Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spirituality, the last taboo of the 21st Century

Spirituality, seems to me, to be on the tips of our tongues. People seem interested in exploring it, but it is still a tad taboo. In the 60's it was out in the open like never before. The hippies talked so much about it that it became cliché and now epitomizes the era. Well that and the drugs, protests, free love, and the like. The idea of getting more out of life through alternative means was at the center of popular culture and very à la mode. Over the past year or so we've been nudged to slim down our lives to the essentials by re-evaluating possessions, priorities, and lifestyles. This is why I feel the 60's are such an intriguing era right now.

I just read "The Underground Revolution: The Hippies Yippies and Others" which was written in 1970 by Naomi Feigelson. It's all about the 60's and how the underground revolution became so influential. I like it because it's told in the past tense, but written right after it happened. It's interesting hearing about the innovators/ eccentrics/ hippies/ crazies/revolutionaries making headlines in The New York Times as the movements progressed from the underground, popular culture, politics and even religion.

The chapter about the popularity of spirituality and pop culture was really interesting. I learned that the commercial viability of the eastern spirituality in the western world, or "whole Indian love cult",  came to a decline in the late 60's when the elitism and materialism of the trend outweighed the spiritual experiences. Even Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's offerings fell short. "They wanted to believe, and he gave them nothing to belive in." was said of the guru of new religious movement called the Transcendental Meditation movement. Maharishi had the following of the Beatles, The Doors, Mia Farrow, the Rolling Stones and thousands. But in May 1968 in New York, the Beatles confessed in a press conference that they meditated now and then, but that they had "made a mistake on Maharishi." After all, said John Lennon, "We're only humans." (The Underground Revolution, Feigelson, pg 59)

So what I'm finding most fascinating about this books is the surprising number of similarities between the ideas of the hippies, yippies and underground movements in the 60's and to the ideas in the air right now. It's been a good half century, and I think spirituality is coming back to the forefront of popular culture.

This post is getting too long, so I'm going to leave it there with some pretty nostalgic pictures and get back to it after my alternative healing session this afternoon. Today I have a session with Sara, my new room mate. She's a practitioner of a holistic healing technique called LifeLine Technique which she learned from a doctor in Chicago. I feel I have some healing to do in mind, body and maybe even in soul. So I'm really looking forward to it. Shortly I'm going to walk a bit further down Main Street to her studio to get an alternative form of healing to my useual jogging, yoga, physio and wine-therapy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yuppie + Hipster = Yupster

Hybrid spaces for socializing while creating art are popping up left, right and center. I like the idea of a philosopher's lounge. A bar or lounge encouraging strangers to interact and discuss ideas instead of peering at each other over loud music.

Of course community groups and organizations hold events for this purpose, but they're often geared towards people already involved with the topic and aren't necessarily in a 'hip' and casual space. So now that more people are looking to expand their cultural and creative activities in their day to day lives, I think there's a growing need for culture/art/history/theater/book bars that are accessible to everyone. For example, if you don't know much about philosophy, you can still pop by the "philosophers lounge", have a drink and partake in cultural discussions or activities. Then move onto the next bar, and maybe do a little painting.

For example, you could stop by the restaurant called "Raw Canvas" in Yale Town, Vancouver. Their slogan is "Art + Social" and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Easels are set up so you can move seamlessly from eating to painting while sipping wine and cocktails along the way. The Yale Town yuppie type (small dog in right hand, designer purse in left) is adding the glamor to Hipster-ish activities. In the same way that yuppies have embraced and glamorized the yoga lifestyle in Vancouver, the 'hipster' culture is being gentrified and glamorized. Yupsters anybody? (Yuppie + Hipster = Yupster).

The School of Life is a really neat company in the business of selling culture and self improvement in London. Someone should start one in Vancouver. I always hear people complaining about how hard it is to meet people here, and the health-conscious city would eat up the life enhancement courses.

So anyways, I checked out 'Raw Canvas' the other night. It was packed with the Yale Town pre-drinking crowd that was getting ready to go out on the town. Underneath their painting smocks and coveralls were little black dresses, high heels, and dressy bar attire. Now on a night out in Yale Town you can pick up a mate and a new painting. Now that's a productive Saturday night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Aint Painting a Pain" - Richard Jackson

Yesterday I attended a tour of the Rennie Collection in the Wing Sang Building in Gastown, Vancouver. Bob Rennie owns the third largest collection of contemporary art in Canada, so it's great that he's sharing it with us. The exhibition on display was full of fun and colourful surprises.

One thing the tour guide pointed out was that Jackson didn't want people to read too much into the work. The concept for the bears peeing in urinals came about when Jackson noticed that urinals look like bear heads. (Some of the urinals are bear heads, and some of the bear heads are urinals.) When they were at the MoMA real paint was squirting from the champagne bottle shaped bear penises.

The works vary greatly but all have the common theme of paint. And not in the traditional sense, but in an experimental way that shows the tactility and velocity of paint. He uses different methods of letting paint drip into place on sculptures, smear onto walls and funnel through various contraptions to make organic yet strategically placed pools of paint.

He also painted a massive canvas with BB gun pointillism, and piled 1000 canvases on top of each other with paint gluing them together. (See image below of "Big Ideas - 1,000 Pictures"). The later seems to be a message about the repetition of artists painting the same thing over and over on canvases. Not something Jackson practices. The round colourful paint smudges are directly on the walls, and will probably be destroyed when the exhibition is over. But that's okay with Jackson because it's "about the process" explained the tour guide.

