Monday, September 24, 2012

Mona & Mary

Tonight Mr. Oil and I had the privilege of attending the opening of a Mary Cassatt exhibit at the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art & Culture.  Yes, occasionally we are just that cool.  Also it helps that one of my close friends is the director of exhibitions. 

Mona who, you might ask?  Mona Bismarck had the kind of life that many might think only exists in the movies. She grew up in Kentucky, and through a series of (five) marriages to some wealthy guys (and some who wanted her wealth), became a paragon of style and fashion, eventually becoming titled as "The Best Dressed Woman in the World."  Which apparently is actually a title.  In 1958, she was named to the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame.  Again, apparently this is a goal to which I did not even know that one could strive.   But Mona wasn't just about the clothes - she loved art and culture, which may explain why she had a home in Paris, and why Salvador Dali painted her portrait.   Upon her death, she continued the support of the arts that had begun in her well-dressed life by establishing the Mona Bismarck American Center (yes, it's a mouthful) which exists today in her gorgeous former home in the 16th arrondissement.
Mona Bismarck, one fashionable lady.

Seeking to marry American and French cultural interests, Mary Cassatt of course is a natural candidate for an exhibition at the Mona Bismarck Center.  An American who spent much of her life and career in France, Cassatt was also a path-breaking female artist at a time when that universe was still dominated by men.  Because simply being a woman limited her access to the kinds of scenes her male peers were painting (bordellos, etc), Mary Cassatt focused her artistry on depicting the daily lives of women.  Which provides for a wonderful historical perspective on quiet moments at home in the late 19th century. 
Mary Cassatt, "The Fitting"

Mary Cassatt, "The Bath"

The exhibit features drawings and engravings from Cassatt's wide body of work, showcasing her interests in print-making and pastel transfers as well as illuminating how she was inspired by Japanese wood block prints.  Spread over three large, classically Parisian rooms (think beautiful molding, fireplaces, etc), the setting inspires just the kind of quiet contemplation that Mary Cassatt's works portray. 

When you attend an exhibit opening, in addition to getting first glance at the exhibit, you also have access to some fantastic people-watching.  I was somewhat under-dressed, as I wasn't wearing my fur wrap, or a one-shoulder leopard print dress.  In fact, I was wearing jeans because I realized this afternoon that the only maternity pants I have are jeans. Which suits my work-from-home/stay-at-home-mom life except when that life is interrupted by my super-cool-artsy-Parisian life.  Apparently I'm no Mona Bismarck. 

As if the night wasn't already excellent enough, Mr. Oil and I stumbled onto a fantastic Thai restaurant just a few blocks away from the Center, which - wait for it - actually had a vegetarian menu.  With tofu!  And was delicious.  We love you Tong Ming.  What a great night!