Strasbourg Christmas, an Augmented Reality

Strasbourgers in the Alsace region of France claim that they are the “Christmas Capital” of Europe so as a good muslim I went there to check.

 

strasbourg christmas ornaments michele roohani

Well, they keep saying it everywhere:

 

strasbourg capitale de noel michele roohani

It was a very cold day but thousands of poeple were swarming the streets of this beautiful Alsatian city:

 

strasbourg christmas street michele roohani

walking up and down narrow streets,

 

strasbourg streets christmas 2009 michele roohani

They have no pity for their babies fighting the cold,

 

strasbourg christmas cold baby michele roohani

maybe because they drink this mulled wine called “Vin Chaud” (hot wine) or “Gluehwein” (in german): a concoction usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. They sell it in every other stand on the big Christmas market in Strasbourg:

 

strasbourg christmas vin chaud gluewein michele roohani

I saw my first chocolate covered “strawberry  kababs”:

 

strawberry kabab chocolate michele roohani

Strasbourg is home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe:

 

strasbourg cathedral blue sky michele roohani

where Jesus’ birth will be celebrated this year with pomp and thousands of little ornaments made in Alsace (read China):

 

strasburg marche de noel ornaments micheleroohani

 

The market is not close to the big church but right at its feet with Santa Claus himself selling some of the stuff:

 

strasbourg christmas ornaments santa seller michele roohani

Here is Alsace in all its glory (albeit in miniature):

 

strasbourg christmas alsace miniature homes michele roohani

and colors,

 

strasbourg christmas candles michele roohani

with little chefs baking for the big birthday (Jesus’, remember?)

 

strasbourg christmas ornaments chefs michele roohani

and big chefs of course making macaroons:

 

strasbourg christmas macaroon baker michele roohani

but for people with a weakness for great pastry I have a better treat:

 

strasbourg christmas buche christian patisserie michele roohani

The above are Christmas Buches but Christian Patisserie—that I discovered a couple of years ago on my first trip to Alsace—is known for its chocolate:

 

strasbourg christmas chocolate cakes christian patisserie michele roohani

and anything related to it:

 

strasbourg christmas chocolate christian patisserie michele roohani

Chocolate not being on my repertoire much, I opted for the fabulous chestnut cream “Mont Blanc”:

 

michele roohani strasbourg mont blanc christian patisserie

I went to the cathedral where a thousand Santas were busy clicking away on their cameras,

 

michele roohani strasbourg cathedral santa taking picture

and a thousand candles promised to fulfill wishes…

 

strasbourg cathedral candles micheleroohani

By the end of the day, I was one of the few without a red hat,

 

santa hats michele roohani

Alsace’s emblem is a stork—you see them everywhere:

 

 

strasbourg storks michele roohani

I couldn’t resist buying my first real mistletoe:

 

mistletoe michele roohani

and looking at the holly,

 

christmas holly michele roohani

I went to see the Fine Arts Museum:

 

fine arts museum strasbourg waiting benches michele roohani

where I revisited “the beautiful woman from Strasbourg”:

 

belle strasbourgeoise largilliere fine arts museum michele roohani

and the fabulous dutch still life paintings and my favorite Kessel insects of course:

 

insects and spider kessel michele roohani fine arts museum

By the time I got out it was getting dark but the market was still hustling and bustling,

 

michele roohani strasbourg cathedral night christmas

This whole trip almost made me forget Copenhagen’s climate summit, the American Health Bill disaster and the Swiss minarets…

Have a golden Christmas everybody!

bernardo daddi saint agnes christmas 2009 card michele roohani

I met some beautiful women at Paris Photo

My friend Anahita Ghabaian, the owner of  Silk Road Galleryinvited  me to go and see her great photo collection at the Grand Palais. I went and discovered the most beautiful women of the world! I didn’t know many of the newcomers to the scene like Paolo Roversi:

The above photo reminds me of my friend, Maureen.

I liked his other-worldly portraits where even the nudes were not in your face!

A jewel of a photo for me was Brancusi’s Eileen on the bench of his studio; I have appreciated his sculptures for ever and his “sleeping muse” kept me company for years.

