Hey Fencer in Park Slope! Is this your missed connection?

Look what I found on Craig’s List Missed Connections:

Fencing Girl – m4w – 29 (Park Slope)
Reply to: pers-6mvr8-1161213984@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-05-08, 4:22PM EDT

You were the hottest girl walking down 5th Ave with two foils I’ve seen all week. Or is it an epee?

I was sitting in Great Lakes. Doubt you saw me.


It’s so good to know us fencers are finally attracting some flattering attention. Thank you miss fencer, whoever you are for making us look good.

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Art for your Mamma

Mother’s day is less than 48 hours away and you haven’t bought a card yet. ooops. Just like I did for Valentine’s Day, I have scanned the collections of major museums and print makers and rustled up a handful of artworks worthy of a home-made mother’s day card.

Mary Cassatt was famous for her images of mother and her child. Of Cassatt’s painted portraits, these tend to be my least favorite. But none the less, their tenderness and the atmospheric effect of Cassatt’s brushwork makes these heart warming Hallmark worthy scenes. My favorite is the Banjo Lesson. Mother is a teacher and the daughter leans over her shoulder eager to lean. Give this one to a mom who’s taught you everything you know.

If this Cassatt doesn’t do it for you, google her and you’ll find dozens of prints and paintings that depict mother and child (her most famous center around bath time).

Adam Shattuck’s
1850 painting, The Shattuck Family, Mother, Grandmother and Baby William is a beautiful image of ideal 19th century femininity but also of the timelessness of motherhood. Corsets may go in and out of style, but motherhood is always in. I think this is a great one to give to both your mother and her mother. (The actual painting is in the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Museum — a place worth taking your mum if you have the day)

Blessed art thou among Women is a beautiful photograph from the turn of the century. A mother’s tender kiss, the doorway and image of the annunciation on the wall referencing the western world’s ideal mother (a Virgin named Mary), the soft glow around the subjects — it’s just beautiful. The photograph lives at the Met and is the work of an American Photographer, Gertrude K√§sebier.

When Edward Curtis traveled across the US photographing Native Americans in the first quarter of the 20th century, he captured several dual portraits of mothers with their infants. Assiniboin mother and child ranks as my favorite — beautiful natural light, the forest blurring in the background. For Curtis, this was an image of the next, and most likely last, generation of a disappearing race. For today’s viewer, it’s a warm vintage photograph of a new born and its loving parent.

For the mother to be? How about Demi Moore’s famous cover shot for Vanity Fair? Her stomach is huge (she looks like she’s about to pop at any second) but she’s still as sexy as can be — and you know your favorite pregnant friend is feeling pretty far from sexy right now as she watches her butt expand.

The last is my favorite — a New Yorker cover by Danny Shanahan published in 1992 for mothers day. It’s cute and reminds us that motherhood is universal among earth’s creatures (as should be an appreciation of mothers!). This is going on my card.

An Art Historian’s Take on Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is the new Belvedere Torso.

I’ve been saying this for the past four years, but this month’s GQ officially confirms the intuition I’ve had since that 2004 Vanity Fair Bruce Weber shoot. (I love Bruce Weber).

The Belvedere Torso, a fragmented male nude sculpted in the age of Ancient Greece, inspired artists for centuries. Not only was it held as an image of the ideal masculine physique, but it was also the model for bodies in the Last Judgment of Michaelanglo’s Sistine Chapel and continues to be copied by artists, in all media, up to the present day. Google it and you’ll find thousands of 19th engravings that are either pure copies of or are images inspired by the Belvedere Torso (I’m also fairly certain several plates in Goya’s “Disasters of War” are modeled on the Torso… morbid, but Goya was an artist who loved his art history).

And now we have uber-Olympian Michael Phelps. There are so many levels on which this comparison between an Olympian and a Grecian sculpture works, so I’ll leave most of them for you to ponder while I gush over this particular photograph and why it’s so interesting to us art history nerds.

To me, the true beauty of Mark Selgier’s image (above (c) GQ) lies in its reference to the classical masterpiece — an image of marble-white torso caught in action, twisting to reveal his divine musculature. I should mention that the Belvedere torso is thought to be a representation of the demi-God Hercules. And let’s face it, Phelps has become the modern version of a demi-God, both for his athletic prowess and for his A-list celebrity status.

So many photos of Phelps are images of pure sex (check out the GQ cover and the water shot from the same issue). Yet while the composition of this photograph does ultimately draw our attention to Phelps’ “manhood,” we don’t look at the image and think nights between satin sheets with an Olympic stud-muffin. We see an athlete and an ideal masculine body — which is pretty sexy, but is also breathtakingly beautiful in a very chaste sort of way.

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