Art and Learning in the time of Covid

Published on Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

Thank you Brandy McGill for taking the time to chat last week and for producing this story!

I find I’m writing more blog posts here than usual, because I tend to want to write when I feel grateful. Words cannot express how much our family appreciates that Noah Margo listened to the plight of displaced families like ours, got together with Laura Chism, Dr. Michael Bregy and the entire Board of Directors made it a priority to help us continue our children’s learning path in this unprecented time. I understand that the Board voted unanimously to allow our boy to take his 100% online ILC from our home in the Bay – an enormous relief! My son is sitting at his desk as I write this, as today is the first day of school!

That’s the news and here’s the backstory:

Practicing ballet on the Bayou Bernard

The week before Katrina hit, I had the thought that I’d like to spend more time on the Coast. I’d been in Beverly Hills since 1999, fully immersed in the single girl in the city lifestyle with nonstop work on my career, so it was a mere flash. Growing up on the Bayou Bernard in Gulfport, Mississippi was a really sweet childhood of summer sailing, Marine Life, snoballs, sweet tea, shrimp boils, fish frys, shopping at Godchaux
on day trips to New Orleans and buying Sunday school shoes at Pappagallo.

Four years ago, we made that momentary flash a reality and began to spend summers in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, where we had lots of dear old friends, one hour from the New Orleans International, and an easy drive for my mom. Last year I found the place we would ultimately buy and then set about driving everyone I knew crazy because I could not talk about anything else. I was driven to get the house ready in a way that I’ve only ever experienced when I was pregnant and preparing the nest for my son. I remember saying to my friends and family (my mother confirms this) at the time that I had a feeling something might happen.

With mission accomplished, I planned a fabulous Christmas at our nest in the Bay, and was SO happy to be able to enjoy our holiday. Of course, as things happened, my entire family became really ill with a something like a flu that did not test as flu and stayed sick, essentially until Valentine’s Day. I can’t ever remember being that ill. We managed to get back to Beverly Hills for school, and plodded along until we began to feel better.

I was so excited when we left Beverly Hills on March 11th for Spring Break! After spending the first few days of their spring break with us in Beverly Hills Elise and Lola travelled with us to the bay to spend the remainder. We had big plans for doing nothing in the balmy weather and I brought some leaf ephemera I had been working on to use in some artwork.

To say that the following days felt like the apocalypse is an understatement. I have vague recollections of watching Tiger King, shaking my head, listening to Elise tell me all the news, because my nesting instinct came full circle. If we wanted to avoid illness, we had to isolate in Mississippi. No amount of figuring could make our place back in the ‘hood seem like a safer option, particularly since my husband and I can work remotely. At the end of the break BHUSD announced distance learning, and our new normal really began. It was a bumpy start, but my kid can teach himself how to do anything using Youtube (actually we all can and do), and learning online seemed like a no brainer. Our boy turned thirteen, Memorial Day happened, and then our regularly scheduled summer commenced, which would have brought us back to the bay anyway. Instead of the summer I imagined with shrimp boils on the patio, lots of California friends visiting and sleeping all over the house, seven hour lunches at Galatoires, and fantastic fireworks on July Fourth (Coastal residents are patriotic as all get out), we worried about Covid-19. I watched the numbers rise and the deaths being described as drowning. I bought numerous styles of hats and masks, and ordered everything I possibly could from Amazon and Walmart.

In the time between spring break and the announcement of the ILC, we had a really great groove going. I finished an entire collection of art, set up offices for hub and the boy, and a studio for me in the garage. I’ve never been so happy in a plywood room in my life! Online learning for school really is the new normal and a natural for us. Band practice, Taekwando lessons and Boy Scouts are meeting online too!

People ask us when we are returning to Beverly Hills, and we really can’t say. At the beginning of the ILC applications, we committed to an entire semester of the program, and are just forecasting to be here through Christmas. Maybe there will be a Christmas miracle that a regular household tonic can cure Covid-19. Until then, we are hiding out in the Bay and very grateful to do so. Thank you again BHUSD and Brandy McGill of WLOX TV for inspiring me to spark up the blog to tell what’s happening.

You Are Invited…

Published on Saturday, June 20th, 2020

…to see what I’ve really been doing lately. I’ve been working very hard developing a new series of original mixed media artwork, and for the first time ever, I am placing them in the market! These pieces are the outcome of over twenty years of practice. I’m hoping I got it right and you’ll love them. I’m already working on more!

