Friday, May 25, 2018

The Dark Cloud of Joy

It's surely no coincidence that the birthday of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson falls on National Tap Dance Day! 
Perhaps the best-known African-American in vaudeville (then and now), Bill Robinson left us a confusing hodgepodge of legacies. His life was a mass of contradictions perhaps best exemplified by his stage handle: “The Dark Cloud of Joy.” On the one hand, he is called by African-American scholar Donald Bogle “the quintessential Tom” for his cheerful and shameless subservience to whites in motion pictures. On the other hand, Robinson was in real life the sort of man who, when refused service at an all-white luncheonette, would lay his pearl-handled revolver on the counter and demand service. An illiterate, he was to become the unofficial Mayor of Harlem and one of the richest and best-known African Americans in the country. Even the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song “Mr. Bojangles” which everyone assumes is about him, isn’t. (The song is about a hobo; Robinson was a class act in top hat and tails).
He was born Luther Robinson in Richmond, Virginia in 1880. A perhaps apocryphal story has him beating up his brother William, two years his junior, until the latter allowed him to appropriate his name. (The real Bill was forever after known as “Percy” – it must have been a sound drubbing.) The boys were orphaned around 1885 under mysterious circumstances, and raised by their grandmother and various foster parents. Robinson was a latchkey kid, largely shifting for himself, earning his own way by shining shoes, occasional theft and dancing for tips on streetcorners. He got his famous nickname after stealing a beaver hat from a local merchant Lion J. Boujasson, whose name no one could pronounce.

In 1892, he hopped a freight train for Washington, D.C. with a white friend named Lemuel Toney (who later went on to become Eddie Leonard, a major blackface star in minstrelsy and vaudeville). His first professional gig was the part of a “pickaninny” role in the show “The South Before the War” which toured the northeast. By 1900, he had made his way to New York. The following year, he won a prestigious dance contest at a Brooklyn theatre against a man named Henry Swinton, then considered the best dancer in the business. In the audience were the likes of Eubie Blake and Walker & Williams. He began to work with various partners and rapidly became one of only six African-American acts booked regularly on the Keith circuit. In 1902 he teamed up with a successful comedian named George W. Cooper, laying aside his dancing to become the comic foil for a period of 12 years.

When the team broke up in 1914, Robinson approached a big-time manager named Marty Forkins with a unique proposal. At the time in vaudeville the “two black rule” was in full force; African Americans were seen on stage only in pairs. Robinson proposed to become the first black solo act. In addition to being socially groundbreaking, the move had the virtue of being a very good gimmick, a must in vaudeville, and so the two forged ahead.

Robinson rapidly rose to become one of America’s best loved entertainers. His act was an amalgam of little steps and moves he had copped from others, then stitched together into a sequence that was greater than the sum of its parts. He worked his alchemy by rehearsing and performing the act so much that he could do it in his sleep, and then “selling it” through the sheer force of his infectious personality. His smile was called “a beacon”. He would intersperse his routines with little jokes and remarks, such as the famous “Everything’s copasetic!” (a word, incidentally, which Robinson invented). In 1918, Robinson introduced what was to become his signature bit, “the stair dance”, stolen of course, but thereafter irrevocably his. By 1923, he had reached the number two spot on the bill at The Palace (or next to “next to closing”) – the highest spot to which he could aspire given the prejudices of the times.
As vaudeville began to wind down, Robinson was one of the lucky and talented few who not only kept working, but who actually became more famous. He starred in a number of revues, such as “Blackbirds of 1928” and “The Hot Mikado”, performed in top nightclubs in Harlem and elsewhere, and co-starred in numerous movies with the likes of Will Rogers, Lena Horne and – most famously – Shirley Temple. A variation of his stair dance can be seen in the Temple-Robinson vehicle The Little Colonel (1934).
Robinson used his power and influence to break new ground for African Americans on several fronts: he was the first African-American solo act in vaudeville; he refused to wear blackface; he fought for (and achieved) the racial integration of countless social and cultural events in the north and the south; he was the first African American in a Hollywood movie whose character was responsible for safeguarding a white’s life.

Like all the top vaudevillians, he was an obsessed workaholic, either practicing or performing constantly, sometimes doing five shows a day by choice. He said that he danced best when totally exhausted; it took the edginess off his performance. He wore out 20-30 pairs of tap shoes a year-roughly one every two weeks. It is said that he literally danced himself to death. After a series of heart attacks, the doctor advised him to quit in 1948. Robinson maintained that though he had trouble walking, talking sleeping and breathing, when he danced he felt wonderful. He died a few months later.
 Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
(May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949) 

Now, go make something beautiful!

