Summer Moodboard: Interview with Artist Elizabeth Mayville

Interview with artist Elizabeth Mayville 
Summer… that feeling of simple, tranquil days, when you are taking your time; when you don’t have to wake up early in the morning, but you do so regardless, at sunrise, without any plans for the day ahead, but with a sense of wander; when you can find joy in the everyday and contemplate the unknown with the same enthusiasm. The very same feeling that I had one winter day when I discovered Elizabeth Mayville’s work: it was her series of paintings depicting women in striped t-shirts, with the back to the viewer or with the face not showing, and with the hair tied in a knot or ponytail. As soon as summer rolled in this month, I instinctively thought of Elizabeth’s calm and subtly beautiful paintings which render that same mood of endless summer. An interview with the artist herself soon followed, which gave me the chance and pleasure to find out the real inspiration behind her paintings that sparked that first interest in me, as well as the pros and cons of being an artist in Michigan (and what makes this place unique to live in) and why working with her hands feels like a true gift.
 
Artist Elizabeth mayville 
Where or how did you learn your craft? How early on did you know this was something you wanted to do as a profession?
I’m not sure when I first painted. Obviously, I did as a child, and then I remember making some truly awful paintings in high school art classes. I didn’t really study painting until my second year of college and it finally stuck. While at university, I sort of dreamily thought I would have a career in art, but didn’t really take the time to figure out what steps I needed to take to get there. It wasn’t until I had been out in the working world for over fives years that I decided to make a go of it. I realised that I wasn’t particularly good at or interested in anything else professionally.

What is the best part about working with your hands?
Creating something from nothing is a shock to the system nearly every time. It’s so exciting to be at the helm when a painting finally starts to come together. This is a bit of a cliché, but, in modern times, so many things feel synthetic and removed from us that it feels like a real gift to know how to make a thing that you can hold in your hands.
 
Interview with artist Elizabeth Mayville 
How would you describe and how did you develop your painting style? Who and what has influenced and inspired your work?
My style could best be described as quiet and calm. I never made strides to push my work in that direction, instead, like a lot of young artists I just mimicked the work I liked best and eventually I landed somewhere between my heroes and my basic ability. I love Fairfield Porter, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, William Bailey, and David Park.

What are the pros and cons of creating art in Michigan, as opposed to, for example, New York City, the hub of the artistic world? And how does the place you live in influence you artistically?
The biggest pro is that it’s relatively inexpensive to live here and I still have access to customers all over the world via the internet. The biggest con is that my natural inclination to be a bit isolated is totally reinforced here. I just bought a house on four acres of land and I can go days now with only seeing my husband and son, which is amazing, but I’m obviously missing out on culture, real-life art world connections, and the opportunity to see important pieces of art in person. But I do love the quiet and I think that comes through in my work. My aim is to continue living in Michigan, but to get my career to a point where I’m traveling to major cities a few times a year and soaking up all that I can while I’m there.

Many of your works are depictions of objects that convey the space and feeling of “home”, and that celebrate the everyday. Is this what your paintings are aiming to inspire?
Absolutely. I think there’s magic in many of the little bits that make up a day. It’s so easy to overlook it, but it makes an otherwise ordinary day worth experiencing.
 
Artist Elizabeth Mayville 
You have a series of paintings portraying girls/women in striped t-shirts. They make me think of endless summer. What was the idea behind them?
I’ve loved Gerhard Richter’s painting “Betty” since the first time I saw an image of it. It’s a hyper-realistic depiction of his daughter with her back to the viewer. What I loved about that painting is that I have no idea what’s going on. I don’t know what this girl looks like, I don’t know what she’s doing and that makes the whole thing a bit of a beautiful and tranquil mystery. A lot of people buy my prints because they swear they look exactly like someone they know and I love that. I like that they’re open and straightforward at the same time.

I was reading somewhere that art is something about everyday life, about finding creativity in the ordinary. What makes something art?
To me, art is a human expression that strikes a cord with other people on multiple levels and involves some amount of skilled craftsmanship. That isn’t to say that something has to be shared and revered to be art, I think it just has to be capable of resonating with more than one person.

I believe that asking an artist details about his/her creative process is somehow irrelevant, but I would at least like to know where your creative process begins.
My creative process usually begins by going out in the world. Whether it be on a hike or in a museum or at dinner with friends, I usually get the first inkling of an idea outside of the studio. Then, when it’s studio time, I’ll start picking away at the idea with sketches or small gouache paintings. Sometimes it ends there or else it continues further into a large oil painting.
 
Artist Elizabeth Mayville 
Do you consider the prints of your paintings also artworks in and of themselves?
I’ve never thought of it in that way before, but I suppose I do. I love the process of printing them, cutting them down and putting together the packaging. There is certainly the same level of care present in their creation as with the paintings.