New Orleans art consultant Randy Lewis Jackson has very kindly come on board as my broker, so PLEASE reach out to Randy by clicking “message” on my portfolio. He comes with a terrific reputation for putting collectors together with artists and is beloved by all. You will want to be his best friend, except you can’t have him; he’s MINE!

Please visit Alexandra90210, my newly minted website, where you can learn all the ways I make art. Do you have an idea for a collaboration? Special textile, Public mural? Licensed products? Call/write Randy. Tell him I sent you. In the meantime, Enjoy the new site and more work from the art launch, and stay tuned for new work and shows.

The Ugly Cry Reminds Me to Remind You

Published on Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

I haven’t communicated directly to my dear readers in SUCH a long time. Instagram is so easy, and it flows right here, so…

Time for a check in.

Today I just randomly burst into tears and cried a long hard ugly cry. So much tumult in the world added to standard issue life stuffs are making every move I make feel so portentous, weighty, and frivolous all at once. Spending time so near the place I grew up is affecting me in ways that sometimes surprise and attack me from behind. I am so grateful to have respite in my quiet studio so I can think about things.

I’m no social justice warrior. My primary skills are making things pretty and being able to explain things in way too many words. Knowing this about myself, I made a decision many years ago that I would always support organizations that teach people to read. I devoted my spare moments in the last twenty years to these groups, because I believe that if a person can read, they can learn and if they can learn, they can succeed.

I would like for you to get to know the two organizations that I have advocated all these years, and consider helping them to help people of all races, cultures and creeds. As you can see from the video of Taye Diggs reading his book to his very excited audience and the videos below from some remarkable moments I’ve had while writing to spread the word through this blog, reading will make the world a better place.

Support PBS Kids, and they’ll teach our children reading, science, math, and how to handle their emotions. Support the STAR Adult Literacy program, and you can break chains of illiteracy. I consider being able to have these moments to share with you an honor and a privilege.

Alexandra90210’s World

Published on Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Spring Sprang Sprung

Published on Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Princess Johnson Ensures Molly of Denali’s Accurate Native American Portrayal

Published on Friday, February 1st, 2019

After one hour of being made aware of Princess Daazhraii Johnson by attending the PBS KIDS press event for the groundbreaking new program Molly of Denali, I learned a surprising number of facts about Alaska. Princess is from the Gwich’in Native Alaskan tribe and is the Creative Producer of the new show that airs July 15th on your local PBS station. She taught me more about Alaska in a ten minute chat than I have learned in a lifetime. Her influence on the new series is sure to get kids excited about the exciting modern life with nature that ten year old Molly lives. The tattoo Princess wears is to pay respects to her people and to teach her daughters, who think mom is extra cool now that she has made a show with characters like them on PBS Kids. Note: they do not live in igloos!

Happy New Year!

Published on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Minds Blown Over New “Palessi” Shoe Event

Published on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Some days I have to drag out the old blog and give her a ride around the block. Today I’ve been shocked out of designing fabrics, writing and painting to weigh in on this story. As a blogger who has been privileged to receive invitations to amazing experiences and behind the scenes events, I’ve got some insights on this whole influencer thing. This particular public relations occurrence has been a hot topic today, blowing minds throughout fashion, public relations, social media, and all the adjacent professions that cause sales to happen.

Now that I’ve regained consciousness from the shock of how telling this type of “gotcha” advertising is, I have some thoughts. I have extensive experience in the blogging/influencer sphere, years of fashion retailing/merchandising, and through my interior design education, I know how to spot quality in a textiles and skins, so a few things come to mind:

Number One: If you don’t know how to spot the difference between real and fake leather and call yourself a fashion expert, you are a complete fraud. If you don’t catch that part of it, a hard plastic sole with “Made in China” stamped into it should also be the dead giveaway. I’ll give it to Payless, though – Christian Siriano’s designs are very well done for the price. Payless does a great job at what it does, and their branding company should be given whatever award can be given for stirring social commentary. But Payless is NOT a luxury brand, and anyone who understands the difference would not have taken that bait. No one knew enough at the Payless party to say “The Emperor has no clothes.”

Part two: The brand management that made a decision to embarrass these influencers got great viral videos, screen grabs, hashtags, and lots of exposure for Payless, but at what cost to everyone involved in the brand / PR / influencer triangulate? I’ve been a guest at many events like this, and I always try to have good manners. One tries to say nice things about the host. This also conjures up a real mistrust between the influencers and the PR firms who invite them. I realize that the point was to make folks see how there’s no difference in designer originals from their thirty dollar versions, but the ripple effect is that if the influencers have a real following, as opposed to fake paid follower bots, this could cause trust issues all around.