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥ 

In Illinois, a police dog trainer is threatening that legalizing marijuana in the state will lead to the euthanization of police K9 dogs — and an Illinois Sheriff is agreeing with him. This is a horrible attempt to use animal cruelty to stop marijuana legalization. 

No matter how you feel about the legalization of marijuana, I'm sure we all can agree that the murdering of police K9 dogs has nothing to do with the discussion.

I just signed the petition, "Prevent Illinois from Killing Their Police Dogs." I think this is important. Will you sign it, too?

Here's the link: CLICK HERE



Friday, May 18, 2018

A Fantastical Life and Faery Tale Existence ...

“Don’t touch. And don’t eat what you touch unless you want to die” are the first words you’ll hear upon entering Lotusland, the exotic, 37-acre kingdom of plants tucked away in the quiet town of Montecito, California. Its roots run three owners and 135 years deep, but it’s the touch of its final, failed opera singer patroness, Madame Ganna Walska, that makes the legacy behind its pink walls so magical…
Our story starts when “Madame” was just 19, and plucked from a crowd by the Czar and declared the most beautiful girl at a ball. Back then she was just Hanna Puacz, your run-of-the-mill Polish gal from a humble family. But when she caught the Czar’s eye, he immortalised her beauty in a commissioned portrait:
She was the perfect cocktail of charisma, beauty, and wit, and quickly rose to the top of society with a new name: Madame Ganna Walska. “Madame” in reference to her budding opera career, “Ganna” as a variation of “Hanna,” and “Walska” because, well, it sounded like “waltz” and she just loved to dance.
She collected plants, and husbands. You could say the plants stuck around longer.  Madame accepted numerous marriage proposals and in total had six husbands, including a Russian count, a yogi, a playboy conman and the inventor of an electromagnetic “death ray”.

When she wasn’t playing ‘femme fatale’ and enjoying the high life that her first marriage had introduced her to, a good chunk of her time was spent in pursuit of a career as an opera singer.
The only problem was– Madame Walska couldn’t sing– or at least, if she could, no one was aware of her talent due to a crippling case of stage fright. In 1918, she performed in the Italian opera Fedora before an audience in Havana, Cuba which included fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The reception of the performance is described in the designer’s biography:
In 1925, The New York Times headlines of the day read, “Ganna Walska Fails as Butterfly: Voice Deserts Her Again When She Essays Role of Puccini’s Heroine” (January 29, 1925).

Ganna’s fourth husband, Harold McCormick played a vital role in continuing to promote her career, and his promotion was so adament, in fact, that it inspired much of the screenplay for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, in which the mysterious tycoon loses all his power and instead focuses his energies on his wife’s hopeless opera career.
 Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander in the film "Citizen Kane,"
directed by Orson Welles, 1941, photo: © 1941 RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
While she might not have had the “X Factor”, Ganna’s attentions (and wallet) were always oriented towards supporting the arts, and in 1922, she bought Paris’ Theatre des Champs Elysées following her divorce from McCormick. She claimed she bought the theatre (and a French chateau) with the fruits of her own investments, as opposed to those of her ex-husband’s.

“Love comes and goes on its own accord, like a fever,” Madame once said, “Nothing can stop it, nothing can prolong it either…My reputation was entirely my own creation for self-defense… I was considered to be an exceptionally level-headed woman, a thousand-headed monster, a hard working machine.”
Madame became quite a fixture on the Parisian society scene, and for a brief spell, had a go at launching her own Parisian cosmetics line. She was heartbroken when the impending First World War forced her to leave Paris for America.

But it was in America that she would find would finally find her calling and begin to shift herself out of the media spotlight that left her exposed to public ridicule and tabloid punchlines


In 1941, she bought her Santa Barbara estate from the herbology-obsessed Gavits family, who paved the way for her whimsical embellishments with their dramatic, Italianite landscaping. With the encouragement of her last husband, a yogi known as “White Lama,” she put her energy into what would soon be known as Lotusland, her true creative chef d’oeuvre.


Ever the francophile, she installed a number of the statues brought over from her French chateau, but it was also important for her to weave in elements of her Buddhist religion into the garden. Upon purchase she actually intended to turn it into a monastery called, “Tibetland,” but in the wake of WWII, the US government refused visas to the mountain monks she had hoped to bring over.

