Monday, March 30, 2015

FASHIONING THE BODY at Bard Center Gallery: Review by Polly Guerin

Tight Lacing after John Collet 1777
It appears that there is really nothing new about how women and men have shaped their bodies into distinctive silhouettes in the name of fashion. The quest to create a new figure continues to inspire fashionistas. Even today women and men are determined to  reshape, retool and,  more often than not, they take plastic surgery to alter, improve but sometimes distort their bodies into a vision of controlled beauty.
  The historical significance of Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette is worth the trip uptown. The exhibition will be on display at the Bard Graduate Center, at 18 West 86th Street, from April 3 through July 26, 2015
   This extravagant display presents the novel devices and materials that women and men have used to shape their silhouettes from the 17th Century to today, including extra wide panniers draped in sumptuous fabrics and the underpinnings, that were necessary to support such extravagance. Corsets, crinolines, bustles, stomach belts, girdles, and push-up bras also get their due recognition. Note the image right: "Tight Lacing or Fashion before Ease," after John Collet in The Profession of the Proprietors, 1777. Hand-colored mezzotint published by Bowles and Carver. The Trustees of the British Museum.
   Beneath it all there is a world of intrigue and mystery and curator Denia Bruna, at the Musee des Arts decoratives and professor a the Ecole du Louvre, presents the history of "behind the scenes" in a well documented exhibition.
Winding  Up The Ladies ca 1828
The tricks for fashioning women's bodies have always confounded belief.  One wonders, what made these women and sometimes men allow themselves to be pulled, squashed and shaped into fashion?  Part of the answer may be the fact that the ability to engage in such body distortion, the minuscule waist, for example, required several people to pull you tight till your breath was nearly sucked out of your body.  Yet, the pain was worth it to be able to trump your nose at society and let them know that you were high-minded enough to afford such luxury even if achieving it meant by torturous results. Note the image "A Correct View of the New Machine for Winding Up the Ladies," ca. 1828. Hand;colored engraving, Courtesy of the Museum at FIT.
   A broad range of silhouette-shaping garments are featured that flattened the stomach, compressed the waist, lifted the breasts, added curves to the hips and curvature to the derriere.  As for men their vanity paralleled women's eccentricities and the perfectly curved leg of an seventeenth century gentleman would be padded to produce the perfect silhouette, Today men's underwear padding enhances the center of their charm as well as well-shaped buttocks.
The Bustle Contraption
   The exhibition is a rare insider view into the underpinnings of fashion that mirrored society's concept of one's superior status and perceived elegance.
   A series of black velvet mannequins illustrating a woman's silhouette throughout time invites the viewer to understand how a woman's body shape was altered to accommodate the extremes of fashion.
  TaTa darlings!!! I'm certainly glad that all I need to do is to go to the gym to keep in shape. Whew!!! Imagine the discomfort that women suffered wearing cages of different sizes and shapes to underscore the crinoline, to create a bustle or achieve exaggerated proportions of court dress.  Then too, men also wore girdles to enhance their posture and create a straight aristocratic silhouette.Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the link that takes you to womendeterminedtosucceed, visonary men, poetryfromtheheart or hiddentreasures.


