Monday, September 29, 2008

Vegan Crackers

To any of the Daring Bakers who somehow ended up here expecting vegan crackers- I apologize but it just wasn't happening this month... Not because of the challenge itself, but just life being a bit unexpected. So onto next month, where I promise not to disappoint!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jonathan Yeo

Just came across an article about Jonathan Yeo who has gathered a bit of blogosphere fame recently for his collage portrait of Bush using photographs from porn magazines.

Although my first thought was to dismiss this as a gimick, reading this article may have convinced me. Plus I love the idea of what he's working on now:

"Currently, there are photographs of women's naked torsos pinned to his studio wall, evidence of Yeo's next project – painting the before and after of plastic surgery operations. "People will look back at this time in horror. I will paint torsos or faces, but not together. The dismembered bodies will be a nod to classical sculpture: it's a way of exploring an area that is current while painting straight-forward classical portraits. I'll call it You're Only Young Twice."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Update on the Bag portrait

My incredibly knowledgeable colleague Colin pointed out that the Bag portrait by Hendrik Kersten is a play on this painting which is in the National Gallery, London:

Robert Campin. Portrait of A Woman. c. 1430.

If anything- I love it even more now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Never Forget- The Musical

I don't know that I'm qualified to comment on this musical because most of the people I went with were British and thought it was pretty entertaining but I couldn't help thinking that it is, bar none, the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen.

For those who aren't up on their 90's British music; Never Forget is a musical using the songs from the boy band Take That. I was hoping it be semi biographical and I would get some useful insight into British culture. But instead of creating a stand-alone story around the existing catalogue of music, they tell the story of some blokes from Manchester who decide to audition for a Take That tribute band in order to win the £10,000 prize to save someone's mother's pub.

So I spent the first half of the first act wondering which one was supposed to be Robbie Williams and not "which one is pretending to be a bloke from Manchester, pretending to be Robbie Williams. " If you're not already familiar with the boy band and their history, you just won't be able to keep up or appreciate some of the banter. Heck, if you're not familiar with at least 4 different types of Northern English accent you won't be able to understand half of them.

I will admit to laughing a LOT- but it wasn't always when they would have been expecting it... During the lead actress's one big solo number, the atmosphere in the theatre was that of a karaoke bar, with people talking and giggling while others sarcastically waved their lit lighters. But at least she inspired a big whoop and holler during the obligatory key change.

Check out those red pleather man undies!! with belt!

I think the biggest problem I had was that everything seemed pretty sub-par. The sets consist mostly of two big boxes which are shifted around the stage to create a bar, a salsa club, a strip club (no, seriously...) an alley, an office etc... The only exciting features of the entire show had to be the pyrotechnics during the ridiculous "Relight my Fire" scene (see above) and the rain to end Act I. It's probably a big spoiler to tell you that not only do the actors get rained on during a "heartfelt" ballad, but the engineers have somehow managed to make the rain spell out "Never Forget". I want to know who woke up in the middle of the night thinking that was a good idea.

In the end, although I managed to see this gem for free, I'd say the show is worth about £10.
As my colleagues explained to me later- this show is far too "camp" for words.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just a quick word

To say that I love this portrait which has been shorlisted for the National Portrait Gallery's 2008 Prize.

Bag by Hendrik Kersten

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beautiful Inside My Head Forever

Doesn't that title alone make you go "ick"? Doesn't it sound slightly pompous and self-involved? Well it's the title of the sale of work by Damien Hirst organized at Sotheby's this week. The event was split into an evening sale and a day sale featuring about 200 items overall and from what I can tell, all made within the last year. That's one busy artist. *furrows brow*

I mean, look at him up there. Kinda smug, non? Almost like he knows he's full of shit. I didn't really know what to expect having never seen his stuff first hand. We've all heard about his pickled sharks, the diamond crusted skull, the spin art etc. but finally seeing them in the flesh made it all very clear to me. Hirst is a businessman.

Although the butterfly works were breathtakingly complex and delicate, all I really saw was the effort behind it. Hirst has a studio of slaves. A factory full of artists at his disposal. I can't even fathom what it must have been like to be given a doodle, several thousand butterflies and some paint and told to put it all together with minute precision.

