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Central Asian Ikats

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Woman's Robe, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, mid-19th century.

[The Megalli Collection, The Textile Museum. Photo by Renée Comet.]

The Seattle Art Museum opened in 1933 in an art deco building within Volunteer Park. This was still its home when I arrived three decades ago. Dr. Richard Fuller, the man behind the museum, focused his collecting on Asian art, the museum’s early strength. It was therefore natural, when the new downtown building opened in 1991, to devote the Volunteer Park building to Asian art. So it was that after renovation, it re-opened in 1994 as the Seattle Asian Art Museum. On the opening of the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2007, SAM became a three-headed institution. (A fuller history can be found here. And yes, ‘fuller’ is an intentional pun.)

I don’t think we’ve been to the Seattle Asian Art Museum more than a couple of times. Gail says not at all, but now that I think of it, I went once with Joel many years ago so that he could complete a school assignment, and Gail wouldn’t have been with us on that visit. In any case, we found our way there three nights ago for the opening of a new exhibition, Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats. Here is Curator Pam McClusky’s description of the show, taken from the website:

Exuberant clothes were a common sight in the Oasis cities of Central Asia. During the 19th century, patrons wore rich colors and mysterious designs on a daily basis. Their encouragement led to a flourishing use of ikat, a labor intensive process that requires many stages and layers of experience to complete. Positioned as a trading center where goods and people flowed in from India, China, Iran and Russia, Central Asia fostered an aesthetic that made the most of overlapping influences.

This exhibition will recreate a sense of walking into a crowd of cosmopolitan clients who wear robes of distinctive boldness. As an English visitor (William Eleroy Curtis) wrote in 1911: “Everybody wears a coat like a rainbow… No matter how humble or hungry a man may be, and even if he has but a single garment, it is made of the most brilliantly colored material he can find.” Over 40 robes will provide a vision of the Oasis crowd. Some feature sharp graphic designs of rigorous abstraction, but others favor delicate harmonies with flowing floral motifs. Scorpions and Arabic script, paisleys and European florals, jeweled tassels and cypress trees swirl together in a design pool that reflects Oasis life.

Wednesday’s opening celebration began at 5:30 with a video presentation on Oasis Cities, hosted by Ilholm Nematov, the Uzbek ambassador to the US. We weren’t able to make it to that, arriving only at 6:45, in time for the tail end of the wine reception. The central gathering space at SAAM is small, and it was crowded. The exhibition galleries were open for viewing, but we started at the reception. Within moments everyone was being encouraged to head downstairs to the auditorium for the exhibition overview. We took our seats and waited over 10 minutes before it began.

Seattle and Tashkent are sister cities, which I presume is the reason our mayor, Mike McGinn, was invited to make the initial remarks. He focused on this sister-city relationship and our close ties to Uzbekistan, expressing his fond wish that he could visit when he had more time. (He’s sufficiently unpopular around here that many people would be happy to help him find the time.) SAM board president Winnie Stratton then spoke about the exhibition and the people who made it possible. It is on loan from The Textile Museum, an institution in Washington, D.C., that I knew nothing about. I now know that in a couple of years it will move into a new building on the campus of George Washington University, in a partnership with the GWU Museum. The collection itself, as Stratton explained in her remarks, is the gift to The Textile Museum of a single collector. From the Textile Museum’s website:

The Textile Museum mourns the passing of its friend Murad Megalli, who was killed in an airplane crash on February 4, 2011. It was through the generosity and foresight of Murad Megalli that this remarkable collection of Central Asian ikat textiles is available for the world to share in the appreciation of their beauty. Megalli, recipient of the 2010 Textile Museum Award of Distinction and Museum Trustee, donated his collection of nearly 200 spectacular nineteenth-century ikats to the museum.