The highlight for me was the Silk Gallery’s Persian Women; I met the super talented Shadi Ghadirian with her new collection of Miss Butterfly (Shahparak khanom):

A graceful and delicate butterfly/woman gets trapped in the web of a spider…


I knew her for her “Ghajar” and “Like Everyday” collections:

The late Bahman Jalali’s “image of imagination” was watching me quietly from the wall:

Iranian photographers’ works are regularly presented to museums and other institutions everywhere thanks to the Silk Road Gallery ; I like Rana Javadi’s Termeh clad woman:

There was a gorgeous sun setting on Grand Palais that made everything glow in the golden hour; perfect for taking pictures!

After Iran I went to Africa starting from Egypt and Youssef Nabil’s taunting girls:

then to Morocco and Lalla Essaydi’s “I want to be Shirin Neshat when I grow up” image; there is something about the written text that fascinates me:

The great surprise were the other Africans like this beautiful portrait, by Soungalo Malé, of this girl in her sunday suit in 1960; she looks at you with modesty but elegance:

I fell in love with this vintage photo of Ian Berry’s African Collection; a small print that made me smile:

The energy of the place made me forget my aching feet so I plowed on…

I was happy to see Sissi Farassat’s  Andrea, swimming in a sea of sequins:

I love fashion photography and I wasn’t disappointed! Cathleen Naundorf’s Dior 2007 collection made me want to color it pink:

Kate Moss was omnipresent but I liked Annie Leibovitz’s protrait of hers (bellow); she is best friends with the camera and many of her portraits were shouting from multiple galleries!

I saw Leibovitz’s pilgrimage photos too and I loved them all; here is the one I like to include here with all its majesty:

On the other end of the spectrum was Chris Bucklow‘s a thousand points of light that reminded me of Castaneda’s Don Genaro!

I like big cities and skyscrapers so I easily connected with Gail Albert Halaban’s  “Dance studio” from her Out my window NY city collection. Put that on your wall and the whole world changes…

The sun was shining when I went in the Grand Palais,

and I came out when it was growing dark; the site of the Petit Palais in the Parisian “blue hour” was indeed majestic:

Visit the  Silk Road Gallery  here

A spatial odyssey in Paris

I absolutely adore the work of Tapio Wirkkala, the Finnish glass designer I discovered a couple of weeks ago. Glass may be great as a medium but in the hands of this artist, it becomes magical…

We’ve all seen  some of his designs like the Finlandia vodka bottles but he’s a poet when his work comes done to a less commercial level. I had a great time in the Decoratif Arts museum of Paris.

I had the advantage of a great view to Paris — check the Eiffel tower’s reflection in Wirkkala’s five Murano glass bottles’ window:

There were some funny glass (and wood) sculptures like Richard Meitner’s fish:

I was pleasantly surprised by the Czech artist, Libuše Niklová (1934–1981), a famous toy designer. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Niklová created toys like the inflatable animals and dolls (I had one clone of it in Tehran with a little bell in it!)

“She had the brilliant idea of using flexible pleated piping that squeals when pressed. The result was her “accordion” toys: a cat, dog, goat and lion that can be taken apart and reassembled like a construction game.”

Check out her toys links at the end of the post; you’ll have fun.

As long as I was with the funny stuff, Snoopy always makes me smile:

His creator, Charles Schulz, famously said:

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement.”

I saw one of the first huge ad posters for The laughing cow or “La Vache Qui Rit” cheese:

The permanent collection of this museum has a rich array of chairs:

from Mies van der Rohe‘s Barcelona chair to Ron Arad’s folding one:

Olivier Mourgue designed his well-known classic Djinn chairs (1965) made famous by ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick created a futuristic rotating Hilton hotel in Space. In it, the Djinn chairs received their lasting moment of fame. Olivier Mourgue named the chairs ‘Djinn” which in Muslim legend, is a spirit often capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people (Genie in English):

Do you remember the beautiful scene of the Hilton Lobby in Space Odyssey?

I should stop before I make this post about Kubrick!

