello. I thought there was a story there. It was intellectually there, but emotionally, I never made the connection to the rescue horses. That is, until I fled from hurricane Irma to the farm of a friend in Campobello. I stayed with a group of evacuees, mostly from Florida. It was one of those

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unique times in your life that you know you’re meant to be in that place at that time. I had to evacuate with 3 dogs and 5 canaries. Where do you go? The hotels don’t want you, so I called my friend. Cindy B. said, “Sure, come on up. It’s going to be crowded.” When I arrived at her horse farm, there was a couple from Miami with their horse and a huge giant Schnauzer who was old and cantankerous. He didn’t like us much. There was a couple from Venezuela who came up from Wellington, FL with their beautiful Grand Prix horses. Cindy’s daughter Mary came up with her newborn baby and a Boykin Spaniel. The Boykin was intact. The reason I mentioned that is because one of my dogs, my little Cavalier Gigi, was in heat that weekend! It just added to the mayhem. Because the hurricane was bouncing back and forth on both sides of the Florida coast, it was the largest evacuation in Florida history. Two hundred and fifty-plus horses were coming up from Florida and then Georgia and South Carolina. They landed in Tryon, North Carolina. The Tryon International Equestrian Center, with Katherine Bellissimo, opened up their stalls as a refuge. It was enormously generous for the horses and for the people who stayed at the hotels. We were all helping with the horses; Grand Prix horses, school horses and rescue horses. It was one of those moments when you really feel good because you’re helping others in a tough time. Isn’t that when the human spirit shines brightest? I came back one night from the barn to Cindy’s house, and the women were all in the kitchen. Of course. What a scene. We were in our jeans and smelling mucky. Laura Rombauer gave us some great wine, and we were listening to music and talking and laughing and bumping hips to the music. The baby was crying, and from the windows, you could hear the dogs outside were howling. Why? Because my little Gigi was sitting at the window. In heat, if you recall! Leslie Munsell, the owner of Beauty For Real Make-up, was doing makeovers. “You look good in this color.” I looked around at the generations—mothers and daughters and friends, all of us in our dirty clothes, feeling closer, working hard, laughing hard. I thought, “This is what I will write about. Women helping women. Women supporting each other. Being together in good times and bad.”

The horses and the comradery among the women were the inspiration?

Yes. It all began with Cindy. One family was given the cottage, another the lake house. I was put in the barn upstairs. I thought, “Okay, no room in the inn because I brought my canaries and my three dogs.” It was actually a charming apartment with a loft sleeping area, which was really pretty. The barn is gorgeous, better than most houses! There were two wooden doors that opened up to the stalls below. There were several horses there. I could smell the clean hay, the leather, the feed—it was so comforting. When I went to bed that night, the TV was on blaring the weather reports about the hurricane coming. I lay there and wondered if I would lose my house, my personal things. I was shaking. It was then I heard the horses communicate to one another. They whinnied and snorted and kicked the stalls. I was listening to a lullaby of conversation, and my blood pressure went down. I slept like a baby. The next morning, I got up and went down to the stalls with a steaming cup of coffee. When I entered the horses were circumspect. Horses don’t just come right up to you. Slowly, I got to know them. Over the next couple of days I fed them, and brushed them. By the time I left, when I looked into their eyes, I knew they recognized me. Horses have the most beautiful eyes, don’t they? Those big, watery, brown eyes.

Like all animals?

Not all. Dogs, for sure. And dolphins. I always say to people, “Don’t feel you have to touch them. They look at you, and they know, believe me, they know who you are. Once I made that

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connection with the horse, I thought, “Now I can write about horses. Now I feel it.”

Do you feel that people have the urge to touch all animals?

I think most people who have a pet do. What I try to show in my novels is the best way to be with wild animals is to remain quiet and respectful of their space. The human’s instinct is to touch; we want to touch that dolphin or that horse. Instead, we should trust our ability to connect with our eyes. Learn the body movements of the species you’re with because communication can take many different forms. Communicating with the wild is different than with your dog or your cat. First of all, you won’t scare them off. And you will be safer. Secondly, you’ll come to know that there’s a world of communication available to you if you are mindful and respectful of the other species and trust your inner spirit.

When you’re not with animals, do you feel something is missing?

Yes. Especially when I’m confined, like when I am on a book tour or under deadline. I’m inside for weeks at a time.

I find the dichotomy between the isolation required to focus on writing and then the immersion with people needed in your profession interesting. How does this work? I need both.

You do?

I love being with people.

Really?

I really do, especially with people I know. I’m not fond of cocktail parties. I love being with friends. Over dinner, a glass of wine, hiking. I love making connections. I love laughing. I need that outward expression because it feeds the inner. If I’m alone too long, I get a little squirrely. I especially love the one on one with a best friend. When you are in the most focused portion of your writing, going 10-plus hours, and you’re in the “zone,” do you need people to recalibrate? Not during the process. I don’t see anybody. Actually, I don’t even want to talk on the phone. I don’t want to interfere with what’s going on in the world in my head.

Do you “need” the book tour to fill the part of you that is an extrovert and to create?

That’s a really good question. Do I need that? Professionally it is important. Speaking requires a great deal of energy. I’m not a fearful speaker; I don’t fear crowds. It doesn’t matter if I speak to a group of 10 or 500 people. I prefer extemporaneous. The give and take with an audience. I feel their energy, and I need it. Best of all, however, are the private moments when a reader tells me her story afterwards, I don’t rush them. I want to hear what they have to say. I truly am interested.

As a child, you were connected to nature . . . inventing and creating stories, in your mind, about elves and fairies and the like? Yes and writing stories and composing songs. I still look for fairies!

You have a complete attachment to nature, but you also have an innovative-creative mind. Do you remember when you merged the two?

Well, I wrote my first story when I was eight years old. “Willy the Wishful Whale.” I really loved the story and was proud of it. My daddy called me into his office. “Mary Alice,” he said in that voice that told me I was in trouble. He thought I had copied it, and he was telling me never to copy anyone else’s work. I was horrified. I don’t know if he believed me. I didn’t show anyone my writing for a long time. My third-grade teacher Mrs. Crawford came up to me and said, “Mary Alice, did


you ever think you might want to be a writer when you grow up?” And I remember being stunned. I didn’t know that was a job! My teacher named what it was I wanted to do.

Did your father, who is no longer alive, ever tell you well done? Did he ever appreciate your God-given talent?

Sadly, he never lived to see my first book published. Yet, he came to admire my determination. He was old fashioned when it came to a woman’s role in life. He didn’t worry whether the girls went to college. Even though I was an academic. He was surprised when I was awarded scholarships and fellowships. In his mind, I needed to make a good marriage. My mother was more dynamic, and lived to see my first book published.

You did attend college.

I started at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism. But I left after one year.

You had some interesting jobs in between college.

I learned more from the lessons at my job than any course I ever took. I left college and took a position at the Encyclopedia Britannica. That was a big deal in Chicago at the time. They were creating a new edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Back in our day, Encyclopedia Britannica was our Google. They were hiring the best minds for editors and writers. I was hired as a general assistant secretary, but I worked my way up very quickly to the assistant to

the general editor, Warren E. Preece. Through him, I was in touch with experts in multiple fields all over the world.

You learned the art of writing and editing? From the best of the best.

How many people were working on the project?

There must have been 50 or 60 editors and hundreds of writers. We wrote letters to the contributors who were the experts all over the world.

Which is our modern-day Wikipedia.

My other boss was Mortimer Adler, who was a great mind in the field of education. I saw less of him, but Warren took an interest in my learning. He actually asked me occasionally, “What did you think about this?” He mentored me. I’ve been fortunate in my life with mentors. I hope at this point in my life, I can be a mentor to others.