Hirst believes that Art is in the conception, not the execution- which I respect to a point. One of my biggest "Ah ha!" moments was understanding the concept behind Mondrian's work as it related to the war and bringing the world back to basics: primary colors and straight lines at 90 or 180 degrees. But Hirst seems to pluck his concepts out of already established ideas. Case and point: his Midas pieces. Seriously- how ground breaking is that? Diamonds and gold to symbolize the materialistic society we've become. Throw is some butterflies to tie it into the other works- it's more like designing for Target. One small and reasonably priced piece had been executed in about 8 different colors, giving the budding collector a chance to own a "real" Hirst in his favorite hue. Hirst might as well be printing his own money. I can just imagine him getting a call from Sotheby's saying that this piece would have been great as a pair flanking the doorway and Hirst saying he could just whip up another one. *ka-ching* that's another £60,000.

Love Bite: Autumn, 2008- £58,850 /Love Child: Winter, 2008- £73,250/ Love Bite: Spring, 2008- £73,250
What I'm really saying is that we often ask ourselves the question: "Is this really Art?" and we turn to the critics for assurance. I think Hirst managed to fool the critics early on and has stopped trying to produce anything worthwhile. It's either a re-hash of an old idea or something akin to the art at Habitat. I think Hirst knows that his work is bullshit and he's loving it.
Skimra lamp shade, Ikea- $6
The two day sale made over £110 million- of which Hirst is donating a whopping £1.4 million to a children's hospital. I honestly believe he's only doing this so people don't judge him and his millions. To sum it all up- Although I really like the below painting (which was surely painted by an intern) I can't think of anyone who makes me roll my eyes more than Damien Hirst.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Some Brother/Boyfriend Banter

Floatingdog: you could always try to write a witty protest sign concerning the state of the economy and how you can't get a job and become a national icon
Sloth514: I could write it ont he back of my diploma
Floatingdog: be this guy:
Sloth514: the witty protest sign market is flooded these days anyway
Floatingdog: that could be your sign
Floatingdog: and then be like (I need a job, will work for money)
Floatingdog: also, i wonder if one of the trade that guy has is lettering
Floatingdog: because that's some pretty good lettering
Floatingdog: you could also just become a political activist blaming everything that has ever sucked in your life on "THE ECONOMY"
Floatingdog: heheh
Floatingdog: that could be your slogan
Sloth514: "Look, I don't get your Wall Street magic, just make it so I can get a job doing what I want"
Sloth514: Yours could say "THE ECONOMY TOOK MY FAMILY :["
Floatingdog: this is 500 words away from being an onion article
Sloth514: heh heh
Sloth514: Witty Protest Sign Market Flooded
Sloth514: I like it.
Sloth514: "You wouldn't believe how hard it is to break into the protest sign business," says local man Michael Waters. Exasperated he continued "I knew I should have majored in graphic design!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Last Night of Proms

As I dragged my boyfriend last year to the Last Night of Proms, I knew that I would have to continue the tradition this year with the surrogate boyfriend, Colin. (Hi Colin!) When I first considered going to this huge event, I thought I should look into how exactly one gets tickets that aren't £2,200. The ushers weren't able to really tell me, but the box office said to show up on the day at about 8am with a lounge chair and picnic and that I should be able to get a ticket for a fiver. And so we did. And that's really the trick folks! It's that easy. You're not guranteed a ticket- but at about 10:30am they hand out numbered "raffle" tickets (so as to keep an ordered queue) and tell you to be back in the queue for a count at 3pm. At which point you can pop over to the Kensingon Gardens for a picnic or if you're lucky enough, just head home for a couple hours.

There are in fact two queues for arena tickets. One for season ticket holders and one for everyone else (ie: me and probably you too). The season ticket holders get to buy their tickets first and then *if* there is still more room, they start letting in everone else. But I've never heard of people not getting in . I'm sure they run out of room eventually- but I've never actually witnessed this.... In any case, my raffle ticket was No.68, my actual ticket was No. 467 and I remember reading somewhere that they have about 750 tickets up for grabs.

What I'm trying to say here is that you should make the effort to go if you happen to be in London at the begining of September. I'm sure every Brit knows about it but thinks it's too difficult or expensive to get into the Hall- which is fair enough considering it already costs £25 to go see the Last Night in Hyde Park, which isn't even the "real" thing. On the other hand, most foreigners who aren't in tune with the goings-on of the classical music world won't even know what the Proms are!

