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“Green” Party

In the midst of the midterm elections, Americans are beginning to speak up about their opinion on the youth of today, where the country is headed, and their hopes to legalize marijuana use, according to a recent poll.

The results of the poll, conducted by students at the New York University Arthur Carter Journalism Institute suggest that regardless of political affiliation, those surveyed are unanimously in favor of the legalization of marijuana use throughout the nation.

Although opinions differ on whether or not it should be legalized for medical purposes as well as for recreational use, many people polled compared the use of marijuana to that of cigarettes and alcohol, suggesting that there is little difference in harm among the three. “I think it should be legalized because I think it creates even less harmful behavior than alcohol,” said Richard Saunders, 24, a musician from Connecticut.

Similarly, Elliott Skinner, 20, a New York City based jazz musician questioned how marijuana is any different than cigarettes: “What is the benefit of cigarettes being legal?” he asked, “The only reason they’re legal is because people are making money off of it. They’re terrible for you, everyone knows it, no one’s denying it, yet we have this thriving business based on this thing that’s terrible for you and it’s kind of the opposite with marijuana…as far as  it being harmful, there are so much more harmful things than weed. The amount of things we put in our food, the amount of things that we eat and drink and put into our bodies already, one more drug is not going to make any difference” he said.

Claudia Ornelas, 58, a court interpreter from Mexico agreed that the use of marijuana should be legalized medically, and then proposed that recreational smoking should be contained in designated areas, suggesting that by doing this, crime rates would decrease.

In addition, some people like Madeline Wall, 18, a student from Santa Barbara, CA, explained how they thought it would help the financial climate of the country. “I think it should be legalized. I think, first of all you can tax it, and that would bring money in, and second of all it’s just already so prevalent in the country so you might as well just legalize it at this point, and stop just trying to halt something that’s already there.”

Of the people polled many were unimpressed by President Barack Obamas performance in office thus far, and were skeptical about where the country was headed. “I think we’re heading down,” said Raz, 42, a musician living on the Lower East Side. “Look at our economy. Look at the unemployment rate. Look at welfare, welfare where it is is at an all time high right now. The middle class is almost, if not, non existent. You’re either rich or you’re poor – you’re working to keep up paying your bills or you don’t have to work at all” he said.

Others, like Megan L, 21, questioned the country’s international affairs. “Domestically I think we’re doing okay, but in terms of our international efforts and our standing in war and things like that, I think that we could do better,” she said.

The majority of the people polled also had a negative opinion on the outlook of the youth of today. “I feel sorry for them,” said Peter Laverne, a freelance writer living in New York. “The economy has serious problems, we have perpetual planned wars that never end, and on and on…But then you know, it’s good to be young, so it’s all balanced out” he chuckled.

Even members of the millennial era were worried about the direction and legacy of their own generation. JT Neal, 20, a Texas born actor living in California, was one of those polled. “The youth of today… it’s pretty awful. I feel like they don’t respect their elders, I feel like they don’t respect the country that they live in, they don’t appreciate what they’ve been given, they all feel very entitled. And I feel like they’re more of a social breed as opposed to a thoughtful breed, they kind of just do whatever the crowd says is cool, and they don’t really consider the options, they kind of just jump in head first, and I think that’s pretty dangerous,” he said.

One of the greatest issues found from the results of the poll, is that even with the problems many have with the government, our economy, and the direction of the country, very few voted in the midterm elections. A stunning 80 percent of those polled said that they did not vote in the midterm elections all for various reasons.

So, although a stunning 100 percent of those surveyed agree on the legalization of marijuana, in different levels of availability, very few have invested in the more pressing and abstract issues.

With Colorado being the first state to legalize marijuana in 2012, and both Alaska and Oregon recently getting on board, the country is working to be on its way to nationwide legalization, however, helping the direction of our country and the youth of today, is still lacking committed citizens.

“I had everything I needed to get clean, so I went to The Refinery”

Grace Weber is a Brooklyn based singer/ songwriter. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin she gracefully combines her grounded family roots with her big city ambitions. She was a YoungArts Foundation finalist and a 2006 Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She is a graduate of the New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and has a degree in music business and music performance with a minor in studio art. Her latest record, ‘The Refinery’ placed number five on the iTunes singer/ songwriter charts. In the midst of her busy schedule, we met up in Williamsburg to discuss music, inspiration, and ‘what’s next’ for Grace Weber.

Erik Tanner Photography

Erik Tanner Photography

Did your parents or family members influence your musical path in any way, and if so, how?

Yeah. My mom, grew up with nine siblings, and my grandpa made all of them learn an instrument growing up, so when I was growing up, my aunts and uncles were all pretty musical, so you know, Christmases and Thanksgivings we would all sing around the piano and put on little musicals and all my cousins were really into art, so my whole family was really musical. My grandpa was really a huge influence on my, always encouraging me to sing and always being there to accompany me for different things. So, it definitely had a huge influence on me. I don’t even remember not having music in my life, it just surrounded me.

So, for your new album, where did the title ‘The Refinery’ come from? 

‘The Refinery’ was a name that we used to toss around with the band a few years ago, because my drummer used to call things that were soulful, “oily” I guess, it was like dirty and funky. So, we used to call the band ‘The Refinery,’ and so that name was always in my head. I liked the way it sounded, I liked the idea of dirty things being soulful, because it’s authentic, real, gritty, but then, when it got time to name my record I felt like my sound had gone through a refinement, from the first album to the second album, but not a clean refinement, it was kind of like the opposite. My first record was pretty clean, and sort of gentle sounding. I didn’t really take too many risks on that record and this record was much more vulnerable and raw, and I didn’t want to be perfect on the record, I wanted to be human. So, it was almost as if my refinement was a gritty process. I needed to be really human to find out who I am as an artist.

What is your favourite song on your new record?

I don’t know! My favourite song switches everyday, or every show I guess. Whichever one is the most fun to sing live. I mean lately, it’s been As Long As I Wander has been a really fun song because I get the audience to sing along.

What was the inspiration behind As Long As I Wander

I mean that song is about my generation. You know millennial’s wanting to change the world and wanting to do something really big with their lives but sort of not really knowing what path to take. Kind of wandering, before really settling down. You know, I think the millennial generation kind of gets the rap of you know, not having the jobs that we’re going to sustain our whole lives, because we want to do really big things, but we’re still trying to figure out what the path is. 

Which artists are your biggest inspirations?

I am inspired by a lot of powerful female vocalists. So, I grew up listening to India Arie, Etta James, and Eva Cassidy. But, I’m also inspired by songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Bon Iver is just a huge inspiration for me from an artistic standpoint. And then some of my biggest inspiration were actually some of the people in my gospel choir….those people inspired me so much, just getting to watch these performers just be so soulful, and people in my gospel choir just being so unafraid to let their voices be free. So that really impacted me as a growing musician.

Who (musically or non) would you like to collaborate with?

