Whom would you invite to a dinner party?

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

You’re having a dinner party or you’re invited to one or you’re just at the right place at the right time and a perfunctory dinner extends into a leisurely span of sitting and talking or into a bass-heavy dancing and occasional nibbling: Whom — I think whom is right — would you want to be with? Yes, yes, family, friends, partners, etc. But fantasize a little. Which celebrity, writer, director, president? I’m sure everyone’s at one point imagined having dinner — and post-dinner activities that may lead to breakfast — with their middle school celebrity crushes. Even now, you only need a bit of prompt to fall into that rabbit hole of fantasy. Here are Novella’s choices.

Kimberley, Contributor

It’s not a hard answer really — who would you want to spend a leisurely evening with, basked in moonlight and the flickering of a single candle on your beautifully decorated table? For me, it would be a literal dream, (and I’m saying this literally because I have had this dream many times) to spend an evening, sharing a meal with Frank Ocean. Ever since 2011, when Frank dropped his first mixtape, Nostalgia Ultra, I immediately became a super fan. Who wouldn’t want to know what goes on in his mind? The opportunity to spend a night, picking his brain — or listening to anything he would want to say — is something that I wouldn’t be able to pass up on. Frank’s lyrics are beautifully written, and combined with the soft velvet of his voice, he creates an aura of mystery that one can’t help wanting to unravel.

Adina Heisler, Contributor

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’ve become a cable news junkie. I used to be totally uninterested in it (back in the more innocent time of two years ago), but that was before we entered the upside-down of politics and “covfefe”. I’ll be the first to admit they can get a little sensational and sometimes spend more time debating tweets or obvious facts, but when you cut out the noise and the partisan-ness, you can find some actual journalism. So I’d invite Jake Tapper (I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with him), Chris HayesRachel MaddowLester Holt, and Anderson Cooper. I’d probably be a little too intimidated to say much, but honestly I’d be happy enough just to listen to the five of them talk. If I did ever pluck up the courage to talk to them, I’d probably ask if they could give me some advice or encouragement to me, since I’m hoping to be a journalist some day.

Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief 

Besides great food, dinner conversation is key, so having the right mix of people at a dinner party can make or break your event. I have been in love with Grace Jones since she first asked us to pull up to her bumper. After reading her book I’ll never write my Memoirs, my love for Grace Jones grew even more. Not only would she have plenty of stories to tell, but I might be able to convince her to sing after a few bottles of wine.

I would also add Diane von Furstenberg, who I think is the epitome of style and grace. Diane would also have great stories about her life, fashion, and, of course, Studio 54. Both Titus Burgess and Andre Leon Tally would have all of us in stitches, and I would love to pick the brain of Grace Coddington, whom I adore.

Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Sade. Photo source.

It has been a long-standing dream of mine to host a dinner party with famous folks in attendance, so you can bet I’ve given this some thought before. To start with, I’d need to invite my ladies Georgia O’Keefe  and Frida Kahlo. Both were fantastically talented artists and fiercely independent women. I would love the opportunity just to hear them speak and share ideas. Obviously I would need to invite Jane Birkin simply because she’s everything and I’ve got a feeling she would know which wine to bring. There’s no way I wouldn’t invite Trevor Noah who 1) I love and 2) is absolutely brilliant. My final, and very coveted, invitation would probably have to go to Sade Adu, an unbelievably beautiful and talented woman. Would this be the wildest dinner party? Probably not, but I think some fascinating conversations could come out of it.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Erika Weihs, Virginia Eggleston, Grace Paley, Molly Wilson, and Sybil Claiborne at the weekly Greenwich Village Peace Center vigil. Photo by Ruth Sondak, sourced from War Resisters League.

Party of five, Robert B. SilversElizabeth HardwickLore SegalGrace Paley, and yours truly, at hardwood tables and comfortable booth kind of a bistro, well lit enough to read the menu but dim enough to be unselfconscious. Talk about politics and books with plates of porterhouse, salad, and cheese going cold and limp late into the night. Talk about food. Talk about sex and New Jersey. Talk about gentrification. Talk about newspapers. Talk about music and movies. Talk about Hollywood. Grace (Paley) might want to make posters. I might need Kleenex from tears. Elizabeth (Hardwick) might want another glass of wine. Robert (B. Silvers) might need a cigarette, might want to go out on a boat. Lore (Segal) might take notes. Talk about traveling. Talk shit about neighbors. Talk shit about writers. Talk shit about readers. The fun stuff. That’d be nice, getting to befriend some of my favorite writers and editors, all of them, except Lore (thank God), dead. They would still have things to say.