The Proms are the world's largest classical music festival, running from mid June to mid September every year, culminating in the famous Last Night which usually features some of the newest, best and/or most promising classical musicians in the world. And if I had access to Youtube I would now link you to videos of last year's proms, featuring the gorgeous and hilarious opera singer Anna Netrebko.

The Last Night of Proms might be the most patriotic event I've ever attended and even though I'm in no way British (in fact my American and French blood quite possibly makes me the opposite of British) you can't help but wave your union jack, learn the melody to "Jerusalem", sing along to "Rule, Britania!", stomp along to the sailor's song and shake hands with your neighbors during "Auld Lang Syne" at the close of the night. I'd say it's really something worth seeing at least once.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"The World's Fastest Indian"

This is one of those movies that no one has ever heard of and I never would have either if it weren't for my mother's particular taste in movies. When my family still all lived together, we shared a Netflix account which was a bit like sharing a family computer back in the day... Someone always changing your favorite features or adding their two cents- but the interesting thing is that Netflix has a system by which you rate the movie you've seen and they will then recommend movies based on your likes and dislikes. Now our ratings were probably a bit bi-polar, but I can only imagine they worked because I don't know how else my mom would have stumbled on this movie.

With just the title to go on I assumed it would be one of those "inspirational" movies about an impoverished kid overcoming adversity to win some sort of prize for running. Well I couldn't have been further from the truth. This film starts in New Zealand in the 1960's and follows an old man's (Anthony Hopkins) voyage to the salt flats in Utah to break the record for the world's fastest Indian motorcycle. It doesn't take much to win me over with a period flick, but I have rarely seen anything so sweet and inspiring. It made me love Anthony Hopkins that much more and I dare you to not like this movie.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Yeah, We Sold That. The Look-a-Like Edition

So this is just a couple items that struck my eye for one reason or another- well that's a lie isnt it? These are all pairs of works that either rip each other off or just happen to look strickingly similar.

It may be a gimick, but I always love art that acts as a tribute to another famous piece. Like this work by Dubossarsky & Vinogradov- someone is photoshopping Las Meninas....

Ordinateur (série Dans l'Atelier de l'Artiste)
Estimate: £25,000 - £35,000

Diego Velazquez

Las Meninas

This oil by Signac was advertised to death during the run up to the Impressionist and Modern Evening sale.

Paul Signac
Collioure. Les Balancelles
Estimate: £1,800,000 - 2,500,000

Sold for: £2,953,250

So I guess it's no surprise that I instantly recognized the location in this "cheaper" painting by Lauge:

Achille Lauge

Bateaux à Collioure

Estimate: £18,000 - 25,000

Sold for: £31,200

Now who can honestley tell me that they don't instantly think of suntan products when they see this:

Josepg Gott
An English Statuary Marble group of a boy and dog
Estimate £20,000 - 30,000

The following painting is another example of over-advertising. This lovely lady was everywhere for the couple months running up to a 19th European Art sale. We even had a large than life reproductiong hanging in a street window and that's when it hit me- She looks a lot like a famous starlet... can you guess which one? You may not agree... maybe you had to see it in the flesh...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Boucles d'oreilles: The earrings
Estimate: £300,000 - 500,000

Speaking of flesh....

Scarlett Johanson- barely contained.

Do you see the resemblence? Or am I just crazy?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mixed Berry Pavlova

I probably should have mentioned that with all those eggwhites leftover from the Eclairs, Jeremy and I thought we should put them to good use and make a Pavlova. If truth be told, Jeremy made the pavlova on his own while I fiddled around with the eclairs... but it was a midnight triumph! And a great way to enjoy the last of the summer berries

Mixed Berry Pavlova

From Ina Garten's recipe

  • 4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
  • 1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
  • Triple Raspberry Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.)

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Invert the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Combine the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in a bowl and toss with about 1/2 cup of raspberry sauce, or enough to coat the berries lightly. Spoon the berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately in large scoops with extra raspberry sauce.

Sweetened Whipped Cream
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don't overbeat!
Yield: 1 cup

Triple Raspberry Sauce

  • 1 half-pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam (12-ounce jar)
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur

Place the raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.
Yield: 2 cups

Jeremy and I were nice enough to share this with my brother who had to stop mid-way through his first bite and ask: "What is this called again?" A pav-loh-va- why? "This is definitely in my top ten of all time. Why didn't I ever think of this combination before? It's so obviously perfect." And I'll drive the point home by saying that my brother is a bit of a picky eater- even with desserts.