What was your detour? I know that you were married.

I was married young. We sold everything we owned and went on a six-week honeymoon to Japan. I knew little about the country. This was the 1970s, and the big splash Japan made on business in the United States hadn’t yet happened. During that trip we went from one Japanese Inn (ryokan) after another. I clearly remember sitting in one of the great gardens of Kyoto when I experienced the sensation that I’d come home. They call this “the whisperings of the past” when you are sure you’ve been there before.

Do you believe in reincarnation?

I believe it is a possibility. I don’t know how else to explain its effect. And why not? I felt at peace, sure I had been there before.

Then you . . .

I came home, changed majors to Japanese. There were very few places where on could study Japanese at that time. My husband was in medical school in New Jersey, so I received a scholarship and went to Seton Hall. I graduated, became bilingual then did my graduate studies in Asian studies. I went from writing English to Japanese and Asian history and culture.

I don’t see any of the Asian study in your genre of writing.

Not yet! I have a novel in my heart. When it comes out, you won’t be surprised. I’ll write that someday, God willing.

Are these love affairs with your books?

Yes. Especially with the animals I connect with. I share that passion with my readers.

Mary Alice, share with our readers something personal. Tell your younger self something that you wish you would have known, perhaps a lesson that you have learned.

Take your time, and enjoy the day. I was very driven and maybe still am, to accomplish tasks and to get work done. I used to focus on whatever I needed to get done. That kind of thinking leads to living in the future. I would tell my younger self to live in the moment! To journal all the details that you think you will never forget. You will. We all do. Especially to all the young mothers out there, write a journal about everything that gives you pause or surprise about your children. Write it down, because it goes so fast. ■

Mary Alice holding a stack of her novels and sitting with two of her dogs, Vega and Cosmo.

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Jiha Interview Date: May 4, 2020

JIHA MOON always knew she was going to be an artist. She also knew

there was a bigger world for her to discover outside of South Korea. At twenty-five, she became the only family member to travel to the United States, where she earned her second M.F.A. in studio art. Green cards were halted following 9/11, leaving Jiha without the ability to work. She poured herself into her studio, painting and experimenting constantly—a catalyst for a pivotal evolution in her work. Taking cues from East and West, she teases the viewer with cultural iconography traversing past and present day. She is a recipient of the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant and her work resides in major collections throughout the country.

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Jiha, thank you for being with us today. What are your earliest childhood memories in South Korea?

My earliest recollection as a child was growing up in a happy family. My dad and mom were both big supporters of the Arts, and they were unconditionally and always supportive of our unique interests. I was unaware of my aptitude in art until I received an award in elementary school. The teacher asked my parents to attend the award ceremony, and it was from that one event that I learned I had talent. I also enjoyed receiving compliments, and this is how my love of art began. Soon afterwards, I started drawing and painting. I realized my brother was book smart and good at math. My sister was a dancer, cute and always entertaining my parents. I thought maybe I should be an artist; it came naturally and made other people happy. It was something I loved to do.

What is your first memory, or self-awareness, as an artist?

When I received the award in elementary school. I still cannot remember what I drew or painted. Ever since that time, I have made a concerted effort to pay attention to what I do. At the time, I really remember more “the feeling” of how I make art. Art brings me pleasure.

What did your father do? He was a dentist.

And your mother?

My mom was a high school music teacher but did not work too long after marriage.

You are the middle child of three children. Are your brothers and sisters in the United States, or did they remain in South Korea?

Everybody is in South Korea except me. I’m the only one living in the States.

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Tell me about your education.

I earned a degree from Korea University in South Korea, in studio art and art education. My mom encouraged me to protect myself financially which was the impetus to have an art education degree and a teacher certificate from Korea University. After that, I went to Ewha Women’s University. I wanted to pursue art a little bit deeper and received my first MFA degree at Ewha Women’s University in Korea. I was only 25 or 26, and I felt that there was a bigger world. I had to convince my parents to allow me to study abroad before I married or committed to something serious. They gave me a hard time to be honest, but eventually they supported me and honored my decision. I applied to graduate school in the United States and attended one semester in Baltimore, at the Maryland Institute College of Art, for a post-bachelor program. I wanted to go to a different school, one that offered more scholarship opportunities. So, I reapplied to graduate school, and I decided to attend the University of Iowa.

You are married and have a son?

Yes, I am married, and my son is 11 years old.

What is your husband’s profession? He is a textile designer and an artist himself.

And where did you meet?

We met while attending the University of Iowa.

Were you homesick in the United States?

I was homesick when I was in Baltimore. After I moved to Iowa, I was in a group of 20 graduate students at the university, and they were strong artists, many of whom are still active artists and teachers. The group supported one another, and to this day, I really love the school because of that small community.

ELYSIAN Publisher, Karen Floyd, with Jiha at MINT Gallery in Atlanta, GA, where they recorded Jiha’s Inspiring Woman interview. Both kept an appropriate distance from one another as recommended by COVID-19 safety guidelines.


Jiha with her mother during her graduation from Korea University in 1996. Seoul, Korea.

You received two Masters of Fine Arts, including the one in Iowa. What was your focus?

My MFA degrees were in the same space; painting and drawing. Iowa supports building a community of students who want to teach in the future. Many students enter the teaching profession after their graduation. I was married during my junior year. But right after we were married, my husband received a job offer in Washington DC. He was a senior, and I was a year behind. Because I had one year left at school, he left for the job, and I stayed in Iowa to focus on my thesis and my studio classes. When September 11th happened, all immigration processes were halted, and I was unable to apply for a green card. I joined my husband in the Washington DC area after I graduated from the University of Iowa and finished my thesis. It was a difficult time for me because I could not work and did not have my green card or work permit. During this time, I painted constantly and switched my medium from oil on canvas to acrylic, watercolor and water-based medium. Work just was not feasible. I did not have a studio or window because we lived with roommates. The situation was hard, but it was the catalyst for exploration. I switched my medium, and I also started working with paper which has become my main medium now. Within this difficult period, I found my true medium, and I developed my work. Much of the work today stems from that difficult time. I found my identity, and the experience gave me a strong backbone. I really appreciate what happened at that time. It forced me to support myself and produce a large amount of artwork.

Does difficulty cause greatness?

Sometimes. I wish life was not so hard, and that it was just smooth sailing. Being an artist is not an easy task. Navigating choppy waters is critically important because no one knows when or how many times difficulty is going to come; or even where it is going to come.

How many years were “dark years” for you? Two, maybe three years.

Did you feel that darkness?

Yes and no because it was my personal decision to take the path I chose. I had parents who provided an almost perfect opportunity, a different and easier path. But I chose my path, and I decided to move forward. I have a responsibility for my own decision making, so I cannot run to my mom and my dad and cry about what decision I made and ask them for help. Ultimately, it was my decision. Granted, they were always there to help me, listen to me and support me. But I knew that once I graduated, especially as an artist living in a different country, it came down to me. How many hours a day did you work on your art during those dark times? I worked all the time because that was also my escape. We lived with roommates, so I had to clean the house to do my share. Because I could not work, I applied to lots of group shows and attended art opportunities that were free for everyone. The rest of the time, I just made art.

Your earthenware and ceramic work have achieved acclaim in the recent years. What is the difference between these terms?

Ceramic work is a genre. Ceramic is also my medium. Earthenware is a type of clay body. Porcelain is white and a fine surface. Earthenware is a tough clay, not super fine as porcelain. I use different clay bodies because earthenware can be brown and can be a little bit beige color.

How did your ceramic work evolve?

