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Archive for May, 2016

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Aaron Gell will edit the male-centered blog, Beta Male.

A recent article by Jia Tolentino on the feminist blog Jezebel.com titled, “Sheesh, There’s a Reason Women Are ‘Totally Crushing It’ at the Confessional Essay” channels Woolf several times as Tolentino analyzes the future existence of a “new pop-up blog at New York Magazine, a six-week project called Beta Male.”

This new “pop-up blog” will highlight men’s writing, (and presumably, celebrate “beta males”) with a particular interest in the male confessional essay.

The editor of the new blog, Aaron Gell, who is the executive director of Maxim.com, sent out a call for submissions which Leah Finnegan published at Genius.com. Gell calls for men to “demonstrate” that they too can be “introspective” like women writers:

Among the many areas in which women are just totally crushing it lately (sheesh, women!) is the confessional essay. We would like to demonstrate that men can be introspective and self-aware, too. So by all means, whatever you pitch me, try to include a personal essay idea or two. These can be about sex and relationships, family, work, friendships, race, art, beauty, obsession, the body, war, childhood celebrity crushes, parenthood, butt play and/or shoes.

Tolentino alludes to (and links to) Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own several times as she questions the “outlets available for men to confess things about their personal lives online” and the confessional nature of women’s writing. Tolentino writes:

And as we are now in a cultural moment where people are—thankfully—interested in learning about social structures and what life is like for people who have suffered greater hardships, we have, to mixed effect, progressed on the personal essay front from “A Room of One’s Own” into sort of “A Room of One’s Own, Wallpapered With Identity and the Particular Difficult Things It Brings.”

Do men need a new room of their own in which to write and publish?

Or is the whole world their room?

Read Tolentino’s full post here.

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Alice Lowe, a Woolfian who contributes to Blogging Woolf, writesVirginia Woolf about what writers such as Virginia Woolf have taught her about solitude.

I acknowledge in my essay that the topic has been done to death, & I ask what I could possibly add to it. My own take, that’s what, which draws not just from personal experience but from …

Source: Solitude, blessed solitude…

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Virginia Woolf wrote in her 1928 novel Orlando “clothes have more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us”. Her intimate circle of friends and members of the Bloomsbury group were part of the radical Modernist rethinking of dress at the Omega Workshops and Woolf herself wrote for British Vogue under Editor Dorothy Todd in the 1920s. Today the styles of Bloomsbury are inspiring more and more contemporary designers suggesting their aesthetic is as modern as it was 100 years ago.

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Nina Hamnett and Winifred Gill wearing Omega designs photographed in The Illustrated London Herald 24 October 1915. Copyright British Library.

In 1915 Woolf’s sister and co-founder of the Omega Workshops Vanessa Bell suggested that the Omega take up dress design using the fabrics they were already creating. Bell went on to design and wear many Omega dresses inspired by the new un-corseted “Directoire” style made popular by Parisian designer and marketing-extraordinaire Paul Poiret. Many of the garments were painted in bold colours in the Post-Impressionist style that had offended vast swathes of the British public at Roger Fry’s first Post-Impressionist art exhibition in 1910. The Omega artists took the style of these bold canvases and transferred it onto clothing, revealing a daring defiance in opposition to accepted ideas of “good taste”. Indeed, in Omega dress we glimpse attitudes that would define youth fashion in the second half of the twentieth century, dressing to express alternative aesthetic and ideological allegiance.

Virginia Woolf responded to these Omega styles, writing to Vanessa Bell:

 “My god! What clothes you are responsible for! Karin’s clothes wrenched my eyes from the sockets – a skirt barred with reds and yellows of the violent kind, a pea-green blouse on top, with a gaudy handkerchief on her head, supposed to be the very boldest taste. I shall retire into dove colour and old lavender, with a lace collar and lawn wristlets”.

In this note to her sister, Woolf craves subtler shades for her own wardrobe. She was remembered for these neutral shades, for wearing “simple” or “martial-looking” clothes, but also in elegant stand out dresses and by Madge Garland, fashion editor of British Vogue, as a “beautiful and distinguished woman wearing what could only be described as … an upturned wastepaper basket on her head”. Her own relationship with clothing was complicated and her writing reveals a strong awareness of how clothes represent the self and hints at the perils of misrepresentation.