I would love to collaborate with Allen Stone. I just think it would be really fun to sing with him….Oh, I’ve been wanting to work with a rapper in some capacity….So I was thinking of pitching it to Macklemore, or someone more of a hip hop artist. So that’s on my mind. You should check out Eminem did a remix of a Dido song, and so that’s kind of my inspiration for that field.

On the day your album came out, you made it to #5 on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts, which is incredible, what did that feel like for you? 

So, the real cool thing about it is that yeah, I got between James Taylor and Ed Sheeran. It’s like so cool to see your record, you know as an independent artist, to be like I can be in the same league as those musicians.

You travel often, and have been traveling more because of your album release, but do you always want to be based in New York?

Yes. But, my ideal situation would be to be in New York, LA, and have the home base in Wisconsin. But I love traveling. I love living in New York but then traveling to LA a lot. I love being on the road. I love seeing new cities, so, for the next five years of my life, I’d like to be touring as much as I can. But then at sometime in my life, having a house in Wisconsin, getting back to nature is really important to me, being with my family, but then spending a lot of time in New York and LA.

Do you have plans of going international?

Yes. Absolutely. I want to tour the world. I mean, ideally, you know if you could have more of a career in Europe and Asia, that would be amazing. So yeah, if I could travel the world, yes, I would love to do that.

Do you ever doubt yourself during your process?

Yes. All the time. I mean, it’s so hard not to compare yourself to others, but it’s the ultimate no-no as an artist, because you really are on your own, individualized path. You know, your process is so unique to you, but any time I start comparing myself to others, or looking at where other people are in their path, I feel like should I be farther along? Should I be touring more? Should I be getting this type of gig? There’s just no benefit to doing that, but I fall into that pattern and when I get to that place…I think I do doubt myself. But I think ideally, I want to stop doing that. I think it’s normal….I think just to be a healthier person, if you can just really find happiness within the moment…I mean there are days where I just feel so intensely grateful for what I get to do, you know I’ll play a show that just fills me with so much joy, and passion for life, and I’ll just get up on stage and just say thank you to the universe, because it’s like, I can’t believe I get to do that. And I think that the more I live in that space, the more good things happen, and the more I feel like I’m doing things I’m supposed to be doing.

You have a band, but you are an individual artist. Do you ever want to have a permanent band? 

I get different people based on what they’re doing, but if I did get a permanent band those guys would be it. I love my band… I kicked around the idea of being Grace Weber and the somethings for a while, but the reason I decided to have more of a rotating band and be flexible was because all of the players in my band are so talented and a lot of them have their own careers, and so the idea of trying to contain this group of such talented musicians feels selfish, and so I try to just be really open to rotating people in and out and not stressing anybody out during the process…But it’s also really fun to have a bunch of really talented musicians play the music, because you get a different sound for a second, and it’s kind of refreshing to me.

What is next for Grace Weber?

We have this plan to get to a point, where we’re going to try and sell out the Bowery Ballroom. So, our idea is to get enough fans where A) we start touring 200 days out of the year, and how do we get to that point. And we just did Rockwood II, and sold that out to 180 people, now how do we get to 500 people….A lot of it is just getting your name and face in a lot of places. And then a lot of it is just crossing your fingers and just hoping that a lot of random stuff happens. It’s just waiting, and being open and being patient.

Go see Grace Weber at the Mondrian Soho Hotel on November 7th! 

Here is New York: Now

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”

-Thomas Wolfe

 

It has been 66 years since E.B. White sat in a sweltering New York City hotel room and crafted the exceptionally witty, perceptive, and charming love letter to the city; Here is New York. In just 39 short but expertly crafted pages of prose, White walked his readers through an unforgettable journey through the varied, charismatic, and effortless city that is New York.

Since the books conception, billions of people have travelled to and from, visited, departed, and newly arrived on this small island, and of the many, a select few like myself, have pledged their allegiance to the city and taken on the daunting task of succeeding in this highly competitive, irrationally expensive, dreamed and sought after place.

In so many ways, New York City is exactly the same place White left all those years ago. Taxis are just as hard if not harder to hail in the rain, walk ins are just as unlikely to be seated at Balthazar’s on a Friday night, and while the inception of restaurant week has made it slightly more feasible, tasting the luscious lightness of a chocolate soufflé at La Bernadin is mostly an unattainable dream.

However today, the city has changed and evolved to be an even more elite and storied place. New niches have been formed, cultural hot spots have impacted the flow,  and if nothing else, New York City, its appearance itself has in fact been drastically altered. Lower Manhattan is no longer defined by two strong and distinguished towers, but rather by one infallible building that represents New York’s tenacity and resilience. Similarly, Midtown is no longer marked solely by the Empire State Building, but by both the Chrysler Building and The New York Times offices as well.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote “the only thing constant is change” and in New York City that could not be more true. As White said “to a New Yorker the city is both changeless and changing” (48), and as I work to make my mark on this willful city, I am learning how to conform to its ever changing ways, while still striving to make it my own.

Here is New York: Now.

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As I write this, I am sitting on the grass near the steps of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, a drastically different image than White sweating in an overheated midtown hotel room. It is mid-October and aside from the light breeze it is unseasonably warm, hot even for this time of year. But the open air invites a pleasant counter, to those, like myself, who are over dressed for the heated temperatures. Around me clicking cameras, talking tourists, and the washing water of Bethesda Fountain combine in a cacophonous symphony, creating an almost harmonious sound of silence. Suddenly the soundless noise is broken by a jazzy trumpet players variation on Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5,” flooding the sound waves with swank and sophistication.

On my little blanket on the grass, I have secured myself a small space on this coveted island. I am secluded from the cities vibrations, yet feel the presence of the others that surround me, suddenly reminding me that I am a part of something greater. As White claimed you are never more than 18 inches away from some event in the city, and as I look around I notice tiny pockets of interaction occurring. To my right, on the hill across the path, three people bounce with agitation before starting a thai chi session. To my left, a man races up and down the stairs testing his endurance, while multiple photographers shoot pictures of their friends, loved ones, and customers on the steps beside him. So far, there have been three couples that have come to the fountain to take wedding photos and one professional ballerina posing under the arches. At the top of the steps, screaming and cheering bystanders encourage street performers to take on another show. Meanwhile along The Mall, vendors try to sell replicas of current and past celebrities and overprinted signs. All this occurs a mere 18 inches or so away, begging me to join, yet I remain affixed on my patch of grass. As White explains, “New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation” (22), an experience many New Yorkers engage in every day.

As if serendipity reigns in this metropolis I discover in my wallet a slightly faded five dollar bill. As someone who rarely carries cash in her wallet at all, I took this discovery as an order to understand what E.B. White described: “you always feel that either by shifting your location ten blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation” (25) he said. As I exited to the east side of the park I did in fact experience a rejuvenation of sorts. I was no longer a bystander, casually strewn amongst the trees, but an active participant, dodging cars, bikes, and pedestrians. The easy laid back energy of the park dwellers morphed into an electric and anticipatory buzz. And as I walked down Madison Avenue the glistening storefronts of legendary labels winked at me through the sparkling glass windows.