Around 2012, I received an award from The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA). I wanted to invest in other fields, but I did not have financial support until I won this award. I went to a local clay studio and paid the one-year membership like you would for the gym with my grant money. I wanted to explore this new opportunity. I learned a lot going to that community studio. Painting is a very solitary experience. You make your work by yourself. You just talk to yourself and then engage with the work. But going to a ceramic studio, you interface with a lot of people, many of which are not fine artists. It was, for me, a social experience. I met all types of people, and it put me in a setting to interact with other people. It was an eyeopening experience. I learned my way and experienced a lot of things that I did not expect.

How do you juggle motherhood?

When I received the Artadia Award, I built an art studio in my home basement. Now, I am better able to focus my time. Going back and forth in Atlanta consumes many hours. My son is 11 years old now, but when he was much younger, I had to go pick him up, drop him off and then do my work. I was constantly fighting time. I wanted to prove I could do both. My goal has always been to have a happy family. It may not sound attractive to some people because in the art world there is prejudice about artists. To be successful, an artist has to be a certain way, devoted singularly to art for herself or himself. I had heard so many stories like these, and I wanted to go in an opposite direction. Anything in life is possible. Who says mothers as artists are not attractive and amazing? I wanted to do it my way. That was my biggest goal; to be an artist and a mother at the same time and balance both. To that end, my studio is set up in my home, which works perfectly because I also teach at Georgia State University. Being an educator and an artist are a big part of

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are misunderstood. If I get to know you, who you really are, and know your whole history, then your truth reveals itself. I want my work to do that. I use a mix of cultural references, mixed-match color techniques to create confusion. Once someone engages with the art and tries to analyze the work, an understanding slowly occurs, like the process of getting to know somebody. My art is complex and confusing because misunderstanding is one step towards understanding. If you are misunderstood, somebody is interested enough to misunderstand, which is the first step towards understanding. I want my painting and my ceramic work to create interest, so it is revisited until it is understood. That is what I try to do.

Onceuponatime, 2019, earthenware, underglaze, glaze, 15” x 9.5” x 7.5”.

You had an installation replicating a tea party, where you made use of your grandmother’s velvet, hand sewn pillows. Tell me about that.

I wanted to create an installation using all my ceramic pieces. The focus was not on the individual pieces so much, but to create an experience where the visitors would feel like they wanted to sit down and have tea. My pieces of art were commensurate with the theme; tea pots, dishes, little pieces or broken pots. I wanted to celebrate the tea party and created an Asian version of Alice in Wonderland. I wanted to have pillows because people use pillows in Asian culture instead of chairs. I used low tables instead of pedestal or western tables. The pillows were placed directly on the ground. I asked my grandmother if she could help, we have collaborated several times previously. My grandmother has piles of fabrics and scraps that she has collected for many years. My mother had nagged her for years to throw them away, but my grandmother loves fabric and thought someday it might go to good use. She was really happy to help me and also in use the old fabric she had saved all those years. She made all the pillows and sent them to me. I used the pillows, actually the pillowcases, in two different installations. My grandmother is 92 years old and is a big inspiration for me.

What is the story behind using Chinese fortune cookies as body parts?

who I am. With COVID-19, I am teaching online courses from my bedroom where I have a computer. My husband and I were looking for a house that has that function. I will be 47 this June, and it has taken us this long to find a lifestyle that works for all of us.

I want to talk about your art. Almost every art critic calls your work “mischievous.” Tell me about that.

I love a playful and mischievous quality in art. I grew up listening to parents say, “Don’t do this and don’t do that.” My son hears that from me as well, and he is one of the most mischievous people I have ever met on earth. He is very challenging. I want my artwork to be that way because it leaves you with a question. Probing someone to think about the other person’s perspective is a helpful quality in life. The biggest part of art is not the obvious but what is underlying that forces you to think.

What makes your work so nontraditional?

When people first meet, they have preconceived ideas about the other person based mostly on appearances. We all read people inaccurately based on appearance. Consequently, people

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The Chinese fortune cookie is an American invention. In Mainland China, nobody knows what a fortune cookie is. Asian Americans invented the fortune cookie, I think in San Francisco or on the West coast, and they became quite popular. For me, the Chinese fortune cookie is an American portrait because America is a big melting pot. All types of people come from all over the place to live in this country. There are so many rules we must follow to achieve our freedom. For me, that is a utopian view. The fortune cookie represents the American portrait because people constantly characterize it as a Chinese thing or Asian thing when in fact it represents America. I use the cookie in my ceramic work, sometimes as an eye or even an ear. It becomes part of the work and can be heavily camouflaged, decorated or extracted. People do not see it immediately unless they pay attention. When they recognize it is a fortune cookie, they re-engage, go back and look at it again. I use fortune cookies that way in my 3D work. I have used this iconography in my 2D work that I made into 3D work. The fortune cookie goes between genres, from my painting to my ceramics to my other mixed-media work. It has become my iconography.

Why is this paradox so integral to your art?

At first, I was upset when people saw me and assumed I was Chinese or Japanese. I wanted them to recognize me as a Korean. I realized that was not possible, and it was okay. Deep down, we are all human beings. The same is true for my husband when he visits my family in Korea with me. People have no idea if he is European, American or Canadian. To them, he is a foreigner in Korea, and I am a foreigner here. It is a narrow perspective, and for me, individualism is important. Everybody is their own, and they have their own universe. I wish we could stop categorizing.

How has COVID 19 impacted your community of artists?

It is a very difficult time because of our collective isolation,

Most everyone’s mad here, 2015, ink and acrylic on Hanji mounted on canvas, 28” x 44”. Jiha is represented by Mindy Solomon Gallery, Miami, FL, and Curator’s Office in Washington, D.C.


being trapped inside for everyone is hard. I think it is important to remember we are in this together and it will take I think a long time to be back to normal. Many museums, galleries and shared studio for artists are closed now and majority of their program went online format. Many staff got laid off from museums and artists are struggling. As part of the art community, I ask you to find a way to support them. Be a member of your local museums, and support artists and galleries if you can.

How long do you think?

Until the vaccine comes out hopefully within a year or two. No matter how long it takes, it is still a very long time. We’re already talking about what the options are at our school. By way of example, all my Fall classes might also go online. We are really living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. I think this life style might be the new normal. It is sad to think about it, but we need to prepare for it. More importantly, we should not be afraid of it, but be cautious, so we can educate our younger generation in a positive way.

Can the uncertainty be a trigger for creativity or inspiration for artists?

While art can help as a therapeutic tool for many people, artists are struggling in this pandemic time. Many artists have lost their jobs and it is not a great market for selling art right now. It really is a mess. I keep wondering, how do we help each other? How do we support each other? I think that is very, very important for our future.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

That’s a hard question. 10 years from now, I hope to be doing what I am doing right now as a mother, an educator and an artist. Those three roles are important, and they have to balance with each other for me to be a good human being.

How difficult is that balance?

It is exceedingly difficult, but it is possible. I am not the only one doing it. There are so many strong women artists and educators who also have kids. I only have one child, but I know many women artists, I admire, who have more than one child.

What is the lesson to make that work?

Choose a good husband who will support your dream.

What piece of advice would you give the next generation of women?

I think I did okay because I was brave. I did not know too much and just jumped in. As I get older, I feel like I am getting a bit timid. I have lost an edge, and I miss that fearlessness. I was furious, and I was mad sometimes, but I was also brave. I did not hesitate. I saw the goal, and I felt like I had to have it. I worked my butt off, and I don’t regret what I’ve done. Also, I don’t regret all the bad experiences I had. Like I said, those experiences provided me a basis for who I am now. And one more thing . . . just enjoy your life. Do not be afraid.