Do you have a specific working atmosphere you like to surround yourself with when creating?
This is a tricky question to answer right now. I’ve just moved and my future studio off of our garage currently contains pool equipment and mousetraps, while my current studio is a spare bedroom with a folding table and all of my equipment spread out on the floor. Neither of these is my ideal working atmosphere. My goal for my future studio is a clean, light-filled space with different areas for different jobs (painting, computer work, packaging). But if that doesn’t work out, I’ve found that I’m pretty adaptable and can work just about anywhere.

Does objectivity in the art world exist? Isn’t the emotion the essence of looking at art?
I don’t think anyone can claim to be innately objective, but it’s certainly something one could work towards.
 
Artist Elizabeth Mayville 
What has been your career highlight so far?
I’ve had a few proud moments, but, honestly, I’m still completely excited that painting is my job. The fact that I’m a professional painter is a highlight for me.

What does success mean, to you, in the artistic world?
I’m sure that it means a bunch of different things for each person invested in the artistic world. For me, at this moment, it means being able to continue to contribute financially to my family while making work in which I’m invested.

The best advice you have been given, career-wise.
I don’t know that anyone has boiled down their experience and given me a good quotable piece of advice, but what I’ve gathered from successful creative people is that you must go to your studio daily, work even if you don’t feel like it, be dependable and be kind.
 
Interview with artist Elizabeth Mayville 

One thing you can not start your day without:
Clean teeth and fresh clothes.

What does style mean to you? How would you describe your own personal style?
Style to me is the way in which the world is filtered through an individual. It’s some mixture of that person’s innate and honed skill along with the things they find important.

Where would we find you when not working?
Being a stay at home mom. Hiking with my son, demanding he pick up his toys, cooking dinner, etc.

What is your favourite thing to do in Michigan and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
My favourite thing to do here is ride in a boat and go swimming in the middle of a lake. There are so many lakes here and I hope to soon be the owner and captain of my very own boat. I know there are lakes everywhere, but there are five literally within about a mile from my house. It’s fantastic.

Your favourite moment of the day:
I love waking up to the morning sun in summertime and climbing into bed at night in the winter.
 
photos: courtesy of Elizabeth Mayville

Posted by classiq in Crafts & Culture, Interviews | | Leave a comment

The Best Sunglasses in the History of Cinema

Best sunglasses in film - Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash 
From the moment I glanced at the mirrored sunglasses of Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash I knew it was time to finally make the plunge and have my own take on the best shades in the history of cinema. It’s summer and the fact of the matter is that the summer sun is much more bearable in a pair of sunglasses. And not just any pair of sunglasses, but one with no corner-cutting on style and quality. And I assure you, there is no better place to look for inspiration than the movies. Old and new. But I am warning you. I am biased. They are a rare breed, these pieces I am listing here. First of all, my selection only includes films that I liked, all of them good movies, from one reason or another. Well, yes, even Top Gun. I mean, have you seen all the good parts of 80s fashion better portrayed in any other film than they are on Kelly McGillis in Top Gun? Secondly, they are all enduring styles and something I myself would wear (that’s why you won’t find the Lolita sunglasses here, regardless of how memorable they have become – the timelessness quality eludes their red-brimmed heart shape) or something I would like to see men wear. Thirdly, need I mention the mandatory character-driven element? All of the above work in concert to compile my very personal view on the subject matter.

Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash, 2016
“It’s not only about style, it’s a question of cinematographic language as the glasses reflect for the viewer what she sees,” says director Luca Guadagnino about Tilda Swinton’s rock star Marianne in his latest film, A Bigger Splash, loosely inspired by Jacques Deray’s 1969 La piscine, but which also had as a strong reference point Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 Viaggio in Italia. The mirrored sunglasses are one of the standout elements Swinton wears, alluding to Marianne’s rock persona (unlike the rest of her very ladylike clothes). “She has a David Bowie/Freddy Mercury stage persona with a bit of Chrissie Hynde.” Guadagnino worked with Raf Simons again on this film (I Am Love was their first collaboration) as well as with costume designer Giulia Piersanti.
 
Best sunglasses in films - Cary Grant in North by Northwest 
Cary Grant in North by Northwest, 1959
So many years after I was introduced to Roger Thornhill and so many viewings of North by Northwest later (it’s one of my feel-good movies, but about that, on another occasion), I am just as intrigued by the sunglasses Cary Grant wears in Hitchcock’s 1959 thtiller. In orangey turtoiseshell, with green lenses, they are not exactly what you’d expect, rather unusual, but that’s exactly what makes them enduringly classic. Sharp and daring, they are a piece you won’t forget, and one that won’t age either. They are cool. And Cary Grant made them that. Any other style on him in this film wouldn’t have had the same impact, nor would have these sunglasses had the same effect on any other face. I am sure their appeal has to do not only with Grant’s effortless composure, but also with the character’s sense of humour. He knows he is unconvincing when he uses them trying to hide from the police at Grand Central Station. He shows the same sense of humour (and wit, too) when he is trying to seduce Eva Marie Saint in the dining car (while still wearing the sunglasses). Or is it the other way around? I do thoroughly enjoy that piece of dialogue every single time.
 