This is the beauty of New York. Its chameleon like tendencies allow you to go from the leafy canopies in Central Park to the steely chaotic city streets, and even as far as the shore lined sands of the Atlantic Ocean, by simply taking a few steps or a short subway ride. It is safe to say that no other city in the world provides this vast an experience in such a close and well organized proximity. “New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm” (54) White wrote, and that charm is evident in the city’s continuous efforts to reawaken the souls of its citizens.

In today’s New York, it is common for every New Yorker to have their place of solace. For some it’s Yoga for the People on St. Marks Place in the East Village or a trip to SoulCycle. For those residing in lower manhattan it might be a short bike ride along the pier, while for those uptown it could be a quiet lunch on the bench outside of Bakersfield Market or coffee at The Hungarian Pastry Shop. Whatever it is, every New Yorker has their place, their “thing” that they do to regain equilibrium. It is one of the great joys of a New Yorker to have a moment to regain stability and revisit their place of sanctuary. This process of rejuvenation, rebalance, and resilience is what New York and it’s inhabitants run on. In a place that is constantly reconstructing itself it can be easy to lose your sense of identity making it vital to acquire a place of refuge.

IMG_1221Many New Yorkers identify themselves by their neighborhood, and the construction of the city allows each neighborhood to take on its own identity and practice it’s own beliefs. “Each area is a city within a city within a city….” White wrote, “so complete is each neighborhood, and so strong the sense of neighborhood, that many a New Yorker spends a lifetime within the confines of an area smaller than a country village” (35-36). Although the demographics in each neighborhood have somewhat changed since White’s time, the tradition of each district having a distinct reputation remains the same. Aspiring actors work in the chic eateries of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea and then retire to their homes in Brooklyn or Alphabet City. Brioni clad business men taxi down to the Financial District and return each night to their manicured homes on the Upper East Side. While the Chinese in Chinatown have expanded their borders since White’s time, they are still a close knit community and are friendly neighbors to the Italians in Little Italy. And of course, the unavoidable chaos of Times Square and the Theatre District remains one of the most cliché and loathsome stereotypes of all Manhattan neighborhoods. Each niche harvests a distinct demographic, making the city as a whole a melting pot of diversity, innovation, and opportunity.

However, what’s more than the difference between citizens of each neighborhood is the distinction between what White describes as “the three New Yorks.” For White there is “the New York of the man or woman who was born here,” “the New York of the commuter,” and most importantly “the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.” “Of these three trembling cities,” White writes, “the greatest is the last- the city of final destination, the city that is a goal” (26).

I am a member of the third New York and can attest to the assertion of New York City being the end game, the goal met, the dream come true. For those who were born here, the privilege of New York was simply a birthright, the benefit of chance. For the commuter, their experience is something more akin to that of a tourist. New York to them is a place to visit, a nice place for a good meal or a quick show at the theatre, but far too busy, far too energetic to live in. But for me, and for my fellow dreamers and doers, New York City is the symbol of success. Being a “New Yorker” is a label we take willingly, an identity we display proudly, a sign we wear that says “I made it!”

One of the most interesting paradoxes of the city is that each member of the third New York came with the expectation of gaining what New York was, however, with each new person the experience of the city changes. We are the reason New York evolves, we infiltrate the alterations. As White exclaims; “the city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive” (29).

New York City allows a gentleman to walk into his favourite French bistro on Avenue B and talk to the waiter in his native tongue, acting as if he is at his own kitchen table. New York allows families to sell frogs and exotic fish in Chinatown making residents feel as though they are at a market in Shanghai. New York allows Eastern Europeans to fill themselves with perogies and borsch in the East Village and Mexicans to eat freshly fried churros in Morningside Heights. “The collision and intermingling of these millions of foreign-born people representing so many races and creeds make New York a permanent exhibit of the phenomenon of one world” (47), White said, and it is that weaving of cultures that have made New York such an intricate and elaborately fabricated metropolis.

Many have said that New York can barely keep up with itself. But one of the beauties of the city is its ever evolving composition that allows for each person to have their own unique, cosmopolitan experience. Being a member of the third New York is like getting an invitation to an elite and secret society. It shows you have done something to prove you’re worthy of being here. And members of this exclusive group choose to stay no matter how hard, lonely, or uncomfortable it becomes. “…the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient;” White said, “but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience- if they did they would live somewhere else” (53).

New York City offers its residents a daily test of tenacity. It constantly challenges your abilities, your strength, and your desire to succeed in such an impossible place. Back in 1999, Roger Angell wrote an introduction for E.B. White’s 100th birthday printing of “Here is New York” and in it he wrote; “this is a city that still calls to its “young worshipful beginners”…. it has never been more difficult or expensive for them to hang on here but they would not be anywhere else, not for the world” (15). Today, with both the competition and fluctuating economy of the 21st century, that difficulty could not be more relevant. However, the grit of those “young worshipful beginners” (38) is an everlasting wick, that would take the exhale of a dragon to blow out. New York is a choice we make. As John Updike explains; “ the true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”

In the popular HBO drama “Sex and the City” the protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw, once said; “when I first moved to New York and was totally broke, sometimes I’d buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more.” That is the reality of the third New York and the New Yorker who will stop at nothing to obtain experiences and immerse him/herself within Manhattan. The need not for nourishment, but for fulfillment. As White describes it, “New York hardly gave me a living…but it sustained me” (38). New York allows you to simultaneously fall in love for the first time and the last. By providing you with samples of varying unexpected experiences you are constantly introduced to new love, while at the same time, the legacy and tradition of the city sustains your initial infatuation.

There is still a longing for the “old” New York, White’s New York, but the beauty of the city is that through the years remnants of times before remain. Today, Fifth Avenue is littered with commercial storefronts, but as you make your way to the corner of 57th Street you are reminded of the bountiful bustle of Holly Golightly peering gracefully in the window of Tiffany’s. So many aspects of the bygone city remain, that by walking down just one street you can be placed within three different decades at once. As White describes, “[New York] carries on its lapel the unexpungable odor of the long past, so that no matter where you sit in New York you feel the vibrations of great times and tall deeds, of queer people and events and undertakings” (19). A trip to the Upper East Side (Lexington Candy Shop, 83rd and Lexington Avenue) will take you through a time capsule to an old style diner, where you can have handcrafted milkshakes and syrup malted sodas. A little further down you can have a single malt on the rocks and feel the tensions of prohibition and the seduction of speakeasies in The Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel. And in the villages downtown, you are constantly reminded of history. On the east side, a step into the sticker covered and dimmed 315 Bowery reminds you of the vibrations of the rock and roll era. Even though this building has been converted into a clothing store, the energies of the old music venue, CBGB’s, remains. Likewise, a trip to the west side can take you on an experimental journey to the bygone era of apothecary’s at C.O. Bigelow.

