A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jayne Mansfield Wore That???

One of the discoveries I made at the Open Studio yesterday was a vintage clothing shop called Hollywood and Vine, run by a personable transvestite named Bruce. His business card shows one of his over-the-top creations modeled by....which Hollywood bombshell was that...? wait a minute, it's Bruce himself! Fucking gorgeous.

This shop has been more artistically laid out than most of the other spaces in the Mills. Deco display cases hold rhinestone and Bakelite jewelry; Lucite purses are showcased on shelves. Faceless mannequins model dresses; those with features are reserved for the to-die-for hats.

Bruce hasn't named his shop "Hollywood and Vine" without good reason. He's got creations worn by Faye Dunaway, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo. Bruce's favorite designer is Norman Norell. A fabulous Norell creation, a short-sleeved semi-formal in rosewood lace buoyed up by a half-dozen crinolines, caught our eye. Geri made the mistake of remarking that, although dated, it was somehow classic.

"Dated!" spouted Bruce. "Dated!!! Crinolines make every woman feel and look fabulous! And look--under all these crinolines is a silk slip. Comfortable! And this lace top falls away--you could wear it as a strapless gown. It's totally today! And nobody makes dresses like this any more."

My favorite was a black peek-a-boo bathing suit once modeled by Jayne Mansfield. For $250, it seemed like a steal. Of course, her measurements were 44D-18-36 (after her first baby! And that was before silicone implants were invented.). There's probably nobody in the world who could fit into that suit today, even Bruce.

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Open Studio

The Indian Orchard Mills is a contemporary mixture of manufacturing space, warehousing, and artist studios. A few years ago, when my cousin Geri was running Recycle for Children next door, lots of artists dropped by to see her and to scrounge for materials to use in their work. She used to sell the same mat board supplied to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Gorgeous stuff....her price: 3 dollars. Sometimes free to me. Cordelia at that time needed lots of mats for her photographs, so we were always running over there. I met quite a few artists from the Mills just by hanging around Recycle, and I'd always go to their gallery openings.

At that time, most of the artists were in the back building. Now they've spread into the front building, where the books I catalog for Dan Wyman are warehoused. Last year my own cousin Marc took a studio two floors under Dan. I had dropped by a couple of times, but no one else in the family had seen his stuff. So in a show of family solidarity, Cousin Geri and I went over to the Open Studio today. We've seen so much of the artists in the back that this time we confined ourselves to the newer people.

Marc was a printmaker years ago, but has recently decided to teach himself to paint in oils. This past year has been a process of learning to handle the medium. Somehow he's managed to fill the walls with older prints and newer line drawings and oils. The old dog is learning some pretty decent tricks.

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