Best sunglasses in film Gene Tierney in leave her to heaven 
Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven, 1945
I wanted to say that these are probably my all time favourite sunglasses ever worn by a woman on screen. I am not so sure after writing this blog post, but there is something very distinctive about them that attracts me. Leave Her To Heaven is a remarkable film, not only because it’s a great noir (and because Gene is a great femme fatale), but also because one fantastic image, a least conventional one, succeeds in summing up the fashion of a decade. Gene Tierney’s famous boat look sees her wearing the least glamorous piece of clothing, a bathrobe (but one with padded shoulders, naturally), completed however with the most glamorous finishing touches: perfect red lipstick, impeccable hair-do and those fabulous sunglasses. Indeed, those sunglasses. What more suggestive way was there to reflect her unblinking cruelty?
 
Best sunglasses in film - Kirsten Dunst in the two faces of January  
Kirsten Dunst in The Two Faces of January, 2014
This is my idea of statement sunglasses. Colourful frames (keeping it in elegant lines though) and a classic shape. Just like the costumes in The Two Faces of January, they have a vintage flair, while looking undeniably modern. Every wardrobe piece is simplified and understated, as costume designer Steven Noble wanted “to keep it minimal, contemporary, and chic”, advancing the idea that only when historical ties are loosened can viewers of today (or tomorrow) begin to identify with the characters on the screen. I agree. About Colette’s yellow dress, the designer said he “went to look at the light, the colour of the stone and the views before I designed that.” He probably had the setting in mind when he chose the yellow rimmed eyewear, too. All three main characters have distinctive sunglasses. They are a must in shielding from the unforgiving Greek sun, but there is something more that is hiding behind each pair.
 
Best sunglasses in the history of cinema Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can 
Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, 2002
After the lesson in style that Cary served us in North by Northwest, I didn’t think it was very attainable for any actor of today to don any other pair of tortoiseshell shades, especially one with yellowish frames, that could easily pass as cheap and flimsy. But Leonardo DiCaprio did, very much so, in Spielberg’s 1960s-set Catch Me If You Can. DiCaprio’s character thinks he can get away with anything, including with that piece of sun shields. He’s right, as far as those sun shields are concerned.
 
Best sunglasses in the history of cinema-Bibi Andersson in persona 
Bibi Andersson in Persona, 1966
Intensely provocative and clever, with minimalist composition and well defined close-up shootings (much credit due to Sven Nykvist), Ingmar Bergman’s Persona is one of the best psychological thrillers in the history of cinema. In this complex depiction of human identity, frailty and cruelty, Alma (Bibi Andersson) is the nurse who is hired to take care of famous actress Elisabet (Liv Ullmann), after she stops speaking during a performance. They are secluded at the physician’s island house and their identities merge – the hint is in the very title of the film: “Persona”, in singular. Who pays attention to fashion with such an intriguing plot? Well, I am. Because Bibi Andersson’s style in Persona deserves recognition, too. Her pixie cut, sun hats, black dresses and bold sunglasses are mainstays of timeless, modern fashion. But, if we are to read into the character, Alma, with her sunglasses on, looks as if she seeks protection against Elisabet…, or is it against herself?
 
Best sunglasses in film - Marcello Mastroianni la dolce vita 
Marcello Mastroianni in La dolce vita, 1960
Marcello Mastroianni’s shades in La dolce vita may not be as much lauded as those in 8 1/2, but it is in La dolce vita that we first see them take on their own role, as they are used by the main character (who wears them anytime, even at night, and everywhere, including indoors) to evade looks; they are an anti-conversation piece, having the ability to shut people out. His formal clothing is his armour; dressed in slim tailored suits, with his Persol shades on, Marcello Rubini stands in the shadow, detached and observant.
 
Best sunglasses in film Anouk Aimee la dolce vita 
Anouk Aimée in La dolce vita, 1960
As wealthy playgirl Maddalena in La dolce vita, Anouk Aimée is Mastroianni’s equal in terms of both elegance and moral depravity. Her sophisticated wardrobe seems to embody the best of 1950s and 1960s fashion, it’s glamourous and modern at the same time. Her fabulous cat-eye shades, which she, just like Mastroianni’s Rubini, wears even at night (“Everything is wrong tonight”… “I’d like to hide, but never manage it … Rome is such a bore … I need an entirely new life.”), inspired Tom Ford create his retro-looking cat’s eye sunglasses which he called “Anouk”. Anouk Aimée drifts through La Dolce Vita with the hauteur of a feline.
 
Best sunglasses in film  Anouk Aimee in model shop
 
Anouk Aimée in Model Shop , 1969
The first appearance of director Jacques Demy’s Lola character was in his film by the same name, from 1961. Anouk Aimée reprised Lola again eight years later in Model Shop. The story takes place in Los Angeles, where Lola is working her way to get a train ticket back to Paris. Emotionally hurt, Lola goes through her life with detachment, and, behind her sunglasses, she keeps life at a distance. The practical role of the shades isn’t elusive though either: they keep the beautiful, but punishing LA sunlight at bay. But it is consistently clear that this is a Los Angeles that Demy loved (just as he loved Old Hollywood); it’s obvious even when Lola is first seen enveloped in white walking across a pay-by-the-hour asphalt parking lot.
 

