The Artist

(via New York Times)

Last night I took a trip back to the 1930s. I sat in the River Oaks Theatre (built in 1939), which as the photo shows, still operates with an old grand marquee. Our movie started, and there was silence. And then some more silence. And then music, but still no audible words but just captions on screen. Nor was there color, but just black and white moving images. It was The Artist, the French film getting a lot of Oscar buzz for doing something so old-fashioned and unimaginable: being a silent film. And it was lovely.

It was so interesting that even as the opening credits played (silently) there was almost a discomfort among us in the audience, this group of strangers sitting in a silent dark theater. We’re conditioned to think, “Are the speakers not on?” The opening scene of the film is so smart-we’re not only watching a silent film, but we’re watching people in the film watch a silent film in a 1930s theatre. And by doing that it makes us feel like we’re part of them and they’re part of us. We’re no longer removed from this bygone era; we’re in it.

The film tells the story of George Valentin, a suave and prideful star, whose the end-all be-all in the silent film industry, until the unthinkable happens. Silent films are on the brink of extinction with the invention of talkies, and he’s yesterday’s news. Enter young, aspiring actress Peppy Miller who concurs the world of talkies, while remaining adorable and lovable. George is horrified of the changing film industry, declaring that he’s not a puppet but an artist. His distaste and fear of the talkies is telling: his own tragic flaw is that he barely speaks in his real life, which is emphasized by numerous instances of people yelling at him out of frustration, “SPEAK!” (yelling in the silent film tradition of captions coming on screen seconds after the actors lip the words). Perhaps the biggest scene-stealer of the entire film, though, is George’s Jack Russell Terrier, the smartest dog I’ve ever seen and the most loyal companion.

The entire movie is nostalgically lovely and a much-needed reminder to sit still and enjoy a work of art (whether a film, a painting or a wonderful book) for its simplicity and genuineness.

1. A 1920s Continental typewriter makes a cameo in the film, instantly making me love it more. 2. The Corn Poppy, by Kees van Dongen, c. 1919 at the MFAH, could practically be a portrait of Peppy Miller. 3. Jack Russell Terriers, which have starred in The Mask, "Frasier" and My Dog Skip, are utter geniuses.


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These are a few of my favorite things

Who doesn’t love raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Here are a few of my favorite things this holiday season.



Brown paper packages tied up with strings.


Sweater dresses, tights and boots.


Chocolate-almond bark with sea salt (via Bon Appetit)


Whiskers on kittens? How about Christmas bandanas on Tipton.

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Art-See: Food

The holidays mean different things to different people, but I think we can all agree that this time of year is nothing without the food that comes along with it. I’m passionate about food year-round, really. I love the freshness of fruits and veggies in the spring and summer months, the hearty root vegetables and soups that come out in the fall and winter, but this time of year, I love what food symbolizes. It’s tradition, togetherness, creativity and a little piece of ourselves. What I love about Thanksgiving is that unlike Christmas it brings no pressure of buying amazing gifts and living up to expectations; it’s just sharing good food with the people you love. People who might not lift a finger in the kitchen all year come out of the wood work to try their hardest to make that turkey not so dry this year or the pies not so runny (or they buy everything from a store and pretend they made it themselves! Hey, no judgment here). Here’s to making food mean something special the 364 other days of the year. And to whet your appetite for Turkey Day, feast your eyes on some of my favorite food artwork.

This week’s New Yorker Food Issue cover reminded me of one of my favorite artists: Wayne Thiebaud. 


Thiebaud is no stranger to New Yorker covers; he has created almost every Food Issue cover for the magazine since 2002 (for a slideshow of his other covers, visit the New Yorker).

His paintings always seem so alive to me because of how vibrant his brushstrokes appear. The way he outlines his objects in unusual colors, like yellows and greens, gives each work a certain energy. 


What’s Thanksgiving (or any meal) without dessert? Take your pick in Thiebaud’s “Pies, Pies, Pies.”


Or for something a little more tangible, take a look at any of Claes Oldenburg’s often larger-than-life food sculptures. Here, he designed an entire “store” of food sculptures.

And after all the food has been eaten and we settle into our food comas (thank you, tryptophan), the dinner tables might look a little something like this.