New York is a conglomerate so equally segregated, by old and new, race, culture, and tradition that no one thing stands out, or in a different light gets lost among the crowd. White exclaimed, “New York is not a capital city- it’s not a national capital or a state capital. But it is by way of becoming the capital of the world” (55), and since his time the prominence of New York City has generated even more impact. White’s assertion was especially apparent after the tragedies of 9/11. During those events, New York proved itself to be the most resilient, united, and determined city in the world, and since then has become an even more desirable destination. While some, White included, thought that the interruption of planes could end the island, it fought in deterrence of making that statement true, and won the heady battle.

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Every New Yorker comes to the city with eager anticipation, expectation, and a thirst for adventure. Discovering New York is like unwrapping your presents on Christmas morning. Within this city, there is an energy unparalleled by any other contemporary metropolis. Paris, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto are all wonderful cities in their own right, but none quite live up to the enigmatic vivacity of New York. There is no simpler metaphor for New York nowadays than falling in love. With such eloquence, White showed us New York by both complementing and criticizing it, engaging us in his complicated relationship with the city. Like any sustainable alliance, every New Yorker has it’s ups and downs, but they continue to hold on. We are not being pushed away so much as we are being constantly asked if we want to stay. Even through all the pitfalls and indiscretions this city throws at us, we choose to hold on, to work harder, and if we’re crazy enough to dream bigger. This is the magnificence of Manhattan.

Within this concrete jungle, lambs are challenged to become lions, while at the same time are constantly given the tools to be inspired and aspire to rise up again and again. For White, the city symbolizes “a steady reaching for the sun” (56). New York is an unsolvable riddle with an irresistible rhyme. It preys on the weak, captures the willing, and intrigues the curious, unfailing in its efforts to provide an incomparable experience. Although this city can feel daunting at times, it sustains eager minds, fulfills arduous aims, and fills you in on the secrets of its well oiled enterprise.

In an ancient love letter, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote to his beloved, “Ever mine. Ever thine. Ever ours,” a scripture so relevant to today’s New Yorker. New York City cannot be experienced without the experiences of others. You are a part of a cosmopolitan conglomerate of characters all trying to make Manhattan their own. But the beauty of New York is that it allows you to own a piece of it. It readily shares itself to those of us, crazy enough, to believe we deserve to take it. New York City, it’s the dream come true.

 

Bibliography

White, E.B. Here is New York. New York: The Little Bookroom, 1999. Print.

“The Real Me.” By Michael Patrick King. Dir. Michael Patrick King. Sex and the City. HBO. New York, 3 June 2011. Television. 18 Oct. 2014. DVD.

Street Performer, perf. “Take 5.” By Dave Brubeck. Time Out. 1959. 17 Oct. 2014.

A Talk With Arthur Sulzberger from The New York Times

When a print publication, especially one as widely known, recognized, and respected as The New York Times, goes through a change, it is expected that it will have varied results, and in many cases it is Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.  who must field both the compliments and complaints. With company layoffs and many questions surrounding the future of print journalism, Sulzberger gave us some answers.

On Thursday, Oct.16, the New York University Arthur Carter Journalism Institute hosted Arthur Sulzberger, publisher and chairman at The New York Times, for a conversation on journalism and the future of the paper, in New York City. The talk was moderated by Meryl Gordon, director of the magazine program at NYU, and was also accompanied by Ian Fisher, deputy executive editor at The New York Times.

“One of the most challenging decisions to make in a legacy organization is to change,” Sulzberger said.

Sulzberger explained how even between layoffs, rehires, the migration into the digital world, The New York Times is constantly in change, yet somehow remains a traditional legacy paper.

The company has made many job cuts in recent months, a topic that brought some interested journalists to the talk in the first place. “I read about the newsroom layoffs and I was very curious to see how he would address them,” said Jordan Sternberg, a journalism student at NYU. Although Sulzberger didn’t elaborate on the specifics, he attributed the layoffs to be much like the papers regeneration to a digital form, informing the audience that while they are buying out many employees, they are also hiring an abundance of new talent. “Yes, we are reinvesting in our journalism just like we are investing in our digital future,” Sulzberger said. In addition he was reassuringly asserted that in face The New York Times is employing more journalists than ever before. Although many are being laid off, they are equalling if not surpassing quotas with rehires more in tune with digital practices.

For prospective journalists, Sulzberger also offered some advice; “the skills necessary to succeed in this world are truly changing,” he said, adding that although it is good to be a good writer, nowadays that might not be good enough. “There is still value in working for a smaller paper,” Sulzberger said.

Deputy executive editor Ian Fisher also gave some encouragement, “if you’re a good and true writer, you will find a job,” he said, reassuringly.

In contrast, for those print publication traditionalists who don’t like change, it’s not time to worry just yet. According to Sulzberger, “print is going to be around as long as readers want it,” he said. And, although “the good gray lady” is now bursting with colour, and soon will be even more vibrant like those papers in Europe, according to Denmark journalist Jasper Van Kilder, with the addition of upgraded printing presses, tradition will remain. In fact, where most people would expect the transition of the reading medium to be from print to digital, the greater difference is between the reigning print version and mobile. Like the paper used to be, readers choice of what they read on, is very black and white. A reader is either fully traditional, and gets the paper delivered every morning or loads it on their phone on their way to work.

In the midst of all this change however The New York Times strives to keep its integrity, and more importantly, its legacy and tradition of accurate, insightful, and proactive reporting. “I think that The Times…sort of believes it has two values, one are the great stories themselves … but then I think we’re also selling , I imagine we’re selling New York Times judgment, as a whole. I mean The New York Times front page sends a message that these are the things the are most important,” Fisher said. It is up to the editors discretion to decide what is important, what readers need to know, and readers of The Times trust that information.

Interestingly, while they invoke change in the paper, the Sulzberger family has avoided change when it comes to leadership. Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. is the 4th generation Sulzberger to be running The New York Times and under his leadership there are already six 5th generation employees at The Times. Adolf Ochs bought The New York Times in 1896 and it has remained within the Ochs-Sulzberger leadership ever since then. Sulzberger said he is blessed to be apart of this legacy, and unlike most obligatory family businesses, he took on leadership of this one willingly. Sulzberger always wanted to be a journalist, he worked on his high school paper and had a job at The Associated Press before taking a position at The New York Times. Also unlike most family run businesses, especially those in the newspaper industry, the Sulzberger family hasn’t caved. Why is that? “We stay tight” Sulzberger said, “we work really hard at having a relationship,” and it is because of that relationship that the paper thrives and survives.

Black and White and Re(a)d All Over

There is a notion that the newsroom is a chaotic environment, littered with caffeinated reporters furiously typing and fedora topped editors barking into the phone. Though frantic it’s a romantic image but is far from reality.