You talk about bravery and fear. The older you get, the more fear you have? Yes. I have to admit that, because with age, you know a little too much. I shake myself up. I am at a stage in my life that I should be braver and try to do new things, yet I have knowledge now that I did not have before. It is an internal conflict.

Pretend that I am one of your art students now. Give me a piece of advice as it relates to the world of art.

Do not be afraid. Just jump in. I see some students that have great ambition in the beginning of a semester, yet as time goes by, that ambition and drive lessen, and eventually, they give up. When you have a plan or ambition, when you have that energy level, just jump in, and get started. Do not overthink it. Sometimes, thinking too much ruins things.

Have you ever failed at anything?

Oh yes, many times. Hundreds of times. I still get rejections all the time, and it is a part of what I do. And what is your piece of advice to a young artist that has experienced rejection? Get used to it, and enjoy. You will move on to the next level soon. Do not be disappointed. This is what makes you better. ■

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Yellowave, 2019, ink, acrylic, nail decals on Hanji, 36” x 41.5”. Currently on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR.

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philanthropy

Restoring the heart of female painters

BY PAGE LEGGETT

ADVANCING WOMEN ARTISTS GIVES FORGOTTEN WOMEN PAINTERS THEIR IDENTITIES BACK

Foundation Director, Linda Falcone, researches Nelli manuscripts at San Marco Museum in Florence, Italy. PHOTOGRAPH BY KIRSTEN HILLS

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N early everyone knows who Michelangelo and da Vinci are. But you’ve probably never heard of Irene Parenti Duclos, Elisabeth Chaplin or Violante Siries Cerroti—women artists who lived and worked in Florence just as the guys famous enough to go by one name did. Advancing Women Artists (AWA), an American nonprofit based in Florence, Italy, is giving them their due. AWA is a global network dedicated to ensuring forgotten women artists are discovered and celebrated. There’s a reason few people know the names of women artists up until, say, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926): Women weren’t allowed to study painting. “There was a time when women had to have a bodyguard with them to go into the Uffizi Galleries,” said Elizabeth Wicks, an independent art conservator who often works with AWA on restoring paintings by Florentine women artists. “It was thought they would be overcome by the male nude statues.” Oh, how far we have come.

B

ut not far enough, believed AWA founder Dr. Jane Fortune, who died in 2018. The author and philanthropist first arrived in Florence in 1962 and was smitten by the ancient and glorious city. An advocate for art preservation and civic engagement, the Indianapolis native became known in her adopted hometown as “Indiana Jane” for her crusading efforts to restore hidden and neglected artistic treasures. She received an honorary doctorate from Indiana University and the Living Legends Award from the Indiana Historical Society. In 2005, Fortune began the work of identifying, restoring and—importantly—exhibiting artwork by women that had been languishing in Florence’s museum storage areas. Wicks, who first discovered Florence—and art conservation—as a college student in the 1980s, knew Fortune’s work in art preservation and invited her in 2012 to look at some long-forgotten paintings by women

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AWA Founder Jane Fortune poses with her Emmy Award for the PBS television special, Invisible Women (2013), which was based on her history book of the same title. COURTESY OF THE AWA ARCHIVES

Opposite: Typical paint palette used by conservationists for a Renaissance painting’s restoration. PHOTOGRAPH BY KIRSTEN HILLS

that were in a closet of a Florentine museum. Fortune proposed to the museum’s leadership that, with Wicks’ help, AWA could restore some of the works. In the end, the museum couldn’t guarantee the restored paintings would be hung. That was a deal-breaker. If AWA is going to invest in researching and restoring a painting or sculpture, the museum must agree to give the work pride of place. It can’t be restored and returned to a closet. That story illustrates one of the difficulties AWA faces in its work. Museums don’t always agree that a long-neglected painting deserves to be on display.

Art & Science

Before you can touch a centuries-old painting, you have to have training—years of it. Wicks did a yearlong painting conservation internship in Washington, D.C., before earning an MFA in painting conservation. There’s both an art and a science to what restorers do. Like a geriatrician examining an octogenarian patient, Wicks has to first diagnose what’s wrong. (And she herself uses a doctor analogy to describe her work. “I love all my patients,” she said.) She has to study, document, and perform chemical tests. There can be an entire painting beneath the painting, and she needs to know if that’s the case. Before she can get out her paints and brushes, she’s got to clean what may be centuries of grime, dirt and possibly previous restorations. Her work is checked at every phase by Florence’s superintendency of art—the official “culture keepers” for the city. The part everyone thinks of as historic restoration—the painting—is just one phase in the process. Does Wicks feel like a plastic surgeon? “Well, sort of,” she said. “But just like you can’t take an 80-year-old woman and make her look 20 again, you can’t take a centuries-old painting and make it look new. You wouldn’t want to. My job is to keep the dignity of an old painting.” And that’s still not the end of the story.


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Art conservationist Rossella Lari restoring The Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli. PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCESCO CACCHIANI

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Giving them their identities back

Restoring artwork is just part of what AWA does, said Linda Falcone, director of AWA Italy. The former journalist has lived and worked in Italy for more than two decades. She and Fortune were close friends, creative colleagues and co-authors. When Fortune died, Falcone became the leader of AWA, a group she describes as “small but doing big things.” “We start with the artist,” she said. While many should’ve been well-known in their day and throughout history, that’s not usually the case. It’s vital work. And, Wicks points out: “No other organization is doing what AWA is doing.” “We track down birth certificates,” Falcone said of the detailed detective work she and her team do. “We’re doing more than restoring paintings. We give these women a story. We restore the identities of these women artists. People need to feel a connection to them and their work.” Nothing about the process is easy. “There’s a total absence of first-person documentation for women,” Falcone said. “We have to see what the woman artist’s father, brothers, teachers wrote about her. We’re missing their voices.” AWA has restored 67 works of art since its 2009 founding. (It’s not quick work. One painting can take four years, start to finish, to restore.) One of the most recent examples is also one of the most impressive. Sister Plautilla Nelli’s (1524-1588) The Last Supper is the only known depiction of Christ’s last meal by a female artist in the premodern age. The self-taught artist’s massive canvas—about 21 feet long and 7 feet high—is one of the largest works by a woman artist of the pre-modern era in the entire world. Though women were banned from studying anatomy, Nelli defied conventions of the time by taking on a theme reserved for male artists and creating 13 life-size male figures. Its restoration involved AWA, the municipality of Florence, Florentine civic museums, the superintendent’s office and more. The effort was led by, appropriately, an all-woman team of curators, restoration artists and scientists. Giorgio Vasari, often credited as Italy’s first art historian, wrote about Nelli: “She would have done wonderful things if she had only studied as men do.” Harrumph. That sums up Falcone’s reaction. Nelli and the other women artists of her time did wonderful things. But women artists’ work can’t be judged alongside their male counterparts. Women were self-taught and couldn’t sketch or paint from life (unless they were painting a still life). Sometimes their fathers had to sign their work; the art fetched more money that way. “Women had a totally different experience from men during the Renaissance and long after,” Falcone said. “We can’t compare their works. We can study them together, but it can’t be a comparative study.” Fortune was a pioneer in trying to give women artists their due. “She asked museum directors, ‘Where are the women?’” Falcone said. “Today, everyone’s asking that. But 15 years ago, it was an original question.”

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“We broke all the rules,” Falcone continued. “We weren’t art historians; we were storytellers. And we just started showing up at museums and asking, ‘Can we go into your cellar?’ The museums didn’t even know what they had in storage. It’s amazing what can happen when you start asking questions.”

