Tuesday, November 20, 2018

CELEBRATIONS: Contemporary Chanukah menorahs

There is an endless variety of contemporary menorahs available these days, 
in shops and online. With Chanukah 2018 coming soonI decided to revisit  
Mad for Mod's 2015 posting about this design phenomenon.

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 Skyline menorah, designed by Jonathan Adler
    This now-classic piece of Judaica is included 
  in several prestigious design museum collections.

One of the things I like best about being Jewish is the fact that decorative arts are so interwoven into our traditions, both at home and in public spaces. This is an outgrowth of the ethic known in Hebrew as Hiddur Mitzvah, which translates roughly as "the beautification of a commandment." Judaica in silver and gold, wood, glass and earthenware abounds in the form of candlesticks, wine goblets, tzedakah (charity) boxes, mezzuzot (door post prayer boxes), seder plates, spice boxes, and -- of course -- menorahs, which are traditionally placed in windows, to illuminate and affirm miracles for all.

You don't have to be Jewish to love these designs!

                  Flexus menorah (above)
          This menorah can be configured any way you like,
            and the candle holders can be used individually
                                 throughout the year.
                  Available through the MOMA Design Store

City Lights glass menorah (above)
Carmageddon (below)
 both by Shardz

Stanley Saitowitz architectural menorah

 Clear glass geometric menorah

  Column Menorah from Crate & Barrel

              Beaded traditional menorah by Jillery
This menorah matches my Sabbath candlesticks and wine goblet.

 Musician menorah
Shoshi Art Glass of Israel

                                                                                           Water blossom menorah
According to Jewish lore, the ancient temple menorah was made of golden almond-blossom-shaped cups. This modern take on that design inspiration sets a ring of almond blossoms in a shallow pool of water. The pool reflects the candlelight, and also provides a safe way for the candles to sizzle out as they burn down. 

        Lotus menorah by Michael Aram
       Available from ModernTribe.com

and a 
"Save the Elephants"menorah
by Jonathan Adler

The possibilities are infinite ...

Posting originally published 12/20/15

Monday, August 20, 2018

MAD FOR MOD reaches 100,000 page views!


When I started writing this blog, I mainly did it as a way
to remind myself of upcoming events and special exhibitions in
the design world. It has slowly grown from being my personal calendar to
a resource for design lovers all over the world.
As of yesterday, I had 100,000 page views!

I've written about pink flamingos, 
the role of costume design in establishing character,
New Yorker cartoons, mid-mod gingerbread houses (see above),
skyscrapers, Chihuly glass, the color pink, and much, much more.

Do you have a favorite posting or two? Please comment 
in the grey box under the word "labels", at the bottom of each posting.
Commenters will be entered in a drawing to win a
beautiful newly-published photography book about American jazz,
photos by Arthur Elgart.

~ oOo ~

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

POSTWAR STYLE: Costume as a character in "A Place to Call Home"

  • first posted 2/27/18; reposted 7/18/18
If you're missing the costume dramas that kept us entertained during 
the last decade or so -- I'm thinking of Mad Men or Miss Fisher's
          Murder Mysteries or Downton Abbey -- you might find your 
             heart's desire in A Place to Call Home,
       "Australia's little series that could."  (Sydney Morning Herald)

This series makes a meal out of period fashion and design from the 1950s, 
treating it as a quintessential character in the show. Sweet shirtwaist dresses,
twirly A-line skirts, padded shoulders, "twin sets" (a matching shell sweater 
and long-sleeved cardigan ensemble, often worn with pearls
and single-breasted coats abound as the choices for women.
For men, dapper hats (think Don Draper's classic fedora) worn with comfortably fitting full-cut, slightly drape-y suits are what's in. The prevailing design  
ethos of the era was being able to take virtually any man’s body type 
and make it look good through proper tailoring.

Below: Actor Brett Climo is perfectly appointed and
appropriately slouchy here as George Bligh, a wealthy landowner 
from Inverness with a heart of gold.

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Above: vindictive, conniving villianess Regina Bligh (Jenny Baird),
 dressed to kill, in rich mauve and jet black. She
reminds me of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. 

 Regina was toned way down
 by three years of repentance in a psychiatric hospital. 
If you're an aficionado of the show,
you'll have noticed the dramatic change in her costumes
from bright, spotlight-grabbing primary colors to 
neutral, wishy washy ones.

Costume director Lisa Meagher
 says that she puts Regina (Jenni Baird) in florals 
when the character is "trying to be nice".

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Sara Nordman, just off the boat, arriving in Australia

I've always put the show's heroine Sara (played by Marta Dusseldorp) 
above fashion, due to her history as a Holocaust survivor and her wise  
down-to-earthness. Below are a couple of her looks.

Is Sarah's lovely sweater/jumper an argyle pattern or not?
See comments section (below) to read a lively debate about this subject!

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Below: Abby Earl as Anna Poletti,
trying (unsuccessfully) to be happy as farmer Gino's wife. 

