Francisco Goya,  Witches' Sabbath, 1798

Francisco Goya, Witches' Sabbath, 1798

October 31st is a haunted holiday shrouded in many spellbinding traditions. Although the magic and mischief of Halloween has captivated young and old around the world, folklorists regard this day as the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented in the festival year. Most people believe the Halloween holiday began as an ancient pagan festival associated with the supernatural. Indeed, Halloween does have religious connotations - although there is much disagreement among historians as to when and why it all started.

Some say Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, and in fact most evidence does support this claim. According to Celtic tradition, this day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark and frigid winter season. Celtics believed the barrier between the living and dead was at its most permeable during this harvest holiday. In addition to communicating beyond the grave, this phenomenon meant that ghosts of the dead could return to earth. To welcome these visiting spirits, Celts would make offerings of food and wore costumes typically consisting of animal heads and skins as a way to both honor and channel their Celtic deities otherworldy energy to tell fortunes and make predictions about the future.

 Vincent Van Gogh,  Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette , (1886)

Vincent Van Gogh, Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette, (1886)

By the first century CE,  most Celtic territory was conquered by the Roman Empire. The subsequent melting pot of cultures meant that rituals and festivals began to blend, culminating in new hybrid holidays. Samhain, for example, merged with the Roman festival of Pomona, a harvest-inspired feast believed to have taken place on November 1st. Though these harvest holidays would go on to last for centuries, they underwent dramatic changes in the 8th century. During this time, Pope Gregory III reinterpreted the Pagan festival as a series of Catholic holidays. Specifically, he declared November 1st, ‘All Saints’ Day,’ a holiday intended to honor “saints, martyrs, and confessors” in heaven, with October 31st serving as the preparatory All Hallows Eve, also called All-hallows or All-hallowma and, eventually, Halloween. This day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.

No matter what tradition you are celebrating this Halloween - for centuries people have reveled in the fun and frightening festivities of Halloween and celebrated this day of spooky myths and magic in the arts; solidifying this holiday as an important one, in many different cultures.

 Shawn Walker,  Untitled (from the Halloween series), Harlem, New York , ca. 1960

Shawn Walker, Untitled (from the Halloween series), Harlem, New York, ca. 1960

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For the season of change: prints and patterns are as varied as the turning leaves, yet there is one that remains constant - the polka dot.

The term ‘polka dot’ first appeared in 1857, in an issue of Godey’s Lady Book, where one writer described a muslin scarf, ideal “for light wear,” as being “surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots.” Indeed, dotted patterns dd not just immediately appear on the scene in the 1850’s, before the polka dot received its moniker there were several types of popular regularly spaced spotted designs; but none of these earlier patterns became as well-known as the quintessential polka dot, quite simply because the technology to mass produce evenly spaced, uniformed sized dots did not exist until the industrial revolution. 

The art world was also experiencing seismic shifts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and some of these burgeoning movements, Pointillism in particular, incorporated fields of round spots - and, one cannot talk about dots in art without talking about the father of Pointillism, Georges Seurat, who was inspired by the science behind color and the human vision. He completed his manifesto painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, in 1884. The large scale oil painting depicts 48 well-dressed middle-class types lounging around a suburban park. The entire scene, from the water to the sky, is made up of thousands of tiny colored dots: distinct pricks of red, green, indigo, and zinc yellow. In a 2004 piece about a Seurat exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Times writer Holland Cotter notes that “La Grande Jatteis more like a textile than a painting, a kind of 19th-century Bayeux Tapestry…”

It is often true that fashion follows art and vice versa - so what is it about the dot that inspired these two realms nearly simultaneously?

Photos by @jackiembarr

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I finally got around to developing some film from my December 2017 trip to New Mexico.  I've only recently begun shooting film and am still getting the hang of the entire process. While I was developing this roll of film, standing over the bowl and watching the photograph appear from the liquid, I noticed the images were hazy and that the focus wasn't improving. At first, I was frustrated with my error, wherever I had made it down the line. However, the longer I spent with these overexposed images, the more I began to appreciate their artistry.  