I also liked this statue of wood and nails by Janine Janet, made for a window of Balenciaga in Paris in 1959; It’s called the queen:

One of the best things about this underrated museum is its breathtaking views of Paris; I kept running from one window to the next!

I took all of these pictures with my android phone and this is the proof:

Last but not least, my favorite view from the building is this one looking down at Place des Pyamides:

the museum’s site here.

the cute toys here.

 

Tapio Wirkkala here. 

 

 

Ralph Lauren’s Mighty Jaguars to blazing Ferraris

Museum of Decoratif Arts in Paris showcases Ralph Lauren car collection where not only you can see these gorgeous cars, but you can listen to these babies engines growl (his site does a great job at that too). I am not crazy about Ferraris but his 250 Testa Rossa (red head) was a dream in red…

I  loved the Jaguars: they made the XKD to race; it has a graceful rear with a surprising fin! It was the most successful racing car of its generation. It became so successful (three consecutive victories in Le Mans 24 hour race) that Jaguar made a road version a few years later: the beautiful XKSS:

My absolute favorite was of course the magnificent Atlantic Bugatti, a masterpiece in speed and luxury made in 1938.

Ralph Lauren cars here.

my other post about fast cars here  and here.

Hellooooooo Paris!

I am finally in Paris—to stay. Looking for a job and an apartment and so happy that even the gray rainy days don’t make me homesick for my sunny California (yet)!

Everything looks kind of rosy in the Luxembourg Garden:

I am going to take you on a short promenade in Paris: in the morning you have a quick coffee in your hotel room,

If you are lucky you can see the Etoile with almost no traffic:

but if you are really lucky you will catch some new version of the Beatles crossing the streets:

and then you buy your metro ticket (and maybe cigarettes if you are one of my girlfriends),

from here:

and head down to your favorite café in Saint Germain,

or any other nondescript one like this one,

and watch people (something I am not very good at—coming from the U.S. where staring at others is considered a major faux pas):

and more people,

or watch them watch you!

Of course in Paris, everyone is a philosopher and you better get used to it:

and most waiters are annoying!

I personally prefer watching the iconic Parisian rooftops than people:

and temporary exhibitions like the one below:

Next, I will drag you to see the eternal Bonaparte (or Malaparte according to the rest of Europe!)

After lunch, you feed the little sparrows in Place des Vosges,

or see Quasimodo feed them in front of the majestic Notre Dame cathedral:

You may want to see the stage makers in the old Paris Opera house:

and hear me curse Chagall for the nth time for having defaced the original ceiling!

we can go see Dali and ask him why his Venus has open drawers…

From the Montparnasse tower you can see most of the landmarks:

I love this view with the Luxembourg garden as a blob of green in the middle of my photo:

And when you are dead tired you go back home but not before admiring the beautiful bridges of the city of light:

you buy some bread (low carb dieters beware) because that’s all you can afford if you buy anything else in Paris!

A glass of wine and a piece of cheese will be all you need,

you may admire the blue hour from your window:

you may  read a little bit,

then you go to sleep and dream about great stuff…

and wake up to an early deserted Trocadéro:

and watch the rainy morning start in front of a bitter espresso in a very small cup:

and wonder about what the hell you are doing away from the sunny California and your friends and Cyrus,

and the good old  Santa Monica…

but then you remember that you wanted to do that all your life and you better do your best to be happy in the land of Molière!

Madonna, Madonna, Madonna

I love the statues of Madonna and Child and I have a great collection of pictures from the Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC):

They range from around 1250 through 1600 AD and are made of polychrome wood.

This one is by Jeronimo Hernandez de Estrada from 1600:

Even non-Christians can’t pass these beautiful Madonnas without feeling the warmth of a mother’s tender embrace…

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Giant Barbie Dolls and fetish boots

I loved the LACMA exhibition, Fashioning Fashion, which tells the story of fashion’s aesthetic and technical development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I in Europe. I had the feeling of being in a toy store that sells giant Barbies!

I couldn’t help adding the masks (above) or the Barbie to the boxes! The mannequins are life size.

