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March 25, 2014

Southern Belles

From Gone with the Wind to Debutante Balls, a Cross-Generational Look at Beauty in the Deep South

A little under 75 years ago, David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind delivered Scarlett O’Hara in all her Technicolor glory, imprinting forever the notion of the Southern belle: the feisty beauty with a honey-laden accent, done-up in yards of antebellum dress, on the hunt for a husband. By exploring Scarlett’s proverbial stomping grounds in and around Atlanta, Georgia, Tim Richmond and James Nutt’s documentary short Southern Belles discovers that, while the plantation no longer remains, the front porches, hospitality, grace, and etiquette persevere.

Often beneath the genteel exterior lies a strong, refined woman to be reckoned with—but presentation is still paramount. Stepping out in loungewear sans makeup or anything deemed less than respectable is a definite no-no. Equally important is their renowned, friendly hospitality. Southern ladies are exceptionally welcoming and adore entertaining. This is where the warm climate plays its part. Pleasant spring times and forgiving falls. When people are comfortable going in-and-out of doors, serving sweet tea, hosting evening garden or pool parties and the like. But on the flipside, regardless of age, many Southern women agree that one should be weary of artificiality, particularly when the mannerisms are overdone.

Today’s belles are inevitably more independent, liberated and better-educated than their predecessors. The life goal of solely seeking out an MRS degree is, slowly but surely, fading. “Long ago we were taught that we could either teach school if we wanted a career, or be a nurse or perhaps a secretary for some big shot,” notes Louly, one of the narrators from today’s short. “Things have certainly changed but the core values of the Southern belle, such as strength and graciousness, still exist.” —Lee C. Wallick

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Spotlight

Peter Philips: Beautiful Dreamer

Chanel's King of Cosmetics Talks the Art of Makeup with Directors Jauretsi and Crystal Moselle

As Chanel’s Global Creative Director of Makeup, Peter Philips’s instinct for trend forecasting is unmatched. Since his appointment in 2008, the Belgian beauty guru has rolled out one hit after another—from his limited-edition nail varnish Jade, which sold for a breathless $100 a bottle on eBay at its peak, to his “temporary tattoos,” a project with Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel’s spring 2010 show, which had a waiting list of 3,589 names before the designs went on sale. For today’s film, directors Jauretsi and Crystal Moselle visited the onetime makeup artist at his Manhattan home to discuss his early memories of his mother, Irving Penn’s light-sculpting ability, and the inspiration behind Philips’s robot-themed animation for Chanel.

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Spotlight

Lisa Eisner's Psychonaut

California Dreaming With the Nature-Obsessed Artist

“You walk in, and people say, ‘Oh my God, it smells like an orgy!’” says Lisa Eisner of her new show at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles.  Entitled "Psychonaut" (a Greek word meaning “sailor of the mind”), the exhibition consists of kaleidoscopic photo collages, a geodesic dome and mysterious scent sculptures that flavor the whole experience. Previously an editor at Mademoiselle and Vogue, Eisner turned photographer and publisher in 1999, founding Greybull Press and releasing her first book, Rodeo Girls, the same year. She has a decidedly unorthodox approach to work and life, with a predilection for what she describes as “ooga booga stuff.” “You can’t live in California and not be moved by New Age spirituality,” she says. “You live in a world of nature—it’s around you. You can go in with a camera, go under a microscope, go in further and further, and when you start doing that, crazy, magical things start happening.” If her previous work had an arch anthropological bent (continued in her second book, Shriners), this show manifests her LA-infused mindset. Rifling through the photographs of the natural world she has taken in the past four years, Eisner crafted her collages by hand, piecing fragments of images together on the basis of color and texture, or pure accident. The visual highlight of her synapse-bending show is the photo-clad geodesic dome—inspired by American futurist architect Buckminster Fuller (as well as Eisner’s dreams of having “a home in a dome”) and rendered in redwood by furniture designer Matt Monroe. But the exhibition's most visceral effect is surely the psychedelic scent sculptures, produced in collaboration with perfume alchemist Haley Alexander van Oosten—founder of bespoke fragrance brand L’Oeil du Vert. "Psychonaut" runs until June 5, 2010 at M+B gallery.

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