Religion as A Liberating Force

 
 

No designer draws on religious themes to quite such glorious effect as Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Thus, it made perfect sense that Tisci came on board to guest-edit Visionaire’s 60th issue, RELIGION. Housed inside a distressed wood case lined in black Plexiglas, a book of images revealed Tisci’s world and the inspiration behind his work. Naturally, the works were loaded with symbolism, like a photo of Tisci suckling at the teat of Marina Abramovic — an image the performance artist says echoed the relationship between art and fashion. “When Riccardo was asked who I wanted to collaborate with,” Abramovic recalls, “I said the only thing I want is to collaborate with you. That was my ultimatum. I said to him, This is the situation: do you admit that fashion is inspired by art? Well I am the art, you are the fashion, now suck my tits! He’s very shy, so it took him a while to come around. But he did. During the shoot, I wanted to be in a state of mind as if I were delivering the emotions of the artist whose work is being used as inspiration—luminous yet strong. Art is giving. Art is nourishing. Art is oxygen to society. I was thinking what the title would be, and I thought of The Contract.” For Tisci, it was an opportunity to meditate on his past and present. “Visionaire was a truly important moment of reflection for me,” he says. “This collection of work celebrates inner truths, inner dialogues, and moments which words cannot quantify.”

Riccardo Tisci explores “religion as liberating force, complete with its share of saints, sinners, and supermodels.” However vaguely Tisci sees his own faith, his Visionaire is Catholic with a capital C, featuring eye-popping imagery that turns a millennium of European art on its head. Housed in an unfolding wooden case that nods to the great tradition of the altarpiece, the issue doesn’t scrimp on saints, including Carine Roitfeld, appropriately venerated in a series of haunting portraits by Karl Lagerfeld. (“Religion is anything you believe in,” the Chanel designer offers.)

The rest of the issue is an exuberant visual tribute to religious tropes. The Madonna and Child are revisited by Mario Sorrenti, and while she’s not exactly Rubenesque, there’s a certain minimalist serenity about her that beguiles. Paolo Canevari and Francesco Carrozzini canonize Franca Sozzani, complete with a Giotto-like halo, while Tisci’s house model, Lea T, is reimagined by Giovanna Battaglia and Pierpaolo Ferrari as a beautiful veiled martyr in Renaissance-style couture. The Son then comes into his own as Danko and Ana Steiner and Jared Buckheister rework the crucifixion, mounting Jesus on—or is it at—a lectern. Some of the pictures are slightly less tranquil. The shoot by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott of Lara Stone bound in ropes beside a burning cross conjures both Saint Joan and Mississippi Burning. But perhaps the most indelible image is that of Tisci suckling at the breast of Marina Abramovic, a woman who knows a thing or two about suffering for belief.

 
 

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The Man Who Would Be Gatsby

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

 
 

While a teenager, Francis Scott Fitzgerald was collecting ideas about the goings on in West Egg and not just those of the community but those of a specific man: W. Gould Brokaw, a now-forgotten Long Island socialite, playboy and gentleman automobile racer. He literally could not escape his shadow.

 
 

W. Gould Brokaw

 
 

Brokaw was the son of hugely successful New York clothier Vail Brokaw of Brokaw Brothers, and grandson of a railroad tycoon; he inherited a fortune of around $4.5 million and never needed to do anything in particular for work. His circle of friends was the cream of New York society: Astors, Whitneys, Guggenheims, Vanderbilts, Goulds, Morgans, all of them interested in speed, whether horses, greyhounds, yachts or cars. Brokaw was an elder statesman for that set of young millionaires, having been born a decade or more before most, in 1863. In later legal proceedings–of which there were oh so many, he was described as “a rich and fashionable clubman.”
 

