Sunday, April 30, 2017

Inside the Lilac Circle

Dumbarton Oaks is a glorious place in the spring. It's easy to trick yourself into believing that you are in England, instead of just a few miles from the White House. At the moment, the flowers growing inside the Lilac Circle are a lovely mix of blues, purples and pinky-violets. Yellow pansies make all those flowers from the  cool side of the color wheel sparkle. It's a good example of why pairing complementary colors works so well. Of course, it always helps to have a beautiful stone wall to set off the phlox, forget-me-nots and scillas.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

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.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Flowering Redbud

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.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

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.