Claire Ball, Contributor

In all honesty, I have never thought about who I would invite to my dream dinner party before, so trying to make a decision and think about this question was difficult for me. My invitees are fairly predictable, especially if you know me, and not very under the radar. Let’s just say my dinner party would very much be a ridiculous A-list affair. To start, I think I would absolutely have to invite my number one crushes, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jake Gyllenhaal. I think Jennifer and Jake would both be super cool, down to earth people to have at a dinner party. I think they’re great actors. I also find Jennifer hilarious because we share the same sense of humour. She is basically my spirit animal.

I would also invite Chelsea Handler because I love how brash and honest she is about everything she talks about, and Ellen Degeneres (I don’t feel the need to explain why). I am also a not-so-low-key Harry Styles fan so I would obviously have to throw him an invite and, ideally, the cast of Game of Thrones would be fun.

Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

From left to right: Her Majesty, The Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, Leigh Bowery, Naomi Campbell, The Divine David, and Isabela Blow

Just try to imagine this scenario with me: A majestic set of wrought iron gates open up to a winding gravel road; the driveway is lined with nothing but cherry blossom trees; the wind blows them past your car as you drive up to a gorgeous manor tucked away amidst giant oaks and elms; the staircase leading up to the entrance seems to get longer and higher as you walk up; the doors lead to a gilded hallway covered in portraits of royalty; you come to a set of large mirrored doors and the doors swing open and reveal a beautiful room, gold leafing on the walls, pastel pinks and blues are woven throughout, Baccarat crystal chandeliers bathe it in light; as your eyes focus, you notice a beautiful round antique mirror table with 6 people sitting around it; there are cakes and pastries scattered across its surface, champagne bottles pop in a continuous rhythm; the riotous laughing and cheering is almost contagious, but you dare not interrupt the party you’ve just stumbled into. You focus on the guests. You quickly notice me, proposing a toast to my 5 extraordinary guests. Beside me, Marie Antoinette yells “Let us eat cake!” as she stuffs a kiwi tart in her mouth. Across from her, Naomi Campbell calmly says “I can tell you’ve had your fair share already.” And the table bursts into laughter. Beside her, Isabella Blow sends a text message to her pal McQueen — “you‘re missing out darling!” while Leigh Bowery does his best impression of Sasha Velour’s “art-drag” shtick. The room once again breaks into laughter, but something catches the Divine Davids eye. He tilts his head in confusion and says “Well, that’s not very lovely…” We all turn to look at you, standing there, silently watching this marvelous kiki unfold. Congratulations. You’ve just ruined our night.

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Georgia O’Keefe at the AGO

Georgia O’Keefe is one of the current special exhibitions on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It details the life and work of the artist from her first few years in New York to her final ones in New Mexico. Aside from O’Keefe’s own paintings and drawings, the exhibit is supplemented by photographs of O’Keefe, her husband, the photographer and curator Alfred Steiglitz, and her home and surrounding land in New Mexico. We also see some works by Steiglitz and some by O’Keefe’s friends and contemporaries, like Ansel Adams and Paul Strand.

Walking through, I noticed that the gallery was set up in both chronological — from O’Keefe’s early life and works to her final works — as well as thematic order — showing her different styles and subjects. When you think of O’Keefe, you probably, like me, think of all those stunning close-up flowers, but she also painted skulls found in the desert, other plants and parts of nature, and abstracted drawings of buildings and places. As you move through the gallery, you see how her art style developed, as well as the changes in her life, and how they affected her work.

