Ebony Fashion Fair
In 1958, Eunice Johnson, wife of the publisher of Ebony Magazine, organized the first Ebony Fashion Fair. For 50 years, this show brought couture to cities all across the U.S. Unlike the expressionless look-alike teenagers who stomp down so many runways today, Mrs. Johnson's vision was positively revolutionary. Gorgeous models of every skin shade from pale latte to deepest chocolate glided, shimmied, slinked or danced down the runway, highlighting the character of each outfit with glamour and joy. Eventually, Mrs. Johnson began choosing models in a wider range of sizes to more accurately reflect American womenhood. This Todd Oldham gown from the 1997/98 show was worn by one of those models. Acknowledging our wondrous variety of skin colors and body types is something that the fashion industry still so often either forgets to consider or chooses to ignore. They could learn a thing or two from Mrs. Johnson. "Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair" is currently on display at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC.
Crucifixion Fresco, Church of San Maurizio, Milan
Most of the frescos in San Maurizio were painted by Bernardino Luini, who was a contemporary and admirer of Leonardo Da Vinci. Saint Apollonia and Saint Lucy stand in the Hall of Nuns, below a lunette with Christ bearing his cross. It’s easy to imagine the nuns contemplating the glowing colors of Luini's frescos as they sang and prayed. Part of a Roman-era wall still remains at one end of the church, where there is now a museum. How fitting that such a wall remains on this site. St. Maurizio was a Roman soldier who persecuted Christians but eventually converted to Christianity. He spent the rest of his life trying to stop the persecution of his fellow Christians.
In the Mid-Atlantic, the blossoming of the redbuds are as much of a signifier of spring as are the more beloved Japanese cherries. Redbuds are in some ways like licorice. Either you love them or hate them. Some consider their magenta-pink blooms to be a particularly odious color. It's true that this color is especially unattractive with the red brick homes that are a fixture around here. Like the cherries, older redbuds develop clusters of blooms on the trunk as well as the branches, making the tree look as if it is wearing a pompom-bedecked clown costume. Our ancestors valued the redbud for other reasons, adding the blossoms to salads or pickled relishes and using the inner bark to make a yellow dye. So whether you enjoy or dislike them, a redbud is capable of making itself useful.
Toast and Coffee, London
Last week's photo reminded me of another time I that I saw a sign listing toast. Along the Marylebone High Street there is a purveyor of jams, jellies, pickles and mustards. I think it is interesting that tea plays second fiddle to the arc of lettering, like a rising sun, offering toast and coffee. Judging by the plethora of jams lined up in the window, the most difficult decision of the day might be choosing what to spread on that toast when it arrived.
Cafe Sign, Assisi
In ancient cities, old and new must exist together. Something about this sign made me take a photo of it. At the time, I was immersed in Assisi's feeling of age and history, the narrow stony streets and buildings, the relentless uphill and downhill of the town. The black on yellow boldness of the sign seemed too modern, but I was also taken by how it tried to cover all the bases, offering every possible refreshment one could want. Although it is a simple sign in a simple font, its incongruity made me notice and appreciate it for its pure graphic sensibility.
Our early spring has been interrupted by snow and a few more days of bitter cold. But the signs are all around us that we are already trading winter's grays and browns for green. Even the evergreens will join in the springtime renewal. My neighbors drooping branches sprout new growth, adding fresh shades of green. First almost florescently bright, it settles down to a nice spring green. Eventually the new needles look just like the old ones. During a week when Bostonians are dyeing their river green and people are drinking green beer, I'm looking forward to the all-natural greens.
Weeping Cherries, Oak Hill Cemetery
Weeping Cherries, Oak Hill Cemetery
On an early spring morning, Oak Hill Cemetery is an inviting place for a walk. Laid out in the mid-1800s, Oak Hill is an example of the garden-style cemetery that was so popular in Victorian times. It's easy to imagine families strolling along the paths or sitting for a while on a grassy slope, admiring the view. On this day, the light filters through a curtain of blossom-laden weeping cherry branches. The petals fall on a row of family headstones. The smallest one marks the resting place of a baby. Our lives are finite but spring continues to make an appearance, full of sunlight, hope and beauty.