More things we know by now: I am, it seems, a completely incurable nostalgist for all things New York and something of a weird local history fetishist,. (Wait! We need to point out some greatest hits of my obsession! The jail on Ludlow for suffragettes! Lady pirates of the Hudson! The dangers of petticoats in snow! My undying love for Bruce Davidson’s Brooklyn Gang!) Naturally, the sketches, prints, and etchings of Australian-born artist Martin Lewis (apparently a friend of Edward Hopper, whom I’m always weirdly drawn to for similarly NYC-biased-reasons) cater pretty directly to that weakness.
Lewis’ drawings and etchings appeal to me so much, I think, because despite being from the 1920’s and 30’s, they still look so familiar to me — the stylishly dressed midtown crowds pushing against the wind, the angles of the street corners, the open fire hydrants on hot summer days — streetcars and cloche hats aside, this still looks pretty much like every day to me. But mostly I think it’s something about the quality of light and shadow he captures — on streets still busy at night, during a thunderstorm, at dusk on a fire escape — which I don’t really have much to say about other than that is is exactly how it looks here and this is how I think of this city, as mostly grey with extremes of light and shadow. Am I too grossly romantic? Either way, the images are pretty awesome.
I’ll admit it — I’ve kind of turned into a Person Who Watches Television after years of sort of having a high horse over sticking my nose in the air and making obnoxious comments about not having owned a television in yeeeaaaaaars. But amongst others (True Blood, Mad Men, and, um, Glee), HBO’s Scorsese-directed star-studded Boardwalk Empire has captivated me — secretly I’m kind of a big dork for period pieces (accurate or not) and I just can’t get enough of the architecture and clothes and even the advertisements against the backdrop of the Jersey shore in the 1920’s. Because, seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t grossly overromanticize the 20’s? You basically can’t go wrong.
Slick HBO dramas aside, Contexts recently put together a great little summary of some of the less obvious facts about life under prohibition - things like that wine was still somewhat legal, which in turn kicked off the wine industry in California, that speakeasies weren’t quite as secretive and glamorous as we’d like to think (damn!) and that alcohol could still be prescribed “medicinally.” (Whiskey for toothaches, plz.)
And of course, as it turns out, the LIFE archives are rife with photoessays of prohibition-era images, and the US Coast Guard even has a hilarious collection of images from their liquor patrol boats of the time period. And searching the Google-hosted LIFE image archive (ps this is my favourite thing ever basically) pulls up hundreds more images from the time period, and despite the historically less-than-glamorous facts, the photos are just as rich and stylish as HBO’s pricey reproduction. More images of both after the jump!
SO. My obsession with the LIFE Magazine archives has come up before, as well as my affinity for photos of white trash gangs of the 50s and 60s (how many times can I post Bruce Davidson photos?) Also I have recently become a Person Who Watches TV On The Internet after years of being a Person Who Does Not Watch TV And Makes Snarky Comments About People Who Do, which I feel medium-serious conflicted about, but either way amongst the TV I have been watching on the internet is Sons of Anarchy, so maybe I just secretly am into really badass motorcycle chicks and trashy clothes or something. SO IT IS NOT A SURPRISE that I basically peed myself over this formerly-unpublished photo story about Hells Angels in California in the mid-60’s. CAN WE PLEASE NOTE the a.) curlers and b.) broken nose above?!
More after the jump, and the full story (minus crappy watermarks from saving) here.
Secret history geek that I am, I loved this little video with a brief history of the fashion industry and Fashion Week here in NYC, more than a little bit in comparison to the NYFW madness going on around me. I was psyched to see a video from a publication that addressed fashion history in terms beyond what the biggest designers sent down the runway and the richest, whitest women wore to the most public events; it’s easy for us to forget the sheer number of people participating in the fashion industry, the large majority of whom cannot wear any of the clothing actually produced, and also of the extent to which the development of an American fashion industry is closely intertwined with the development of both American and NYC identity and history, on all levels from labor organization to architecture.
Which got me thinking historically about things I’d forgotten — much of my family hails from Paterson, NJ, nicknamed the “Silk City” for its heavy silk an textile production in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and a huge percentage of my family worked in the textile and clothing industries in various ways, from working in the silk mills to working at the now-defunct Meyer Brothers department store, which is taking epic amounts of internet research to find anything about ANYWHERE, alas! (My grandfather is full of stories of working in the “dye-house,” as he calls it. He was probably, like, 14.)
And so: Lil’ history lesson after the jump! So you can stop looking at everyone’s iPhone shots of the runway for 10 minutes!
Eline just posted this and I had to steal it since that “romanticizing weird old shit” fetish problem thing I have apparently isn’t just limited to New York — posters from a sealed-up-since-1959 metro tunnel in London (where I’ll be in a week! tell me all your secrets of amazing places to go/things to do there that I might not know about yet!) More pictures after the jump and the whole thing here.
The Met right now has a special exhibition from the Costume Institute and the Brooklyn Museum called “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity,” which of COURSE I’m conceptually, ecstatically losing my shit over. Let’s just quote their press release for moment:
"It will explore developing perceptions of the modern American woman from 1890 to 1940 and how they have affected the way American women are seen today. Focusing on archetypes of American femininity through dress, the exhibition will reveal how the American woman initiated style revolutions that mirrored her social, political, and sexual emancipation. "
Oh, HELL YES. Though that description is (of course) a little exaggeratedly positive and optimistic, pretty much anything involving old dresses and phrases like “archetypes of American femininity” is going to get me going. Here’s their lil’ video of the exhibit:
While I haven’t had the chance to make it uptown to see it yet, I hiked out to the Brooklyn Museum (where the Met borrowed the dresses from) with my mother today and got to check out an extension of the exhibit - ”American High Style" - a collection of 85 or so pieces meant to re-introduce the BK Museum’s couture and costume collection after years in storage. While it’s a little heavy, as expected, on the couture end of things (too many evening gowns! not enough day dresses! not everyone was rich and partying, goddamnit!) it was beautiful and well worth the trip.
Pix after the jump — excuse the sub-par quality. I WAS BEING STEALTHY with a point’n’shoot.