“Banquet Piece with Ham” by Willem Claesz Heda is a classic still life depiction. The abrupt break in whatever meal was happening here was meant to symbolize that life’s enjoyments can be interrupted at any moment. Or maybe it was someone who said, “The dishes can wait. I’m taking a nap.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Art-See: Romance

The Kiss by Klimt

The Kiss by Brancusi

Notice a trend? Forgive me, but I have weddings on the brain 15/7 (yeah it’s not quite to 24/7 yet, I do sleep and work and let my brain think about a few other things). Anyways, with a long-distance fiance and weekends spent planning out details for a day a year away (11/10/12!) I thought I’d put the romantic daydreams to some other use.

The Kiss by Brancusi is one of my favorite sculptures. Housed in the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, it’s a squatty plaster cast of the original stone carving. The two people seem to be carved from one stone, symbolizing to me how husband and wife become one in marriage. And I love it’s simplicity and how you can see all around them but not their most intimate kiss.

Klimt’s The Kiss is equally sweet and intimate. It’s also so sensual and lavish (I’ll take a gold cape wrapped around me every time I’m embraced, thank you very much).

La Mariee by Chagall

It’s hard to talk about daydreams and fantastical love without including Chagall, the king of floating bodies, dreamy scenes and flat out random subject matter. La Mariee imagines a bride being fitted with her veil by her groom. A church and small town linger beyond them, while a musician serenades them both. Oh, and there’s a cello-playing goat and a lobster playing the xylophone. Is this the Little Mermaid’s wedding? I’ll probably have some dream along these lines in the next year.

The Singing Butler by Vettriano

And maybe for our first dance we’ll have our maid and butler keep the rain away as we waltz around a beach. No? Well regardless, I’ve always loved The Singing Butler painting and found it lovely and whimsical. My favorite is the maid whose probably thinking, “Oh, these crazy people. Go dance inside.”

American Gothic by Grant Wood

To end on a more sobering note, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Jonathan jokingly suggested that  this is “the way marriage really looks.” Ha. I know he was joking but I think it’s fair to group it with these artworks. Because every relationship is dreamy and intimate and lovely, but it’s also an everyday attitude of “we’re in this together, come what may.”

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Art-See: Autumn

The way I feel about Halloween is pretty much the way most people feel about Christmas: I soak up every minute of the month leading up to it, exclaiming, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” every chance I get. And then, when the 31st rolls around, I’m a little sad, because I know that it will be another 365 days until that special day returns again (and no, it has nothing to do with the fact that that day is also my birthday). To me Halloween isn’t the scary stuff and the tasteless costumes – it’s pumpkins, crisp leaves, cinnamon, youthful excitement, creativity and fall coziness. So in the spirit of enjoying all that fall brings, I’ve rounded up a few paintings that remind me of the season year-round.

1. Haystack (1938) by Thomas Hart Benton

On view at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Thomas Hart Benton always reminds me of Missouri (it’s where he was from, after all). His fluid paintings of  rolling hills and plains conjure up images of crisp fall days in the Midwest. This painting especially captures the feeling of autumn harvest.

2. The Corn Poppy (1919) by Kees van Dongen

On view at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

This is how I want to look in the fall. A lovely head scarf with a pop of color. Much like his Fauvist colleague Matisse, van Dongen’s works stand out for his bold color choices.

3. Apple Tree with Red Fruit (1902) by Paul Ranson

On view at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

A non-traditional depiction of an apple orchard perhaps, but this painting has all the colors of fall. A bright sunset illuminates the sky with pops of red apples and wildflowers in the foreground.

4. Red Sunset on the Dnieper (1905-8) by Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi

On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The colors of a great sunset are the colors of fall to me: burnt orange, deep red, shady blues and purples. It’s also a symbol for the season: the ending of the day and the ending of a year.

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New Beginnings

These days…
I can eat lunch next to this guy

Cullen Sculpture Garden (via)

I make sure everyone knows about this guy

King Tut (via)

And I’m planning a wedding (and the rest of my life) with this guy

Yes Yes Yes

All in all, fall is starting off with a bang.

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A Work in Progress

Frederic Bazille, The Little Gardener, 1866-67

Sometimes the creative process is far more interesting to me than the end result. That’s why art history has always fascinated me. Even if I don’t particularly “like” a work of art, studying the back story of it, what the artist was thinking, what his or her influences were and how he or she painting the work give the work so much more meaning. And as someone who has never really found her inner artistic ability (try as I might, my drawings still look like a six-year-old drew them…) I love seeing artists’ sketches or preparatory studies.

Yesterday, my mom and I visited the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (bonus: free admission on Thursdays!). It’s really an impressive museum and it was my first time visiting. We only made it around the second floor of one building because we spent so much time awestruck by the amazing impressionist collection. I discovered so many artists I wasn’t familiar with (more on them in a later post) and smiled seeing works by favorites (van Gogh, Vuillard, Monet …).