These stripped photographs transform ordinary forms of everyday life into nearly unrecognizable observations of my New Mexican surroundings. Akin to their naturally desolate desert subjects, these images convey a natural minimalism -  which when viewed collectively portrays an intricate study in grandiose abstraction unique to this otherworldly environment.  

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My friends and family always make July 2nd an exciting and special day for me. But this year, my anticipation was racked with melancholy in the days leading up to my birthday. I was struggling with the number 25, struggling with the knowledge of aging.  I was sad to 'age-out' of the wide-eyed niche society labels as 18 - 24, which is even an option on most exercise equipment, and worried that my accomplishments seemed less impressive than they were when I was 24 and more expected of someone who is 25. 

All of these anxieties stemmed directly from my fixation on societies perception of age and whether or not I had, by societies standards, reached my peak or if I was peaking momentarily.

After a saguaro cactus reaches 40, its peak growing period begins.  Between the ages of 50 and 60, it will begin to produce its first flowers. The same is often true of women. Much of the cactus will spend its first decades sheltered beneath a nurse plant, coincidentally, we are more likely to find protection in trends or expectations in youth, but once a woman has grown beyond the desire for approval is when she truly blossoms.  Indeed, age is just a number, nothing more, nothing less. 

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On the eve of this years Strawberry Moon, the shortest full moon of the year and lunar signal to some Native American tribes that it was time to harvest ripening strawberries, I reflected on the night. 

During the Middle Ages, compline was the hour for nightly prayer, marking the end of the day for monks. Typically involving meditation on death, it initiated the hours of dark and silence - a perilous time. As clergy drifted to sleep, their authoritative prayers faded and spiritual protections weakened.  In the darkening night, the faithful and the superstitious lay awake and envisioned freewheeling devilry, unchecked by the dozing pious.  The witching hour - from midnight until 3:00 AM - was when spirits and spells became the most potent. This was followed by Satan's hour - 3:00 AM until 4 AM. Supernatural threats aside, this darkest hour of night is no time for humans to be about as we are physiologically ill-suited to nocturnal pursuits. 

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We are able to hear a single tone. But we almost never (that is, without special devices) see a single color, unconnected and unrelated to other colors.  Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions. 

As a consequence, this proves for the reading of color what Kandinsky oftern demanded for the reading of art: what counts is not the what but the how. 

- Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963

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I'm always quick to say spring is my least favorite season.  It's messy.  It's ice-crack and tulip bud, wet streets and birdsongs, mulch and meltwater. Allergies ramp up, rain clouds open and frozen feelings come loose. In spring things dawn, break, molt, change form; it's also when our skin is changing too. 

This winter was particularly hard on my extremely sensitive skin. As I emerged from hibernation my dry and damaged skin was forced out of the intense environment it had unwillingly grown accustomed to and into another plagued by inconsistency, wavering between soggy humidity in April and bitter cold blasts in May. It wasn't until I went on vacation in the tropics that my skin seemed to regain itself, leading me to wonder what my skin was benefiting from while away that was virtually absent in my routine at home in New York.  What was naturally here but not there? The only conclusion I could come to was nothing but clean, raw nature.

 

My curiosity led me to RIPE. A skincare brand that boasts products designed, sourced, & crafted for our true nature. Just as we are nature. Eight years ago, founder Shannon moved to Hawaii and recreated her favorite skin care products in her own kitchen using papaya straight from her backyard. Now located in both Hawaii and coastal California , RIPE sources from both regions to the root - papaya & kukui nut from rural Hawaii, lavender & mint from California - either wild harvested by the RIPE team or from consciences growers they know personally.  

Seasons don't just switch like records in a jukebox, the next one neatly clacking into place. Spring is like summer, like autumn, like winter. It's a moment in motion changing before you. It's always transforming and our skin is too. Keeping skin care products as natural as possible keeps us in sync with nature and our natural selves. RIPE is a refreshing & soulful way to celebrate change and adjust to it, naturally. 

 images by  @stephseverance

images by @stephseverance

check the RIPE products I love here

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I would like to thank all mothers, who encourage their daughters to discover, individually what being female does mean and might mean. Who encourage conversations about real, important issues. Who teach their daughters to be brave, smart and proud.  

