Saturday, December 31, 2011

Art After Dark...

With all the resolutions that everyone traditionally makes at the end of each year as varied as people themselves are, it is always interesting to learn what everyone you know is hoping to accomplish the following year.  Here are a few of my favorites:

La Condesa:
"I resolve in the New Year...
to only write letters with a fountain pen.

to memorize a very long poem.
to spend more time daydreaming about the Renaissance.
to photograph one startling image each day.
Basically I shall try to fortify the tunnel vision I possess which blocks the depressing aesthetics of the modern world and like a special lens focus only on the pretty bits"

Baron Kleinstschwule
"To entertian more!!!!"

Lady Cecile:
"This may sound curious but one of my personal resolutions is to do more things that I enjoy.
Run more, try new recipes, read about Attila the Hun (yes, you read that correctly-he's a historical figure worthy of revisiting), purchase a better winter handbag, try on skinny jeans and treat myself to Indian food more frequently…It also appears that I need to refine my ability to write new year s resolutions."

Baroness EuJane:
"My New Year's resolution is not to ever make one!"

As for me dahhhhlings, well I am reminded this year that I have not supported something that is fundamental to my existence: The Arts!  Many years ago I was known, not so much for writing a check to show my support & appreciation but for taking a very active approach to give back to what the arts in general gave me.    

I would host a cocktail party in my flat for all the symphony musicians (only) immediately following their master works concerts at the Civic Center… dahhling talk about an instant black tie party! I met so many incredibly talented people both members of our now defunct Savannah Symphony as well as traveling guest artists.  It was thrilling to go from listening & watching them make such beautiful music on the stage & feeling that amazing energy of creativity to having them all at once in my petit grand appartement with rooms enfilade.  There was never need for formal invitations; the key would be that if they saw me walking around back stage at intermission they knew I would be expecting them after the concert. It became the invitation to an evening soirée.  

I also supported my other passion: Theater by hosting an after party on the opening night of the Institutions main play.  However it all depended on which of my favorite student actor was in each play.  The rule was simple, only those involved in the play were invited, costume designers, actors, stage hands, set designers, musicians, etc.  It was electrifying to be in a flat full of people who after months & months of rehearsals have finally performed for the first time in front of an audience. 

To support up and coming artists (painters, photographers, sculptors) I organized a series called: Art After Dark, which was a private event meant to help build the self esteem of an artist, give them exposure & sell! The event would be by invitation only & would take place throughout the Garden. Sometimes a warehouse, sometimes a penthouse apartment, a yacht & even once in my own petit grand appartement!  For the exhibition of black & white photography of the talented German photographer: Maren Krings which were taken during her months spent among a very rural part of the jungle in Panamá, I decided to empty the entire contents of my flat, and convert the space into a private gallery for (2) days!  A favorite photo was selected to create a huge poster that hung over the balcony for 3 weeks prior to the event: “Panamá, Life Simple”. Building excitement.    Here a few photos from the archives of this particular event dahhlings:

"HRH The Duchess of State" by Ryan Brennan
To celebrate those years of my life, I comissioned a painting by the very talented painter and instalation artist: Ryan Brennan to capture those memories. So for the year 2012 my resolution is to look to the past to set some new goals for the future and to celebrate those that inspire me so!  With the creation of a new set of classically trained musicians that make up The Savannah Philharmonic, an endless supply of every kind of imaginable creative and talented young persons in the Garden attending the venerable institution for instruction and art education the possibilities are endless ¿no? What are your resolutions for the New Year dahhlings?
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Consummate story teller…

I have always been naturally interested in fine china dinner service sets, toile, haute couture, chinoiserie, dramatic jewelry (never costume ¡OBVIO!), boiserie and people who can narrate anything, particularly the mundane and like a spiders web, spin it into, well… a story.  I find it to be one of the most fundamental qualities in people who everyone finds fascinating.  Very few people though, really master the ART that story telling can be.  These types of people become essential to the roster of any good hostess.  They can turn an average cocktail party into an event to remember.  A FAB dinner party into an electrifying event where guests hang on every word of the story being told.   On such person is my good friend, my very own Dorian Grey: George Dawes Green.  A very well known author of several novels.

My dear Dorian George and I met, when he came back to our Garden from New York many years ago, trying to get away from his very busy, very public life in the city to finish one of his many novels.  Being originally from Saint Simons Island of course he knew many people in the Garden and it was through one of them, a member of La Sociedad, that we were introduced over an afternoon cocktail. Of course I took instantly to this most interesting character of extremes that George is.  He can be as recluse as a hermit in the lost mountains in middle Asia or absolutely a dehhvine dandy who knows no strangers at a cocktail party.  For years he has been frozen with the flush of youth on his cheek and forever in his spirit.  He is talented writer, but more than a writer, he is the consummate storyteller.  I find great pleasure in having a simple afternoon café or an early supper, just the two of us. He will always turn any average story into a journey.   Dahhling, and I am not the only one to think so, he is after all the founder of the very definition of storytelling: “The Moth” ( based in NY.

