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Monday, March 18, 2013

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

I did something really dumb yesterday: I rented Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel from iTunes for $4 when I should have just bought it for $15. Doh! I should've known I'd want to watch it more than once, but sometimes I'm not too smart about these things.

The title says it all, really: the eye has to travel. This documentary, which features several interviews with Vreeland, plus just about every important fashion insider from the 20th century, proves that Vreeland's diverse and eccentric interests: horse-racing, ballet, Russia (but not Russians) Marie Antoinette, Paris, Harlem, lesbians, costumes, Hollywood, the 1920s, the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy, Jack Nicholson and much (much) more contributed to her eccentric-yet-carefully cultivated aesthetic that ultimately revolutionized modern style.

The more I learn about creative people, the more I realize how much their eye absolutely has to travel. Not necessarily by plane, but by seeking out as many different kinds of inspiration as possible. Even if you're just creating a home and a life for yourself and your family, there is an incalculable benefit to immersing yourself in different interests; to stepping outside your comfort zone and listening to different kinds of music, eating different kinds of food, traveling, visiting museums, people watching, and reading books that might not initially appeal to you. There's really no better way- in fact, no way at all - to be creative without a diverse and constantly evolving set of curiosities.

I was also intrigued by what this film says about Vreeland's love of vulgarity, "She understood the genius of vulgarity," said one source. As a parent, I think about vulgarity a lot, and not usually in a loving way. (Jennifer Scott has a great article "Is Vulgar the New Normal?"from the Huffington Post). So I wonder what Vreeland would think about some of the nonsense that passes for entertainment today. I'm talking primarily about the so-called "reality" shows that do nothing for our minds and are the audio-video equivalent of soda. Would she find any genius in them?  It's a slippery slope to put words in Diana Vreeland's mouth, but I'm willing to bet that she'd see the mastery in something like Lena Dunham's GIRLS (which features lots of nudity, bad language and almost cruelly awkward moments) while criticizing absolute schlocky snooze-fest that is the Bachelor and the Real Housewives franchises. There's something about tackiness, nudity, violence and bad language that can a meaningful counterpart if it's used in contrast to something wonderful. Life can't be all fresh flowers and Jane Austen, right?  I would argue that GIRLS (which is an HBO drama, not a reality show, but stay with me anyway) is comedically dazzling and honest, while the above mentioned reality shows are just sort of tacky for the sake of being tacky and in the end...(gasp!)...boring and utterly unmemorable. In other words- not worth your eye's valuable travel.

Just some deep  and somewhat cranky thoughts for your Monday.

Have you see The Eye Has to Travel? What did you think?

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