Underground

On a downtown A train recently, I sat opposite a couple in a curiously intense embrace. For the seven-stop express ride down Central Park West, the subway system’s longest held breath, these two sat locked together in the molded seats. Their heads were bent into each other, faces fully smushed against cheek and neck-skin. She had curled her body into his chest and he had wrapped his arms around her back. His knuckles were white. The privacy curtain of her hair fell around his shoulders. They did not move. Next to them, they had one of those rolling frames with telescoping handles, on which balanced a large cardboard box and a plastic pet carrier, secured with bungee cords. As the train shifted near 42nd Street, the animal in the carrier moved, and its fur brushed up against the air holes.

My companion at the time, who had been reading, and who I don’t think had noticed the couple, glanced up. “Oh, look — there’s a kitty,” he said. The man’s head snapped up, and he looked right at us. He looked at us hard. There were tear tracks on his face. I wanted to tell him in that moment that I was sorry — for seeing him, for failing to have the courtesy to convincingly pretend not to be seeing him, for living in the kind of city where people occasionally have to do their private things in public, for breaking that city’s taboo against noticing same, for my thoughtlessness and for my rubbernecking and for my finding his intense and intensely personal tableau strangely moving, for aestheticizing him, I wanted to apologize for all of that — but instead I got off at 34th Street and continued on my way.

I interviewed David LaChapelle about organic farming, bipolar disorder, bullshit, and being censored in China. He lives in Maui and works out of a big studio in Hollywood — an old sound stage. He was great to talk to.

 

Dis Satisfaction

I was honored to be asked to write a piece for the first-ever labor issue of the online art magazine Dis, which is out this week. I wrote about the fragile economics of the modeling industry, and why I still owe my former agency Elite Paris a sum I can’t actually pay. This piece was a bit difficult to write, because both my debt and my almost spectacular lack of success in my old career are sources of residual shame to me, but the response so far has been mercifully gratifying — I seem to have attracted links from everyone from the finance blogger Felix Salmon to the models Dana Drori and Sara Ziff, whose own observations about the industry, offered through writing and filmmaking, respectively, I respect enormously. (If you’re not reading Dana’s column for Blackbook, by the way, which she writes under her own name because she is far braver than I ever was, you’re missing out.)

But you should read the whole issue. It’s full of astute people making astute points about the often depressing interactions of labor and capital within the cultural sector. There is this insightful piece that argues for the establishment of a union for all the art handlers and gallery receptionists who toil in this city; it goes very well with this photo essay of gallery receptionists at work and this art handling photo essay, hilariously named “How To Travel If You’re A Fetishized Commodity”; it also goes well with the insight, “In the post-BFA landscape, hot women get jobs filing and hot men get jobs lifting”; there’s this piece about the history of political art censorship in America and the recent decision by the new governor of Maine to remove a mural from the state Department of Labor following one anonymous complaint; this wry pastiche of New York real estate sloganeering; there’s this: “Do you feel exploited? Do you feel like the people who work for the man are constantly taking advantage of your je ne sais quoi so that their place looks really fucking cool/political/hip/totally not sexist/racist/classist/homophobic? You know what I mean?”

Oh, do I. And that’s not even the half of it. The whole labor issue is really good. Go ahead, click on over. There’s a reason Dis has long been on the very short list of publications for which I’ll come out of my “retirement.”

The very fabulous Tamu McPherson took my picture for her blog recently — what a sweetheart! This raises an interesting question, however: who’s that woman who matched her red fur vest to her red shirt to her red pants to her red shoes? She looks fun.

Some New Work

Programming note: Should you be looking for a spot of spring reading — perhaps you woke up this fine Sunday morning with urgent, unanswered questions concerning Yohji Yamamoto’s libertine sex life and Diane von Furstenberg’s views on feminism — I have new pieces in the current Bookforum and the March issue of Jalouse (which has just reached New York City). In Bookforum I review Yamamoto’s intriguing, if somewhat maddening, new memoir and Ligaya Salazar’s monograph for Yamamoto’s retrospective at the V&A in London. In Jalouse, I talk to von Furstenberg about her life, business empire, and working relationship with DVF’s new creative director, Yvan Mispelaere. Neither story is available online.

Who Knew Gwyneth Paltrow Had Strong And Almost Coherent Opinions About Gangster Rap?

Gwyneth Paltrow The kale-eating one tells her friend Sean Carter that she fell for N.W.A. when she was 17: “I was fascinated by lyrics as rhythm and how Dre had a such different cadence and perspective from say, Eazy-E, who I thought was one of the most ironic and brilliant voices hip-hop has ever had.”

Five Easy Pieces

Jenna SauersMy friend Alice Baxley, who blogs at Clouds & Candy, does a feature called The Classic Series where she asks people to break down their style, focusing on five elements with which they build their look. When Alice came to New York City last week, I had her up to Harlem for a cup of tea, and she was kind enough to let me prate on about the clothes and accessories I like — scarves, good flats, pencil skirts, things of that nature — while she took some pictures. Here are the results.