Megalli’s son, wife, and other family members were at the opening. Stratton pointed to them in the front of the auditorium, but we couldn’t see them. She also pointed out the Textile Museum curator who organized the show and a few other dignitaries. Oh, speaking of dignitaries, I forgot that there was another speaker, the Uzbek consul-general for the western states, not listed in the program. And then Pam McClusky gave a slideshow presentation about the exhibition and the 19th century ikat tradition.

After that, we returned upstairs, where one could return to the site of the wine reception to have more drinks and a buffet dinner or tour the galleries. We started with the surprisingly good food, the main feature being a choice of lamb or vegetarian plov. Pam McClusky had mentioned in her lecture that the plov cooked all day at the loading dock, its smell drifting in as finishing touches were put on the exhibition. (What’s plov? Why, the Uzbek national dish of course. For some background, go here.) The plov consisted of rice, carrots, onions, herbs and spices, and the lamb, if one chose it. Next up was excellent naan (flatbread) with a mint dipping sauce. And then apple tartlets. Our program credits Sergey Petrenko for the “traditional Uzbekistan plov.” And there was music too, Uzbek music I suppose, but mostly it sounded like jazz, with a sax player, two guitarists, and a bass guitarist.

Soon we were off to see the exhibition. The individual ikats were interesting in their own right — some striking, some less so — but of equal interest was the evolution of ikat style through the century that the layout allowed one to observe. Complementing the ikats were enchanting photos of people and architecture in the historic silk road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. When Mayor McGinn heads off to Uzbekistan, I hope he takes me with him.

Several guests wore ikats, draped over their modern clothing. Maybe a half dozen men, of whom a couple wore the appropriate hats as well, and another two women. If only someone had told me. I don’t have an ikat, but my bathrobe, the one Gail got me at Christmas, might have worked. Independently, both Gail and I looked online for ikats the next day. We found blankets, shirts, even underwear. Not outer robes.

We’re glad we went. The exhibition runs through August 5. Drop by.

Categories: Clothing, Museums

Go Kyrie! Go Cavs!

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Kyrie Irving with coach Byron Scott, December 11

[AP Photo, Carlos Osorio]

The Cavaliers (Cleveland’s NBA basketball team) opened their season tonight at home against Toronto. This means that Kyrie Irving, the first pick in last June’s NBA draft and my cousin (well, maybe not, but it’s fun to pretend), made his professional debut.

Three days after the draft, I wrote that “I’m not much for wearing official team clothing, but I see a Cleveland Cavalier jersey in my future.” If only I had remembered, as I surely would have if the NBA season weren’t delayed for two months, I would have put the jersey on my wish list for the holidays. But no matter, since the jersey wouldn’t have been available. According to the Cavalier online store, it still isn’t. I will be patient.

According to Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer,

The Kyrie Irving era got off to an inauspicious start Monday at The Q.
But to pin the Cavaliers’ 104-96 loss to the Toronto Raptors on a 19-year-old rookie point guard is roundly unfair, not to mention misleading. Especially on a night the club’s collective effort was bad enough to give it a running start on the No. 1 pick next season.

The Cavaliers defended poorly, shot worse and needed a strong effort from their second unit just to keep them in the game against one of the NBA’s bottom feeders.

Irving, the top selection in the June draft, managed just six points on 2-of-12 shooting and never found his rhythm before a sellout crowd of 20,562 fans. He spent a good portion of the second half on the bench as backup Ramon Sessions helped the Cavaliers stay close with a team-high 18 points and six assists.

“It’s disappointing,” said Irving, who played 26 minutes. “You want to play really well when the whole world is watching. It’s a learning process.”

The point is an unforgiving position for first-year players. Not only did Irving struggle at the offensive end, but he had difficulty keeping the Raptors’ Jose Calderon (15 points, 11 assists) in front of him.

How have other recent high-profile point guards fared in their NBA debuts?
According to Stats LLC, Washington’s John Wall had 14 points, Chicago’s Derrick Rose scored 11 points and New Orleans’ Chris Paul collected 13 points.

“He looked OK for what was like his fifth game in a year,” said coach Byron Scott, who named Irving his starter on Monday morning. “He had seven assists and one turnover. The only thing he didn’t do was shoot the ball well.”

