The Year of the Surrealist Flapper – A Return to Art for Art’s Sake

Posted in Diary of a Directrix
January 6th, 2010 by Devi Snively (The Directrix)

new years gang smFriends new and old counted down as the clock chimed “12, 11, 10, 9, 8…”

And like never before it felt like a really big deal.  I was at friend Amit’s party to which Circus, Catherine, Agustin and I had brought grapes – 12 each – to indulge in a Spanish custom.  One makes a new wish with each of the 12 grapes she eats once the clock strikes 12.  Twelve new wishes to be fulfilled during the new year – sweet!

3169647803_a2a3f9b1feSadly, we couldn’t afford to bring 12 grapes each for 40 or so people, so when the moment came and we found ourselves surrounded by so many wonderful folks, we each had but a few of our own grapes and started handing out the other “wishes” to share the wealth.  It was surprisingly exciting and moving. In the frenzy of grape-passing it felt like we really were handing out wishes.  In an instant it felt like all of our hopes and dreams were suddenly interlocked and we were celebrating all the good things to come. It was, quite frankly, rather beautiful.

ichabod-1949Mere hours earlier I would have never envisioned the evening ending as such…

By the time the afternoon of the 31st came around, I sort of panicked for lack of a better word.  I didn’t feel up to yet another social event after a particularly crazed season and, besides, how could I possibly bring in a new year without a fancy dinner out and sneaking champagne into the movies as is my usual custom?  I’m such a sucker for upholding traditions.

But, alas, I’m not one to RSVP to a party, then back out at the last minute, so here I was feeling horribly antisocial with no choice but to bring in the new year amid tons of (ugh) people.  Crap.

flapper devi smlouise_brooksI determined one thing that would likely improve my mood was a visit to my happy place.  Holly Golightly had Tiffany’s, I have the Arclight.   Knowing we’d have little time to prep for the party afterward, Agustin and I dressed to the nines before heading out for some late afternoon cinema therapy. I went all Louise Brooks with black-banged bob, my signature Cuban-heeled seamed stockings, vintage 30s dress and fave new hat.  Agustin donned a fabulous black satin suit.  What a difference a costume makes!  My attitude was instantly transformed.  I was no longer a reluctant whiny party-goer – I was a fabulous flapper rearing and ready for roaring adventures on the town.

arclight new years smWe started with martinis at the bar, then caught an early screening of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (far more enjoyable than reviewers might have you believe) and ending with a divine supper at the theater restaurant.

Man, was that fun!  It was surprisingly crowded and the other theater patrons in their casual duds nodded in admiration, showering us with endless compliments.  I felt so glamorous.  We even got seated at the booth of honor at the restaurant.    It was a truly great reminder that life is a black tie affair -  it’d be a terrible shame to go slumming it in mere jeans and a t-shirt.

robert janet smBy the time we reached Amit’s (after some dancing to Sheila E. and a private champagne toast with Circus and Catherine) the party was a welcome chance to catch up with old friends and meet some exciting new ones.  Among others, I found kindred spirits in Janet Klein (an extraordinary musician/artist who performs weekly at the Steve Allen Theater with her Parlour Boys) and her charming partner Robert as we spoke of our shared love of hand-written correspondence (Janet had a hand-written love letter in her pocket – impressive!), the art of Leonor Fini, Exquisite Corpse games among other fun topics.  The final hours of 2009 were spent delighting in the most delightful details that make life so extraordinary.

MagicProcessIn retrospect I can barely believe where I stood but a mere year ago.  On Dec. 31st 2008, newly arrived in L.A. and still finding my footing, I had very mundane new year’s resolutions; functional goals which were really just a means to an end – so very unlike me.  When had life become so utilitarian?  Where was the romance, the passion, the magic?

I think perhaps I lost art for a while. I had stopped donning my daily costumes – half of my craziest hats, wigs and anachronistic ensembles remained sadly neglected in my overflowing closet.  My grocery list became utterly boring – with foods based on efficiency rather than taste.  My room had bare walls, no personality to speak of.  I was the bad side of Holly Golightly with her spartan home and nameless cat.  How dreary.

FiniRedVisionleonoracarringtonqueriaserpMuch to my delight, I spent my very final minutes of 2009 revisiting a topic that’s been close to my heart since grad school when I took a course on Surrealist Art and fell in love with the women artists of that movement.  What a treat to spend new year’s with the ghosts of the Surrealists!  They really got it so right.  For them, there was no bridge between life and art.  Their lives were their art.  Art wasn’t confined to a page or a canvas, or a movie screen.  Every moment lived was another opportunity for artistic expression.

It’s not what we do, but how we do it that defines who we are as people and as artists.  Food, clothes and shelter  – our most basic of needs, should not be merely functional, they should contribute to the adventure, to our expression of self.  One should never use traditions and “tried and true” methods” as an excuse to not try something new.

harold_and_maude6a00e54f0e8ab08834010534dcc59d970b-800wiSo for me, 2010 is the year I embrace my life as the “Surrealist Flapper” I’ve always wanted to be.  As I tackle my to-do list for the next 12 months (and such a wonderfully fun list it is! )  I will do so in outlandish ensembles, in my ever-evolving habitat I can finally call “home,” enjoying exotic foods on a Depression-era budget.  As Ruth Gordon says in her wonderful role of Maude in Harold and Maude, “…*everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.”   I couldn’t agree more.  Happy 2010!

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