The other night I had the evening to myself and was searching various streaming services for something to watch. On HBO I found the Robert Mapplethorpe documentary, “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures.”
It caught my attention because a fellow photographer had recommended it to me just the day before. I was also interested in it because I had recently learned in a New York Times article that his brother Edward was also a photographer and I heard that Edward appeared throughout the documentary.
If you’re aware of Robert’s work, you might feel some apprehension in watching the film. If you’re not, I will offer the caveat that there is a lot of imagery that is NSFW. To put it mildly, Mapplethorpe explored a lot of taboos in his work.
I was expecting the documentary to talk about those taboos and the body of work that is known as the X Portfolio. It did, but it’s really a biography of Mapplethorpe’s whole life, starting with his Catholic upbringing in Queens and ending a year after his death at the age of 42 when his work faced protest and censorship in the famous case of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center being charged with obscenity after hosting an exhibition of his photographs.
In the years between, he went to Pratt, he dated Patti Smith, he lived in the Chelsea hotel, he was a regular at Max’s Kansas City, and he built a huge archive of incredible photographs. I hadn’t known all those things and I was really impressed by the range of images he produced that I had never been aware of. Some of them are achingly beautiful.
The documentary does a great job of not sensationalizing the more sensational aspects of Mapplethorpe’s story, and the through-line that brings us into the present day is the preparation being made by curators at the Getty and at LACMA during the course of filming. Simultaneous exhibitions are on at both institutions through July 31, 2016. If I were in California, I would make sure to get to both museums. Since it seems like I won’t get to do that, I’ll have to be satisfied to perhaps rewatch the doc…or just look at the pictures (online).
Every time I need a little beauty, a little celebration of women, a little taste of the world, a little style inspiration I turn to Garance Doré’s lifestyle blog. Not only does she (along with her team) introduce readers to interesting women from all over the world and offer all sorts of informative and engaging posts that run the gamut from career talk to skincare advice, but she is also a richly talented artist, producing tons of beautiful illustrations, lots of which can be bought as posters, calendars and notecards on her site.
I don’t recall how I stumbled upon these drawings, but ever since I did, from time to time, I have turned them into wallpapers for my digital devices, to delight and inspire me with every screen.
Currently on my phone:
All illustrations in this post by Garance Doré
No matter what you make of the real story behind the album, I think it’s undeniable that Lemonade is an incredibly moving piece of work.
I hadn’t been a big follower of Beyoncé’s music before. Of course I knew some songs–has anyone not heard Single Ladies?? But then the Super Bowl halftime show happened and Formation came out and I was totally smitten. The visuals are so exciting I was immediately enthralled. I love the settings, the fashion, the shooting style…and then on top of that it’s a really great, catchy, multi-layered song. (Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation!) I watched it 3 times immediately and then shared it with others later that week and have probably gone back and watched it 10 more times since.
Formation got me interested in Beyoncé’s creative team and how she puts her videos together because it’s so varied in its styles–from the hair to the makeup to the outfits to the settings… There’s a great BTS video for the making of 2009’s Sweet Dreams that shows every outfit, including how she got to use a vintage Thierry Mugler gold body suit that had been on display at the Met. If you’re Beyoncé you get to wear that. If you’re anyone else, you get to be inspired by it.
One of my favorite looks from the Formation video is the red dress she’s wearing while sitting atop the sinking police car, shown here in The Guardian’s coverage of Formation fashion. Turns out it’s a blouse and skirt from Gucci’s 2016 Spring line–which is amazing and images from the ad campaign became my phone wallpaper all during SXSW.
So then, 10 days ago, after the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones, there was Lemonade, begging to be watched.
Before midnight I had watched it all the way through and some parts 2 or 3 times. I tweeted with friends about it after it was gone. And the next day I bought it on iTunes and started listening to the music. I had my immediate favorites as one does with any new album but in the following days of listening and taking a break from listening, and watching again and listening again, and reading about it and listening to podcasts about it, there’s not one song on there that hasn’t gotten its hooks in me (har har).
I woke up this morning with “pray you catch me listening” running through my head. Fitting, because I still am.