Bankrolling Restoration

Enthralled by the restoration effort of Nelli’s Last Supper, donors from all over the world contributed to it. The first phase of fundraising, a crowdfunding campaign called “TheFirstLast,” was launched in 2015 and attracted donors from 19 countries. Besides Italy and the US, donors emerged from Australia, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and more. “The Adopt-an-Apostle program,” the second phase of the campaign, matched 12 donors with their respective saint. John was the first to be adopted. Donna Malin, a retired American lawyer and member of AWA’s board of trustees and International Advisory Council, adopted the Christ figure. (“I’m the stepmother of Christ,” she said with a laugh.) Understandably, no one wanted to adopt Judas, so the “Art Defense Fund” for Judas was established. Ten donors were invited to overlook their distaste and contribute to save the painting’s most reviled—but pivotal—figure. Malin retired in 2017 from Johnson & Johnson after a threedecade career. Mentoring women has always been important to her. She fell for Florence during her first visit nearly 40 years ago and has spent a lot of time in the city ever since. “Florence is a relatively small city, but 40 to 50% of artistic treasures from the Renaissance are there,” she said. A successful fundraiser, she’s led many campaigns for AWA over the years and been a significant benefactor herself. “We are bringing works by women artists out of museum basements,” she said. “And there’s a real joy in that.” ■ Editor’s Note: If you’re curious about the three artists mentioned at the beginning of this story: • Duclos (1754–1795) was a Florentine painter and poet known for teaching other women to paint. • Born in France, Chaplin (1890-1982) was from a family of artists. Her uncle taught Mary Cassatt! After moving to Tuscany as a child, she taught herself by copying classic works at the Uffizi. • Siries (1709-1783) was a portraitist for Tuscan nobility in the 18th century. She was in high demand, but it was her father who had to generate her commissions. In a more equitable world, you might have already known their names and stories. Thanks to AWA, a group trying to make up for centuries of neglect, now you do. Giving women artists their due. Learn more about the work of AWA at advancingwomenartists.com


AWA conservationist uses delicate finesse and a microscope to restore a painting by Adriana Pincherle. PHOTOGRAPH BY KIRSTEN HILLS Opposite: Liz Wicks and Nicoletta Fontani restore treasured Violante Siries masterpiece. PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCESCO CACCHIANI


And She Was Loved: On The Power Of Toni Morrison

Portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

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BY LATRIA GRAHAM


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m y first encounter with Toni Morrison’s words was as a bright-eyed, hopeful sophomore at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was required summer reading. Her prose cracked me open, and 20 years later I am still examining parts of myself that this fiction writer made real. That is the magic of Toni Morrison—her ability to chronicle the African-American experience in a deep and detailed way that resonates with readers, that forces them to re-read her words as if they were an incantation. Read often enough, in just the right way, they unlock a new way of seeing. As a young African-American woman living in South Carolina, surviving in a vein that Morrison seemed to be writing about, her words were a lifeline, even if I could only comprehend a third of them at the time. Morrison was born as Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. Her family had moved from the Deep South hoping to escape racism and find employment in Ohio’s burgeoning industrial economy. She became a Catholic at age 12 and took the baptismal name Anthony after Anthony of Padua—a Portuguese priest celebrated for his Bible knowledge, powerful preaching, and devotion to those ignored—and Toni became her nickname. Her high school job as a book page at the Lorain Public Library shaped the rest of her life. In 1949, she enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She graduated in 1953 with a B.A. in English and earned a Master of Arts in 1955 from Cornell University. Her master’s thesis was “Virginia Woolf ’s and William Faulkner’s treatment of the alienated.” After teaching at Howard University for seven years, she moved to Syracuse, New York, to work as an editor for Random House’s textbook division. “Navigating a white male world . . . it wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting,” she said of that time. “I was more interesting than they were. I knew

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Author’s portrait of Toni Morrison for the first-edition back cover of her debut novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). The groundbreaking novel that shook America to its core turns fifty this year. Below: Toni Morrison meets with students and faculty in African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences in 1985. COURTESY OF WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHIC SERVICES COLLECTION, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS

more than they did, and I wasn’t afraid to show it. You have to be a little tough and rely on yourself and tell people no.” Soon she would make her way to New York City, where she would acquire and edit fiction and memoirs by African-American authors for the company. Morrison understood change was afoot. “What can I do where I am?” she said to herself at the time. “I thought it was important for people to be in the streets. But they couldn’t last. You needed a record. It would be my job to publish the voices, the books, the ideas of African-Americans, and that would last.” Under her stead the works of Muhammad Ali, Lucille Clifton, Angela Davis, and Huey P. Newton were ushered into the world. She was not publishing her own work yet. “Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God.” (Paradise)

In

1970, Toni Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye. She was 39 years old. “Even when I wrote The Bluest Eye, I was really writing a book I wanted to read. I hadn’t seen a book in which black girls were center stage. I wanted to read a book that had no codes, no little


Confined to home with an abuser could mean life or death. The very measures put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus take away some of the few outlets survivors of abuse have for respite. Additionally, many crisis centers have canceled or postponed their annual fundraisers, adding tens of thousands more in lost revenue. Crisis centers have also had to pivot to provide their services via telehealth, adding unplanned expenses. Some need basic equipment, like laptops. And with fewer people donating due to economic uncertainty, we have a horrible, perfect storm. Please consider supporting your local center during this global pandemic. Silent Tears advocates on behalf of women and children by taking a systematic approach to addressing the complex issues associated with child sexual abuse and violence against women. Silent Tears provides resources that help frontline organizations as they support victims of these pervasive crimes. To learn more about Silent Tears, please visit SILENTTEARSSC.ORG

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William Kennedy, the 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner for Ironweed, poses with Toni Morrison. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY

Opposite: Colorful street mural of Toni Morrison by Ernest Shaw, Jr. found on North Howard Street in Baltimore, Maryland. ELVERT BARNES PHOTOGRAPHY

notes explaining things to white people. I had a major question at the time: how does a child learn self-loathing?” Morrison said in an early Charlie Rose television interview. “Every book I read about young black girls, they were props. Jokes. Topsy. No one took them seriously—ever.” Set not long after the Great Depression, the main character, Pecola, is deemed ugly because of her black skin. She prays for blue eyes, a symbol of beauty, as a way to improve her disposition and change how townspeople see and treat her. Pecola’s prayers come from Morrison’s time in Ohio: “I remember an incident from my own childhood when a very close friend of mine and I—we were walking down the street, we were discussing whether God existed, and she said he did not, and I said that he did. But then she said she had proof. She said, ‘I have been praying for two years for blue eyes, and he never gave me any.’ So I just remember turning around and looking at her. She was very black and she was very, very, very beautiful. How painful? Can you imagine that kind of pain? About that? About color? So I wanted to say you know, this kind of racism hurts. This is not lynchings and murders and drownings. This is interior pain.” Morrison examined this world—where ideological scripts by people in authority can be imposed on others—describing the conditions her characters lived in and how they tried to transcend the situations they were born into.

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“What’s the world for if you can’t make it up the way you want it?” (Jazz) hree years later, Morrison published her second novel, Sula, which was nominated for the National Book Award. In 1977 her third novel, Song of Solomon, brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected

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her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. “Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation,” Morrison said during her Nobel lecture. Morrison draws on her heritage and the language she learned through her family’s retellings of African-American folktales and ghost stories, so readers feel she’s talking to them and understands that they can talk back. Her work to dignify the inner life of another human being is evocative and not just analytical; her characters’ situations speak to the larger concerns of humanity and thus have universal meaning. Her work has been translated into more than 40 languages. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. Always searching for the story beneath the story, Morrison showed that the English literature canon isn’t the private property of upper-class white male writers. She made sure readers understood that slaves were people—they could love and had imaginations. She unboxed America and its varied modes of repression by writing about the terror of history and her characters’ unwillingness to be victims in the face of it. “Toni Morrison’s work is for all of us,” Oprah Winfrey says during The Pieces I Am, a documentary on Morrison’s life. Winfrey was an early champion of her novels and helmed the film adaptation of Beloved. “Her words, her language, is a friend to our minds. That’s what you’re feeling when you’re in the midst of a read. It comforts you and consoles you and allows you to understand that pain is OK. She reaches into the depths of pain and shows us through pain all of the myriad ways we can come to love. That is what she does, with words on a page.”