Best sunglasses in film Jean Seberg in breathless  
Jean Seberg in À bout de souffle, 1960
Every time I see a beautiful pixie cut paired with a great pair of sunglasses I want to chop my hair off again. I’ve never been complemented more on my looks than when I had short hair. The first film to set off one of the most important cinematic movements in the world, La Nouvelle Vague, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless would also be much revered for its fashion, which beguiles international audiences to this day. Jean Seberg’s heroine, with her iconic hair-cut, cat-eye make-up, mirrored cat-eye sunglasses – she simply owns that pair of individuality statement – and a casual, natural, effective wardrobe, packed with sailor stripes (probably her own clothes), captured, like so many other heroines in French New Wave films, the life of the young in Paris, from fashion and the urban professional life, to the carefree minds and the spirit of youth.
 
best sunglasses in movies - Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair 
Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968
The tortoiseshell folding Persols, complete with blue-tinted lenses, that Steve McQueen were in The Thomas Crown Affair, are just as famous as his three-piece suit, the most revered three-piece suit in film history. A thing of beauty, for sure, but I doubt they would have attained cool status and become legendary if it weren’t for Steve McQueen. He had this innate quality of projecting an air of cool on everything he wore. McQueen was a fan of Persol sunglasses and owned a personal collection. The Italian brand celebrated the actor by re-launching the model a few years ago in a limited edition.
 
Best sunglasses in film Audrey Hepburn breakfast at tiffany's 
Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
The more time passes, the more I realise the many different things I like about Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The fact that Audrey was cast against the type and did a great job at it. The fact that she was funny in the film and that she humorously admitted that she knew she could be a stylish Holy Golightly, even if that was the only thing she could contribute to her character. The fact that she isn’t afraid to wear the same dress over and over again and that she wears a men’s double-cuff dress shirt as night gown. The fact that she hails for the cab. The fact that her glamorous, mysterious, forever modern Oliver Goldsmiths are the accomplice she uses to hide her true expression and conceal her real feelings (and lost nights).
 
Best sunglasses in movies - Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry 
Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, 1971
Eastwood takes the regular idea of “cop” glasses and reinvents it altogether. I will leave the “punk” line out, but these are some death-stare-inducing shades, you have to admit it. He is a street smart detective, and I like that his Ray-Ban Baloramas say the exact opposite. They seem calm and collected. The attraction of the opposites surely works in this case. Steve McQueen may remain the best dressed lieutenant to have ever hit the streets of San Francisco (in Bullitt), but Clint out-grades him out in the shades department. Sorry, Steve.
 
Best sunglasses in film - Thelma and Louise

Best sunglasses in film Thelma and Louise

Best sunglasses in film Thelma and Louise 
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise, 1991
Few other female characters have come to embody free spirit and fearlessness in being yourself. And maybe Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis would have rocked any pair of sunglasses they had put on in Thelma and Louise, but that’s the most beautiful part. The shades Louise is wearing in the beginning – classic, even a little retro in fact – may be the coolest ever just because she wears them. What’s more interesting is that even when her character evolves (see all three images above) and she changes her look, her clothes, her life and her self, she keeps the sunglasses. Even when she switches to a pair of Aviators, Louise still wears the cat-eye piece, hung on her white tank top. And Thelma gets to wear them, too, but not until she has reached her natural, beautifully simple, mythical look.
 
Best sunglasses in film Robert Redford 
Robert Redford in Little Fauss and Big Halsy, 1970
Okay, there is one exception to the “good film” factor. Robert Redford seems to have worn a pair of great sunglasses in just about every movie he’s made, from Downhill Racer to Three Days of the Condor, both very good films, but the one I associate the most with the actor’s rugged, perfectly weathered, all-American double denim look is the one from Little Fauss and Big Halsy, which, let’s be honest, is an easily forgettable film. But only good things can be said about those Aviator shades, as much a part of being an American as blue jeans, especially this American, and by that I mean the actor, as well as the character.
 
Most iconic sunglasses in movies - Jane Fonda in Klute
 
Jane Fonda in Klute, 1971
There are many films from the 70s that depict the decade’s fashion well, but the one I always tend to think of is Klute. And it’s all the more interesting as most of the clothes Jane Fonda wore in the movie were reportedly her own. It’s probably this sense of reality that I appreciate. I don’t know if the sunglasses were Jane’s as well, but they are oversized, with fading lenses, very much 70s (without looking like a replica of the past) and kind of unlikely to be used as undercover, which makes them perfect for the job.
 
Iconic sunglasses in movies - Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive 
Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive, 2014
Could Tilda Swinton be the coolest actress of the modern day, with the coolest movie style?
It seems that, lately, every time I write about fashion in film, I mention one of her movies. In Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (I seem to mention this one the most, but only because it may be one of my favourite films of the 2000s and I don’t think I can overemphasize how much I loved it), her character, Eve, is centuries-old. Her Wayfarers, the classics of classics, are timeless, too. Her clothes needed to be something without a specific period, and to have simple and clean lines, according to costume designer Bina Daigeler in an interview for The Cut magazine, because “they [Eve and Adam, her husband] had already lived all the fantasies they could live”. The sunglasses are simple and protective, shielding Eve and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) from the outside world, the decaying world of the 21st century.
 