Monday, March 23, 2015


Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin Art, fashion and craft in sculptural forms takes center stage at MAD, the Museum of Art and Design; the first museum exhibition to consider the artistic innovation of the display mannequin. Who are these silent sculptures? They may be rigid forms, yet mannequins can be mirrors of society, objects of fascination and even works of art, all at once. Ralph Pucci may be the kingpin in the mannequin world, but just to set the record straight, there is no relation  to the fashion designer Emilio Pucci.
   The show is on view  from March 31 to Aug 30 and covers 30 years of Pucci mannequins at MAD's second floor at 2 Columbus Circle. 
   The Naked Truth Stripped down naked Pucci created mannequins that reflect  major cultural trends of the past three decades.Some of the mannequins are very detailed, or muscular, some remind us of Greek sculptures. Others may strike you as whimsical while others in their graceful stance may want you to say,
"I wish I had a figure like that!" Pucci acknowledges that one of his biggest successes was doing action sport mannequins doing handstand, stretching or jogging which reflected the late 70s when running became popular
and exercising was de rigueur. 
  Pucci's Workshop is a 'not to be missed' opportunity to see a simulation of Pucci's workshop on 44 West 18th Street. Demonstrations at MAD by Michael Evert, Pucci's sculptor in residence, will create a bust of a head every other week using subjects such as Mary McFadden, Isabel Toledo and Linda Fargo to name a few. "We always think of our mannequins as capturing  moments in time," declared Pucci.  He does custom work, too, such as the mannequin designed for Diane von Furstenberg to celebrate her 40-year retrospective of her wrap dress.
    Who is Pucci? The manufacturer/designer called PUCCI started out as a mannequin repair shop and
evolved from that humble beginning into a mannequin maker with a showroom of high end furniture, lighting and art.  Ralph Pucci has collaborated not only with fashion designers but illustrators and supermodels including Veruschka and Christy Turlington.  Andree Putman designed Art Deco-inspired mannequins manufactured by Pucci for Barney's New York and Lowell Nesbitt created Robert Mapplethorp-inspired mannequins channelling Greek and Roman sculptures.What makes these mannequins so special is the hand workmanship craft as they are cast by hand with special finishes . 
   By the Way, Saks Fifth Avenue will display Pucci mannequins in its windows to support the show and you know where to go. It's a mad, mad world, but only the MAD museum could conjure up such an innovative show!.
Ta Ta Darlings! By the way everyone loves a fashion show and the Rockettes' New York Spring Spectacular makes fashion a splash and the dancers high kicking fashion show is rather spectacular. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left hand column is a list of Blog links to fashion, visionary men, women determined to succeed and poetry.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Reading Rose Hartman's new book, Incomparable Couples, is like taking a trip down memory lane revisiting the glamorous and celebrated personalities who defined the fashion and social trendsetter era for three decades. The book is populated by people we knew and people we wish we knew. Nostalgia tugs at our hearts as we review the pages of engaging couples at the prime of their celebrity.
   Couples featured in this full-color, beautiful tome include:: Jerry Hall and Annie Leibovitz, Bob Mackie and Cher, Jean Paul Gautier and Lauren Bacall, Peter and Jane Fonda, Bianca and Jade Jagger, Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono, Liz Taylor and her dog, Robert Wolders and Audrey Hepburn, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, and 150 more, too numerous to list here.
    So why should we want to read Incomparable Couples?" The answer comes clear and forthright in the  photographs themselves and I can surreptitiously hear the reader saying, "Oh I remember them, and then repeat page after page, I remember them again, and then sigh. At best Hartman's photographic documentary serves as a permanent archival book referencing artists and muses, designers and muses, family, mothers and children; pets, friendships, models, marriages --images of people we remember and people we wish we had known.
   Hartman, the quintessential photographer of our time, captures beautiful duos, unlikely duos and some downright scary duos. Rose's images are always spontaneous, never staged, that is what makes these photographs so interesting and spellbinding.. Ms. Hartman tips the shutter at just the right moment, capturing a critical moment in a conversation--a pose, a gesture--to present a story abut two people from the world of popular culture.
  Eric Shiner who wrote some of the text wrote, "It might be best to think about Rose as an anthropologist who has spend so much time with her subjects that she has become a trusted, known entity."
   In her presence, celebrities have let their guard down, allowing her to capture moments otherwise rarely   seen. The vitality of the images in "Incomparable Couples" attest to the rare sense of familiarity.  Hartman portrays the humanity in her subjects. instead of their more famous, fashionable shells. :
  Incomparable Couples is published by ACC Editions,  photographs by Rose Hartman, Texts by Eric Shiner, Michael Gross and Rose Hartman, hardcover $49.50 available a fine book stores.
   Who is Rose Hartman? Rose stands as one of the most prolific photographers of our age. As a woman
photographer, she has jumped over every hurdle in a male-dominated world to create a huge body of work documenting the demimonde of fame and glamour in the center of the world of culture. Hartman is a one of those remarkable women who have scaled the heights of success in their oeuvre. She has created a book that has archival value, recording over time, she straddles the boundaries between street photography, portraiture and documentary photography. My hearty congratulations to Rose Hartman for preserving a world of celebrity for generations to come. As Eric Shiner, Director of the Any Warhol Museum said, "It takes two to tango, but it takes Rose to truly dance."
Read this feature on Polly's Blogs pollytalkfromnewyork.blogspot and also on amazingartdecodivas (women determined to succeed) or go to and click on the link in the left hand column to either one of these blogs.