But no ...

She's much happier being Anna Bligh,
bestselling author and elegant glamour girl.

°     °     °     °     °     °
Anna's formerly secret parents, bohemian Carolyn and 
Dr. Jack Duncan (Sara Wiseman and Craig Hall)  -- a married couple
in real life -- strike a stylish Bonnie and Clyde pose.

°     °     °     °     °     °

Family matriarch Elizabeth Bligh (played by Australian film icon Noni 
Hazlehurst) starts off in the series as a judgemental, intimidating character, 
but life experience forces her to see her homophobia and anti-Semitism for
the ugly traits they are. As her attitudes soften, so
does her wardrobe. 

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Where's season 6, Lizzie?

~ oOo ~

Seasons 1-5 can be watched on Acorn.tv
Season 6 is currently beginning production. 
Update: Season 6 has completed production, and
will be aired in fall 2018.

Monday, June 18, 2018

EXHIBITIONS: Roz Chast's "Cartoon Memoirs" delights at the Museum of the City of New York (through 10/9)

Subway Sofa 
A large-scale mural created specially for the MCNY exhibition
All images ©Roz Chast, unless otherwise noted

Dear readers,
This hilarious and stellar Roz Chast show was featured at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA in the fall of 2015. I loved it, and blogged about it, and was delighted to hear that it later moved on to the Museum of the City of New York -- another favorite venue of mine.

Roz appeared in engaging conversations at both museums, speaking about her prolific career. If you missed these entertaining talks, you can see a video of her 2015 event at the Norman Rockwell Museum here.


There are some artists who move us with their wisdom and unique perspective, and others who amuse us with their wit. Some uplift us with their humanity, or perplex us with their inscrutability. It's the rare artist who succeeds in doing all of these at once. One of them is New Yorker cartoonist and author Roz Chast, whose prolific output is currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York. Cartoon Memoirs is simply a "mustn't miss" show. We could all use some laughs right about now!

Above: Roz Chast at book signing, following 
a most entertaining talk about her life & career
NRM, Stockbridge Mass., July 9, 2015
Photo by Michael Schonbach

Below is the first Roz Chast cartoon I ever saw, 
published in her 1984 book Parallel Universes
I knew from that moment that I had found a kindred spirit.

Chast brought her first submission, a portfolio of sixty 
drawings, to the New Yorker in 1978. Much to her surprise, Little Things 
was chosen for publication by the cartoons editor. (Some regular readers 
were appalled, and one inquired whether the magazine owed money to Chast's family!)

Over the years, Chast's cartoons have become one of the most beloved features of the magazine. Some of her favorite subjects are greeting cards, book jackets, UFO's, 
gizmos, room interiors, creepy medical conditions, tombstones, 
and -- of course -- family dysfunction.

Her images are filled with a barely controlled hysteria that seamlessly mixes
madcap humor and all-too-relatable anxiety in equal measure. What fun it is to 
wander through a museum and hear peals of laughter 
coming from all the rooms of an art exhibition!

The exhibition also includes some of Chast's hooked rugs and Ukrainian Easter eggs, 
(pysanky), with which she says she was "obsessed" for a couple of years.

Hello, 2015
hand-hooked rug, wool, burlap

Some awfully cute pysanky

"With their brilliant colors, rendered smooth and glossy by a polyurethane topcoat, Ms. Chast's eggs are extraordinarily lovely -- glorious jewel-toned objects whose aesthetic 
lies somewhere between Fabergé and Dr. Seuss."
... NY Times, November 2004

Chast's first New Yorker cover, above, was published in 1986.
She sees it as a "family tree" of ice cream. (Her father thought it 
portrayed a doctor pointing out foods that should never, ever be eaten.)


She has penned more than 1000 drawings and numerous covers for the New Yorker over the past thirty years. Above left is a representation of her hand painted pysanky collection. Above right: some fantastical seed packets.

And ... ta da ... The Book!

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Chast's graphic memoir of growing up in Brooklyn as the only child of hypochondriac, affection-withholding parents, and eventually caring for them during their declining years, is an instant classic. Among many, many awards and accolades, the book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014. 

The full contents of Can't We Talk ... are displayed at the MCNY's exhibition. 
You can read the NY Times book review here.
The Guardian's review is here.

"The Wheel of Doom", a major laugh-getter at the exhibition,
was originally rejected by the New Yorker for publication in the magazine.
Chast spoke briefly about the rejection that cartoonists - even famous ones - must endure.
"If there's ANYTHING else you can do for a living besides this," she jokes, "DO IT!"

During the first weekend of April 2016, Roz Chast took up residence on the museum's third floor
to create "Subway Sofa," a painting that welcomes visitors to her exhibition. 

"Featuring the cramped comfort of NYC apartments and the horrors of subway 
commuting, it's the perfect foray into a show that highlights 
the absurdities of NYC life in hilarious cartoons."

See video of the artist at work here.

That's all, folks!

~ oOo ~