The show’s byline is European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915, and they go to great length to show that you had to wear this underneath:

to be able to wear this on top! By 1750’s, the hoop petticoat or Panier (french for basket) measured up to 6 feet to display wide skirts made of expensive textiles like this one with this fabulous chinoiserie:

A hundred years later, the skirt is bell shaped and crinoline supported; Scarlett O’Hara, here I come!

“This exhibition examines sweeping changes in fashionable dress spanning a period of over two hundred years, and evolutions in luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings.” The LACMA show highlights how each era emphasized a different part of the anatomy.

You had to endure these auxiliary bustles (the hinged-wire one in the middle is collapsible):

to be able to go around in these:

How far would you endure to please? Things kept getting more complicated (skirts with folds upon folds and trims galore) with the invention of the sewing machine and the evolution of corset and bustle:

The variety of textile was a feast for the eye—warp-resist dyed silk, taffetas of infinite plaid patterns, embroideries, moirés, etc…

Just look at the tassels on the “horizontal shelf” bustle on this baby!

I was surprised to see the a pair of fetish boots (Belgium 1900) that would take forever to tie and untie and open drawers! Judging from his paintings of the brothels, Toulouse Lautrec must have known these with details…

Even the non-X rated ones are super sexy; the corset on the left is made of whale bones or baleen and the one on the right is decorated with gorgeous metallic-tread embroideries:

In mid 18th century Europe, a great collaboration among the weavers, the braid makers and the fabric dealers produced these dazzling masterpieces of fly fringes and tassels:

The french revolution brought the neoclassical style of ancient Greece and Rome—Napoleon changed it to the Empire Style: thin white muslin dresses with short sleeves, high waistline and low neckline. Shawls from India were the perfect match to add color and warmth:

Bling Bling Bling! The gold and silver embroidery was omnipresent in European courts—the more the merrier…

By the end of the 19th century, women liberated themselves from all this hassle; this riding habit from 1890 is made by a tailor (for men) instead of a dressmaker, the Tea Gown being inspired by traditional Asian garments is free flowing—their makers, Liberty & Co., are still in existence in London.

Look at these cute bonnets;  the beadwork makes you dizzy!

If I had to chose one item from the entire collection, it would be this beautiful silk jacket (and maybe not the skirt!)

That’s all folks; next time we’ll visit Ken’s wardrobe!

Visit LACMA’s FASHIONING fashion exhibition here

London’s Design Museum’s Drawing Fashion here

René Burri, one degree of separation between me and Che Guevara

I met one of my favorite photographers, René Burri, last week! A few years ago, I fell in love with this beautiful image of Brazil I discovered on Burri’s great photography book:

In 1963 while working in Cuba, he made portraits of a young Che Guevara:

I went to see Burri exposing his Vintage elegant shots of the polymath architect/urbanist, Le Corbusier:

The photographer has managed to catch the architect in his creative modes/moods:

I found out that often times, Le Corbusier didn’t even notice Burri taking his picture:

I particularly like this one:

Burri was present at La Tourette monastery with Le Corbusier and he recorded some very interesting images of the monks surrounding the architect in 1959:

I love this monk (with the hat) listening in the conversation below:

Artist and photo-reporter in one, Burri, started to shadow Le Corbusier while still a student—he became the visual chronicler and personal photographer of the architect:

The whole exhibition was a glimpse into the creative life of Le Corbusier (not being among my favorite architects, I was never particularly curious about him); I learned much about his work thanks to Burri.

The master was present to kindly sign books,

and learning that I am Iranian, he tried to add another word to his autograph: cheilechoub (ch in Swiss German sounds like kh) or “very good” in Persian:

Check out some of Burri’s work here.

To see the breadth of his work (eye) visit Magnum’s site here.

To see an interesting view about Che Guevara go here.

Paper, Paper, Paper: a sartorial tour de force

I saw this fascinating exhibition the other day in Bellerive Museum, Paper Fashion:

I love paper and have worked with it for years so it was very interesting to see clothes made entirely of paper by young virtuosos and well known designers:

Stephen Hann recycles couture in his “comic fan” creation below:

This jacket took newspapers to another dimension:

This is PAPER people!

In an ad from 1960s, the International Paper Company is asking how long will the paper bikinis last…

Fancypants anyone?