One of the gardens is dedicated to lily pads and lotuses, the latter of which give the estate its namesake. The aquatic flower symbolises personal growth and strength in Buddhist tradition, two qualities that would prove very important to Madame.

 The areas are often referred to as “garden rooms,” and categorised rather eclectically; some by country (the Australian), some by plant (Bromeliad) others by colour (i.e. the Blue Garden). This wasn’t just landscaping, but the creation of living, breathing stages.

Madame took many cues from the park “follies” structures popular during Paris’ Belle Epoque, like the tremendous astrological clock surrounded by topiary beasts. She proudly dabbled in telepathy, the zodiac, and was also a big fan of Ouija boards. (For what it’s worth, her sign was Cancer.)

Then there’s the Water Garden, with its aquamarine pool and giant clam fountains of her own design:

Later, when she smuggled her Polish family members out of Europe during the Second World War, she would dedicate an entirely new pool to her niece (complete with a faux beach and dangling pelican sculpture).
There’s also a formal theatre garden made up of rows of hedges and populated by a collection of 17th century stone figures called “grotesques.” They’re dwarfish characters from plays by the likes of Molière, and carved by the French artist Jacques Callot. They also tend to pop up out of no where…
Tremendous shards of blue-green glass emerge from the paths like emeralds, which Madame called jewellery for her garden and salvaged from an LA glass manufacturer. “She was wealthy,” confided a friend to a journalist, “but she was always thrifty, no matter how successful she became.”
The peripherary of the Japanese Garden teases you with stone lanterns called “Ishi-Dōrō” for as far as the eyes can see…
 The Insectary Garden is home to butterflies, a tremendous copper cage with doves, and a far-reaching trellis of lemons that Madame called her  “Victory Garden,” which was planted for the veterans of WWII. Today, its harvest serves certain food banks of Southern California.
For the most part, her elegant wardrobe, from her costumes to self-titled “Ganna Walska” perfume, are stored in Los Angeles. She had an excellent eye for both costume design (although the talents of Erté and Lanvin helped a lot).
 But every once in a while her treasures make an appearance at the old Montecito estate…
She loved grand entrances. Each pathway was meant to feel dramatic, with its rows of agave or palms…her motto was the French phrase malgré tout, “in spite of everything,” because she’d been through so much in love, death, and war over the years.
And just as you begin to feel lost in what feels like a very chic Jumanji, you’ll reach the pink main house. It’s at the heart of the garden, and meant to transport you to the sun-baked hills of Mexico…
Not much has changed today, and one type of cactus at its feet is actually extinct in its native Mexico. But that story isn’t uncommon at Lotusland, which has become one of the world’s most precious sanctuaries for rare plants.
 In fact, it’s one of the only places in the world where so many dangerous breeds can be at home. “The U.S. federal government,” says Gress, “has made it one of few holding grounds for plant contraband” (yes, that’s a thing). It’s a kingdom of exotic misfits, with the spirit of the most colourful and resilient of them all, Madame, at its helm.
When all was said and done, you could say that Lotusland was the true love of Madame’s life, and she lived until the age of 96 in the company of her 3000 darlings (aka plant varieties). One of her last grand gestures to the estate was the auctioning off of $1 million worth of her jewellery in the 1970s in order to finance the installation of  (you guessed it) a garden of 500 cycads.

Luckily for us, Madame bequeathed the gardens to the public upon her death, and you can make a reservation to visit it here

Now, go make something beautiful!

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥ 
  Dorothy Comingore in "Citizen Kane" playing Susan Alexander a thinly
disguised  portrait of Madame Ganna Walska 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Heavenly Bodies - the Fabric of Faith Arrives at the Met

Once there was a man who wore the finest silks in Italy, but traded them all for sackcloth. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant, and in his youth he gamboled about Umbria in colorful, dandyish outfits. But when he had his calling he stripped off his fine clothes, pledged his body to God, and spent the rest of his life in a mendicant’s robe. He was Saint Francis of Assisi, and when the archbishop of Buenos Aires was proclaimed pope in 2013, he gave himself a new name, in honor of a man unembroidered.