Sunglasses in film-Kelly McGillis Tom Cruise Top Gun 
Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in Top Gun, 1986
The Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses have a place of their own in Top Gun. They simply cut to the image of the tough guy appeal they never fail to evoke. There is probably no other accessory which knew this kind of rebirth thanks to a movie appearance, reconfirming their classic status and becoming style-setters. In Top Gun, the Aviators are the ultimate matchmaker of function and form. Not only that, but the shades (Charlie’s square frames perfectly complementing Maverick’s teardrop style) diffuse the romantic tension simmering between the two. And I will say it again. Kelly McGillis’ film wardrobe remains one of my favourites (yes) in the history of cinema. So simple, so accurate, so enduring. As Jessica Read, the daughter of the film’s costume designer, Bobbie Read, was nice enough to write to me, it made her proud to discover there are people who appreciate her mother’s work and who acknowledge the timelessness of this style. I take it as my duty to do so.

 
photos: movie stills from: 1-A Bigger Splash (StudioCanal) / 2-North by Northwest (MGM) / 3-Leave Her to Heaven (Twentieth Century Fox) / 4-The Two Faces of January ( StudioCanal) / 5-Catch Me If You Can (DreamWorks) / 6-Persona (Svensk Filmindustri) / 7,8-La Dolce Vita (Riama Film) / 9-Model Shop (Columbia Pictures) / 10-Breathless (SNC) / 11-The Thomas Crown Affair (Mirisch Corporation) / 12-Breakfast at Tiffany’s ( Jurow-Shepherd) / 13-Dirty Harry (Warner Brothers/Malpaso Production) / 14,15,16- Thelma and Louise (Pathe Entertainment) / 17-Little Fauss and Big Halsy (Paramount Pictures) / 18-Klute (Warner Brothers) / 19-Only Lovers Left Alive (Recorded Pictures Company/Pandora Filmproduktion/Snow Wolf Filmproduktion) / 20-Top Gun (Paramount Pictures)

Posted by classiq in Film, Style in film | | 1 Comment

Leave Room

Maxi dress 
Be comfortable. It’s become my number one style rule. And just like that, I am embracing the full-skirt look for the first time (and to think I was once a pencil-skirt girl). It’s what I usually reach for in this heat, completed with espadrilles or ankle-wrap sandals and a tissue-thin t-shirt or a shirt worn in a more unconventional way (tied at the waist, for example). I’m proclaiming it my summer look and I am planning to just run with it. And, I don’t know, there is just something about this shape that urges you to stand straight and exude confidence when wearing it. Anyway, this is not to say that you should go with the look by any means and that attention should not be properly paid to cut and fit – because being comfortable may be the first rule, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only rule.

And because there will ineveritably continue to be jeans-days, I will go for the room-leaving type in this department as well. Not only is it a wiser choice in the summer, but they elevate your appearance, too (and make you stand out from the crowd – aah, the freedom of going against the current…). And, come to think of it, my favourite Kate Moss jeans look does not involve the skinny’s that she made famous, but a straight-cut pair in light blue wash – those jeans were simply writing a different story, more sophisticated and timeless. I will have that, please.
 
Wide leg jeans and shirt

Midi skirt and flats

Wide leg jeans

photos: 1-Harper’s Bazaar / 2-A Love Is Blind / 3-WWD magazine / 4-The Chronicles of Her

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Into The World: Interview with Ana Hogaş and Ionuţ Florea

Interview Ana Hogas and Ionut Florea - Into The World

The Chalbi Desert, Kenya

 
They wrote a book and I loved it. They left on a motorbike to discover Africa, taking their own path and leaving their own mark, and I thought this is what travelling should be about. They seem they are ready to take on the world with open eyes and with an open mind, and I knew they would be open to a conversation, too. They said yes, kindly and promptly, and here is my interview with Ana Hogaş and Ionuţ Florea, the two architects turned adventurers, authors of the book Oyibo, citizens of the world.
 
The Nubian Desert Sudan - Oyibo - Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

The Nubian Desert, Sudan

 
This June marks five years since you set out to follow one of your dreams, leaving on a motorbike tour of Africa, after having left your jobs and having put your careers aside. I think I am not mistaken when I say that many of us, at one point or another, fantasize about doing something of the kind. But what does it really take to make the leap?
We know that it sounds like there must have been an a-ha moment, but in hindsight the night when we talked about going to Africa by motorcycle registered like any other calm evening at home. Except maybe for the fact that at the time Ionut was stuck in bed, unable to walk without crutches (he had had an Achiles tendon surgery) and I was giving him belly shots to prevent blood clots from forming. So it was not a big moment. It was a very clear decision though, and since then we did everything to make it happen, as if we had signed a contract somewhere, it was that certain. We had had vague ideas about driving a car to southern Africa before, and we had been going through a very sterile and difficult time since 2009 (careerwise, as architects we were very much affected by the burst of the real estate and subprime bubble). So perhaps that this decision has been slowly forming inside our minds and Ionut’s surgery was just the release valve, I don’t know. In a way, I had been dreaming for long to become a vagabond, and he had been fantasizing with the idea of a physical challenge, and Africa has been a magnet for both. The escape to Africa was like a 3 in 1 logical step.