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Virginia Woolf wearing her mother’s dress photographed for British Vogue. Copyright British Vogue.

The many moods of Bloomsbury dress are increasingly being adopted by contemporary designers. Painterly Post-Impressionist styles, updated Victorian details, and slouchy yet elegant shapes capture the freedom of expression and reclamation of the past so typical of the works of the Bloomsbury group.

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Burberry AW14/15 ready to wear. Copyright British Vogue

Burberry’s Bloomsbury Girls (AW14/15) modelled long floating hand-painted button-up dresses, patterned as if they had stepped out of the paintwork of an Omega interior. Tim Walker more recently used Charleston House in Sussex – home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant – as the dramatic backdrop for his editorial Rebel Riders for Italian Vogue (December 2015): Four models posed in front of Vanessa Bell’s iconic black painted wall in the library and waded through the depths of the pond that initially drew Bell’s affection for the house 100 years ago. See-by-Chloe’s upcoming AW16/17 collection is also inspired by the Bloomsbury aesthetic, layering floating skirts in chintz prints with long shirts and polo-neck sweaters. Here the subtler Victorian styles – the bow tied collars, lace up boots, and long frilled skirts – are coupled with thick knits and urban details.

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Tim Walker’s Rebel Riders December 2015. Copyright Italian Vogue.

The personal styles of many members of the Bloomsbury group were as radical as their works. They rejected expected conventions whether that was with word, image, or by wearing a painted hat or a “wastepaper basket” style on one’s head. Perhaps this reveals the root of their continued relevance, both of their intellectual and sartorial lives, today.

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Looks from See by Chloe’s AW16/17 campaign. Copyright Vogue.

This post is inspired by my research paper Dressing Modern Identity that I wrote and delivered earlier this year as part of my curatorial traineeship at Charleston. Read the current interns’ research at thecharlestonattic.wordpress.com.

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Zoe Wolstenholme

Zoe Wolstenholme

Blogging Woolf’s first regular blogger from the other side of the pond is now on board. Just out of her Charleston internship, Zoe Wolstenholme will contribute posts that add an emphasis on the visual arts of the Bloomsbury group — and will link them to the natural world, with an emphasis on gardens.

From North Yorkshire in England, Zoe studied English Literature at the University of Exeter, writing her dissertation on The Room of One’s Own: Interiority in Virginia Woolf’s short fiction and Post-Impressionist Art. Here she examined the relationship between Woolf’s writing and the painting styles of French and British Post-Impressionist artists exploring the room as a metaphor for the mind. Zoe went on to study for an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies before being awarded a curatorial traineeship with The Charleston Trust in 2015.

Charleston House, dubbed “Bloomsbury in Sussex,” was the home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, found for them by Bell’s sister Virginia Woolf while she was walking across the South Downs from her own country house at the time, Asheham. Today The Charleston Trust cares for and preserves Charleston House and its collection of art works both collected and executed by Bell and Grant.

Charleston House

Charleston House

At Charleston, Zoe worked on The Angelica Garnett Gift, a donation of 8,000 works of art by Bell, Grant and other members of the Bloomsbury group. Here she photographed, catalogued and researched these unseen works publishing these findings on The Charleston Attic. As part of this traineeship Zoe also wrote an extended research paper on the Angelica Garnet Gift titled Dressing Modern Identity, which examined the overlooked importance of dress to Bell and Grant’s personal and artistic lives. This article will be published in the next edition of Clothing Cultureswhich is available to read online.

The Charleston Attic

“The Process of Abstraction” by Zoe Wolstenholme on The Charleston Attic

Zoe is now working at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London. Here she hopes to pursue her interest in art and the environment, which was the topic of her MA dissertation Art Spaces for Ecological Well-being. This piece examined how art has the potential to influence our relationship with the natural world. By working with the botanical art and other collections at Kew, Zoe hopes to be a part of inspiring people to care for the natural world.

Through writing for Blogging Woolf Zoe also hopes to continue her research into Woolf’s work and her circle, the Bloomsbury group.

Look for Zoe’s first post — “What Woolf wore”–  tomorrow.

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art © Walters & Cohen

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art © Walters & Cohen

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