Take away those ringing phone sand the crunching clamor of keys, lay to rest the floating newspaper clippings, and in their place, put stylistically engineered workspaces, pigmented with accents of red for today’s quintessential newsroom. This is The New York Times newsroom.

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The New York Times Newsroom

The building, located in the midst of frenzied Midtown, stands, a seemingly pores vessel, waiting to receive information.

Its floor to ceiling windows lend insiders a view of the stirring city, while its interior windows allow staffers to peer into a lush serenity garden.

In fact, the windows, like the writers, too have a story. They are the company’s symbol of transparency. A literal image, writers can see out and onlookers can see in, as well as a promise for  journalistic integrity.

The Pulitzer Prize Wall

The Pulitzer Prize Wall

Although located in the one of the busiest Manhattan neighborhoods, the Times seems to have found a way to distance itself from the fray. A glance outside does not halt you with a brick wall, like most city windows do, but instead holds a careful distance from the masses surrounding it.

It floats among the other structures, and at its center, the newsroom captures a sense of quiet and calm.

So while visions of that frantic newsroom may not materialize, an air of romanticism remains. The energy is neither black nor white, but rather a productive and harmonious gray; a structure ready to produce “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

Sign Language

In New York City, sign language has a whole new meaning as citizens try to bring awareness to climate change and other environmental issues through expressive signage at the People’s Climate March.

On Saturday, September 21st, over 100 world leaders and tens of thousands of global citizens gathered together in New York City to march in advocation of climate change. Among them were an array of colourful, creative, and provocative signs, adding insight to the record breaking event.

Mother, Samantha Lobis, and her son at the People's Climate March 2014

Mother, Samantha Lobis, and her son at the People’s Climate March 2014

“There is No Planet B” one sign read, held by a modest gentleman who was walking towards the crowd, eager to join the fray. A young boy had an artistically crafted sign which simply read “Let’s Save Our Planet,” hanging from his neck as he and his mother waited on the sidewalk. The creator of the sign, Samantha Lobis, mother and marcher in the People’s Climate March event said “It’s important for me to take my son so he can start a movement of being an activist and it’s important for me, for him to learn that if you find that something is important that you need to take a stand.”

Among the assemblage of marchers, a great range of generations and demographics were in attendance. However, a prominent demographic, and a popular sign holder, were not the many pro-active parents, but rather their aspiring activist children. Another young boy, proudly sat on his fathers shoulders holding a sign that read “No Big Factories, Except for the Lego Factory.”

It was interesting to see how many of the signs, like the aforementioned Lego one, or another which read “We Are Groot,” an allusion to the Marvel Comics superhero, tailored towards children. After all, it is their world the marchers are fighting for.

One Columbia student, who asked not to be named, said that she, like many of the adults there, was marching for the youth and the next generation. “I mean, they’re too young to realize the impact of climate change, so hopefully they’ll learn from this, and know that on this day, we made history,” she said.

Alongside the youth oriented messages, were also an array of signs which catered to the current generation of aspiring world leaders. Young adults, familiar with pop culture and social media, held up signs which read “YOLO,” one of the O’s displayed as a globe, “earth needs more likes,” in reference to Facebook, “Sequel to Frozen: Melted!” an ode to the popular Disney movie, and “Mermaids Oppose to Offshore Drilling,” speaking to the “mermaids are real” phenomenon.

Marcher at People's Climate March 2014

Marcher at People’s Climate March 2014

Jessica Shohfi, a volunteer at the march, was handing out some of the organizations designed signs, which read “People’s Climate March” on one side and “I’m marching for…” on the other, giving marchers the ability to write who or what they were advocating for. “I think it is a universal problem and it’s probably going to overshadow every other social problem in the next 10 to 20 years” Shohfi stated.

Many celebrities were also in attendance adding stardom to the signage. Derek Blasberg, editor at large at Harper’s Bazaar, wrote an article on the weekends events, as well as posted pictures on his instagram account, one with the caption “Global Warming is not hot” and another with models Cameron Russell, Andreea Diddy, and Jessica Hart who all wore “Walk With Me” stickers.

The People’s Climate March organization whose website promotes “Action. Not Words.” were rewarded with both, as citizens from around the world gathered together making both a visual and historical impact through their actions, words, and signs.

‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ -A Response-

It is five o’clock on a summery Wednesday afternoon as I sit amongst hundreds of other people on the Staten Island Ferry heading to Manhattan.

As the tangerine coloured boat lags away from the dock, I take my place leaning on the rails of the upper most deck. Around me, couples and friends make their way around the boat sitting, standing, trying to find their place within the prized vessel.

As I look out along the water, I see a lighthouse perched on the center of a hill next to an American flag, and I am reminded of places further away. Places like Cape Cod or Newport Beach in California, although not a great distance from me, they seem substantially far in comparison to the island I will soon approach.

For me this journey is homeward bound, but for many the voyage is one of departure, people leaving their homes in anticipation of something more. Something, seemingly, greater. And although they may say and truly can be proud of where they come from, they still have chosen to leave, in search of something that only this little island can provide.

As I take a seat I can not help but notice how the boat trudges hurriedly towards Manhattan at a significantly different pace from when it departed the island earlier that day. Slow and melancholic was my departure from South Ferry, yet with alacrity the boat returns anxiously awaiting the city.

As we pass by the Statue of Liberty, a celebrated icon of freedom and dreams, the energy on the boat seems stimulated by an electric charge. We are reminded of the people who travelled much farther and much longer for a dream and a wish exactly like our own, and suddenly we no longer feel alone. In a place that can seem so isolating, we find community and connection in the legacy of dreamers past and in the actions of present doers. Workers, travelers, writers, readers, we have all come together with the central idea and desire for something more.

crossing brooklyn ferry I look back at the town I just left and around at the cities surrounding the island and notice how none quite live up to the glory of Manhattan which stands before me. The skyline mimics the rolling hills of the lower grounds I just came from, but in a much grander, emphatic way.

When I stand up once again, returning to my post at the rail, I see the sun shining down on the water. The hot rays paint golden streaks along silky blue waves warming the people and world around  me.

However, as bright as that light may glow, I know that the real light sits to my right. Glittering she stands, proud, tall, entitled, and smiling. Shining brightly, she awaits the arrival of the islands newest members. The front of the boat is inundated by eager passengers ready to set foot on the land. The boat docks.

Welcome to Manhattan.

 

Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. This poem can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174738

The Table of Silence Project: Remembering 9/11

There is beauty in tragedy, and devastating events can inspire works of art. Any form of art has the power to bring people together, whether in conversation or conflict. However, more times than not it serves as a healing mechanism and a common language that people share and understand together.

