Sunday, October 23, 2011

The ground beneath my feet

This post began with many fits and starts, with a million themes and events racing through my mind but not one that I could focus on as the dust hasn't yet settled. So I will safely retreat to writing about fashion and fantasy.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of watching Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, an inspiring, visually rich documentary of the former fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and, in her later years, an unconventional, ground-breaking curator at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vreeland was a lover of nostalgia. She loved beautiful things and extremes--nothing ordinary would do. She loved Russia but claimed to know nothing of Russian things. What she loved was the idea of Russia.

Which got me thinking about reality and fantasy. I think the film spoke to me at a time and place where so much in my life was (it still is) in transition, so much of my reality was quickly crumbling beneath my feet, and any steps toward the future fueled by uncertainty...and here I was watching a manifesto for a pleasurable life worth living as much as a celebration of Vreeland.

But back to the idea of Russia. Vreeland was infatuated by Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. She considered herself an ugly duckling who loved the language of dance. Through dance, she shed away inhibitions and fully immersed herself in movement, wordless expression, storytelling. It's no wonder that, as a fashion editor (a role that she defined and heralded), she turned the spotlight on performers, musicians, and artists; in so doing, she seamlessly fused emotions, desire, theatricality, and fantasy to capture and shape the collective imagination of her time.

In my day-to-day life, I find it so easy and pleasurable to escape in a performance, book, or magazine. In that safe space anything is possible and fantasy is unhindered by reality. Loose strings are neatly tied up or, if they're not, they are left beautifully--not dangerously--tangled. But what I felt strongly that night when I left the theater was that fantasy is not the antithesis of reality. It is a totally valid and perhaps even a reverential interpretation of it and its endless possibilities...if we only had the freedom and the courage to pursue what is possible and not to stagnate at what is.

I love the idea that the eye has to travel, from one point to another and from one chapter to the next. Sometimes I wish that in life as in art I could step back and see the bigger picture. But as I cannot, I will continue to let my eyes travel, and attempt to make sense of the path they take as I follow along, exploring what is possible.