Retro Review: PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT: A Passionate Ode to a Remarkable Woman Who Changed the Face of Modern Art

Posted on: Nov 25th, 2015 By:

peggy_guggenheim_art_addictPEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT (2015); DIR. Lisa Immordino Vreeland; Documentary; Opens Wed. Nov. 27; Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema; Trailer here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

The name “Guggenheim” is synonymous with the art world. The ludicrously affluent Guggenheim family dominated the worlds of both industry and high society, and the influence they had on the early part of the 20th century will not likely be soon forgotten. They also had their fair share of family drama and quite a few “black sheep,” the most famous of whom is the subject of Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s latest documentary, PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT. Vreeland maps Guggenheim’s colorful life from her beginnings as a flighty heiress embracing bohemia to her later years as a famed art collector desperate to relive her past. With insightful commentary from Guggenheim’s old friends and relatives, and even excerpts from the last interview featuring Guggenheim herself, this film is truly introspective and should not be missed.

Peggy was born in 1898 to Benjamin Guggenheim, the brother of American businessman/art collector/philanthropist Solomon Guggenheim, and Florette Seligman, the daughter of a lesser known high society family. She found herself surrounded by both oddity and tragedy at a young age. Many of her family members ranged from mildly eclectic to highly unstable, and Peggy absorbed it all. When her father died in the sinking of the Titanic, she felt isolated within her own family.

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Peggy left for Paris in 1920 at the age of 22 and became enamored with the free-spirited nature of the bohemian community. She took many lovers, and became close with some of the most innovative artists of the time, including Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. She married her first husband and had two children in Paris, and quickly divorced once his infidelity came to light. Undeterred, Peggy had affairs with multiple married men and continued her avant-garde lifestyle. She moved to London and opened her first gallery, Guggenheim June, where she promoted the art of her colleagues, most of which were either Surrealist or abstract in nature. With Europe entering a time of unrest, Peggy packed up her collection and headed back to New York.

One of the most compelling portions of PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT is the narrative of her years in New York City. It became clear to Peggy that the artists she had come to love would be in imminent danger were they to stay in Europe. So she arranged to have both creator and creations moved to the states, and bought many of their works to feature in her new gallery. The museum, appropriately titled Art of This Century, was a haven for up-and-coming artistic movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, as well as one of the first well-known galleries to feature exhibits consisting solely of the works of female artists.

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Peggy continued to discover new artists, including the then little-known Jackson Pollock, and promote them to mainstream success. She also continued her liberated lifestyle by sleeping with many of her peers, a habit she felt no shame over. She had wed one of the artists she had brought from Europe, the famed Max Ernst, but the marriage proved to be a failure and she divorced a second time. That separation proved to be a catalyst of change, and Guggenheim closed Art of This Century and headed back to Europe, this time making her place in a Venetian Palace.

This palace would soon become home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of the most visited art museums in Europe. Peggy lived with her collection in Venice and entertained many guests, both artists and members of high society. Robert De Niro, being the son of artists Guggenheim had promoted, was one of Guggenheim’s many visitors. In the film, he recalls his time spent with the collector in her palace.

But while Peggy seemed to be socially thriving, her life was proving to be remarkably lonely. Her son, Sindbad Vail, who spent his childhood with her first husband, rejected the art world, and her daughter, Pegeen, was highly unstable. Pegeen lived with Peggy in Venice and was prone to “fits” that Peggy could not learn to control. She committed suicide in 1967, and Peggy was left alone in her massive palace with only her art and her dogs by her side.

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

The film does a wonderful job of illustrating Peggy’s desire to return to the past, with bits from her last interview expressing the despair she felt as she aged. After spending her life promoting others, it seemed as if no one was left to promote her well-being when she needed it the most.

Guggenheim passed in 1979, leaving behind both a legacy of sordid tales and a massive collection of art. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection still attracts visitors from around the world and proves to be a testament of Peggy’s keen eye for art of the most fantastic and enduring nature. PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT proves to be a passionate ode to one of the most overlooked roles in the art world – that of the sponsor – and the vital role these individuals play in the beginning of a sensation. Peggy Guggenheim is the sponsor we should all look up to, and her legacy is lovingly brought to life in this fabulous documentary.

