April 30, 2011

happy weekend

Hiking in one of our favorite spots, I'm struck again how the same things can look so different, depending not only on the season or situation, but on how I view it. Here's to looking at things anew – happy weekend - any plans?

April 26, 2011

become someone else

A clever advertising campaign for Mint Vinetu bookstore to inspire people to read the classics. The Lithuanian agency Love explains their approach this way:

When one reads books, he/she starts living it and identifies (or not) with main hero. These print ads for the Mint Vinetu bookstore, which sells lots of classics, focuses on the idea of becoming someone else. And provokes people to try on different personas.

from here via here

April 24, 2011

beauty is what you make it

How lovely is this? Fabric installations by Juliana Santacruz look like brilliantly colored lichens that grew in the cracks & potholes of the city streets of Paris. Quite the beautiful approach to public works.

via here

the streets of new york

Our week's+ holiday found us in two of my favorite North American cities: Montréal & New York. On our way to Manhattan we stopped off in the lovely little town of Beacon, located along the Hudson River & home to a branch of the Dia Art Foundation, which houses an excellent collection of contemporary art in an old Nabisco box printing facility that was built in 1929.


After exploring the museum & grounds, we hopped the train to New York, & landed in Grand Central Station. I hadn't been to New York in a bit, so during our peregrinations about the city (10+ miles one day!) I didn't shoot many photos, but preferred to take it all in in a larger scope, as opposed to the tiny box of my camera's viewfinder. It was invigorating to see bicycles whizzing along the bike lanes, & tulips, dogwoods, magnolias & cherry blossoms exploding everywhere after cold & blustery days up North.

As someone who considers themselves both a city-dweller & rural-enthusiast, balancing the desire for both worlds can be a dance. Prior to Vermont, we'd both lived in cities, & our getaways usually involved going into the wilderness or countryside for a hit of nature & the bucolic. Now that we live in a beautiful small town in the heart of New England, we find ourselves making regular excursions to cities. We've resolved to make it down this way more often, since nothing quite quenches the thirst for the city like New York.

April 23, 2011

happy weekend

Chilly weather with spring blossoms & good food + attitude changing & mind opening experiences = the recipe for a great weekend. 

Do a little something out of the ordinary this weekend, be it taking a walk somewhere you've never been or haven't gone in a while, listening to a new album, cooking a new recipe... a little spring renewal for the senses!

April 21, 2011

holy chuao

Coming home from Montréal without first making a stop at St-Viateur bagels (or two or three) & my favorite chocolate shops would be unthinkable. We have been following Chocolats Geneviéve Grandbois for several years now, a small artisanal chocolatier located in the Mile End neighborhood who specializes in filled chocolates with simple, elegant & well thought out flavored ganaches.

the artiste, immersed in her medium
photo by Stéphane Najman
Both the presentation & flavor are superb; Grandbois uses molds & design transfers to create bonbons that are as beautiful as they are delicious. The mold approach works well in other ways, too, in that each piece is a consistent size, the centers are enrobed in a perfect thickness of well-tempered chocolate that has a wonderful snap as you bite into it & the ratio of couverture to the fillings is a good balance so you can really taste the chocolates used in both the coatings & ganaches.

Grandbois packages her chocolates in chic, reusable tins, of which I have collected, ahem, a few over the years. I brought back 3 this time to refill, starting with some of our tried & true favorites from her Les Classiques collection, a group of 8 flavors she consistently offers along with a ninth choice that changes regularly according to the chocolatier's whims.

Grandbois has in recent years started exploring single-source chocolates from the most revered Criollo-growing regions in South & Central America, as well as single-source beans from African plantations. Last time we were in town we sampled four different offerings from Cuba, Madagascar, Venezuela & Peru, each morsel offering up an intense & varied taste experience with her expertly-made pure ganaches. This time, much to my joy, she offered a suite of four chocolates all made with the legendary Chuao beans from Venezuela, purportedly the finest in the world, a distinction I would not dispute. In a word, they were fantastic. My favorite was the pure ganache, where the deep coffee & almond notes swam around happily on my tongue, with a punch of ripe banana somewhere in the middle. The other flavors she chose to pair with the prized chocolate (white truffle oil, Monte Cristo cigar leaves, aged balsamic vinegar) all did a good job of bringing out different notes & deepening the experience.

We tasted these chocolates first, & then went on to enjoy some of our favorites from the Classiques collection (gianduja, maple syrup, saffron, olive oil), & while they are excellent, when put up against the Chuao Collection tasted less complex & very sweet.

I think Geneviéve Grandbois is a most thoughtful & skilled chocolatier, & definitely worth exploring. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

April 20, 2011

for the birds

We started our Sunday with a hearty brunch at the charming Sparrow (Le Moineau) in the Mile End. It being Spring, they had a special Sugar Shack prix fixe menu which was delicious, right down to the Maple Syrup on snow served for dessert.

Unicorn --> Lola & Emily

Riding the wave of Spring fever that has gripped the city, regardless of the brisk temperatures & chilly winds, I went into one of my favorite Mile End shops, Unicorn, which stocks a fantastic array of stylish & beautifully made women's clothing, mostly by Canadian designers.

These ladies have a great eye, the well-curated racks stocked with smart & casually sophisticated designs. Neutral-colored & textured fabrics in classic & contemporary cuts caught my eye, with silky draped tops & a rack of striped tees that look like something out of a modern version of an Anna Karina film. I could have gladly re-vamped my wardrobe in one fell swoop with tops & dresses by Covet, Dace, Josiane Perron, Mélissa Nepton, Eve Gravel & Lifetime. The accessories are inventive & funky, my favorite pieces hand-crafted by jewelry designers Tamé, La Raffinerie & LaLaYeah. The Unicorn blog is kept up-to-date with their latest finds & offerings, if you need any temptation.