FAB George has always inspired me in many ways for his dark sense of humor, for his love of velvet evening jackets paired with his highbrow wit and most of all of the uniqueness that makes him, unforgettable.  Dahhling I hope you are as lucky as I have been to be able to have your very own Dorian George.
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Engagement Dinner…

A week ago I received by post a beautiful black & silver invitation to a Winter Fête.  Last Saturday the FAB Marquesa de Wolfe & her charming beau, Lord Mar hosted their beautiful winter dinner.  The occasion? Only the announcement of their engagement!  What a deehhhvine & chic way to do so ¿no?

In this modern day in which we live in where people will announce the most trivial & mundane occurrences of their lives to everyone, electronically no less! It is always such a pleasure, when instead, a person chooses do so by using a dinner, cocktails or afternoon té to share the milestones of their lives. 
Of course the table was gorgeous! The Marquesa de Wolfe set the table with her Haviland Prince de Conde china in silver and gold, crystal stemware & her regal oversized Wallace Grand Baroque sterling pattern.  The evening was magical & filled with gracious conversations, laughter and much happiness for this wonderful couple.

After all dahhhling, a truly elegant life does not require the most money at all but creativity, a little effort & a dash of high drama (chachaness)!
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dueling Couples….

In this season of love, peace & well wishing for all (how benevolent, I know!) I can’t help but think of all those dueling couples for whom a change of seasons & the holiday spirit affect nothing in their modus operandi.  I am sure dahhling you have come across this particular type of couple.  They are always fighting and not about one particular issue, it seems they only function in a state of chaos.  Of course, when a relationship unravels, there is always an expected amount of turmoil, but the dueling couples are always fighting no matter where they are in their relationships.

Eugenio Recuenco

All starts civil enough when you first meet them; they seem to be a very good addition to your group. Eventually there is a hint of what is to come when they show you a glimpse of what they really are like over an evening of cocktails & cards.   After losing a hand and complaining about it, she seems rather upset, her husband, tries to calm her by reminding her that it is just for fun and not to take it so serious, she snaps at him, throws her cards on the table as she gets up & storms out of the party without as much as a good bye to the hosts! All in front of a group of 12 guests, no less!  His reaction? Not even a twitch or attempt at going after her, instead he insists the next round commence & never as much as wonders if she made it home alright!  Should this be an indication of something to come I ask you dahhling? Well it should!  For as I have found out, it can only get worse as the dueling couple get more and more comfortable with being themselves, propriety, manners & social graces be damn!

Eugenio Recuenco

Every couple is different of course, each circumstance unique; however the scenes are all too similar.  I knew a beautiful China Doll who would continuously fight in public with her ahhdoring if ever so controlling live-in boyfriend.  Chaos it seems what the required element to keep them together…it ended all very dramatic when she left him for a model toy college boy over a new year’s party.  There was the southamerican beauty and her controlling husband for who weekly knock out drag out fighting was de rigueur! She would claim immunity for throwing drinks in his face at restaurants, running out of public places in a flurry of screams because of her Hispanic temperament (have you ever heard such ridiculous non-sense?) Then there were the final moments of a tumultuous relationship of a well known proffesional, when in the middle of an appointment, he ended physically punching & trashing the lobby of his own establishment with the boyfriend with no regard for the clients!  Lady Hamilton is infamous for having distilled her approach when dealing with Lord Crabtree to a simple phrase: "All Right"; If said with a high pitch emphasizing the beginning: "AHHHLL right Lord Crabtree!" she means business! If the emphasis is on the end and drawn: "Ahhhhllll Rhhhhhight Lord Crabtree" then it is abetement & appeasement at the same time.  Brilliant!...But the card playing married couple are far more intense about their fighting & their lack of shame to hold others hostage to their scenes are becoming legendary in the Garden.  Few are left that do not look horrified at the mere mention of their names.. or more specifically at the sound of hers. 

Eugenio Recuenco
Eugenio Recuenco

What drives these dueling couples to show such signs of discord creating such public scenes? Is it lack of love? Lack of attention? Have no idea what manners, decorum or shame taste like?
I don’t know, after all dahhiling I will be the first to tell you, I am an expert of nothing!
However, should you encounter one such couple, dahhling RUN!!!! don’t walk away you will thank me later.
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State

Saturday, December 17, 2011

La Tehuana

"La Tehuana" by Adolfo Hernandez
I am reminded on this month, around this week, of my beginnings, and therefore the roots of myself. 
Although I agree that all the life experiences that we live and live through have an impact in our beings, I disagree that they form who we are… I am a believer that we are who we chose to be every single day. Everyone experiences & processes their life’s journey differently, but I think we have the power to make a choice on how much we allow each of the good, the bad & the ugly of that journey to affect, shape and form us…or in truth to make us.   I believe that to be broken and troubled is a choice, that it is harder to fight against the tide of what is expected, what is cliché than it is to fight to be who you want to be.  

Dahhhling in this life who has not experienced turmoil, loss, death, abuse, absurdity, chaos, been victimized, neglected, forgotten, cheated, used, faced insurmountable challenges and has felt the shock as the sharpness of reality comes into high resolution and overpowers all the magic & whimsical glow of innocence & ignorance when we transition from childhood to adulthood  and all seems lost?  But I believe strength is really found in the choice we make to focus, to reclaim our selves & simply WILL our lives to be what we make them, what we choose them to be! ¿no?