All images are for review purposes only and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Freaks, Geeks and Playing with Teeth: Aileen Loy Is Ready to Sing the Music of the Devil…Well, Till Someone Loses An Eye

Posted on: Mar 6th, 2013 By:

Aileen Loy, performing with Till Someone Loses an Eye at the Star Bar on Jan. 10, 2013. Photo credit: Jolie Simmons.

ATLRetro has had our eye on Atlanta visual and performance artist Aileen Loy for a long time, and now seems like the perfect time to catch up since her band Till Someone Loses An Eye will be playing Sunday March 10 in a three-month second Sunday series at the Corner Tavern in Little Five Points. The unique nine-person ensemble also will be opening for self-described “rockabilly-porno-metal with a country twist” Fiend Without a Face  and Ricer on Wed. March 6 at the Star Bar. Other band members include  Sam McPherson and Michael A. Robinson (L5P Rock Star Orchestra/DRACULA THE ROCK OPERA); Meredith Greer (The Chameleon Queen); Steve McPeeks (Art of Destruction)Frank Anzalone (Walk From the Gallows)Brigitte Warren (Wicked Geisha Ritual Theatre); and Dee Dee Chmielewski (DRACULA).

To call Aileen an eclectic talent would be an understatement for her passions definitely are eclectic and her talent unquestionable. Her singing voice is unexpectedly deep for a woman and has often been compared to Tom Waits. her costumes are always the very spirit of Bohemian and often feature bones, whether she is in full Mexican skull-face Day of the Dead regalia or  a skintight black pants fronted by a human pelvis and skeletal legs. Still to call her a goth would be selling her short. She certainly displays a passion for the macabre, but she also equally embraces the playful, including the recent Renaissance of carnival/circus culture and even a gypsy steampunk edge. Till Someone Loses An Eye lists its influences as Waits, Nick Cave and Gogol Bordello and its interests as “rusted metal, old time circus culture, cheese sandwiches, small rocks, freaks, geeks and miscreants.”

When she is not making music, Aileen crafts cool, creepy jewelry using prosthetic eyeballs and teeth, and she has experimented in film and just about every type of artistic media. If that’s not multi-talented, we don’t know what is. But enough talking about Aileen, let’s get talking to her.

ATLRetro: Seeing your artwork and listening to your music, we can imagine you being closer to Wednesday Addams than Cindy Brady as a little girl. How old were you when you started down the path to the darker side of creativity, and what pulled the trigger?

Aileen Loy: That’s a fair cop – I was a pretty serious and awkward little girl. I’m not sure how to answer the rest of that question but there was probably a library card involved.

Aileen Loy plays a mean harmonica with Till Someone Loses an Eye at the L5P Halloween Festival 2012. Photo credit: Stephen Priest.

Who/what were some of your early inspirations musically and visually that still influence your work today?

Johnny Cash, Tennessee Ernie Ford, a lot of classical music. My parents had a weird assortment of albums when I was growing up, so I’d go from listening to SONGS OF THE GUIANA JUNGLE, Lord Kitchener, those odd Reader’s Digest collected works of *insert western classical composer or awesome polka guy, here*, lots of Bollywood, Johnny Mathis and a good dose of Kitty Wells, Dolly, Willie Nelson. Rock and roll was kind of special because I got to discover that on my own. Those were the albums we played when the folks were at work or at my friend’s house. Dad went on a “Rock and roll is the music of the devil; we must burn all rock albums and rid the world of it’s horrible influence” phase, so most of my albums stayed in my room hidden safely behind the Mozart and Ravi Shankar. It was an odd time.

Why do you think circus and carnivale culture has made such a comeback and is seemingly in a renaissance in the independent arts scene from burlesque to steampunk to modern-day proud-to-be-freaks shows?