I wonder what both Francises, saint and pontiff, might make of “Heavenly Bodies,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s colossal, hotly debated and richly anointed exhibition on the interweaving of fashion and Roman Catholicism. Years in the making, it includes exceptional loans of vestments from the Vatican — some of which have never before left Rome — and more than 150 ensembles of secular clothing from the last century. Here is papal regalia of unsurpassed intricacy, but also space-age brides, monastic couture, angels in gold lamé, and a choir up in the balcony dressed in head-to-toe Balenciaga.
A 1967 wedding ensemble from the House of Balenciaga at the Met Cloisters.
For the 55 designers exhibited here, Catholicism is both a public spectacle and a private conviction, in which beauty has the force of truth and faith is experienced and articulated through the body. Sacrilegious? Heavens, no: The show is deeply respectful of the world’s largest Christian denomination, even reverential. But it takes communion at Fellini’s church rather than Francis’s — a surreal congregation whose parishioners express their devotion through enchanted excess.
An evening dress by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, 2017-18, at the Met Fifth Avenue.

“Heavenly Bodies” is the largest exhibition ever offered by the Met’s Costume Institute and was organized by its curator, Andrew Bolton. It runs from its dedicated downstairs hall to the Byzantine and medieval galleries and into the Lehman Wing; it then continues at the Cloisters, the museum’s serene home for religious art in Upper Manhattan. Most of the designers here were or are Catholics, including historical figures like Elsa Schiaparelli, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent, and active designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.


The Italian-born Riccardo Tisci’s statuary vestment for the Madonna delle Grazie, 2015. (Original design was by the Poor Benedettine Cassinesi Nuns of Lecce in 1950.)

 Catholic Europe dominates; the United States is represented by Thom Browne (Mr. Bolton’s partner) and Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte; but designers from Latin America, the pope’s old stamping ground, are dismayingly absent.

 An evening ensemble by John Galliano for House of Dior, 2000-2001.

After Mr. Bolton’s rigorous left-brain exercises of the last two years — the excellent, tech-minded “Manus × Machina” in 2016 and the body-questioning retrospective of Rei Kawakubo last year — this show is a return, for better and worse, to the high spectacle of “China: Through the Looking Glass.” It goes heavy on the Catholic drama, with mannequins posed as angels and novitiates, and there’s music throughout. (Playing in the medieval sculpture hall is an intolerable loop of staccato string accompaniment, drawn from a film soundtrack by Michael Nyman, that will make you wish the Costume Institute would take a Cistercian vow of silence.) It also places the clothing amid the Met’s superb collection of Byzantine and medieval art — ivories, tapestries, reliquaries. This intermarriage of religious art and secular fashion feels refreshing in places, silly in some; either way, it’s an event.
“Heavenly Bodies” is, to use a formula Catholics will find familiar, both one show and three. You can begin your approach to this trinity of fashion with the showcase of holy vestments in the basement galleries, or you can start upstairs with the grand secular displays inspired by Catholic hierarchy and ceremony (the weakest third). Then conclude at the most contemplative, and strongest, third — the gowns evoking orders and sacraments at the Cloisters.
 An installation view of the Met’s medieval and Byzantine art wing, including a red silk taffeta dress 
by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino and John Galliano’s evening ensemble for House of Dior.
The exhibition’s presentation of secular clothing begins on either side of the Met’s central staircase, in the hallways devoted to Byzantine art. Five evening dresses from a recent collection of Dolce & Gabbana feature hand-sewn paillettes that cohere into icons of Mary and the saints, based on the mosaics of a Sicilian church. More inspired are Gianni Versace’s diaphanous dresses of gold and silver mesh, a signature material that the designer garlanded with crosses. He presented them for fall 1997: a season he never saw, as he was murdered that summer in Miami.
An evening ensemble, from 2000-1, for the House of Dior by John Galliano.
Versace drew inspiration from the Met’s 1997 blockbuster, “The Glory of Byzantium,” and these clingy sheaths set the stage for an encounter between religious art and clothes for the (rich and thin) laity.
Christian Lacroix wedding ensemble, 2009-10.
In a gallery shaped like a Byzantine apse stands a Gothic haute couture gown by Jean Paul Gaultier — technically stunning but too gaudy to love — that incorporates holographic images of saints and aluminum panels decorated with eyes or hearts, like the ex-votos believers place in shrines. A mask of leather straps and cruciform plastic beads by the Belgian duo A.F. Vandevorst offers a rare dose of fetishism, though it is not half as fierce as the Met’s rosary from 16th-century Germany in the same case, composed of ivory beads half-face, half-skull. 
 An evening dress of black silk cloqué and light blue silk taffeta from Eisa and Balenciaga, 1949.
House of Givenchy, Alexander McQueen evening ensemble, 1999.
A choir of mannequins dressed in choral robes from the 1990s by Cristóbal Balenciaga. Original design, 1964
 A detail of Giovanna Fontana “Il Pretino” dress, 1956-57.