I attended The Table of Silence Project 9/11 held around the Revson Fountain in Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center on Thursday, September 11th, 2014. The performance, featuring over 100 dancers from various schools and companies, three vocalists, two percussionists, and three flutists, was brought into production by Buglisi Dance Theatre in partnership with Dance/NYC, The September Concert, and Rossella Vasta. The show began at 8:15 a.m. and concluded with a moment of silence at 8:46, the time when the first plane hit the North Tower, followed by a procession outwards as the dancers exited the plaza. Spectators viewed this performance circled around the fountain, as well as from the balcony above, for those who work at Lincoln Center and had access from the inside. The performance began with the dancers, dressed in white leggings, creme and white blouson tops, bare feet, and streaks of white paint on their faces, circled around the fountain, then progressed with them moving sporadically outwards and down the steps at Lincoln Center, until finally, they regrouped into concentric circles around the fountain. While NYPD officers stand at the bottom of the stairs, Lincoln Center security guards are stationed at the pillars around Lincoln Center, as well as at key points between the dancers and the spectators, manning pathways for the dancers to pass through. In many ways, both in character and in mission they are apart of the performance. In character they seem to play a role in helping the crowd remember the many officers who worked and lost their lives on 9/11, while in mission they serve as vital parts of the performance, making sure it runs smoothly, efficiently, and uninhibited by spectators. After the first circle begins to disperse the dancers glide onto the stairs freely, spontaneously pausing in five distinct positions; In one they stand perfectly erect with their arms crossed over their chest and their palms toughing each shoulder. In the next the same erect position is held except this time their gaze is directed upwards and their arms are lifted up in a V formation. In the third the dancers are in a lunge with one hand pressed out and behind them, and the other covering one of their eyes, their bodies twisted towards their outstretched arm. In another the dancers hold their hands clasped in front of them, in a praying position, and in the last, the dancers lowers down to the ground as if having fallen, their heads towards the floor, knees bent, and arms in a lowered push up stance as if having broken their fall. These five positions are repeated numerous times and in a different order by each dancer as he or she makes their way to the steps. At 8:46, during the moment of silence, the three vocalists each sing a resonating note creating a harmony that vibrates through the crowd and onto the streets. Each dances nobles leaves the grounds and descends down the stairs at the side of Lincoln Center. The crowd doesn’t waver until the last dancer has exited.

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When asked where he was on 9/11/01 and what this tribute means to him: “I was in third grade, and I didn’t really know what was going on, but I remember she was my favourite teacher in the world and she just cried her eyes out. I was a dancer in it for two years, and this was my first time getting to actually see it. I think it’s a really beautiful statement of what art and dance can do to bring people together. I mean I cried. People probably have work at 9 a.m., I mean like people probably have work in 10 minutes, yet they are standing here watching this ritual to the very end.” – Corey Snide, 20, spectator, former dancer.

When asked where she was on 9/11/01 and what brought her here: “Umm…I came here because um my friends father is dancing in it, and um, I was 11, I was in the city, I was 11 when it happened, and I was at school, and my dad came and picked me up, and I didn’t know what happened till he came. And then we got back to Queens somehow, I don’t remember, um, we got here late, so I didn’t get to see the beginning of it, but…. um… just now watching someone react to it, was very intense, cause I realize this is uh, like a visual for people who are still grieving, people they lost over a decade ago but that never goes away.” – Ali, 24, spectator.

When asked what it meant to be apart of this performance: “Whatever else happens, this is the most important thing I will do today. It has been such a privilege to be out here with my fellow New Yorkers and to give us all an opportunity to remember, to feel, to come together, to take a moment of silence with ourselves, with each other, and with the world.” – Helga Davis, performer.

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As I walk up the steps to the crowd at Lincoln Center I look at the busy street behind me and notice that on this one day, occupied commuters take a minute and pause, look up, and notice the memorial being performed. It is almost as if New Yorkers awarenesses are heightened on this day. I am curious to know if it out of fear and self protection, or out of respect and thoughtful remembrance. The silence resonates through the crowd. It is so hauntingly quiet that even the usual chaos of the city is tuned out by the reverberating sound waves echoing from the vocalists. The interrupting sound of a dogs single bark is sharp and piercing. Some commuters seem to divert their daily path as they pass by Lincoln Center, questioning at first if this is a worthwhile interruption on their journey, many of them deciding it is. A woman dressed in all black removes her sunglasses and dabs her mascara. She stands a minute more then slowly walks away from the performance. In some cases this performance seems to have become less about remembrance and more about a spectacle in a way. Spectators almost miss the beauty and presence of the show as they hide behind smart phones and cameras recording and picturing the event. However, you can see in the security guards faces, and in a select few viewers that this tribute is a very real memorial, something to bask in rather than capture. Though very few people leave their place, as some remove themselves from the crowd, the remaining spectators mosey into their spots, respectfully trying to get a better view. An older woman that is apart of the performance cries at 8:46. Before the moment of silence she claps castanets creating a noise which reverberates through the crowd. A man holds his Yankees cap, in his hands which are crossed at his waist. Three students walk by in clamorous chatter, with Starbucks in their hands, oblivious to the ceremony. Not one of them break their conversation to look up and notice the tribute. Spectators are interrupted and many look over at the teenagers, seemingly surprised at their ignorance. At 8:45 stage manager stationed by the drums give vocalists a one minute warning. She nods ten seconds before 8:46. At 8:46:50 she counts down alerting the vocalists of the time they have until breaking the note. A woman arrives in an I (heart) NY shirt, the phrase written on top of a hear shaped American flag. Her outfit seems intentionally selected for this day. For an outdoor performance, I found it very interesting how the crowd stood, unwavering until the last dancer descends down the stairs. Even after the performance is over, a stillness holds the crowd in place before they continue on to their daily journey. A couple, one performer, one spectator, stands in a long lasting hug, at the fountain after the performance. After the performance, dancers emerge from all openings of Lincoln Center in their pedestrian garb, once again blending in with the spectators.

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2014

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Photo by Sarah de Burgh

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Me and model Sarah O’Connor

“…my favourite thing about the industry is getting to be apart of someone else’s artwork…getting to be apart of the magic” -Sarah O’Connor, BMG Model

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Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters Star Brandon Jones

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Daughters of Deviation

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Photo by Sarah de Burgh

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Carmen Electra

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hello breath freshener photo booth

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Model Cara Delevingne

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Model Cara Delevingne

 

 

Running Wild, Looking Pretty

“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places.”

-Alexander McQueen 

It is the summer of 2011 and the legendary steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are inundated with anxiously waiting patrons all eager to catch a glimpse of the museum’s latest fashion exhibition. If you are lucky, you can walk straight into the museum and cool off in line, as you sit, wait, and walk through the labyrinth leading to the exhibition’s show room. However, for many that forty-five minute to an hour wait was merely the final stretch of an additional lengthly outdoor journey. As you finally approach the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibit Hall, the clean white museum walls suddenly turn to graphite and you are introduced to two shadowboxes holding mannequins in ornate and captivating dresses. The left mannequin wears a vermillion dress, made of painted medical slides and ostrich feathers that fade to black, while the right mannequin is adorned in an intricate gown made solely of seashells. The lights become dim as you turn right and slowly get lured in to the deeply disturbing yet grossly compelling world of the late Alexander McQueen. The artist is McQueen, and the exhibition is Savage Beauty.