Good question and I don’t really know. I’ve always been drawn to it because it seemed like a magical amorphous place, where one can, not only be exactly what one is, but is encouraged and expected to be fully that – to gain power and reflect competence and heart through what others might view as “freakish.” It’s a place where no one expects tidy and convenient truths. Fantastic stuff. I think I definitely would have felt safer in there as a kid.

Your vocals have often been compared to Tom Waits, which is unusual for a woman. Did you work to create your unique singing voice or did it just come natural?

I’ve always had a little froggy voice, and the vocalists that I really loved had such huge resonance. You could feel them in your chest! So, yeah of course I wanted to sound like them. That would be me, age 5, trying my damnedest to sing Johnny Cash, and eventually I could. I had a voice therapist tell me that I have the physiology for it . My vocal cords are similar to a male’s. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to train that low.

Aileen Loy fronts Till Someone Loses An Eye at 7 Stages during Day of the Cupcake, Oct. 8, 2012. Photo credit: Jolie Simmons

Tell us about Till Someone Loses an Eye, your latest band. Why the name? And what makes this band special and unique musically?

I thought the name was funny. It could be a threat, an eventuality, or an aspiration. The band is personally interesting to me because everyone has such a widely different back story and vibe from one another, and it informs the music in a pretty cool way.

At an Artifice Club performance in fall 2012. Photo credit: James Curtis Barger.

You list some of your collaborators as “heads of mischief.” What do you mean by that?

I was being glib when I wrote that, just trying to fill a page and get it up. But now it’s very apparent to me that it’s absolutely true on its face, no explanation needed. Lovely troublemakers, all of them.

You’re playing twice this week. Wed. March 6 at Star Bar and then Sunday march 10 at Corner Pub, which is going to be a once-monthly event on second Sundays. Do you have any special plans for either show? Why should folks come out?

Wednesday’s show we’re playing with Fiend Without a Face and Ricer, two reasons right there to come. Second Sundays, we have the whole night to do whatever we want. We could play two full sets just us, or have another band open, or musicians sit in for a song or two. This Sunday, the band, Tulsa, is coming through from SXSW and will be doing an early opener set at 8:30.

A vintage stag pocketwatch sporting a prosthetic eye designed by Aileen Loy.

What are you up to in the visual arts right now? Last time I checked you were making beautiful jewelry involving teeth.

Still plugging away, trying to up the scope of the teeth jewelry a bit and take it to a logical conclusion, not sure what that is. I’ve got a few new projects brewing, but it’s still to foggy to talk about them with any kind of intelligence.

What artistic or musical accomplishment are you most proud of so far, and why?

I’m just happy I’m doing it. Neither was particularly supported when I was growing up, so I kind of always found my own way around. Definitely, a late bloomer.

Finally we had to ask. What’s your favorite whiskey and why?

Is there ever a bad whiskey?

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Kool Kat of the Week: Nicolette Valdespino Fashions a “Bohemian Playground” at Paris on Ponce

Posted on: Jul 11th, 2012 By:

Nicolette Valdespino

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

A visit to Paris on Ponce always feels like stepping into New Orleans or indeed – Paris – in the middle of Midtown Atlanta. I adore its historical, yet timeless French aesthetic. The unique antique shop will be celebrating that French flavor with their first annual free Bastille Day Festival, Saturday, July 14 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 15 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday evening from 6-9 is the Party Fantastique with Baton Bob, Minette Manifique burlesque, magician Chad Sanborn, All Hands Productions puppetering and film premieres from Escobar Productions.

In the early 21st century I dreamed of having my own event there. However, the owners at that time shied away from getting into the complexities of running and renting a true event space and only did so sporadically. The year 2011 saw a change, however, with new owners, a new manager named Nicolette Valdespino and a fresh new take on sharing the space with the public.

