Part I: Getting ready to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a hot summer's day!
This gently used Chanel bag from www.ricebeansandvintage.com always inspires me to dress up a little and make an effort to get out of my sweats. Figuring out exactly what I like or need and then hunting for it on eBay or vintage sites or occasionally in person at consignment stores like Second Time Around or Shop Green Street a. makes shopping more fun and more like a treasure hunt, and b. takes away (some of) the guilt I feel about indulging in not only a frivolous activity but an activity that contributes to some of the worst pollution of the planet. (Only the oil industry has the dubious honor of being a worse polluter of the planet than the fashion industry.)
With two kids in diapers, I haven't been able to manage to shop secondhand/ sustainable 100% of the time, but in making an effort, I've learned to find beautiful things cheaper (and just as beautiful, even if gently used) and educated myself about the environment and the fashion industry.
I'll be writing more about that soon!
On that note, I'm excited to spend an afternoon browsing children's sustainable fashion sites in the next week or so as I figure out what gaps I need to fill in my two babies' fall and winter wardrobes. My three-year-old is starting school, too, so it's my first time doing back to school shopping!
I'll be sure to share my finds on Instagram. You can follow me @isabellamdavid I've already found almost an entire fall wardrobe for only $30 for my (soon to be) 1-year-old at the Nesting House in Philly!
Part II: Now on to the Philadelphia Museum of Art!
Up the Rocky steps... (I still have never seen that movie, and now I really have to.) Inside you're greeted by a giant gold statue at the top of another sweeping set of stairs with a huge white, modern mobile dangling above. It's dark and gloomy, a weird mishmash of the Louvre and the MOMA, doing justice to neither piece, but there were a lot of small, quietly beautiful spots, I was happy to discover.
It's worth a visit! Now through September 25, there's also an African fashion and art exhibit in the neighboring building. (A guard told us we'd have to ride a bus to get to it, but we could have just walked across the street with our stroller. I will definitely head back to see it.)
While my beleaguered husband wheeled our double stroller around, I had fun taking pictures of small details that struck me. I loved this mother and son in marble. The figure looks exactly like my son right now, fat, round chin, pasty white shade and all. I couldn't tell from the way it was tagged if it was a Rodin or not. In fact, I started getting very frustrated, which struck me as being stupid and pointless, After that I decided not to worry about it and to take in colors and shapes without processing everything. For example, I loved the attitude of this long ago woman, swishing her skirts, letting her colorful shawl tumble down her back, but I can't recall the name of the artist who painted it.
Something I noticed in the medieval wing is how very,very few works are signed or given provenance. I've read somewhere before how the idea of the artist's identity being as important/ more important than the art is a relatively recent one, starting around the time of the Renaissance and the rise of humanism. So, while some of the details (above) like the blue boater or the ballerinas (below) are obviously Chagall and Degas, otherwise I just let myself look around the museum more for details that drew me in without trying to analyze why too much. (BTW the Chagall is worth a visit to the museum just by itself. It's a huge canvas, stuck in the back of the museum by the back entrance behind a staircase, and it takes up an entire wall. It was one of four backdrops for the ballet Aleko, which Chagall painted while in exile during World War II. The boater is just one small detail from it.)
There were a few other spots here and there like this group of bathers by Cézanne, positioned on the wall in a way that was reminiscent of the much more popular (and much more crowded) Barnes just around the corner
That's how these bronze hands inspired a quick poem, actually (see below). I liked something about this quick gesture, solidified in bronze captured against the disintegrating skirt... My hands were full of babies and cameras, so I wrote a different poem in my head than the one that came out below when I sat down to put pen to paper. That was part of the fun of it, too...
(Incidentally, I also wrote an essay for Easy Street about taking my toddler to the Barnes and my surprise at how her presence transformed the experience. You can read it here.)
Part III: Poetry In Place*
She clasped her hands,
stretched shoulders like a bow,
self-conscious of the arrow
her small, pointed breasts made,
but felt dark eyes on her wrists instead, the oval
nails ragged from biting, catching
in the tulle skirt, his gaze
piercing the ordinary gesture
until it burst into a cloud of giggles.
"How old are you?" he asked
the little dancer, singling her out,
raising her round arms high above
as if he were her partner
and she the prima donna of all the
goslings, lanky, gap-toothed, awkward.
Stuck her nose in the air.
Who was he, after all? A painter,
they whispered, as if that sanctified
his peeping ways.
He liked to watch the girls
stretch and twirl and change, too, she'd
heard, imagining slipping her tutu
down the suddenly hot river of her legs.
"Fourteen," she said. "So there."
"And so you will be forever."
It sounded like a curse.
But the little dancer gave him
her white silk ribbon anyhow.
"They'll give you thousands more," he swore.
And that sounded like a lie.
Her cheeks grew warm as her thighs,
Her voice caught in his sudden softness
like her ragged nails in her costume.
When he asked, she clasped
her hands again, feet in fourth,
nose in the air position, he teased.
This time she didn't laugh.
The curse captured the laughter,
too, in the sticky honey of his thoughts.
She knew somehow she'd
never laugh quite like that again.
Already she existed now
in his gaze more than ever she
had in her own faltering, fumbling will
that had groped towards
a womanhood as woven, solid
as two hands brought together in prayer.
The Voices of Women, my first chapbook of poetry, was shortlisted for the International Venture Award by Flipped Eye Publishing and published this year by Finishing Line Press. It's available here.
*An unedited poem from my sketchbook.
I'm a busy mommy of two and a writer who loves fashion. I also want to teach myself and my children to care for and love the environment! I don't have the energy or time to be as 100% perfect as I'd like to be about my carbon footprint, but I'm trying to do the best I can. For example, I switched to a vegetarian diet (with a little bit of fish thrown in for now-- ah I cannot live without fish tacos!--), walk when I don't have to drive, wear as many sustainably made or secondhand clothes as I can, and recycle in other ways, too. Follow me as I try (at least 50% of the time) to strike a balance between the two-- mothering and writing, shopping and sustainability. You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram @IsabellaMDavid.