I trust that by the time my jersey arrives, Kyrie will be playing better. We’ll put in a big order. I know Dad will enjoy his. (He doesn’t read Ron’s View, so don’t tell him. It will be a surprise.)

Categories: Clothing, Sports

Change We Can Believe In?

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I couldn’t resist this one, courtesy of the Kim Jong Il T-shirts website. (Hat tip: Jim Fallows.) Thirty percent of the purchase price goes to NK News, a North Korea news aggregator and information center.

I suppose the image speaks for itself, so I’ll say no more, other than to suggest that you visit the T-shirt site to see their other offerings.

Categories: Clothing, Politics

Pan Am Clipper

October 9, 2011 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, as an accompaniment to Nancy Franklin’s New Yorker review of ABC’s new TV show Pan Am, Jon Michaud posted a slide show of vintage airline ads. I looked at a couple, saved the link for later, and later came this morning. The ads date from 1947 to 1960 and are quite wonderful. I highly recommend a close look at all of them.

The Pan Am ad above, second in the slide show, is from 1949. So many details are worthy of a close look. Have a look also at the drawing below, which I found at the Pan Am Clipper Flying Boats site.

My first commercial flying experience would have been January or February of 1961. My father had a convention in Miami and decided we should all fly down from New York for a bit of vacation. I remember sitting by the pool at our hotel in Miami Beach and reading, of all things, John F. Kennedy’s Why England Slept. This is why it must have been 1961 — JFK had just been inaugurated and his books, re-issued, became best-sellers. Why England Slept was his Harvard senior thesis, written in 1940 about England’s failure to be ready for what became World War II. I found it incredibly dull, a combination of my being way too young and ignorant to read such books and, I suspect, the reality that the book really was incredibly dull. Not to mention that only a sucker or a child would believe JFK actually wrote the book.

Ever since, when I think of Miami Beach, I think of Why England Slept. As for the flight itself, what I remember was that we all dressed up for the occasion. The last ad in the New Yorker slide show, copied below, looks about right to me. And remained right some ways into the ’60s. Then it all changed. Fast.

Categories: Advertising, Clothing, Travel

Why I’m a Cavalier

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Last November I wrote a short post about a freshman basketball player at Duke who, based on the first few games of the season, looked like he might be the top college player in the country. Alas, he would be injured soon thereafter and not return until the NCAA tournament in March. The reason for the post? The photo of him that I featured at the top and have copied above. Yes, as you can see, his name is Irving. Kyrie Irving. And he’s #1. How could I resist?

Irving is now #1 in another sense. It was always understood that he would leave Duke after his freshman year to turn professional and enter the NBA draft. And so he did. The draft was on Thursday. To no one’s surprise, he was the #1 pick, selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as a key part of their rebuilding plan in the wake of LeBron’s departure a year ago.

I’m not much for wearing official team clothing, but I see a Cleveland Cavalier jersey in my future.

Categories: Clothing, Sports

Roll Your Clothing

May 10, 2010 Leave a comment

[David Ahntholz for The New York Times]

I would have missed Packing Tips From Travel Pros in last week’s NYT had I not noticed it last night in their list of most emailed articles. The link was to the accompanying slide show, which I studied first before turning to the article.

The principal tip of the article and slide show is to roll, roll, roll.

[M]any flight attendants roll their clothes rather than fold them to save space. Nerea Gomez-Cambronero, an attendant with Air Europa Líneas Aéreas in Majorca, Spain, has taught friends and relatives to roll-pack clothes. “The rolling-your-clothes tip is the basis of my entire company,” said Don Chernoff, an engineer and frequent traveler, whose www.skyroll.com offers a line of luggage that encourages rolling rather than folding.“It’s a more efficient use of the space.”