Before the exhibit, I honestly didn’t know much about O’Keefe herself. The gallery gave intimate, personal details of her life. For instance, I saw several nude photos Steiglitz took of her in various poses and expressions. I learned that while she was somewhat reclusive in later years of her life, she still took time to set the record straight on the “other meaning” behind her paintings. O’Keefe complained that rather than seeing the art as it was, many (mostly male) critics instead were all too eager to insert a sexual meaning to her work where there was none. The exhibit also highlighted various quotes from O’Keefe on art and life, including this one, which was my personal favorite: “It takes courage to be a painter. I always felt I walked on the edge of a knife.”

Also, O’Keefe’s works are just really beautiful. Of course, I was entranced by her famous flowers, but I was surprised by how many other subjects she painted, and wondered why, despite having just as much artistic merit, they are so often ignored. Either way, I was moved seeing her depictions of pueblos and stone cliffs around her home in New Mexico, and her gridlocked and grey paintings of the streets of Manhattan in the 1930s. This beautiful look at Georgia O’Keefe’s art and life is on now at AGO until July 30th.

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Art x Fashion: 5 Spring Looks Inspired by Mystical Landscapes at The AGO

Art and fashion have always gone hand in hand. Through the use of colour, texture, design, and more, both art and fashion have been able to invoke feelings, memories, and emotions within the people who interact with them. It’s said that those with a true appreciation for art can experience a masterpiece on a spiritual level; the same can be said of fashion. This in turn proves that fashion and art really aren’t that different. Both aim at creating an experience that goes deeper than what’s seen on a superficial level.

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This October, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Musee D’Orsay have partnered to bring Mystical Landscapes to the AGO from October 22, until January 29. The exhibition aims at connecting the spiritual world and art. Masterpieces from around the world, some of them national treasures that have never left their home countries are now being displayed for all to see and experience until January. Novella magazine was recently invited to view the Mystical Landscapes exhibit during a media preview held by the AGO, where the countless masterpieces inspired a thought: Does life really imitate art and to what extent do the two coincide with one another? Here is a look at handful of the marvelous masterpieces being shown within the AGO, and the masterpieces of design that pair beautifully with them.

Photo: Delpozo
Photo: Delpozo

Wenzel Hablik – Starry Sky x Delpozo Resort 2017

Since the birth of the human race, man has always looked to the stars as a symbol of the spiritual world. It represents something visible, yet unreachable, terrifying, yet comforting. Czech artist Wenzel Hablik understood this deeply when creating his masterpiece Starry Sky. The majesty of space can be seen in the painting with the raw creative force of space swirling around until it meets at one central point. What that point is, we’ll never know, but it’s for that same reason that this painting is held in such high regard. Part of what makes up spirituality is not knowing what really lies beyond what we can see, and this painting does just that. Josep Font interprets the night sky in a very similar fashion to Hablik. The cosmic print on some of his resort collection carry the same feeling of movement as seen in the painting. There’s a sense of something untamed with the clothing itself. The seemingly random arrangement of stars splattered all over the pieces not only mirrors the untamed nature of Hablik’s stars, but also mimics our very own night sky.,

Photo: Umberto Fratini
Photo: Umberto Fratini

Claude Monet – Water Lilies x Simone Rocha Spring/Summer 2017

Sometimes, all it takes is looking at a flower to experience an array of emotions. Joy, rage, sadness, serenity, and longing can all be felt depending on the flower and the memories associated with that flower. Claude Monet’s series of Water Lily paintings are another prime example of how flowers can convey emotions. The expressionist style and subject matter can instill a somber feeling, or a sense of serenity, depending on the viewer, just as flowers do in real life. Their mystery mixed with their beauty intrigue us and leave us wanting more. The same can be said for Simone Rocha’s ss17 woman. She’s mysterious, beautiful, and intimidating, just like a flower. The collection, which is rooted in all things organic, takes texture, shape, volume, and print and makes them fluid like Monet’s brush strokes. There’s a sense of expressionism within the collection. With many of the elements of the collection coming together to create a singular thought. There is one outfit in particular featured in the Mystical Landscapes exhibit that bares a striking resemblance to one of Monet’s Water Lilies. This particular sheer frock features a diaphanous silhouette, which is covered in ruffles and embroidery that closely resemble a group of water lilies drifting through a body of water. The look itself paints a serene picture, with the model looking fresh and soft, yet mysterious and reserved. It’s as though she was one of Monet’s flowers herself.