The roof top patio is great. I can picture a great cocktail party with art aficionados, eccentrics with orange suits and plenty of gin martinis.  I also liked Thomas Houseago's sculpture ('Untitled Striding Figure' below) and the wavy psychedelic glass wall by Dan Graham overlooking China Town. The last photo isn't a double exposure but a weird reflection from Graham's structure.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I just got back from East Side Yoga, the studio on The Drive co-owned by my dear friend Julie Peters. I met Julie when I was in kindergarten in San Diego. We shared precious moments holding our breath in the pool, comparing bruises, and running around our gated apartment block. Recently, Julie has found her calling as a yoga instructor and business owner. I've enjoyed yoga for a long time, but never as much as at her classes.

Julie, who is also a slam poet, also inspires me outside of yoga.  This is one of her performances that really struck a cord with me - partly because I have a real life stutter, but also for the unapologetic message. Julie, you rock.

So today was another great class at East Side. Julie and her beau Robert and I went to my new favorite place on Commercial Drive for food - The Controversial Kitchen. The sister of the restaurant The Ethical Kitchen serves locally produced 100% grass fed meat and organic veg compiled with lots of love. Today I declared that I would go to Julie's yoga class and eat at the Controversial Kitchen everyday if I could.

Below is a great photo of Charles, Robert and another student looking radiant after class. Julie guides us through her classes with positive words and energy that make me feel so darn good physically and mentally. And not in a flowery way, but in a real, accessible way. Chris also teaches a class for boys called Yoga for Bros. So if you're a boy or a girl, I highly recommend you venture to East Van for yoga and a fantastic meal. Namaste. As they say.

Pictures from top: Julie and Robert outside East Side Yoga;  Robert practicing his inversions; and Robert, Charles and a happy student.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Right-side-down or down-side-up

"I love it when you ask actors, 'what're you doing now' and they say. 'I'm between roles'. To be living 'life between roles,' that is my favorite."  - Andy Warhol

"I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screening, so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else." - Andy Warhol

 (Decades later, luxury brands are still trying to fight fakes. )

Recently I wrote a post about Malcolm McLaren and his motto of being a flamboyant failure rather than a benign success. I think he's great. But ten-upping him is Warhol. He seemed to live with the attitude that he would be both flamboyant, and a success.  Some of his ideas remind me of the upside down logic in Alice in Wonderland. Or right-side-up, depending on your perspective. I just read "I bought Andy Warhol", a book about an art dealer's adventure through Warhol's time. I'm now absolutely fascinated by contemporary art dealing, the art tumble, and the glamour and un-glamour of it all. 

And, I think art purchasing is making a comeback. People are appreciating art for art's sake along with the artisan, connoisseurship and getting back to the details. Therefore people will again want to invest in art. It's a financial investment doubling as wall-candy.  I would like to get involved with representing artists. Maybe through a gallery. 

I've been volunteering at the Vancouver Art Gallery to get an inside perspective and it's been interesting so far. One event I was involved with was a traditional masquerade party. All the art (except for Leo da Vinci's sketches) was taken down in the gallery, and the three floors were completely revamped. There were Cirque du Soleil performers, amazing cuisine, a live auction, and the whole works. The venue looked great and was set up for success. But the 300 guests didn't nearly fill the space and only about a quarter of them put effort into their costumes. The potential of the event, compared to the outcome, was depressing.

It seems to me the people controlling the Vancouver city scene are the people in property. Not a particularly artsy crowd. (Like London's bankers, Vancouver has the property flippers). I'm going to Bob Rennie/Condo King's private gallery this week. Here is someone with bucket loads of money doing something artsy and interesting. We need more of that. Vancouver could take some tips from Warhol, do a headstand and look at things a little differently. 

Top to bottom: Banana, Cowboys and Indians: Annie Oakley, Endangered Species: Black Rhinoceros, Truck, Halley Mae, and a self portrait by Andy Warhol. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A tabby cat, a dirndl, two mannequins and a low table

Photo by Bruce Buck for the New York Times.

When I lived at the end of Queen Street West in Toronto with my lesbian film student roommate, we didn't have any normal chairs in the house. Alex explained when I first moved in how it just felt better being closer to the ground. The diner table was dark wood like this one with wicker squatting cushions. As a posture conscious person I was skeptical at first. But pretty quickly I loved it. It was a small square table so group dinners felt really intimate.

Since there wasn't a couch or anywhere else to sit, each morning Alex and I would get comfy on the kitchen counter top and wait for the coffee to brew. We then sat there having 'counter talk' until the pot was done. We talked about boys, and girls, and everything in between.

Alexandra was mid 30's at the time and had an amazing partner, Rosie, who I also loved. They were like two mom/sister/freinds to me. Rosie taught me how to cook her Italian grandma's vegetarian lasagna that has peas and sliced hard-boiled eggs in it, and took me for rides on her 'aubergine' coloured Vespa. Alex proposed to Rosie while I lived there through a silent film which I helped her make. I learned a lot about girl girl couple complexities like gay girls as friends and the various situations that arise.

There were two entangled naked mannequins in a corner of the apartment, a tabby cat and a signed photo of the 80's singer who sang "Black Velvet".  I hadn't heard of her but it she was a one-hit wonder Alex loved.

Those were great days. I was single, doing costume design for film, working at a Bavarian Beer Stube where I had to wear a dirndl, and in my last year of university.  Funny. So anyways, my conclusion is that people who have low tables without chairs are great. I like the look of this home for multiple reasons. So much space to do cartwheels and stretch and paint and leave piles of clothes. Let's put it in Paris and sign me up.

Oh I found a photo of that flat! The table was right in front of the mannequins.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Les chemises d' hommes


Photo from old edition of Velvet Via Cafe Mode

I love Géraldine's post about men's dress shirts on ladies. It's nice to see attention drawn to a style that isn't claiming to be new or a twist on something old. It's classic and perfect. And this photo she found is great. The 90's, Demi Moore, androgynous power dressing, breasts, chains and crosses. Parfait.