Thanks to Gail, I learned to roll in 1996. On the eve of our cross-country trip that August, we bought various sizes of duffel bags for Gail, Joel, and me, and Gail rolled all our clothes into them. Off we went to King Street Station to board the Empire Builder for Chicago, and Gail’s genius quickly revealed itself.

Truth is, I haven’t been a good roller in recent years. The NYT article has inspired me to try it again.

I have one question though. Check out that slide show if you haven’t yet. It starts with a photo of flight attendant Heather Poole sitting on the floor next to her bag and the clothing she plans to pack. The second slide has the following caption:

Folded clothing takes up too much space. Instead, Ms. Poole tightly rolls everything, which also minimizes wrinkling. This suitcase will hold three pairs of shorts, three pairs of dress pants, one skirt, three pairs of casual pants or jeans, three nightgowns, three bathing suits, one sarong, three lightweight sweaters, four dresses, 10 casual shirts, six dress shirts, a clutch, toiletries and two pairs of shoes. She’ll wear the third pair of shoes, as well as jeans and a longer sweater.

Wow! Never would I have imagined fitting so much in so small a bag. She must be an even greater packing genius than Gail.

But wait. Isn’t something missing? My awe is tempered by puzzlement. What about undergarments? Or do the bathing suits do double duty? A little more information might have helped.

Categories: Clothing, Travel

Penney’s Takes Manhattan

August 26, 2009 Leave a comment

jc-penney

Clark Hoyt’s Public Editor column in Sunday’s NYT surprised me. He chose to address the apparent furor over Cintra Wilson’s Critical Shopper column two weeks ago on the opening of J.C. Penney in Manhattan’s Herald Square, right by Macy’s famed flagship store, ultimately judging her as crossing the line from edgy to objectionable. I read the article online the evening before it was printed, and I didn’t feel that way. I enjoyed it. Am I becoming dangerously inured to snark?

See for yourself. Read Wilson’s column, then Hoyt’s critique. Here is how Wilson opens:

J.C. Penney has broken free of its suburban parking area to invade Herald Square, and the most frequent question on New York’s collective lips seems to be: Why?

Why would this perennially square department store bother to reanimate itself in Manhattan — in the sleekest, scariest fashion city in America — during a hair-raising economic downturn, without taking the opportunity to vigorously rebrand itself? Why would this dowdy Middle American entity waddle into Midtown in its big old shorts and flip-flops without even bothering to update its ancient Helvetica Light logo, which for anyone who grew up with the company is encrusted with decades of boring, even traumatically parental, associations?

J. C. Penney has always trafficked in knockoffs that aren’t quite up to Canal Street’s illegal standards. It was never “get the look for less” so much as “get something vaguely shaped like the designer thing you want, but cut much more conservatively, made in all-petroleum materials, and with a too-similar wannabe logo that announces your inferiority to evil classmates as surely as if you were cursed to be followed around by a tuba section.”

I love it. But Hoyt writes:

Or, as one reader, Daniel Harris-McCoy of Boston, put it: How do writers “navigate the fine lines between observation, satire and snark,” and when should editors step in to restrain them?

Although Trip Gabriel, the Styles editor, said the lines can be blurry, it seems to me that they were crossed and left far behind in this case. Wilson’s editors should have saved her, themselves and the paper from the reaction they got from readers, who concluded that the humor was at their expense, not for their benefit.

[NYT executive editor Bill] Keller said, “The key, I guess, is to imagine that you are writing for an audience with a broad range of views and experiences, and to write with respect for them.” Dismissing a point of view “with a contemptuous sneer is not only bad manners, it’s bad journalism.”

Hmm. Hoyt had already noted earlier that “Keller said his mother was a Penney’s shopper for much of her life, and she would have found the review ‘snotty.’ He told me that he wished it had not been published.” Harsh.

Speaking of harsh, remember that Keller believes (and Hoyt agrees) that torture, when performed by the CIA, should be called “harsh interrogation.” In contrast, when done by Iran on protesters, it gets to be called torture. (See Glenn Greenwald last month on this point.)

Categories: Clothing, Culture, Journalism