Having to question every mode of behavior and every expectation is the scariest part of being a woman today.   So, I would like to thank my mother, for teaching me to not feel guilty for doing exactly what I want, and to not feel crazy because I'm not content with what society says I am supposed to be content with. Because of you, I am not afraid of being bright, or of not being beautiful, or of having an ego of my own. I'm not afraid to be assertive, or to take control of my life, or to consider myself important. I value women. I value myself.  Thank you for teaching me that I can become the woman I want to be, and that I can help to build a world that will value her. 

images by Abigail Heyman 

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 Fresco, House of Livia, Prima Porta, 1st Century B.C. 

Fresco, House of Livia, Prima Porta, 1st Century B.C. 

In 2014, I took a course while studying abroad in Italy on Tuscan gardens. To date, this was the hardest, most rewarding course I have experienced.  People have created gardens across the world and throughout time, and these spaces have been an essential part of the human experience.  Gardens such as Eden, are rooted in religious context, to this day, regarded as sacred. Gardens are also a key element in some of the best-known myths. One of the Labors of Hercules required the hero to steal, from a place on the far edge of the world called the Garden of the Hesperides, the golden apples that the goddess Hera had given to her husband Zeus as a wedding present. The palaces of the ancient Near East are known to have spectacular gardens, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, whose precise location is still unknown.

The heady scent of hyacinths. Leaves unfurling. Buds in bloom. I really wish I could keep plants alive. 

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Most of us carry within our hearts a list of places to visit – and my list has always included Ireland, a country that projects a wealth of familiar imagery and a heritage I know little about.

These images, captured on film by my mother decades ago, detail Ireland's quintessence both cherished and worn  – deeply etched in a looping Celtic font – and forever evocative of stunning panoramas, ancient myths and legends. The images seem to promise a rough-and-ready experience – knitted together with a horse and cart clip-clopping past green fields and chalk-white cottages, a Clancy Brothers album playing as the soundtrack to a lunch of oysters and Guinness.

As much as Ireland projects a familiar image, it is also a place I am eager to discover for myself.

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In 1950, Henri Langlois, director of the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris, and his partner, Frederic Rossif, decided to launch a conceptually ambitious series of artists' films.  

"We provide the artists with the technical means for filming and let them do their thing."  

In autumn of the same year, at the Avant-Garde Festival in Antibes, they entrusted Picasso with a 16mm camera, and color film.  To his great joy, Picasso became a movie director in the gardens of Le Fournas over the period of several weeks.  Delighted with this new experience, he filmed a series of improvised scenes inspired by his usual themes. 

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Picasso's episodes depicted stories that were interpreted by actors with painted bodies and sculptures set up in improvised decors. True to himself - Picasso painted directly on the actors skin and distorted their bodies.  Their bodies thus became immense living ceramics whose movements made the paintings come alive.  

The finished product, The Death of Charlotte Corday is a humorous reference to the famous 1793 painting by Jacques-Louis David, entitled The Death of Marat, making reference to the revolutionary who was stabbed in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday - a subject that Picasso himself painted in the 1930's.  

Picasso's little film productions turned out like filmed theater, falling somewhere between animation and performance art. Unfortunately however, the film no longer exists, as it was never produced or marketed and only a few photographs remain. 

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I finally developed some 35 mm film from my November trip to New Orleans.  This was my first time visiting New Orleans, and I was absolutely swoon by the mystique of this place. Truly, 'The Big Easy' is a place unlike any other, woven together by countless anthropologies and stories far too vast for any one person to own, so they instead belong to the whole city. A beautifully haunted melting pot, New Orleans has an expansive soul that is palpable, self-assured in a way that sustains hope and grit and sadness at once. 

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It takes a certain kind of crazy to live in New York City. You have to be able to find beauty in paying $12 for a box of off-brand cereal and fighting your way through crowds of meandering tourists to get anywhere. Beauty is the mystery of life after all. And it is a mystery that I am perfectly happy barely spending any time in my unjustifiably expensive apartment on the weekdays, and on weekends, busy running all the errands I wasn't able to run during the week.  But sometimes, when I find myself crossing 5th avenue late night or cutting through central park on my way from work to meet fiends for dinner, and I hear musicians playing for tips and see people are out and about everywhere -  I cant help but thinking to myself - how could I want to live anywhere else?   

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