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orrison passed on August 5, 2019, at 88 years old. The author of 10 novels, she also penned 7 non-fiction works, 2 plays and 3 children’s books. She left behind an incredible legacy of the different ways we can transcend the suffering of our communities with flight—into a book, on an actual plane, or even into our imaginations. Critically acclaimed and adored by readers around the globe, and a champion by those who were often used and abandoned, Toni Morrison is considered one of the titans of American literature. And she was loved. ■


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Pol Kurucz, The Fish​, 2017, photograph. Stream Kurucz’ work on Loupe through the “Dark Edge” channel. Opposite: Nicolás Cuenca, Kamille 2, 2019, photograph. From a beauty photoshoot in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

IN TODAY’S WORLD, MOST OF WHAT WE ENJOY—MUSIC, FILMS, TV SHOWS, EVEN BOOKS—CAN BE SEAMLESSLY STREAMED ACROSS ALL OUR DEVICES. WHY SHOULD VIEWING ART BE ANY DIFFERENT?

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art&culture

art on-demand BY MAKAYLA GAY

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e nter Loupe: the world’s first streaming art gallery. Loupe is a free app on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Android TV and can be accessed on the web at loupeart.com. With Loupe, you can stream art by the artist’s name, by color scheme, or via curated channels—from the tranquil to psychedelic. The motion arts channel draws in the viewer with an array of dynamic short video pieces. While streaming, the screen slowly pans over the details of the piece while a menu allows the user to read more information on the art and artist. If you’re struck by a particular piece, you can buy prints directly from your screen. Now, growing your own art collection is as easy as buying movies from pay-per-view. New work is added frequently; Loupe’s channels are under constant revision to keep the experience fresh. Loupe lets you customize your viewing experience by changing the pace of the artwork and enabling safe streaming options so only work and family-appropriate art appears. For peak ambiance, pair Loupe with music. Loupe’s playlists are as carefully curated as their art and are available on Spotify. The dynamic platform is utilized to reinvigorate liminal spaces like waiting rooms, airports, and hotels. Anywhere you can put an LED screen, you can have an entire, ever-changing gallery experience.

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Founder and CEO Dot Bustelo worked for Apple as part of the team that developed a software platform for the creation, recording, and mixing of music. “I became fascinated with the building of tools for creating and experiencing creativity, the intersection, and evolution of artists and technology,” said Bustelo. Bustelo sought to pair a dynamic visual component with music to bring another layer of atmosphere to a space. “Streaming in your home compliments what you’re doing . . . For me, it creates a heightened state of inspiration and elevation of my environment. It adds an energy that moves throughout the space that I find both calming and invigorating. It’s a continual sense of something ‘new’ that helps me think new thoughts,” she said.

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oupe is pioneering a new frontier where the art world and technology meet. And for those who may not live near galleries—not to mention those of us currently quarantined in our homes—Loupe makes experiencing art more accessible than ever. Loupe isn’t out to replace museums and galleries. It is an


Events are enhanced with dynamic, multi-panel displays streaming Loupe to offer an ever-changing visual experience. Opposite: NanoLumens, a groundbreaking LED display manufacturing company, partnered with Loupe to stream museum-quality artwork on their state-of-the-art displays.

entirely different, complementary experience. “I don’t think of it as changing how we encounter art, more so expanding how we can experience art,” Bustelo said. “Just as streaming music doesn’t strive to replace going to a concert. Music lovers like myself can’t get to a live show or see our favorite bands anywhere near as often as we’d like. Streaming allows me to enjoy my favorite musicians and perpetually discover new music.” While there’s a unique elegance to a museum or gallery, it’s not always possible to control all the variables of your viewing experience. With Loupe, you get to decide on, and change, the context in which you view a piece. Not only does Loupe bring accessibility to the art world, but it also gives artists exposure to a growing audience. “As the number of artists accepted onto Loupe increases and more people are streaming Loupe, we will be able to offer an even more customizable experience, in much the same way that we all use Netflix and Amazon Prime differently,” Bustelo said. Netflix made the work of filmmakers from around the world accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The accessibility of a new audience to the art world is one of the elements of Loupe that excites Rachel White, the gallery’s chief experience officer, the most.

“I think the ability to experience art in this novel manner allows for ‘non-art world’ audiences to discover, enjoy, and potentially buy thousands of pieces of art that they otherwise may never encounter,” said White. The opportunity for people across the world to engage with artwork in an immersive setting without having to leave the couch excites artists as well.

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ccording to Loupe’s curator, Nicole Kutz, the platform serves the kind of worldwide, instant exposure that is becoming the new normal for artists in the digital age. “The digital age has transformed not only how we view art, but also how artists create. I think this became especially true with the rise of Instagram as an artistic outlet,” said Kutz. While displaying and selling art online is no new concept, she finds that it is more common for people to view art through scrolling rather than in museums or galleries. Just as the word ‘loupe’ shares its meaning across several languages, the platform’s popularity translates around the world.

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Loupe’s global reach not only extends to users but to artists from around the world, from Sao Paulo to Shanghai. “Loupe provides a unique opportunity for underrepresented artists to have their work displayed in a variety of settings and seen by users throughout the world,” Kutz said. “I focus my outreach on artists that are either emerging or mid-career, as well as artists based outside of the United States. I strive for our roster to be as global as our users. I think it is important to see all ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures interspersed throughout the channels.” Despite Loupe’s kaleidoscopic catalog, there is a “Loupe edge,” as Kutz calls it, which creates a moody yet inviting atmosphere. “Art generates an experience the moment it is conceived, as the artist creates with their own rhythm. Loupe harnesses that rhythm by imbuing our lives with art, immersing our living spaces with creative energy and flow,” White said. According to Bustelo, Loupe’s vision hasn’t strayed from its original course. While technologies and partnerships may evolve, at Loupe’s center is the relationship between the user and their experience with the art on their screen. “Ultimately the goal is to create a beautiful visual art experience that can be enjoyed in every home, in any public space—anywhere with an available screen,” White said. ■

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Cary Wolinsky, Sand House Ocean Room​, 2001, photograph. Stream Wolinsky’s work on Loupe through the “Happy Hour” and “Whimsical” channels. Below: Nicole Kutz, multidisciplinary artist and Curator for Loupe.


It shouldn’t be scary to stay home during a pandemic. Launched in 2013, Silent Tears, supports the capital needs of organizations that assist victims (women and children) of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse across the state of South Carolina. Silent Tears is proud to partner with ELYSIAN Impact, the philanthropic arm of ELYSIAN. The Silent Tears grant awards dispersed throughout South Carolina are the first in a program of ELYSIAN Impact Partner Initiatives, creating a template that will be replicated and rolled out across mission-driven and charitable organizations nationwide. Silent Tears advocates on behalf of women and children by taking a systematic approach to addressing the complex issues associated with child sexual abuse and violence against women. Silent Tears provides resources that help frontline organizations as they support victims of these pervasive crimes. To learn more about Silent Tears, please visit SILENTTEARSSC.ORG

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change creator

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Carla Contreras contemplates the spacial balance between objects as part of an installation, titled Jungle, for the Gathered III exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA) in 2017.