But as we tell in the first chapter of our book OYIBO, another accident, much more drastic, forced us to actually leave for Africa another 9 months later that originally planned. I guess that our decision needed some further testing. So tested we were, and when we finally left into the world we were as open as one can be to whatever life was to become and had nothing left to lose.

What is the most important lesson that Africa has taught you?
We are not sure we could name just one, there were many little lessons, many tiny moments of redefinition of what our idea of ourselves was. Ours was not a cultural shock kind of journey. It was overland and mostly off-road, so it was a slow, soft awakening to lots and lots of new stuff. Like being a baby in a way and learning to walk, to smell, to try flavours. We took it all in. We became less angry with our own selves, more compelled to act upon our instincts, to chase even the most ridiculous paths. We also learned a lot about our human limits, how we deal with hunger, extreme heat, getting lost in the Sahara, having to fight with each other for the last drop of water, not washing for weeks (yes) and having to make a life in the wild as nomadic westerners carrying a lot of useless gear in places where the best tool one has is their common sense and open mind. The extremely humbling hospitality and gentle curiosity of the African people was the most profound prejudice-shattering part of the journey and we will carry that forever in our hearts.
 
Oyibo-Nigeria-Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Oyibo Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Doing volunteer work, Nigeria

 
Although I have the feeling I know what you are going to answer to this question, tell me, which is your favourite African country? Why?
P.S.: Is it Nigeria?

Nigeria is truly tattooed on our hearts. We just clicked with the people: we found them to be both strong and vulnerable, creative, hard working, a bit naïve in some respect, very passionate, true survivors. We were lucky to work as volunteers side by side with Nigerians from all 4 corners of the nation, belonging to more than 6 different ethnicities, Muslims, Christians and animists, all together in this tiny place in the rainforest, far from the tarmac or Internet. That place and episode is also our biggest regret of the journey, as we should have stayed there much longer than we did.

And which is the most overrated African country that you visited?
Perhaps Egypt, but you must take that with the proverbial grain of salt. True Egyptians are wonderful people, but the massive tourism industry has been spoiling the good old Muslim hospitality and we, as tourists, are the ones who much return things back to where they should be. We were also very tired at the time, and in Libya and Egypt there were tensions and problems that eventually led to Benghazi; our view must have been affected by that as well. Having said that, Egypt is a spectacular country, with some of the most amazing ancient relics and stunning landscapes. Cairo is a city to behold.

What remains your most beautiful memory of Africa?
The fuzzy feeling of being at home in Africa. We had that feeling over and over, for example when buying goods from farmers, working in Nigeria, waking up in the forest, watching zebras graze under a gigantic rainbow, being rained upon and feeling miserable and small, getting scared shitless in the Sahara under the most brutal thunderstorm and stuff like that.
 
Into The World Ana Hogas Ionut Florea Oyibo

Western Sahara, bush camp

Into The World Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Having coffee in Sudan

 
A little earlier you mentioned the hospitality and the gentle curiosity of the African people as prejudice-shattering. Did you leave with any other prejudices on your adventure? How has your experience there changed that?
We did have some preconceived ideas: the most important was that we thought we would be shunned by our professional guild for unplugging and switching to a vagabond lifestyle. Then we worried a lot about what would happen to us after we had sold everything of value and spent the money on “travel”. Could we eventually make a living from something else or would we be become penniless bums? We were second-guessing ourselves, when in fact, in our humble opinion, the best investment is in ourselves and our journeys to wherever they may be (physical or spiritual or of some other kind). What probably saved us was that, from the start, we put our trust in people: we hoped that if we fell, there would be someone to help us up, and, indeed, there always was (sometimes that someone was one of us).

When you were travelling through Africa, you were considering living there (in South Africa, for example). You are back in Romania now and have already toured Central Asia on motorbikes, South-East Asia, China, Tibet and Oman on mountain bikes, and returned for a 6-week MTB trip to Africa. Are you ever thinking about moving countries? Why/why not?
Yes, a lot. It’s gonna happen. We find quite nurturing the experience of starting over from scratch. Our hope is to settle for a while in Africa, if we find a job/purpose/sustainable way. That would be a lovely homecoming; but there are also some continents to be explored before that. So let’s see what happens.
 
Oyibo Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Fighting with the mud, Congo

Interview Oyibo Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Cape Agulhas, South Africa

 
Do people make the place?
Well, yes, they do. But let’s not forget that people are just a species in this complex beautiful ecosystem we call home. The animals, the plants, the rain, the oceans, the deserts – they all come together with their energy and colours. We are deeply connected with each other and to the other living or material bits, and we are just learning about how this works and what makes us work. We personally do travel a lot for the people, but also for the sheer beauty of a place, for the solitude that some places require, or the physical punishment that others force upon us in order to have a deeper effect on a personal level.