Monday, March 16, 2015

ASIAN ART 100 Celebration at the MET (c) By Polly Guerin

While 2015 marks the centennial of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art, it also celebrates the Year of the Ram which, as you know, officially began during Lunar new Year in February 2015. During this celebration the department presents nineteen exhibitions featuring a selection of remarkable works drawn exclusively from the Museum's holdings.These include lively sculptures of jade, rock crystal, and ceramic, along with a charming painting of grazing goats by an 18th century master. Spend a day and immerse yourself in Asian culture. I spent time viewing:
   The Art of the Chinese Album, one of the most intimate of Chinese painting formats It is storytelling with magical charm. For Shitao (1642-1707), the album provided the opportunity to shock and surprise the viewer with radical shifts in perspective and subject page to page.For Dong Qichang (1555-1636) the album was a stage on which to display his historical knowledge by devoting each leaf to the style of a different old master.  Each artist's work is a page turner experience. For Dai Benxiao (1621-1693), the album was a change to plumb the depths of a single style, like a jazz improviser.
  Sumptuous: East Asian Lacquer, 14th-20th Century This installation explores the many ways in which this material has been manipulated to create designs by painting, carving, or by inlaying precious materials.such as gold or mother-of-pearl. This ancient art celebrates the artistry and creativity and its similarities as found in the lacquer arts of China, Korea and Japan. Lacquer is an art form that has been adapted by furniture designers throughout the world, notably perfected by Ruhlmann in his Art Deco furniture designs.
  Painting with Thread: Chinese Tapestry and Embroidery, 12th-19th Century is a textile artist's dream come true. Drawn from the Metropolitan's superb holdings of Chinese tapestries, this installation presents breathtaking flower and birds, dramatic landscapes, famous immortals, and stunning examples of calligraphy, showcasing the artistic imagination and technical sophistication of China's textile artists.
  Then too, there is A Passion for Jade, Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas to name but two more of these fascinating exhibits that celebrate the departments centennial. 
   Masterworks of East and South Asian Art from the Florence and Herbert Irving and Japanese and Korean art from the Mary Griggs Burke transform the Met's Asian holdings.Oscar L. Tang has also been a dedicated major supporter of funds for a new curatorial and conservation staff appointments and programming and an endowment from Mary Wallach for a conservatorship of Japanese painting.
  Ta Ta Darlings!!! I am amazed by the rich cache of Asian Art at the MET that has left a legacy of  inspiration with such cunning detail, whimsicality and magical art. So YES, It's time to revisit the Asian Art Department and savor the treasures here.
Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the link to fashion poetry, visionary men, remarkable women listed iYn the left hand column.

Monday, March 9, 2015

SULTRY FASHION ICON; Lauren Bacall THE LOOK By Polly Guerin

With her sultry style, raspy voice and Oscar-nominated career, Lauren Bacall epitomized Hollywood glamour, influenced fashionistas for decades and left lasting impression on the fashion industry..  One of her famous one liners, "I'm not a has been, I am a will be," says it all about the 20-year old New York City native, who captured Humphrey Bogart's heart as well as legions of fans who idolized and covet her memory. As a screen siren she had a very deep sense of integrity and she embodied a certain level of tasteful dressing,that was just smart.                                                 Bacall had a commanding presence and lit up any room she entered and the same holds true today in the  iconic show, "Lauren Bacall: The Look,"  at the Museum at FIT, which is currently showcasing  some her clothing collection, film clips and photographs. It is interesting to note that before her death, Bacall donated more than 700 pieces of clothing to the Fashion Institute of Technology, where a dozen so or more of them are on display at the exhibition. Footnotes let us know that the actress' signature look stemmed from a sense of insecurity---as she stated lowering her chin and gazing with hooded yes to steady her nerves. Agray corridor leads to the main exhibition room, one wall covered with photographs, Playbills and magazine clips about Bacall.Bacall go t her start as a model  in the Garment District and following that short-lived stint, she was discovered by the celebrated editor Diana Vreeland, who gave Bacall a cover in Harper's Bazaar.Then she went on to Hollywood, and dropped her given name of "Betty" and added a second "l" to her surname.
Unlike other starlets she maintained her star quality status without every giving away too much of her personal life. The great shoe designer Ferragamo said, "She was a very special woman and a true example of grace and class."
   You are in for a treat!  In the main gallery, a large screen plays a clip of the l968  CBS special, Bacall and the Boys: which was filmed in Paris to showcase the fall collections from Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan and Emanuel Ungaro.
    Look for the Norman Norell pink wool coat with jumbo pink rhinestone buttons that Bacall wore in the 1964 film, "Sex and the Single Girl," and the the packable, technical Cardine dress, designed by Pierre Cardin, which women can carry in a paper bag.
  An astounding 740 items from the late actress's personal belongings will be auctioned by Bonhams on March 31 and April 1 as "The Lauren Bacall collection," in their New York Madison Avenue galleries. So now anyone with thousands of bucks to spare can own treasures from Bacall's jewelry, fine art and object d'art collection, but do not expect to find any of the actress's clothing up for will find many of them featured in the "The Look," exhibition.