Carla Contreras is Not a Machine BY JEAN LI SPENCER

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O Contreras feels comfortably at home, in a matching headscarf and jumpsuit, while screen printing onsite at SCAD Atlanta as a featured alumni artist.

nce there was a particular MARTA bus stop on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia that Carla Contreras used to spot from the train station at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Some might have called the bus stop insignificant, even a blemish on the cityscape, or maybe it was their lifeline to the rest of Atlanta. Contreras, who finished her M.F.A. a year ago, was creating art from her parents’ home in Ecuador long before she set foot on campus at SCAD. Both of her parents are architects, and she remembers being curious about the materials her father worked with even as a child. She coveted his watercolors and the weighty, lusty papers he kept of different textures, color, grain, and weight. His dream was to be an artist, and it seems that Contreras has fully embraced the inheritance of this shared multigenerational dream. Transplanting herself to a foreign country made Contreras keenly receptive to her new community: the Peachtree bus stop sheltered a homeless woman, and one day, Contreras noticed that the bench had been removed and the woman vanished. Contreras found herself viscerally reacting to the woman’s sudden absence. “Since then I started being more aware and inquisitive about my surroundings, I started to become a type of flaneur,” she says. The experience made an impact on her core values and identity as an artist. Contreras’ impartial exterior is home to roiling internal observations every time she goes outside. “It is and will always be paramount that there is someone who can give his time to interpret the world and think about what nobody else has time to—for the sake of what makes us human and attaches us to our inherent natural qualities, which is what differentiates us from machines.”

connoisseurs of taste. But if you ask Contreras, good art is socially based—like osmosis. According to her, good art is a result of moments like the Peachtree Street incident (she actually turned this into a video installation titled Removal in 2019). While still a graduate student, she immersed herself in internships, attended show openings, submitted work to local open calls, and connected with SCAD Arts Sales, which bills itself as “a full-service art consultancy.” “Art responds to an intrinsic human necessity to reflect on the world within and around us,” she says. She understands her studio as a “laboratory” and has adapted her practice to be more “process-based,” with the result that her professional and personal lives have married into one another. Contreras’ art invites us into an ongoing dialogue between her comfort and a version of the world that is different, and sometimes dissonant, from hers.

moment I start feeling too comfortable “ The with my process or technique, I feel the necessity to make myself uncomfortable again.

“I believe that making art should be a constant search, a constant challenge, a constant process of reinvention,” she tells me. “The moment I start feeling too comfortable with my process or technique, I feel the necessity to make myself uncomfortable again.” Over the past four years, her work has been shown at MINT Gallery at the MET Atlanta, Besharat Contemporary, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Coca-Cola Headquarters, and Johns Creek and Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. She challenges spacial construction in the footsteps of Dali; treats shapes and anatomy like Nara; and makes love to color like Basquiat. “My driver to make art has to do with being drawn to personal and

Contreras in not a machine.

Good art is the perfection of beauty and luxury. At least, this is what we are taught to believe by the traditional art canon and certain

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Opposite page: A print by Contreras acquired by SCAD President, Paula Wallace, during Open Studio 2019.


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In her Atlanta studio, where Contreras explores new materials and processes as part of her practice.

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In 2019, Contreras painted a mural at the Shops at Buckhead in Atlanta. Below: Contreras was featured by Georgia Women in the Arts in a piece about how she uses art to make change and drive awareness on globally relevant issues.Opposite page: Nightfall, Carla Contreras, mixed media on canvas, 48” x 36”.

social ambiguities, stubbornness, and inquisitiveness,” Contreras says. Her thesis show was composed of paintings, drawings, prints, objects, and video installations that examine the nexus between urban development, decay and stagnation, conditional fragility, and human interaction. There is something gnostic and disarmingly— compellingly—universal about Contreras and her work. One origin of this global touch is her transition from living in a developing nation in South America and having to reckon with the double-faced American ideal of progress and a “collective imaginary ideal.” She dismantles borders and creates bridges in her work. Contreras eats a consistent breakfast: Espresso macchiato, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, Maria cookies, queso fresco, and carbonated water. She paints in the morning to take advantage of natural light. She checks her emails. These days she works in her studio later into the evening and takes time to connect with nature. She walks to Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta three times a week and appreciates the synchronous puzzle of ecosystems and “the silence, the sounds of insects, birds, and little creatures.” It is vital that she has kept this routine; nature grounds her to the miracle of existence. Contreras is an avid reader. She collects questions about the human experience like other people tend to collections of stamps and plants—the thoughts germinate, grow, produce a kind of pungency, and ultimately serve her well. She has recently finished the graphic novel Unflattening by Nick Sousanis and The Sane Society by Erich Fromm. She lets books lead her into such ethical inquiries as how governments produce and shape individuals without agency, robotism, and the impulsive mechanics of social pathology. In each literary encounter, Contreras searches for connections with the book’s context and her own lived reality, and her shuttling thoughts tangle like planetary tendrils. Despite her pandemic-related confinement at home, where her apartment is now the stomping ground of her Jack Russell Terrier, her husband and herself, she feels an intense sense of community. She is actively reevaluating what it means to be a member of a community and the inherent responsibility of that task in the midst of current events. She works part-time as a visual and performing arts teacher at Pace Academy and will be an upper school yearbook advisor there in the upcoming academic year. Her role as art teacher is a predominant part of who she is: “Education is necessary so we can learn from each other and pass on valuable information, practices and understandings of the world.” When instructing students, Contreras is concerned as much with the heart as she is with cultivating the mind.

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Her most recent project is already—although not prematurely—considering what world we will discover and inhabit on the flipside of the global coronavirus pandemic. Will art survive in this time? Will Contreras’? The process of art-making has taught her to revisit the definition of “artist” to care for more than what exists within the studio: she is her own accountant, marketing manager, curator, and critic. Coronavirus has further pushed her to crave more from the role of “artist” as well; it exacerbates and illustrates the social disparities Contreras gives an abstracted voice to in her art. “The struggles, the encounters, the hope, the injustice, the lifestyle, the control, the freedom, the madness, the human condition are what moves me, what awes me, and what makes me wonder,” she says. She spent the past two months composing a series of small mixed media works titled Wonderer of the Rock during Pandemic Times, which examines the formal aspects of mineral, stone, and living organisms on quartz monzonite igneous rock from her visits to Stone Mountain. Now more than ever, she sees art intersecting the rest of society by becoming a source of empathy, trust, imagination, and hope. She is at the forefront of the next revolution in the art world. Art as kindness. Art as peace. Art as a testament to mental health. This is Contreras’ meditative contribution to the agency of art in our lives: “The role of artists is to create a platform with their work to share preoccupations, curiosity, and obsessions.” ■


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health&médecine

Sexual Wellness

BY DR. KATHERINE BIRCHENOUGH

As

a physician specializing in functional medicine and wellness services, I spend a lot of time talking to my patients about lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, and exercise. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that sexual wellness is also a very important part of optimal health and functioning. Did you know that regular sexual activity (at least twice per week) can improve your mood; reduce stress levels; strengthen your relationship; improve the quality of your sleep; balance your hormones; lower your risk of cancer, strokes, and heart attacks; boost brainpower; relieve pain; and even strengthen the immune system? I believe in treating your sexual health with the same amount of care and attention as your physical or emotional health. If you’re experiencing low libido, lack of lubrication, or painful intercourse that is negatively affecting your relationship or your ability to enjoy a robust sex life, I encourage you to seek evaluation by a qualified professional.

Relationship Building

Hormones released during sexual activity can strengthen your relationships. Oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” is released during attraction and sexual activity. It can increase feelings of love and attachment, improve emotional intelligence and social interactions, and also act as an antidepressant. Now, that sounds a lot better than Prozac!