Your photography is beautiful, leaving me the impression that it is an accurate depiction of Africa, just like your book. I remember something you wrote, about a tribal woman who said something like “All everyone of you wants (the tourists) is a photo of us”. That really had an impact on me and it made me sad. And it made me think about photographer Jimmy Nelson’s book, “Before They Pass Away”, where he showcases tribal cultures (not all of them) around the globe. It may have been a remarkable effort, but one that brought along plenty of criticism (to which I subscribe, too), accusing the author of a primitive attitude towards indigenous communities, and of forcing his own ideas on the photographs, which looked staged and were glamorised for his own profit and for feeding the fantasies of the Western consumers, while failing to reflect the real tribal life. And it makes me wonder: do we have a romanticised idea of these people and of the parts of the world they inhabit? Do we see them with too narrow-sighted eyes, without trying to understand them and see them as who they really are?
We are unfit to answer, as we visited too briefly. One must live for years among this tribes to be accepted and to be given access to true knowledge. It’s impossible not to have a romanticized idea of the cradle of humanity, we all have that yearning inside us that calls back to the mother’s womb, to being Adam and Eve under the first open skies, and Africa can have that effect on you. The tribal fabric of most African countries retains a lot of what we like to think it’s the truth in those photos you’ve mentioned. We try to look at those undoubtedly “staged” photos as re-enactments of something that is already lost. Things are changing, albeit not as fast as in other places. For the future generations those photos could be at least some sort of recordings of our heritage. The African tribes are also inherently beautiful and artists are inspired by pure beauty.

On the other hand, we are vocal against disenfranchising people by forcing them into Vogue pictorials, or having them masquerade traditional symbols to entertain tourists, playing important rituals as acts for cash and stuff like that. The Africans do need to be respected more. We, in the West, have a tendency to throw mercy at them, and it’s the last thing they need. There is a lot of untapped ancient knowledge in Africa, and that is paired with resilience and unique creativity. We have a lot of faith that the continent shall become a force to be reckoned with in the future.
 
Into the world Ana Hogas Ionut florea

Fish market

 
If someone is travelling to Africa for the first time and chooses to visit only one country, what would you suggest?
Pick any country that speaks to your curiosity and visit shyly as you would a member of your family. Some countries are arguably more testing to someone who visit the continent for the first time, but there is no country to be avoided or to be considered the star.

I have to say that reading your book has made me ask myself some questions, as I was mentioning when I talked about it a little while ago, here, on the blog. And that is because I felt that everything you lived on the road was authentic, real, honest, meaningful. Probably I am not the only one. How have the people received your book? Which was the most moving feedback you’ve had?
We are thankful to our readers for constantly sending notes and photos. We welcome all feedback. Some messages are quite humbling and personal, there are others who had similar encounters with a deeper self in Africa and who connected with OYIBO. We have no idea yet if the book is a bestseller, but we do hope that it reaches more homes and more hearts. We like to say that “OYIBO is you”.

As I was previously telling you, I think you are setting an extraordinary example for everyone, but especially for the youth and for children, who are alarmingly too connected to the virtual life. How else do you think we can encourage them to live their lives, lead an active life (without it having to be a trip around the world), be themselves and maybe not give up social media altogether, but at least resume to an elegant approach to it?
Thank you. Now, the parents are responsible to give the young and vulnerable the right tools for exploration. The smartphone is a great tool, but it cannot replace real life, like falling of your bike for example. Very young people and kids cannot buy this gizmos themselves, so this is what should be first addressed. Then, information, information and information. We believe in allowing universal free access to knowledge, in sharing and putting quality content out there. Eventually someone will pick it up and move the world forward.
 
Oyibo- Ana hogas ionut florea -into the world

The wake up call, Congo

 
Was there anything at all you missed from your life prior to your journey (besides family and friends) while travelling?
The close ones were dearly missed indeed. We also missed having access to good computers to work on, a well fitted garage to work on the bike, a gym to exercise, good Internet connection. But those were easy trade offs against the freedom of life on the road.

How was your return home after 14 months of nomadic life? Do you think it’s important to call a place “home”, to feel that you belong somewhere?
We think it’s important to have a sense of family and home. Within our respective families we have always been some sort of misfits. They love and support us, but we tend to swim against the current, and that is OK. On a personal level, Africa felt very much like home, much more than Europe has ever felt. We also felt at home wherever we stayed for longer: Togo, Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Cambodia, Vietnam. Last winter we cycled in Uganda and Tanzania; we were returning to Africa after 3 years and we were wondering ourselves if we had not romanticized the whole moto trip thing. But the moment we touched down we instantly plugged back into that old feeling. It was very real. It’s important to recognize that connection. We work to remind ourselves that we are OYIBOs.

