HTSI editor’s letter: an enigmatic icon steps out of the shadows...
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In a world of cookie-cutter celebrity, the musician and producer Frank Ocean is unique. At 33 years of age, he has eschewed the social-media routes by which careers are now made, opting instead to quietly push the frontiers in pursuit of developing his sound. His 2012 debut studio album, Channel Orange, a magnificent synthesis of jazz-funk, soul, biting social commentary and gently psychedelic pop, embedded in our aural culture as profoundly as the landmark albums of Stevie Wonder or The Beatles. Subsequent work has been just as unexpected and exploratory, while his influence continues to reverberate.
In this issue the enigmatic icon steps out of the shadows to talk about his long-planned luxury brand. The history of musicians and their proclivity for adornment is well documented. Think of Liberace and his excess of bulbous rings, Elton’s weakness for diamonds, and everyone, from Keith Richards to Pharrell Williams, who has favoured amulets and pendants to strew around their necks. Ocean’s interest in jewellery reflects the same enthusiasms that inspire his music; he’s an ever-curious student of contemporary design. But he’s also aware of the deeper sociological meaning: for Ocean, jewellery is a talisman, symbolic of where you’ve come from, what you’ve achieved and something to pass on. His articulation of the pleasure – and pride – one feels in owning, and earning, something precious will be familiar to all.
The emergence of Hudson Valley as a hub of creative enterprise has been in evidence for years now, but the pandemic has seen that community quickly grow. The writer and former magazine editor Deborah Needleman arrived in Garrison 25 years ago, creating a second home in which to garden at the weekends before returning to the day job in New York City. But the past year and a half has found her making Garrison her primary residence and further interacting with an area now buzzing with urban émigrés. Deborah meets the artists, makers and growers involved in the revival as well as those locals who have long contributed to Hudson’s creative fire. Of course, such sociological shifts are not without their tensions. Deborah’s survey of the area makes for a fascinating study of the post-pandemic mindset, new opportunities, and the changing rhythms of a community that finds itself a cultural hub.
This weekend sees the culmination of the Olympics, which I study mainly for the resilience that allows competitors to keep their cool. While I marvel at their athleticism, I’m in awe of their mental strength, the precision, the training and the enormous self-sacrifice. This week’s Aesthete, Leanne Shapton, trained for the Olympic swimming trials as a teenager, and was once destined to represent Canada on the world stage. Her book Swimming Studies is in part a memoir of that time. Yet, since leaving the sports world, Shapton’s life has been extraordinarily productive. She is now a writer, artist and publisher who has managed to channel the laser focus required of competitive swimming into a broader creative zeal. Her choices are an inspiration (I love her new infatuation with low-watt lightbulbs). And her accomplishments are a great reminder of that hoary cliché: when it comes to self-development it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts.
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