Stress Relief & Better Sleep

Orgasm simulates the release of a hormone called prolactin, a natural sleep aid. This is just one of the reasons you may notice that you have an easier time falling asleep after having sex. In addition, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lowered during and after sexual activity, reducing the stress response. Oxytocin, which contributes to the arousal response, also makes you sleepy as it wears off and can promote the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Dopamine and norepinephrine are released in large amounts from the hypothalamus, causing an almost euphoric state of mood elevation in some people.

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“ SEX IS A PART OF NATURE. I GO ALONG WITH NATURE. ” —MARILYN MONROE

Immune Function

There are a couple of ways that sex can improve your chances of avoiding illness. After orgasm, the numbers of macrophages (defender cells of the innate immune system that can recognize and destroy infected cells) increase by 50 percent. The body also up-regulates the production of immunoglobulin A, which protects mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, lungs, intestinal tract, and genitourinary tract by neutralizing viruses and toxins, effectively creating a barrier to entry. Studies show having sex 1-2 times a week will increase the level of these antibodies in your body by almost 30 percent.

Hormone Balancing

Levels of sex hormones tend to drop as we get into our late 30s and 40s even before menopause. Regular sexual activity sends a signal to the body to increase and maintain normal levels of estrogen and testosterone in the premenopausal age group, and also in men. The stress reduction benefits also improve the production and function of other hormones. It’s truly a “use it or lose it” situation.

Cardiovascular & Stroke Risk

By reducing systolic blood pressure, improving blood flow, and strengthening the circulatory system, regular sex can reduce the risk of life-threatening disease by up to 50 percent. The studies that have been done focused on men, but I’m sure women can benefit as well! Of course, anyone with significant risk factors or a history of heart attacks or stroke would need to be cleared for vigorous sexual activity by their doctor.

Pain Relief

Endorphins are “feel-good” chemicals released during and after orgasm that can bind to the same cell receptors as narcotic pain medication. Chronic pain patients have reported a significant reduction in daily pain levels with sexual activity two or more times per week.

Cancer Protection

Some studies have pointed to a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer in men who had more frequent sex.

Brain Boosting

Research shows that sex switches the brain into a more fluid and creative state, enhances memory, and increases blood flow to the brain. Older adults who had sex weekly performed better on cognitive tests for memory and attention, word recall, and visual and verbal recognition. Frequent sex is also good for verbal fluency, language, visual fluency, and visuospatial ability, or the ability to judge the space between objects. So, stuck in a rut on that project for work? Maybe the solution is in the bedroom!

Other Sexual Health Tips

Urinary incontinence affects at least 30 percent of women at some point in their lives. Having regular orgasms works the pelvic floor muscles—the same ones targeted with Kegel exercises. A strong pelvic floor reduces the risk of accidents and urine leaks and other associated complications of weak muscles, like uterine or bladder prolapse. This is especially important for women who have had more than one child.

Recommended testing & treatment:

As part of a full evaluation for sexual wellness, blood testing for hormone balance is extremely important. Until adrenal, thyroid, and sex hormones are optimized, you may not be able to achieve the results you are hoping for. I combine hormone and nutritional testing with bio-identical hormone replacement and targeted supplementation of key vitamins and minerals for proper metabolism. I also augment these therapies with regenerative techniques designed to improve physical functioning for the best outcome. For more information: optimalselfmd. com/wellness/sexual-wellness/.

Recommended reading:

• The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass, PhD. • Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagowski, PhD • Living An Orgasmic Life: Heal Yourself and Awaken Your Pleasure by Xanet Pailet • Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel ■

ABOUT DR. BIRCHENOUGH Katherine Birchenough was the fourth MD in the state of South Carolina to be certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine. A South Carolina native, Dr. Birchenough is a University of South Carolina School of Medicine graduate, board-certified in pediatrics and emergency medicine, and has recently devoted herself full-time to her wellness practice. Dr. Birchenough practiced traditional medicine for more than 12 years, diagnosing and treating diseases but not really getting to the root cause. Over the years, she watched as unhealthy environments and poor lifestyle choices affected the health of her peers and her patients—at one point even herself—and knew that something had to give. She realized the pursuit of health, beyond just the absence of disease, is a specialty in and of itself but wasn’t available to traditional medical students. This realization brought her to a new career path in functional medicine and has fueled her passion to treat the patient, not just the symptoms.

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Illuminate your escape.

Loma de Vida – a spa and wellness destination. Experience elevated in the San Antonio Hill Country for those seeking soulful reflection, joyful celebration, mindful movement, and vibrant living. It’s an escape that’s yours and it’s all within reach.

lomadevidaspa.com | 210.558.2252

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Remarkable wines from the hidden corners of France.

Exclusive French wines delivered to your home Discover French wine with SomMailier’s Rendez-Vous Subscription and receive six exclusive boutique wines every 3 months in the comfort of your home. Learn more about SomMailer’s exclusive french wine club membership by visiting

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ELYSIAN IGNITE VIRTUAL SERIES SUMMER 2020

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n Thursday, April 2, ELYSIAN kicked off its inaugural, six-part Ignite Virtual Series with special guests Dr. Katherine Birchenough and Martha Wiedemann. Moderated by ELYSIAN founder and publisher Karen Floyd, conversations centered on the theme of “Connecting Women in a Time of Disconnect.” In signature fashion, the limited series spanned topics ranging from health and wellness to humor and literature and featured renowned authors, comedians, beauty experts, healthcare professionals, and popular YouTube stars. The guest list was limited to a first come, first served basis with an opportunity for audience Q&A. In April and May, the ELYSIAN Ignite Virtual Series brought insight and practices into women’s homes with the goal of building community and resilience among its readership. The geographically transcendent celebration of women’s work, lives, fears and accomplishments took us deep into how to self-actualize in a brave new world. Women from around the globe— Lebanon, Slovenia, Mexico, Switzerland, the UAE, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States—joined the Virtual Series to catch their breath, connect, and realize that although our lives are anything but cookie-cutter right now, we are as strong as we want to be. In the first session, dedicated to nourishing the mind, body, and soul through functional medicine and Ayurveda, Wiedemann shared antidotes for stress relief during COVID-19. Her simplest, surest answer: good old-

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expanding the circle

fashioned laughter. Los Angeles-based actress, writer, and improviser Lisa Linke was joined by former Miss South Carolina Jane Herlong and her signature “Southern Fried Humor” to laugh together and debate if we need anyone’s permission to feel the emotions we are feeling, whatever they may be. In the fourth session, Susan Meissner and Kristy Woodson Harvey reminded us that the future is bright, while Master Lash Artist Christin Burdette joined YouTube sensations Cassi and Brandi Sherbert to transform the face into a flawless masterpiece at any age. We revisited world history with New York Times bestselling authors Alexis Coe and Karen Abbott to uncover telltale women-centric narratives from the past. Our sincerest gratitude to the premier sponsor of this groundbreaking event: OTO Development. We thank our panelists and our viewers at home for welcoming us into your personal spaces. As ELYSIAN Wellness Editor Martha Wiedemann said in a moment of inspiration: “This virus is bringing us together … We will all go forward as one. This is the time for us to bring down the barriers.” The success of the ELYSIAN Ignite Virtual Series, which garnered increased interest each session and reached maximum capacity week after week, reveals the intoxicating high of digital connection. The season’s brightest accessory is not a sleek hairdo or designer handbag; it’s a solid Wi-Fi signal. We hope that you will join us for the next iteration of the ELYSIAN Ignite Virtual Series. ■


Cover Model: Carla Contreras • Location: MINT Gallery, Atlanta, GA • Photographer: Allie Hine • Garment: Avant Oppidan Zayden • Retoucher: Liya Embrace

behind the scenes

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