Now, being a vagabond is also tiresome and consuming. After a while we need to stay put and let everything sink in. For us, home is not something local or physical, rather a feeling of being in sync and waking up with a purpose. Returning to Bucharest after 14 months as self-imposed nomads was incredibly difficult and painful, and we chose to leave that part out of the OYIBO confession. Perhaps we’ll share that in another book.
 
Oyibo, Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

The Tropic of Capricorn, Namibia

 
What about your architect careers? Are they put aside for good? With your travellings, photo exhibitions, speaking events and writing your first book, do you feel you have found your true calling?
We are on a different path, that’s sure, but we do not exclude the possibility of returning to big urban design in the future, if such a holistic opportunity will come. It’s too soon to say we’ve found our true calling. Let’s just say that we are more aware of our different callings and that we are attempting new stuff. The things you’ve mentioned are bits of what we do or did to share our story and to make it more meaningful to ourselves in a therapeutic sort of way. Much like writing OYIBO was, these activities allow us to revisit the journey we made around Africa by motorcycle. As for a career, we are still makers, designers, we still do that, only differently.

How were your subsequent travels different (physically, mentally, etc) from the first African journey?
We had travelled in vagabond fashion before Africa, but Africa was much more intense and much more open, in the sense that we were free to move and do, we had a tent all the time, and we were consistent in going deeper and exposing ourselves as much as we could. Riding on 2 bikes along the Silk Road to Mongolia and back, cycling across China & Tibet, or South East Asia, cycling in Oman and East Africa were continuations of this personal choice of how we experience the world. We discovered in Africa that this is something that we do very well. We relish in exploring new places, connecting with strangers, overcoming troubles, improvising things when in need. We also need to find new challenges to continue to grow. Our strengths are always our weaknesses, though, so we try to pick our battles wisely.
 
Into the world Ana hogas Ionut Florea

Oman by bike

Interview Ana hogas ionut Florea into the world

Tanzania by bike

 
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of following his dream, whatever that may be?
To just go for it. Too much planning and splitting hairs means risking to postpone too much the real thing.

Who would you take along for the ride on your next trip? And by the way, when are going to hit the road again, and where to?
Each other, or nobody, for that ultimate self discovery that everybody needs once in a while. Having said that, we are going to hit the road in late August together with a group of open minded people who are ready to break a sweat and work as a team. We are leading this group into Namibia for a 2-week adventure organized with Wild-thing.ro

Which continent do you want to discover by road next? Why do I have the feeling that it’s not Europe (and I am not saying this because you are Europeans or because you have probably had your share of travelling around Europe)?
Indeed, we travelled quite a bit through Europe, and there are extraordinary places there that need to be revisited or discovered, but we yearn for more untamed places, and while we keep going back to the map of Africa, we think an Americas trip is due.

What makes you happy at the end of the day?
Doing something out of passion and experiencing a deep connection with people and nature. It can also be just having a good meal, or simple things like that.
 
Into the world Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Selfie on the meteorite, Namibia

 
Q&A on Africa:
 
Most beautiful sun rise: east coast of Zanzibar
Most beautiful sun set: over Zambezi, at Victoria Falls in Zambia
Best food: fruits all over (jackfruit is our favourite) and octopus soup (supu pweza) in Zanzibar
Warmest people: the Sudanese
Most beautiful road trip: Damaraland, Namibia & Lesotho
 
Into the world Ana Hogas Ionut Florea

Perfect trails forever, Mongolia

 
The paper version of the book Oyibo will also be available in English by the end of the year.
 
photos: courtesy of Ana Hogaş and Ionuţ Florea

Posted by classiq in Beauty & Beautiful Living, Interviews | | Leave a comment

The Wes Anderson Collection

The Wes Anderson Collection 
I have a complicated relationship with movie books. As much as I appreciate the valuable and reliable information that good publications of the kind provide, I usually avoid too many details about the movies I watch and love, just like I stay away from critic reviews, because I believe it is important that you (as a viewer and film lover, not a critic) imprint your own values and experiences on the films – therein lies the beauty of cinema, doesn’t it? – and not be interested too much in what the director personally is trying to communicate. I do enjoy certain interviews with directors though, mainly because I am interested in their inspirations and personal journeys, and especially if they themselves turn out to be reticent to explain their movies and to force their point of view – I think it is a proof of respect for the public. Wes Anderson is one such director, and his interview with Matt Zoller Seitz, the author of The Wes Anderson Collection, although book-long and guiding us through his filmography up until The Grand Budapest Hotel (too bad it wasn’t included, as the book was published before the film’s release), is relevant while leaving you room for thought and for your own interpretation of his works.

“Wes repeatedly told me it was important to communicate to readers, through tone and design, that the seven critical essays were my take on his work, that he himself neither approved nor disapproved of their observations, and that readers should feel that their own take was just as valid,” Seitz was telling Vulture magazine. It is true, The Wes Anderson Collection looks and feels like someone’s (the author’s) own personal view, a notable overlook on Anderson’s colourful, whimsical, and original storytelling.

photo by me

Posted by classiq in Books, Film | | Leave a comment