Which leads me to point three: Today, two conglomerates own almost every single international design house on the manicured streets of Beverly Hills, Paris and Tokyo. Your Louis is no longer actually a Louis unless it’s a bespoke trunk – everything else is made by the conglomerate. With the exception of the occasional artistic triumph, it’s all the same stuff. I’ll even go so far as to give the nod to the use of PU, the more recent faux leathers in ready to wear, but real leather is still the finest. If you pay $600 for a pair of vinyl shoes, joke’s on you.

Please don’t think I’m knocking inexpensive clothing and shoes. I buy more pairs of shoes from wholesalers in downtown LA as I do Rodeo Drive. I love that legit designers are doing exclusives for affordable brands, and I own lots of pieces from these collections. I love to buy a cute trendy thing and not pay a lot for it, but I don’t like designer FAKES. Frankly, I’ve always hated the idea, because I am a designer and have been down the road of someone stealing my designs. It doesn’t feel good and it definitely affects the bottom line, a line created from YEARS of education and experience. Case in point: I was gifted an almost perfect faux Hermes Kelly bag, but the pretending makes me so nervous that I cover the logo with the straps at the twist clasp so that the gold leafed “Hermes” stamp doesn’t show. I only use it when the yellow gold color of the bag is perfect with an outfit. I don’t want to be a fraud and pretend that I spent $15K on a handbag – I’d die of embarrassment if someone noticed. I guess I don’t need to worry about that a whole lot anymore.

My final takeaway is that it’s really easy to find a bunch of fake fashionista influencers who aren’t able to spot fakes. Advice to the PR firm attached to this event: if an influencer shows up to your event and says nice things about your brand, don’t embarrass them by pointing out their lack of knowledge. Advice to anyone aspiring to be an influencer in any realm, please – know your stuff. Do the work to learn, and only go to the event if it makes sense to your own brand, even if they’re paying you.

Let the Mania Begin!

Published on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

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Today is the first day I have done actual hand to paper artwork in so long! I had to do some housekeeping, literally and figuratively. The result is that I've appropriated more than half our living room for my art after ridding myself of any ephemera or projects that would not contribute to the focus. This shelf represents so much: all the media I use housed like jewels on a shelf that is upholstered in the new fabric pattern of the passion leaf logo I designed years ago. Atop the shelf are three paper suitcases holding all my pencil drawings of @louisxivofbh @louisxivofbh and more fabrics ready to hit the road. I suppose this is the last time these things will be so orderly; 'cause imma 'bout to tear some stuff up on a creating jag! #art #medium #coloredpencils #pastels #acrylic #ink #watercolorpainting #artist #artistsoninstagram #newattitude #indigenous

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Rockin Out at the Rocket Room

Published on Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Every year we rush through from my husband’s birthday and then to my son’s birthday, to Mother’s Day, and all this happens around end of school year activities which all have special programs and events to schedule. This year has been no exception, and I found myself precariously close to the Critter’s big day with no plan! So, even though it’s taken me awhile to post, I couldn’t get too far into summer before I made sure I gave a huge thank you to the folks at the Rocket Room at RocketFizz in Westwood.

As my Critter (I know, I know, he’s getting too big to call a Critter, but later for that) gets older, the main things he likes are video games and candy. I was so excited to find out that RocketFizz, which is known for its INSANE stock of every kind of candy imaginable, has a party room upstairs that has a video game WALL. I met with Yasmine, the events manager and she walked me through the whole event. It was so easy – all I had to do was show up with cake and have pizza delivered from Ronis.

The staff greeted our guests under a custom banner with the Critter’s name on it and escorted the kids up to the Rocket Room, so there was no worry for me or the parents that they were dropping off at a safe location. The party room is like a lounge for kids and had air hockey, foosball, and a huge wall with four video game screens so that they could fulfill all their old and new gaming fantasies. In addition to these activities, there was a cotton candy machine, and the staff took the kids down to “shop” for their goody bag, which the staff wrapped up in really cute gift packages.

Two hours flew by, then the staff escorted the guests one by one to their parents, and we went to dinner. I think this was the most relaxed I’ve ever been after a party. Thanks again to Yasmine and the Rocket Room / RocketFizz staff for making it so easy!