Photo: Yannis Vlamos
Photo: Yannis Vlamos

Eugene Jansson – Riddarfjarden x Carolina Herrera Spring/Summer 2017

One major highlight of the Mystical Landscapes exhibit is Eugene Jansson’s painting Riddarfjraden, which is regarded as a national treasure in its native homeland of Sweden. Now, some people would argue that making a painting a national treasure is silly, since it really has no monetary value other than the one that was made up for it. But rather, it’s not the cost of the artwork that makes it a treasure. It’s the moment in history that the painting captures which makes it a treasure. It’s the dark inky blue Swedish night lit up by streetlights and a rising or setting sun in the horizon that makes this a treasure. It’s the painter’s ability to capture a moment of sheer serenity that makes this more than a monetary treasure, it’s a treasure for the soul. Now treasures can be found in the world of fine art all the time, but in the fashion world, only the most distinct and emotion provoking outfits can be deemed as treasures. During Carolina Herrara’s ss17 collection, there occurred a few moments when fashion found it’s own treasures. Among the dozens of beautifully designed pieces, a handful of gowns stole the show. One such outfit was a denim blue dress that resembled Jansson‘s beautiful painting. The skirt, which is the real show stopper, takes on the life of Jansson’s brush strokes. The glossy fabric shines with a print that resembles water rippling and reflecting the light cast above it. It’s cold like the Jansson’s Swedish night, yet warm like the sun at its horizon. It instills a sense of magic, just like the Swedish master did in his painting.

 

Photo: Luca Trombolini
Photo: Luca Trombolini

Georgia O’Keefe – Red Hills x Aganovich Spring/Summer 2017

Colour has always been a vital ingredient in creating both beautiful art and fashion. In Georgia O’Keefe’s world, colour is one of the single most important factors in creating a masterpiece. For her painting Red Hills, O’Keefe used bright and bold flashes of white, black, and red. The painting resembles an explosion, with all three colours working with one another to convey the artist’s internal emotion. The painting, which showcases a dark and brooding atmosphere, is offset by the brilliant white sun at its center. Although vastly different, this duality actually blends together perfectly allowing the contrasting colours to compliment one another rather than clash. For Aganovich’s ss17 show, bright contrasts in colour were a very important aspect of the collection. The bright ruby red of the outfit against the models stark porcelain skin mirrors the contrasts in colour created by Georgia O’Keefe in her painting. Like O’Keefe, the contrasts creates a dark atmosphere around the model, drawing you in for a closer look. Creating a sense of brooding darkness with the deep red of that gown that’s immediately offset by the model’s pristine completion. The entire look fights with itself as it conveys what it really is; is it dark and gothic, or is it angelic and pristine? But it’s in this exact duality that the look comes alive. It isn’t one or the other, it’s a perfect balance of the two.

 

Photo: Umberto Fratini
Photo: Umberto Fratini

Emily Carr – Sky x Aalto Spring/Summer 2017

Another aspect that art uses is uniformity. In Emily Carr’s Sky, Carr uses different shades of blue and beige to create a monochrome uniformity within the painting. The painting depicts a celestial occurrence, wherein the clouds swirl around one another, as if being mixed by an unseen heavenly force. The different shades of blue, ranging from the softest powder blue, to a deep navy, all work with one another to create different levels of depth and movement. This sense of depth, paired alongside the wisps of white seen among the different blues, create the illusion that the painting is singing a glorious yen to the sky, and whatever might be just beyond our range of human understanding. At Aalto, designer Tuomas Merikoski presented a collection heavily based in monochrome colour combinations. Light wash denim was paired with smart powder blue suiting and delicate navy lace to create levels of depth within the outfit, just as Carr did in Sky. Now sometimes dressing in one singular colour can confuse the eye, since it’s hard to tell when one piece ends and another begins. While at other times, monochrome outfits may come off as uninspired and boring. However, Aalto’s use of varying blues creates a sense of movement, separation, and surprise within the outfit. Allowing the eye to follow a path that starts with the denim jacket and ends in the center with the navy blouse in the same way Carr uses her blues to help guide the eye to the central location of her painting.