Some will tell you it was written in the stars and based on which month you were born as to what you would be like, others that it is based on where you were born or to whom…but of course you know now how I feel...however I agree that perhaps where we are born, flavors us just a little bit, no?

Tehuantepec (the city’s full name being, Santo Domingo Tehuantepec) is a city and municipality in the southeast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is part of the Tehuantepec District in the west of the Istmo Region. The area was important in pre Hispanic period as part of a trade route that connected Central America with what is now the center of Mexico. Later it became a secondary capital of the Zapoteca dominion, before it was conquered by the Spanish in the early 16th century. “Tehuantepec” comes from Nahuatl and means “hill of the wild animals” or “hill of the demons.” The name was given to the area by the Aztecs because of the ferocity of the native Zapotec warriors. Santo Domingo was added in the 16th century by Bartolomé de las Casas as he passed by in honor of the Dominican church that had already been established there.

The city is still the center of Zapoteca culture in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and is the second largest in the region. The city is known for its women and their traditional dress, which was adopted and obsessed over by Frida Kahlo: The Tehuana. The city’s markets are dominated by women, who make up nearly all of the buyers and sellers. Until the 1970s, there was a complete ban on men in this area.  The historical reason for this is that traditionally women worked in the markets as men worked in the fields.  The dominance of women in the markets, and the city in general in the daytime, made the city an unusual break from the traditionally men ruled social structure everywhere else in Latin American culture. The writings of French traveler and historian Brasseur de Bourbourg and later by Mexican educator José Vasconcelos in the 19th century, described Tehuantepec as a “matriarchal society.” Later writings would go as far as stating that the birth of a daughter was cause for celebration and men turned over their wages over to women. This depiction of the women of Tehuantepec focused on three facts, their dominance in the markets, the unreserved manner, often ridiculing men publicly, and the fact that they bathed partially nude in the local river. In the 20th century, painter Frida Kahlo would adopt Tehuana traditional dress as a kind of solidarity with these women.

"Tree of Hope" 1946 by Frida Kahlo

Self portrait 1940 by Frida Kahlo
The modern day role model for Tehuana women was a woman by the name of Juana Cata Romero who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. She began as a humble candy seller, but would rise to become a local power brokers and one of the most revered figures in the city. Romero rose to prominence by befriending a young soldier, then Lieutenant Colonel Porfirio Díaz. Díaz was charged with guarding the town against plots and rebellions by Conservatives during the Reform War. Juana Cata allied herself with Díaz’s cause by signaling opportune times to attack Conservative forces. Juana would become head of Díaz’s intelligence service as well as his lover for four decades, although both would marry others. The alliance would make Juana the richest and most powerful woman in Tehuantepec, owning various sugar and coconut plantations and even the Isthmus of Tehuantepec railroad was built to pass by her house.

Juana Cata Romero

Porfirio Diaz

Romero’s house remains in Tehuantepec, which was the only two-story structure in the town when it was built. It was designed to look like a French chalet with north and west wings that come off of a circular entryway. The structure stands out from the surrounding 18th century Spanish architecture around it. To this day she is much admired because she amassed her wealth and power using her looks and shrewdness, fundamentally considered a Tehuana trait.

So dahhling….if only on this day instead of dreaming & hoping, excusing or blaming, choose to BE who you KNOW you are!
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An annual Pilgrimage

Every year, members of La Sociedad & the Noblesse along with countless creative types make the annual Pilgrimage to one of the most coveted & awaited events of the end of the year:  The Annual Holiday Party hosted by the dahhling Baroness EuJane.  Everyone comes to pay homage to this excellent & one of the most connected hostesses in the Garden.  Her party is legendary & has been held every single year for the last 15 years and although Baroness EuJane is not from the Garden (who is really dahhling?) she has become better known than many living here longer than she.   It was at one her parties one year that I first met the venerable historian John Duncan & his wife Ginger, or NPR’s radio personality Orlando Montoya & his eccentric beau, the newspaper columnist Bill Dawers, the famed NY publicist Bobby Zarem, the painter Sam Ward among many others.

It is an event to be savored. In her salon, one will meet all type of exciting faces & interesting people. Always one to mix to perfection the guests attending will cover the full range of personalities and backgrounds…and dahhhling this year’s party was certainly no exception.   I had the opportunity to catch up with some former Savannah Symphony musicians I had not seen in years for whom I use to have after parties at my petit flat after their masterworks concerts, it still the quickest way to have an instant black tie party.  Johnny Baker, the colorful caterer & owner of Bar Food was there full of quick wit as usual, the Duncan’s were in attendance, as was Bill Dawers & Bobby Zarem holding court in a corner table in addition to a variety of interesting people, too many to count.  I simply had a FAB time.   

Through it all Baroness EuJane was a graceful, elegant & effortless hostess as always.  I just wished we had more like her!
Until soonest…

The Duchess of State
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