According to Some Sort of Grandeur, Matthew Bruccoli’s biography of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, the character Jay Gatsby is based on the bootlegger and earlier World War I officer Max Gerlach. In the 1920s, when Gerlach knew the Fitzgeralds, he operated as a bootlegger and allegedly kept Fitzgerald topped off with booze. Born in Yonkers as Max A. Stark (or possibly Max A. Stork), he claimed direct German ancestry and went by the names of Max Stark Gerlach and Max von Gerlach later in life (his gravestone reads Max Stork Gerlach). Nevertheless, Gatsby is a composite, as are all Fitzgerald’s characters, and there’s a certain amount of Scottie himself in Jay.

 
 

Robert Evans and Ali MacGraw

 
 

About the filming adaption of The Great Gatsby directed by Jack Clayton in 1974, it was originally conceived and developed as a wedding present vehicle for Ali MacGraw (formerly Diana Vreeland’s assistant at Harper’s Bazaar magazine) from her then-husband Robert Evans. The project was derailed from its initial purpose when MacGraw fell in love with her The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah, 1972) co-star Steve McQueen and divorced Evans.

 
 

Evans in his home Woodland, built by architect John Woolf

 
 

The producer with Tatjiana Shoan. Harper’s Bazaar, 2004

 
 

Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw

 
 

Stills from The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)

 
 

Automobiles are almost treated as a character in the plot of Fitzgerald’s book. Myrtle Wilson was knocked down by a car and this sad event unchains the climax of the story. Plus, Fitzgerald to his editor Maxwell Perkins that the name of Jordan Baker (a character based on the golfer Edith Cumming) is a combination between the two then-popular automobile brands, the Jordan Motor Car Company and the Baker Motor Vehicle, as an allusion to Jordan’s “fast” reputation and the freedom now presented to Americans, especially women of 1920s.

 
 

Ralph Lauren

 
 

Ralph Lauren who (as we know) made the costumes for Jack Clayton’s The Great Gastby, has a penchant for cars. His collection of classic automobiles is another dimension of his own persona. An amazing lineup of 50-plus dream machines that have all been restored to glory, the convoy is a portal to the past, when men like Brokaw drove their race cars home from the track at the end of the day and manufacters were the manifestations of their designers: Jean Bugatti, Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche… RL’s gateway drug was a white ’61 Morgan convertible with red leather seats, which he bought in 1963- back when he was a travelling salesman for the Boston-based tie company A. Rivetz & Co.- and was later forced to sell when he couldn’t afford a garage in Manhattan.

 
 

Steve McQueen

 
 

And it’s a little bit curious and probably not coincidental that one of Ralph Lauren’s cottages is adorned with black-and-white photos of Greta Garbo, Johnny Depp and Steve McQueen, a man who also loved engines and made himself just like Jay Gatsby and Lauren did.

Lines Carved with Passion

Mark Summers is a talented illustrator who was born in Canada. He usually draws by means of the long-established but uncommonly, scratchboard. Scratchboard or scraperboard refers to a burdensome illustrative technique using sharp knives and tools for engraving into a thin layer of white China Clay that is coated with black India ink.
 
It can also be made with several layers of multi-colored clay, so the pressure exerted on the instrument used determines the color that is revealed. Modern scratchboard originated in the 19th century in Britain and France. As printing methods developed, scratchboard became a popular medium for reproduction because it replaced wood, metal and linoleum engraving. It allowed for a fine line appearance that could be photographically reduced for reproduction without losing quality. It was most effective and expeditious for use in single-color book and newspaper printing. From the 1930s to 1950s, it was one of the preferred techniques for medical, scientific and product illustration.
 
There is just something about the balance between black and white tones and the characteristics of the scratched lines that provides well-done scratchboard drawings a exacting appeal. Mark Summers is one of the best modern practitioners of the art.
He has done illustrations for major publications like Time and The Atlantic Monthly and has received three gold medals from the Society of Illustrators and was the recipient of the Hamilton King Award in 2000 and in 2002 he was nominated to David Greenwich Workshop Award.

 
 

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