Entrance to Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Entrance to Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Throughout the exhibit you are slowly introduced to the vast range of McQueen’s interests as well as the sensationalist prospective that encountered the majority of McQueen’s work. As you enter the exhibit the two dresses, both from VOSS, Spring/ Summer 2001, demonstrate the ways in which McQueen utilizes both fear and fragility in the creation of his work. While the red dress morphs the traditional fitted bodice and billowing skirt form into a haunting and asymmetrical garment, the cream dress deceives a delicate and cascading image with razor sharp shells. Throughout his career, McQueen’s intention was to bring into conversation societies expectations of the female body by representing it in a unique way. To do this, he played with both the internal and external structures of the female form, and managed to create a repertoire of work that both frightens and fascinates its viewers.

For centuries, fashion, as an industry, has been woven into history and has helped fabricate a variety of cultures. The industry’s opinion and representation of “ideal beauty” is one which is admired as well as adhered to in many societies around the world. However, with that being said, McQueen has proven to serve as somewhat of an anomaly within this group, demonstrating his perspective in very strong, dark, and unconventional ways. Where at times he has chosen to accentuate odd parts of the body, and play with what contradicts societies standards, he still manages to create something beautiful, and amounts to being an esteemed voice in the high fashion world.

McQueen’s marvelous and romantic mind jarred his patrons perceptions and exceeded their expectations, until February 11th, 2010, when the legendary british fashion designer committed suicide leaving the fashion world in much shock and despair. Months after his death, the Condé Nast Foundation and The Costume Institute held the MET Gala in his honor and arranged “Savage Beauty” to be displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In it’s three month run (May 4th-August 7th, 2011) the exhibit became known as one of the most sought after spectacles that the museum has ever shown. Designed by Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, as well as the curator for the Met’s Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton, Savage Beauty featured over one hundred garments and accessories of McQueen’s short lived but long lasting career; ranging from his post graduate designs and work at the House of Givenchy to his untitled and unfinished collection from the Autumn/ Winter 2010 season.

In her essay, “An Argument About Beauty,” Susan Sontag discusses the differences between what is “beautiful,” what is “ugly,” and what is “interesting” (Sontag), as they pertain to both art and societies expectations of women and beauty. “Beauty can illustrate an ideal; a perfection” (Sontag), Sontag writes, but it is those notions of perfection that McQueen strives to complicate. Through his meticulous craftsmanship, McQueen has managed to bring together gore and glamor, having them interact in symbiotic harmony. Where fashion is focused on the materialistic and extrinsic aspects of a woman, couture puts more emphasis on the artistic details of the garment, allowing what might at first glance be viewed as “ugly,” suddenly, “interesting” and even “beautiful” (Sontag). “I try to draw attention to our unrelenting desire for perfection. The body parts that I focus on change depending on the inspirations and references for the collection and what silhouettes they demand” (McQueen), states Alexander McQueen. While in a way McQueen’s occupation may require him to minimize women into parts, he chooses to combine both the superficial components of fashion design with the personal creative concepts of couture, and uses the female form as his medium of design, allowing the collaboration to emerge as one interesting piece of art.

“It is the ugly things I notice more, because people tend to ignore the ugly things” (McQueen), McQueen once said. His designs derive from a relentless fascination of the inner workings, both physical and emotional, of human desire. In reference to his Spring/ Summer 2003 collection, Irene, he refers to himself as a “romantic schizophrenic,” although superficially he may seem somewhat savage, there is always an underlying sensitivity in his work. “I think there has to be an underlying sexuality. There has to be a perverseness to the clothes. There is a hidden agenda in the fragility of romance…I’m not big on women looking naïve. There has to be a sinister aspect, whether it’s melancholy or sadomasochist” (McQueen), he says.

14a.McQueenAW2010GoldFeathersTowards the end of the 18th Century, the period of Romanticism began to evolve, a historical era associated with liberalism, radicalism, and nationalism. The artistic movements of the era are classified as having a significant hold in the emotions of the aesthetic and prized themselves on the awe factor. In an article in the New Yorker, written by Judith Thurman, Alexander McQueen was described as an “archetypal romantic” (Thurman). These “Romantic fixations” (Thurman) also seemed to find their way into the Savage Beauty exhibit through display galleries categorized as; “The Romantic Mind,” “Romantic Gothic,” “Romantic Nationalism,” Romantic Exoticism,” “Romantic Primitivism,” and “Romantic Naturalism.” In an effort to ease it’s spectators into the grandiose and sometimes gruesome aesthetic of McQueen’s garment repertoire, the exhibit begins with a sampling of uniquely tailored, yet seemingly pedestrian jackets, dresses, and bottoms. These pieces, shown at the start of the exhibit, are somewhat symbolic of the start of the designers career where “he learned, painstakingly, to cut jackets” (Thurman) at the British tailoring company,  Anderson & Shepard. However, as you start into each adjacent space the richness and roughness of McQueen’s work becomes increasingly apparent.

In a review of the show, Holland Cotter, writer for the New York Times writes: “The show, or rather what’s in it, is a button-pushing marvel: ethereal and gross, graceful and utterly manipulative, and poised on a line where fashion turns into something else…Clothes become costumes, with sensuous, sumptuous lives of their own” (Cotter). The garments are momentarily interrupted in an adjoining gallery entitled “Cabinet of Curiosities” which displays over seventy accessories; shoes, handbags, and headwear, from the designers recently ending career.

Alexander McQueen was more than just a fashion designer. He was also a conductor, a poet, and a sculptor who chose fashion as his medium of artistic expression. “The designer who creates a dress rarely invests it with as much feeling as the woman who wears it, and couture is not an obvious medium for self-revelation, but in McQueen’s case it was. His work was a form of confessional poetry” (Thurman) Thurman once said of the designer. A couturier by traditional definition, McQueen catered to a variation of  A-list cliental, and was a notable, respected, and revered voice in the fashion world as well as among other legendary couturiers. However, even in the public eye, McQueen tenaciously shaped his career to be a manifestation of his own personal reflections. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar McQueen once stated: “you can get insular with fashion. Sometimes, I let you see what I am going through. It’s biographical, but all my work is biographical in some sense. It has to be, otherwise there is no soul to it” (McQueen/ Godfrey).

Different fashion designers work within their own processes but the general structure of garment production usually remains the same. After a designer has been inspired or struck by their muse, the first step is usually the creation of a concept board. McQueen has created work in reference to a variety of concepts and ideas that he has encountered. Each collection that McQueen creates tends to reveal a deeper aspect of his own inner self whether it be through Plato’s Atlantis, where he fabricates his experience scuba diving in the Maldives through his work; through Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, where he distorts the idea of a child like fairy tale with a darkness inspired by director Tim Burton; through Highland Rape, where he reflects on conflicts “close to home” representing disturbances between his fathers birthplace, Scotland and his own birthplace, London; or through It’s a Jungle Out There, where he used a series of animal skins to bring into conversation the startling and raw similarities between animal and human.