Le Maison Rouge is the 4,200 square foot event space that is over-the-top Moulin Rouge-themed within the heart of the store….In this last year, we have hosted two public auctions, participated in ‘The Next Cool Event,’ hosted the Atlanta Film Festival, made a film, been named the ‘Best Antique Store in ATL’ by Jezebel Magazine, and now we are kicking off a whole flush of new remodels with the Bastille Day Festival,” bubbled Nicolette. In a way chatting with her is like a conversation with the evolving space itself. Meaning of course, that ATLRetro could not resist making her Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: My first visit to PoP was to perform at an event in 2002. I walked in the front and was enchanted, but had to ask, “Why are we performing at an antique store?” Tell us how you first came there.

Nicolette: [While] shopping for a couch I walked into Paris on Ponce for the first time. I had my own interior design business [in Portland, OR] for eight years and then decided one day that it was time to try to be a East Coast girl. So I packed up the pug and drove across country in search of design adventures. When I walked into the shop in April 2011, I met Skip [Engelbrecht] and Dennis [Baker] [the new owners] and immediately recognized and respected their vision for the new Paris on Ponce. They had worked for the previous owners, George and Judi, for 11 and eight years respectively and had just bought the business weeks before.

Tell us a story about yourself as a budding designer. Did you rearrange your mother’s furniture and redecorate your bedroom seasonally?

Well, I was always described as a “busy child” and was constantly trying to build/sew/create something. At about four to five years old, my mother began hauling home large boxes from the San Francisco Children’s Hospital where she was a nurse, and I would build go-carts, furniture and once a sink complete with plastic bags of water and turn screws for faucets. Hard lesson there – water + cardboard = Not as much fun as you’d think.

I think the first interior design project that I really did was when I was seven – I wanted a canopy bed. My mother nixed that so I just took down my curtains and rods and staple-gunned them to the ceiling around my bed. Done.

You’re from Portland. What experiences there shaped your creative vision?

Portland is very DIY, very vintage, re-purposed, locally made and handcrafted – which is why I moved there in the first place. There is an easy sense of community that involves musicians, artists and philanthropy. But after 11 years, I had created what I needed to there in the arts/music/design/fund-raising scene.

What is the arts scene like  in Atlanta compared to Portland?

Frankly, the art scene [here] is just like Atlanta [itself]: bigger, bolder and from many more perspectives and mediums. It tends to be a louder and more high-minded scene and gets the attention it deserves.

Nicolette Valdespino with Paris on Ponce co-owner Skip Englebrecht.

What drew you toward Atlanta and were there other cities that you considered moving to?

I was actually plotting my new life in New Orleans when I got sidetracked to Atlanta by a girlfriend who lives here, suggesting that the original California kid might want to put her toe in the water in a large Southern city before I went “deep south” as she called it. The sense of history, craftsmanship and ornamentation that is on the streets, in the air, in the architecture and the culture on the East Coast as opposed to the West eases my soul and inspires me. I don’t know that I’ll have children in this lifetime, and when you start thinking that way, you start wondering who exactly is going to remember you. That leads me to start thinking about all of the hands and stories that created these cities and furnishings that were interesting, emotional and forgotten. By re-purposing, valuing, and preserving these artifacts, I feel more involved with those lives and more a part of humanity in general. Perhaps someday I will be distantly remembered for my interpretations as well.

What historical era of design is your personal favorite?

I should have been born in the 1930s. While I am delighted and really enjoy modern shapes and styles of clothing and furnishings, my personal aesthetic is and always has been a sort of twist on 1940s couture. My father used to refer to pocket money as “hat money” because that is exactly what I would spend my jingle on as a child. I love toppers, circle skirts and pin-up styles. They just feel the most natural to me. Feminine, timeless, and they seem to make people happy. My personal style in decor is greatly influenced by all of the traveling I did as a young person with my French grandmother. If it’s gilded, baroque, velvet, marbleized and slightly decaying, I’ll immediately start to squeal.

How does this inform you as a professional designer?