This particular work by Frederic Bazille especially struck me, again, more for its backstory than its actual appearance. You see, it’s not finished. Bazille had only loosely sketched the kneeling person on the left and the tall pine tree, as well as several bushes. He died in the Franco-Prussian War, leaving many works unfinished. How sad, right? And also eery, because when I looked at that outlined body in the painting, it kind of took on a ghostly quality. But how interesting to see all the layers of the process coming together.

This bottom work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – the notable French artist who painted vivid and energetic cabaret scenes – is less work in progress as it is a simple caricature. In its simplicity, it’s still so interesting to me. Any caricaturists out there I can hire for my future dinner parties?

Henri du Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Table of Monsieur and Madame Natanson, 1898

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At Home

Isle of This Town by Don & Ryan Clark (via Invisible Creature)

The last day that movers were packing up our home, I sat in our living room staring at the empty walls where artwork and family photos had been hanging just hours earlier. It dawned on me that in a matter of days there would be different frames with different images hanging on those walls. The thought was quite simple and ordinary, I know, but it was enough to make me think. As we move in and out of apartments and houses, our possessions come with us but the structures remain. They might see one, five, 10 or more families throughout their architectural lifetimes. They’re also one of the most defining parts of our culture, I believe. I mean, they’re where we live, after all. Everything that happens in the world and in our everyday lives somehow makes its way into our houses. All of these musings have been coming back into my mind from time to time in the past few months, making me want to read or write or explore all of these thoughts and come up with something substantial. Then today I think I found the book that already did all of those things for me. It’s called At Home by Bill Bryson, and after only reading the introduction, my mind’s already overjoyed. Take a peak:

Looking around my house, I was startled and somewhat appalled to realize how little I knew about the domestic world around me. … Suddenly the home seemed a place of mystery to me. So I formed the idea to make a journey around it … I would write a history of the world without leaving home. … What I found, to my great surprise, is that whatever happens in the world — whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over — eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house. … So the history of household life isn’t just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.

(Bill Bryson, At Home, pg. 5)

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Mussels with Tomatoes, Wine and Garlic

After raving about my mom’s mussels, tomato and white wine dish for months (years?), I finally got to prepare it for Jonathan when I visited him a few weeks ago. Of course it’s more delicious with fresh mussels, but I like to cheat save time sometimes and use the really convenient frozen mussels packs that are pretty easy to find at any grocery store (plus they already come packaged in a white wine and garlic sauce that makes the flavor really great). But here’s the full-blown recipe with the fresh stuff. And for those seafood-haters out there, I dare you to not like this dish.

Via Bon Appetit (different recipe)


1 lb of fresh mussels (or 1 pkg of frozen mussels if you want to save time/money)
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 of a 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
dry white wine
salt & pepper
a pinch of red pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
1 baguette


1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Pour enough olive oil in the pot to cover the bottom. Peal the garlic and saute in the olive oil until it becomes a golden color. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, wash and rinse the mussels (in their shells)*. After the tomatoes have cooked for 7-8 minutes, add the mussels to the pot. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, a pinch of red pepper and two pinches of oregano (or add more of each spice to your liking). Let simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add 1/4 cup of white wine. Cover and let simmer 10 more minutes or fewer**, stirring occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom.

4. Slice the baguette, brush with olive oil and broil in the oven until golden.

5. Sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley (about a hand full) over the mussels before serving. Place baguette slices in bowls and pour mussels and sauce over (trust me, the sauce-soaked bread is one of the best parts).

Eat up!

*Skip this step if you’re using frozen mussels
**Cook for about half the time if using frozen mussels because they are precooked. Don’t let the mussels cook too long or they will shrink up/dry out. Also throw out any mussels whose shells have not opened while cooking.

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And Then There Were Three

I’ve never been one to really collect anything. I had the Beanie Babie phase when I was a kid, but I don’t really count that as a true collection. But ever since college I’ve romanticized old typewriters and loved their nostalgic beauty. I dreamed of one day having an entire shelf full of different models, the old, the retro, the black, the colorful. Jonathan found a typewriter on his doorstep last year (yes, literally, it was sitting by the mailboxes in his apartment building with a sign that said “FREE!”) I like to think it was fate handing it over to me. This past Christmas my parents bought me a beautiful antique typewriter. And so my collection began. This past weekend I got to see the typewriter Jonathan found for me at a thrift store in Wichita a few months ago. Say hello to the newest addition: The Cadet!


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