 Christian Lacroix “Gold-Gotha” ensemble and reliquary cross, 1988-89.

 Thom Browne, ensemble, 2011-12, with black mink and white Persian lamb at the Met.

Up here the show's designers, the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, have opted for a consciously operatic display. Spotlights fall on a low-cut gown of red silk, designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino this year, flashing more skin than any cardinal would allow. The hall’s Spanish iron choir screen frames an eye-popping haute couture ensemble by John Galliano for Dior in 2000-1, with a beaded headpiece shaped like a bishop’s mitre. The back is embroidered with a crucifix and the inscription “Dieu est mon maître”: God is my master. (A male model wore this gown in Mr. Galliano’s presentation, though it was designed for clients of either gender.)

Yet those who feared that this exhibition might edge into blasphemy will be relieved to hear that it takes few liberties. Quite the contrary: Mr. Bolton, a Catholic, treats the faith so earnestly that he re-sacralizes the medieval art on display. His approach to the “Catholic imagination” treats the visual splendor of the church as more than just a poor man’s bible, but as a manifestation of God that inheres in all beauty, including fashion. Holy vestments serve in the transubstantiation of wine and bread into blood and body, and in a similar way these secular garments also turn the Met’s medieval collection back into objects of worship.

Anyway, if these designers are sometimes rule breakers, they are not apostates. In fact two gowns here, one by Saint Laurent and the other by Riccardo Tisci, are not for humans at all; they were designed as costumes for statues of the Madonna.
Yves Saint Laurent wedding ensemble, 1977-78, made of materials including ivory silk crepe, Chantilly lace and organza.
A detail of Riccardo Tisci’s statuary vestment for the Madonna delle Grazie, 2015. 
(Original design by the Poor Benedettine Cassinesi Nuns of Lecce in 1950.)
This decision to mimic, rather than analyze, the splendors of the church is highly uncommon for a museum, and bracing in places. One can see why Cardinal Dolan and other ecclesiastical figures have been pleased. The downside is that “Heavenly Bodies” pushes so hard on the senses here that you are forced to leave your art historical tools in the nave. How were these ensembles made? Whom did they influence? Those are questions for tomorrow; for now, let us pray to saints Cristóbal, Jean Paul and Raf.

Such a carnal approach to Catholicism also comes at the cost of critical engagement with the ironies of fashion — above all, with ironies of gender. It seems, almost always, that the transference of the “Catholic imagination” from sacred clothing to secular has to pass through a woman’s body. There is almost no men’s wear in this exhibition; one rare entry is a wool coat by Mr. Simons, inspired by a priest’s soutane. The angels clad in Lanvin and Rodarte inhabiting the final gallery are all women, too. This display may merit a thousand praying-hands emoji on Instagram this summer, but you might ask whether these designers have merely perpetuated the gender discordance of the church in a more colorful key.
Apostolic Elegance
The diplomatic and liturgical coup of “Heavenly Bodies” is the loan of Vatican 
objects: “The Keys of Saint Peter (Keys of Heaven)” given to Leo XIII, 
left, the zimarra and fascia, the zucchetto and shoes of John Paul II (1978-2005) 
in the Vatican section of the Met exhibition.

Mitre of Leo XIII (1878–1903). German cloth of silver embroidered with gold metal thread, 
diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and semiprecious stones, from 1887.
Tiara of Pius IX (1846-78), German and Spanish, 1854. 
Cloth of silver embroidered with gold metal thread, 
gold, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls.
The diplomatic and liturgical coup of “Heavenly Bodies” is in the Anna Wintour Costume Center, which features nearly four dozen articles of clothing and other regalia of recent popes, lent from the Sistine Chapel Sacristy. The church obliged the Met to keep the religious garments separate from the fashion objects, and they wanted a clean display, as the vestments are still in use. Diller Scofidio + Renfro delivered with a design of extreme restraint. Chasubles, mantles and tiaras appear in pristine cases, and entire walls are left white.

