rest in peace lillian bassman


The world lost a great talent today. Photographer Lillian Bassman passed away at the age of 94.

I was so thrilled to have the chance to interview her about 12 years ago. Her work was truly the convergence of art and commerce: Fashion photography to sell and promote garments that seem an afterthought at best and are utterly undistinguishable at times. It's an observation made by National Post writer Nathalie Atkinson, who just reviewed Bassman's latest book, Lillian Bassman Lingerie, in the Saturday paper. It's an observation also made by editors at Harper's Bazaar when Bassman was shooting for the magazine in the '50s and '60s – and the fodder for many disagreements, as she told me. As a longtime magazine editor I considered Bassman's story a cautionary tale. I imagine the editors with advertisers breathing down their long fashionable necks, "Who is this you have photographing my dress. I can't even see it in the photo. How is my customer supposed to recognize it and find it at Saks?" And yet then there is the work – the utterly breathtaking work. Sometimes the art must come first, the commerce will take care of itself.

Bassman's art began with obviously incredible skill communicating with extraordinary models. I don't forget their role. She mastered light to get a shot, but the click of the shutter was far from being the completion of her task. Through darkroom manipulation and, later, Photoshop, Bassman explored every nuance of light, shadow, fabric, shape.

One of the stories Lillian Bassman told me that stuck with me over the years is that the rule of publishing at the time dictated that any model being photographed in lingerie, or any state of undress should have her face partially obscured in the interest of modesty. Look again at these photos. It's fascinating to do so once you know this. I recalled this story reading a post Jane Flanagan did a while back on Faceless photos. They are so dreamy and often a bit sad. And a variation on this idea, I also find Jen Gotch's defaced self portraits haunting.

But back to Lillian Bassman. I leave you with just a few of my favourites from her vast body of work. I just hope someday to own one. Someday.

I turned a version of the one above (notice how the model's neck is extended and chin up in mine) into a silhouette for my former apartment (displayed it with a famous Man Ray portrait of Coco Chanel that also got the silhouette treatment) PS. UGH, I friggin' hate that this was shot with the lamp on - forgive me Lillian Bassman!:

A postcard of this one – the promo for the exhibit which was the occasion for my interview with her – lived on my mantel for a time (notice that the image is flipped for the postcard):

rest in peace Lillian Bassman. Thank you for your art.


current obsession: spin art

There it is on the right -- spin art. I'm mad for this stuff right now. It does seem very childish in a way, so it is quite right for this play room designed by Laura Day. But for me it's just an outright celebration of colour. Pure and simple -- and chic.

The spin art in this home -- the very stylish pad of Jimmy Choo shoe guru Tamara Mellon (from Elle DECOR)-- is by Damien Hirst. He seems to be the only big time artist doing spin art. And he's making a killing selling the stuff. Everything he touches turns to gold. I'm also a fan of his spot paintings -- again, just colour, pure and simple. He's a very controversial figure in art. Many call him a fraud. He's one of those artists who has a factory. In other words, he employs others to make his art. In fact, he has been quoted as saying that his own spot paintings were "fucking shite". He only did 5 of them. The rest are by employees. Hmmm. Don't care and still like them. Though of course I'd never be able to afford one anyway, so the authenticity debate is moot. 

But back to spin art. Here's the principle: pour globs of paint onto a spinning surface and the centrifugal force pushing the paint out to the edges greats the pattern. Neat. Every time it's different. I was searching You Tube and My Space for video of spin art being made and found a collaboration between Damien Hirst and John Cusack. Yes, that's right. Lloyd Dabler aka Martin Blank. That's him on the right below. See all the cups of paint. 

They pour them over the railing onto this:

check out the vid here

Damien also does spin art cars:

And the best best best part about spin art: There's an App for that. Once discovered, I promptly downloaded it to my trusty iPhone and here are some of my own digital masterpieces.



Oh yeah, and apparently you can make spin art with a salad spinner. Check out the how-to at Brassy Apple. Dying to try this.


another great Guinness

After my previous post about Lulu Guinness I got thinking about another Guinness whose work I quite like: Hugo Guinness. I did a bit of digging to find out Hugo's relationship the Lulu's ex Valentine but didn't come up with the answer. Does anyone know? No matter. Hugo and his lovely wife Elliott Puckette are both artists. Their Brooklyn home has been oft photographed and their artwork oft covered editorially. It could very well be that the blogosphere doesn't really need another post but....why not? His work has a graphic childlike quality that I adore. 

What year is it? Aren't Elliott and Hugo a complete throwback? Think: To Catch a Thief.

Two spaces with Hugo Guinness art. Pretty flowers and a bathroom designed by Amanda Nisbet with wall covered.

This tryptich above would be perfect for a home office!



Hugo's work, available at John Derian.

Hugo & Elliott's home in Brooklyn.

Elliott's artwork -- so lovely, no?


art by tiago araujo

This artwork makes me weak in the knees. Love. The artist is Tiago Araujo. Tiago used to work at the lovely Toronto shop Angus & Co., but clearly his talents were not being fully realized at retail (no insult to retailers, since I well know you have your own unique set of talents.). See Tiago's portfolio here. And why not buy a piece?

Watercolour on vintage text...

gold leaf on vintage Japanese garden text...can you believe how pretty?

and finally...a room rendering. I'd like to live here. The little decorating lesson here is that the paint colour of the interior of the front door is just as important as the exterior.