In the process of garment production, once a theme or idea has been established, a colour board is formed. Many collections typically have a similar colour scheme which highlights the designers intention for his collection. In the third step, the hypothetical concepts come to surface as the designer and his creative team discuss and select fabric and colour swatches from which to materialize the collection from. In many design houses designers will get particular fabrics made with the specific design or pattern they have in mind. In one of McQueen’s earlier collections, Highland Rape, the clothing was mostly “built on remnants from fabric shops” (McQueen). However, as his career progressed, intricately woven fabrics were created to satisfy his ideas. After the fabric has been selected and assigned to specific garments the actual clothing is created. Many of the patterns are first designed with a draping material and then once perfected replicated with the aspired fabric. Once the garment has been made, proper seams and measurements are attended to. “My designing is done mainly during fittings” (McQueen) McQueen stated in an interview quoted in his tribute book Savage Beauty, “I try to draw attention to our unrelenting desire for perfection. The body parts that I focus on change depending on the inspirations and references for the collection and what silhouettes they demand. When I design, I try to sell an image of a woman in [my] mind, a concept that changes dramatically each season” (McQueen). The world of couture is usually defined by two specific seasons which are shown in four prominent fashion weeks; New York, Paris, Milan, and London, all held in both the fall and spring, allowing high fashion designers to showcase their collections to a variety of media, editor, press, clients, and high fashion personnel. The two fashion seasons are usually defined as Spring/Summer, held in February and Autumn/Winter, held in September.

McQueen’s sensationalist visions found their way onto the runway, making his shows some of the most coveted events on any fashion mogul’s itinerary. However, his cutting edge couture also found its place off the runway, and into his many ready to wear collections. In another essay titled “Women’s Beauty: Put Down or Power Source?” Susan Sontag argues both the privileges and disadvantages of the concept of beauty in relation to women. “To be sure, beauty is a form of power. And deservedly so. What is lamentable is that it is the only source of power that most women are encouraged to seek…. it is not the power to do but to attract. It is a power that negates itself. For this power is not chosen freely – at least, not by women- or renounced without social censure” (Sontag). Through his designs, it shows how McQueen has grappled with Sontag’s theory and has paradoxically used beauty and the female form to create a template that exhibits women by empowering them. “I want people to be afraid of the women I dress,” McQueen once stated, “when you see a woman wearing McQueen, there’s a certain hardness to the clothes that makes her look powerful. It kind of fends people off….It’s almost like putting armor on a woman. It’s a very psychological way of dressing” (McQueen).

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Alexander McQueen uses the female body much like a sculptor uses a block of stone. By chiseling away from it or adding pieces to it he creates a clear cut structure. You can see his variations on form in his bodice work, which goes as far as mimicking the female waistline to actually revealing the shape of a woman’s nipples and bellybutton; in his silhouette work, which exaggerates the curves of a woman’s body while muffling the imperfections; in the stitching of his garments, where he specifically places decorative thread to define the musculature of the body; and in his choice of embellishment, which draws your attention to specific areas of the body through ornamentation.

In a bodysuit from the collection Irene, Spring/ Summer 2003, made of nude silk embroidered with black glass beads, McQueen suggests the musculature of the human body. By displaying the beads at specific angels McQueen mimics the downward sloping slant of the external obliques as well as the vertical rectus abdominus line of the abdomen; the dome shape curvature of the deltoid, which cups the shoulder girdle; the twisting lineage of the biceps brachii and brachioradialis in upper and lower parts of the arm; and the bisecting lines of the adductor magnus in the inner thigh. These details bring into focus the complicated pathways of the female form in an aesthetically pleasing way, and challenge the audience to look beyond the garment at the inner workings of the human body more closely.

In another haute couture piece, a dress made out of cream hand painted leather, from the collection Sarabande, Spring/ Summer 2007, McQueen brings to focus the more superficial aspects of the female body. From the collar bone to the outer reaches of the hips a leather bodice has been sculpted to show the naked female body. A modest cream coloured seam wraps horizontally around the circumference of the upper ribcage acting as an extension of the wearers actual body. Breasts equipped with the nipple and areola hang from the seam, and sit above a carefully flexed six pack, which then stretches to a pelvis with exaggerated hips that almost look like the dome of a flattened umbrella encircling the woman’s pubis and pelvis.

These garments, as well as the numerous others that make up McQueen’s repertoire demonstrate the way in which McQueen chose to accentuate the female form, without exploiting it. In a collection entitled The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, Autumn/ Winter 2008-9, McQueen chose to portray “a feral creature living in a tree [who] when she decided to descend to earth, was transformed into a princess” (McQueen). The entire collection is roman gothic in a sense, clothed with vivid crimson silk, lavish tulle, and illustrious jewels. The entire collection is almost cinematic in its grandeur, portraying a more sensitive and vulnerable side of McQueen. Sontag writes that “unlike beauty, often fragile and impermanent, the capacity to be overwhelmed by the beautiful is astonishingly sturdy and survives amidst the harshest distractions. Even war, even the prospect of certain death, cannot expunge it” (Sontag). In accordance with this idea of “the beautiful” (Sontag) being an overwhelming experience, McQueens intention for this collection was to get away “from war and disasters, and remind yourself there’s beauty in the world” (McQueen). It is both poetic and melancholic in a sense, collectively Romantic in its intention.

“I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things” (McQueen), Alexander McQueen, as well as his body of work, was the antithesis of subtle, but it is exactly that, which made him a deeply alluring and provocative artist. Whether it be where he challenged Sontag’s claim that “beauty is not ordinarily associated with gravitas” (Sontag) by creating solemn, sturdy, and significant garments, or where he deconstructed and then reshaped the female form, without allowing it to lose its integrity, McQueen has challenged the set point of the beautiful. He has taken what would be perceived as ugly (animal skulls, dead and diminished sea shells, medical slides), and made it interesting. Perhaps even, he has made it so that truly unconventional art – a bodice made to show the nipples and belly button of a woman, a skirt that revels the butt crack, a garment with slashes cut across it – is what can now be perceived as beautiful. Through his intentional impulse to create art out of what disturbs us, he has created collections which compel and fascinate its viewers. He has allowed us to become enamored with what we see as taboo, perverse, or gruesome. He has eased us into a world that we might have otherwise been too afraid to enter, and has allowed us to indulge in our reckless desires. He has stitched for us a collection of wearable poetry, a moveable, tangible, and tactile piece of confession, vulnerability, and romance. For the world he has created art, for fashion he has created history, and for himself he has created a legacy that will live on to challenge, inspire, and provoke the minds that dare to question him. He has forced us to look, and what we see is Savage Beauty.