Paper clothes were used for PR purposes, to spread news, or to promote politicians and their campaign. Here you see Nixon’s and  Eugene McCarthy:

Robert Kennedy and Romney (the father of the 2009 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney):

“In 1966, Scott Paper Company invented the paper dress, intended as a marketing and publicity tool. For one dollar, women could buy the dress and also receive coupons for Scott paper products.”

A brief fad for paper dresses swept through America from 1966 to 1969. The ultimate gift to the lazy, adventurous youth!

There is a 40 year difference between the dress on the left (in blue) and the one made for the exhibition (in orange):

I was blown away by these intricately cut and folded hairpieces for Chanel by Japanese hair stylist Katsuya Kamo. He used 2 packs of plain white 11×17 copier paper!

Another creative genius of the show was Jum Nakao, the Brazilian Japanese designer. His “Sewing the Invisible” show was on the display and I couldn’t take my eyes off the monitor! I spent a long time on his great site. It is a spellbinding collection of paper Haute Couture:

Just noticed that both above wizards are Japanese: Master Origami makers!

Here is a little explanation for the word sartorial; let’s see if you can guess who is the sartorial queen of all times to me from the picture below:

That’s all folks!  See Isabelle de Borchgrave’s magnificent creations here.

Take a look at Jum Nakao’s defilé here.

Chanel’s fabulous whites here.

 

To see a way better alternative to paper go here.

Meeting Edward Hopper, the quiet American in Lausanne

I knew Hopper before I met him again in Lausanne a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to say hello to him again. He had some new things to show me.

I’ve known his beautiful but quiet women:

Silence is ubiquitous in his paintings even when there are many people present—it’s almost as if you have surprised these two ladies having dinner at “Chop Suey” restaurant (1927).  You always feel that Hopper is on the verge of saying something, but he hardly does.

As John Updike observes, “we are always eavesdropping on that wonderful Hopper silence.”

Just twenty years before the above paintings, Hopper painted his women like this (I had fun playing with these little water paintings):

After visiting Paris in 1906, “protected from the slow ravages of compromise—either with public taste or with his own immaturity—he developed his style invisibly along with his character”. Look at his men—I love the look of the dandy:

People at the theater, listening intently:

Hopper was fascinated by the city at night, solitude, and silence; this is where he shines the most: a scene of a roman noir of the 1930’s…

I loved the studies for his most famous painting, the Nighthawks; you are almost waiting for Humphrey Bogart to turn around and say something to you:

Voilà! The quintessential Hopper: “he stares with sober passion at the most ordinary things about the U.S.”

I have great memories of  New York diners of the 1980’s (when I used to take English classes in Manhattan); they conjure up my first impressions of United States. The NY Times article Ajay is pointing to in his comment is an amusing end to the puzzle of Hopper’s DINER. Hopper, famous for his reticence (“If you could say it in words,” he says, “there’d be no reason to paint”) created the Diner in his imagination!

Let’s just go back to his women again. They bathe in liquid light: this movie usher below (1939), waits in her own little world, oblivious to the sound of the film being played next door in the theater.

He painted nudes too—he always used his wife, Josephine as the model;  I like this one best where you can’t see her face:

His paintings are not overloaded with details and information but the essential message is well expressed. The painting below is one of my favorites; Mitra and I stopped in front of it for a few minutes wondering about the simple elegance of this image:

Say hello to Edward Hopper, a silent witness to an American century—he painted during 60 years of his 84 years on earth!

To me, Hopper excels when depicting women—look at this beautiful woman in south Carolina. You can almost hear Duke Ellington’s Chloé…

I waited that morning for Hopper in Lausanne’s Hotel Beau Rivage where you can only afford to have a coffee.

I went to Fondation de l’Hermitage to see Monsieur Hopper and the rest is History…

After the exhibition a stop at l’Esquisse, the little café of the museum, rich with climbing roses.

Hopper’s quiet canvases are well appreciated in these times of constant chatter and chaos; I wonder how he would have painted a rose…

I may see Mister Hopper again in Paris in the near future in Grand Palais from June 10th 2012 through January 28th 2013.