Further on down St. Laurent in the Plateau is Lola & Emily, another favorite stop of mine. Here the palette was more saturated & the patterns more floral & spring-fresh, housed in vintage cottage-style decor. I fancy the lovely frocks & tops by Designers Remix, the luxe line by Velvet's cofounders Graham & Spencer, Parker, Filippa K & Toronto's Mercy. Now we just need the weather to go with!

Alas, my shopping spree will have to wait until sometime in the future, until I get my own business ventures up & running. But, when I make my fortunes, I'll know where to go to outfit my wardrobe, regardless of the season.

moving pictures

While in Montréal, we always set aside a chunk of time to spend at the contemporary art museum, which, after a decade of visits, has never disappointed. This time around we were in the city while the exhibitions were being changed, leaving just one exhibit to view for one last week, a collection of films & installations by Albanian artist Anri Sala.

I remembered seeing a photograph by Sala on the cover of FlashArt years ago, a graceful yet perplexing shot of what appeared to be a live horse with a flowing mane & tail set on top of a steel pedestal in the middle of a stark cement roof-top courtyard. Although finding itself in a very unnatural & what one would imagine uncomfortable situation, the horse does not appear to be panicked or in pain, but looks listlessly out somewhere stage-left, as if quietly pondering its situation.

Besides bringing to mind the obvious questions as to how Sala staged such a piece & wondering what the horse is feeling, one also is struck by the accepted notions of what makes something art, in this case displaying a living creature on a pedestal in the fashion of a sculpture or object. The improbability of a horse on top of a city building is surprising & incongruous, as though a living element was incorporated into the city's architecture.

no barragan no cry by Anri Sala

Sala seems very interested in the intersection of culture, progress & nature. Another incredibly moving piece involving a horse, entitled Time after Timeshows the emaciated creature standing on a highway in a city, seemingly trapped against a road barrier. The camera pulls slowly in & out of focus as traffic speeds by & the horse raises one leg in a feeble attempt to react. It's as though the neglected beast is not recognized as a living being, rendered obsolete by the motorized vehicles that have replaced it.The utterly hopeless feeling as the starving creature stands immobilized, while no one stops to help it & the camera remains in place, is absolutely wrenching. 

still from Time after Time by Anri Sala

While moving house as a film student in the 90s, shortly after the fall of the Communist regime, Sala came across an old film reel of his mother giving a speech & interview as a leader of Albania's Communist Youth Alliance. The film did not contain a soundtrack, so the meaning of the speech & interview were lost. Intervista is a documentary by the young Sala as he interviews his Mother, the sound recorder who was present at the filming & some elder Communist leaders who had been imprisoned by Hoxha in an attempt to recover the content of the film, but the sound is not to be found & neither can remember any specifics.

still from Intervista by Anri Sala

Sala finally brings the film to a school for the deaf, where a woman helps him transcribe his mother's speech by reading her lips. The utter disbelief & subsequent disgust his mother feels when she sees her younger self speaking in a scripted & unnatural way about her youthful political ideals & beliefs is moving, & leads to more in-depth thought about memory, political & humanistic ideals, personal expression, patriotism & family.

Still from Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc & Sala's Intervista, respectively
When Sala's camera frames his mother's face in a close-up, I was reminded of Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, when Falconetti's beautiful & expressive face is captured pondering & ultimately refusing to recant her views before her accusers, knowing it means she will be burned at stake. Sala's mother likewise does not recant, but expresses her youthful hope & ideologies to her son, an interested & empathetic questioner, while trying to recall & explain them to herself.

Give me the colors, a film narrated by the mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, wends through the streets of the battle-torn city as people paint the façades of delapidated high-rise buildings bright colors & go about their daily lives. Surreally brilliant & enterprising, Rama's social experiment, Return to Identity, straddles the area between hope & abject desperation, as he strives to realize Tirana as a city where people are not doomed to live by fate, but as a place where people would choose to live . "What are the colors doing to us?" he asks, as we see people navigating the makeshift bridges that span torn up streets & abandoned cars.

I don't think the colors have practical, historical or cultural significance for Albanians, like the Swedish Falu red or Greek lime whitewash, but rather were chosen by Rama, who is also an artist, for their psychological possibilities. Transforming the drab, grey Soviet buildings that sprang up around the city into a large canvas, it was a civic project that got Tiranian citizens involved in re-vitalizing & re-claiming their city.

These are personal musings on just a few of the works that were on display; I think we spent as much time taking in this one exhibition as we have when the whole museum has been open. This was Sala's first major exhibition in North America, & while far-reaching & very well done, represents just a small portion of his works. One can only hope it is just the beginning of more to come.

April 19, 2011

l'art de rue part deux


Graffiti, murals & paste-up art from the Plateau, Mile End & Downtown/Westmount neighborhoods of Montréal.

I especially loved the little chalked "Listen" bird, since part of our mission was to record sounds of the city as we walked along. Écoutez...

April 18, 2011

this is beautiful

Bizness by the fierce & glorious Merril Garbus of tUnE-yArDs makes my head spin.
Just got back into town to find out that while we were gone, there was a devastating fire in a beautiful historic building on our Main Street, & many people & businesses have lost everything. Thankfully no one was hurt. Sending strength, beauty & love to my fellow citizens, via a native daughter who once hailed from Montréal.

April 14, 2011

happy weekend

These past couple of weeks have been an exercise in letting go of the old, & grabbing on to the new. This weekend I'm re-grouping & allowing myself a little celebrating, rest & relaxation with my love, as plans & ideas continue to solidify...  I'll be back in full blogging-force next week. Cheers – & thank you for all of the support & inspiration!