A glorious cope, or outer cloak, painstakingly made between 1845 and 1861 and worn by Pius IX, is laid flat like a grand, wearable semicircular tapestry; in its central gold shield is a dynamic nativity scene in embroidered silks of blue, pink and melon. A vision of Adam and Eve’s expulsion sits beneath.

Pius IX seems to have been a bit of a clothes hound, and of the many accessories in a smaller gallery — mitres, crosiers, rings, and a pectoral cross of gold and amethysts that would suit Cher — the most opulent are Pius’s three tiaras, festooned with rubies and sapphires. A German-made tiara here is ringed by three crowns comprising 19,000 stones, mostly diamonds.

These are awe-inspiring, though you need not be Martin Luther to look askance at their opulence. In the show’s catalog, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi writes that while “beauty and art have been the inseparable sisters of faith and Christian liturgy for centuries,” Catholics ought to recall Jesus’s warning, in the Woes of the Pharisees, not to make a show of your dress. No pope has worn a tiara since the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s — unless you count Jude Law as the chain-smoking, archconservative “Young Pope,” who sported one for his terrifying investiture speech.

The Cloisters
Monastic Solitude
John Galliano for Dior. Rubber-coated linen twill at the Met Cloisters.
Viktor & Rolf ensemble, 1999-2000, at the Cloisters.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s “Guadalupe” evening ensemble (2007), at the Cloisters.
 Thom Browne wedding ensemble, 2018, with gold bullion, pearls,
 crystals and white mink, at the Met Cloisters.
Dolce & Gabbana, wedding dress, 2013, made of gold silk
 and metal macramé lace, crystals and silk tulle with gold Lurex.
Where the clothing at Fifth Avenue draws on Catholicism’s rigid hierarchy and public rites, the Cloisters showcases fashion reflecting the quieter side of faith. It’s here you’ll find, in the reconstructed Spanish chapel, the show’s most famous ensemble: Balenciaga’s 1967 wedding gown, made of silk the color of ice milk and topped with an architectonic hood in place of a veil. (The photograph at the top of the article)

Erroneously known as the “one-seam wedding dress,” this extraordinary garment appears to have been immaculately conceived rather than sewn. Here, too, the scenography is hardly subtle; the Balenciaga bride faces the apse as if in prayer, and speakers twitter “Ave Maria.”

But in general Mr. Bolton’s choreographed rendezvous between contemporary clothing and holy art of the past are more rewarding in the Cloisters’ tight confines, where one-to-one encounters come more easily. Precisely arced straw hats by the experimental milliner Philip Treacy appear as a mathematician’s response to the wimples of “The Flying Nun,” and sit in front of Netherlandish reliquary busts of female saints. A long black dress from 1999 by Olivier Theyskens, its bodice incised with a cruciform gap, stands between painted limestone statues of Saints Margaret and Petronilla. Near the garden is an extraordinary couture dress by Ms. Chiuri and Mr. Piccioli for Valentino; its metal-thread embroidery translates Cranach’s Adam and Eve, and its flora and fauna, into splendiferous ornament.

Mr. Bolton has made the unexpected and rewarding decision to place more than a dozen ensembles outdoors, in colonnades that ring the central cloister. Most outfits draw on monastic dress, including Mr. Piccioli’s elegant hooded dress of brown cashmere and Mr. Owens’ notorious (and rather stupid) sportswear robes cut out at the crotch. And there are older pieces, including an evening dress made in 1969 by the French designer known as Madame Grès, whose beige pleats are cinched by a brown knotted belt. Its inspiration is unmistakable: the habit of Zurbarán’s painting of St. Francis of Assisi, the rough brown cloth evoked through Madame Grès’s pilling angora wool.

His namesake gave a speech this September that is worth keeping in mind when you see “Heavenly Bodies,” in which he insisted that what is holy resides not in beauty alone. “I ask for the Church and for you the grace to find the Lord Jesus in the hungry brother, the thirsty, the stranger,” Pope Francis pleaded. And to find it, too, in “the one stripped of clothing and dignity.”
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli’s evening assemble for 
Valentino, 2015-16, in a Romanesque chapel at the Met Cloisters.

All fashion photography: Vincent Tullo, New York Times

“Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” 
Through Oct. 8 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters 

Now, go make something beautiful!

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥

 Highlights from the 2018 Met Gala opening 
of the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibition
 and my personal favorite, complete with a
nativity scene headdress, if you should run into Sarah 
Jessica Parker at the Met Gala Ball, you only have one 
option: bow.