Ta Ta Darlings...I'm off to see the collection again this Wednesday for another tour of the galleries. Fan mail welcome at Do check Polly's Blogs on Just click in the left hand column to a Blog of your interest on fashion, remarkable women, visionary men and poetry.


Monday, March 2, 2015


The golden age of Cultural Clubs may have been at its zenith at the turn of the century, but today there is a wealth of knowledge to be had by being a joiner. Socializing in a clubby manner is an opportunity to not only improve one's historical knowledge but it also provides a very pleasant way to enjoy an evening and perhaps make new friends. There is something for everyone's literary interest and this is the first of my reports, there will be more to come. Here's the scoop!!!
NEW YORK BROWNING SOCIETY Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry still resonates today not only with scholars but with New Yorkers seeking knowledge and entertainment.. While most neophytes may remember Elizabeth's matchless love poems, Sonnets from the Portuguese, she was not only a poet but spoke out in verse against slavery, child labor and the treatment of women. Robert on the other hand was a seeker of truth and his strong spiritual underpinnings are evident in his poetry. Rich and varied programming examines the poets' lives with celebrated presenters including Pulitzer Prize winners and leading figures in the worlds of arts, letters, and entertainment. The Society meets at 1 p.m. at the NAC, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South @20th St,, second Wednesdays, October through April with an annual luncheon held in May. It also sponsors an annual contest for high school students in New York City. The only requirement for membership is your interest in learning more about the Browning's and their world. Membership: contact the New York Browning Society c/o NAC.
GINGOLD THEATRICAL GROUP, Project Shaw:: "Life is about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself." The GTG, dedicated to presenting the works championing human rights with the precepts of George Bernard Shaw, especially  resonates with the human rights and political climate today.
   The plays, produced and directed by David Staller, are presented  in unique script-in-hand performances, often featuring well-known stage actors and television personalities, Mondays, January through December, at 7 pm at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street.
   In 2009 GTG became the first group ever to present every one of Shaw's plays--all 65--in performance. In addition to educational programs GTG is creating opportunities to bring students of all ages and Shaw together. The organization's Shaw New York Festival celebrates the motivating force behind all of Shaw's work, human rights. In 2014, GTG partnered with The Pearl Theater to present one of Shaw's most enduring and popular plays, Major Barbara. The festival includes several Shavian-themed events, a Shaw Symposium, a Critic Symposium, a Shaw concert, and a reading of one of a new play commissioned by GTG. The Golden Shamrock Gala in March is a sellout event celebrating Shaw in a unique venue.  Contact: GTG, 520 8th Ave. #304, New York, NY 10018.. 212.355.7823.
PROUST SOCIETY OF AMERICA "Remembrance of Things Past" one of the most formidable volumes of 20-th century literature, makes a case for reading Proust a "must" for literary lions. The monthly reading group run, by the Proust Society of America, is keeping the works of Proust ever present in today's literary circles at The Center for Fiction, where the group meets on a monthly basis. The organization also hosts some Proust memorabilia. . Proust is always of interest to scholars but the public at large seems to be having a revival of interest in the French writer and reading Proust again is a literary event with a social overture.

 In addition to the reading group, The Center for Fiction publishes a newsletter and sponsors periodic lectures. It is the depository for fiction books, many out of print and first editions and boasts 90,000 titles in their circulating library. For details on annual member of The Center for Fiction and membership in the Proust Reading Group. Contact The Center for Fiction at 17 East 47th Street, Manhattan, NY. 212.755.6710.
Ta Ta darlings!!! Pollytalk is going to the Gingold Gala March 16th, contact 212.355.7823 for details. Fan mail welcome Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left hand column click on the link to the Blog of your interest on fashion, visionary men, remarkable women, and poetry.