When I design someone else’s space, it has nothing to do with what I personally like. It is all about the interpretation of that person’s background, personality and resources. Style doesn’t have anything to do with expense as well. Often times, revamping what a client has and custom, locally crafted pieces are much less expensive than just purchasing ready-made items. Plus, you are fostering money within your community and really customizing a space towards the haven that everyone deserves to call home.

In what ways have you influenced the “new PoP”? In other words, when I walk into the venue, where will I see your fingerprint?

Skip, Dennis and I are most certainly a team when it comes to the direction of Paris on Ponce and PoP Marche. I will say though, that I am ridiculously focused on making sure that not only does our new “PoP Marche” have something for everyone, but that the individual booths are very specific to a given lifestyle. I want them to be little complete worlds unto themselves. I want PoP Marche to be startling. From space to space, you are jarred into a whole different vision. Eventually I would like a book store, a toy store, a cafe, a prop studio, an in-house upholstery shop, a gallery for local artists, even a barbershop would be fun. Come, play, experience, purchase, participate and enjoy yourself, and know that the next time you walk in, you will see whole new installations.

What event has been the most fun and exciting for you at PoP?

When we made the giant paper Marie Antoinette for “The Next Cool Event” that was a great crafting project, and the way it was received as compared to other businesses very expensive displays was really satisfying. Our aim was to show that we could make the most ordinary of mediums be extraordinary. Clever beats a dollar bill every time.

Truthfully, though, I’m most excited about the upcoming Bastille Day Festival. I’ve thrown a lot of parties, weddings and charity events before, but never a festival, and never for a guest count that I can’t even imagine. The idea of making it an annual festival is really thrilling, too. Cementing Paris on Ponce in the community as a bohemian playground for artists, writers, performers and dreamers feels like not only is it attainable, but just over the horizon.

If you hadn’t become an Interior Decorator, what might have you done?

I think that it is compulsive for me to create and interpret. Everything. I’ve been sewing and creating my own wardrobe since I was seven. I am no fine artist, but I love to sculpt. Industrial design and furniture design are fascinating to me because you genuinely get to create objects that engage people and serve practical purposes. I have built couches, tables, chairs, and the reinterpretation of leftover furniture pieces through re-upholstery and faux finishes has been a lot of fun lately.

Did you ever expect to be involved in events coordinating and what is your role in the events that take place there?

I throw parties. I love throwing parties. I love them so much I became an officiant so that I get an excuse to participate in other peoples’ parties – kidding – kind of!  Throwing an event is like a shorter, more satisfying version of designing an interior. You come up with a concept and a budget, pull it all together while trying to make it surprising and clever, and everyone has a great time. The one large drawback comparatively is that it’s all temporary. A great party is a great memory, and nothing practical that someone can utilize in the future. But, of course, one’s life is simply a collection of memories, so it is pretty important when you think of it that way. I love the idea especially of doing this Bastille Day Festival here, aligning and showcasing these artists and performers so that they can get paid for being brave and creative. In the future, I would love to make it a fundraising event for the Atlanta arts community.

As far as most of the private events in Le Maison Rouge goes, Dennis is the resident event coordinator, but concerning our previous opening gala, auctions, the upcoming Halloween party, I anticipate that my extra special brand of nonsense will be all over that.

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

Smiling. Laughing. Building. Learning. Becoming better, brighter and more honest about everything I do. I know that I am extremely lucky to be where I’m at. In this city, in this store, with such great bosses who never red-tape my visions. And I know that I’m here because I work really hard to make this life as full as possible, and that means saying “yes’ when others say “no,” looking for the silver lining, and being creative with difficult situations. There is always a way to make things work if you just breathe, be humble about your perspectives, and take those big leaps. Kind of like when I jumped out of a plane last year on my birthday and the parachute collapsed 30 feet from the ground…Wait-that didn’t work out so well – but I’m still glad I did it.

If I can help to pull off this new vision, this bohemian playground, creating a new corner of culture, I will be a very happy girl and then maybe a whole new endeavor. I’ve been too lucky thus far to plot my future.

Note: All photos are courtesy of Nicolette Valdespino and used with permission.

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