Which book? Blogs aren’t book reviews

Deciding what to write about for my first Blog has occupied rather too much of my time for something that is meant to be spontaneous. I assume it will be about a book – what else since I am lucky enough to have publishers send me these, often unasked for, hoping I will Blog about them. But then, rather like not wishing to favour one child against another, the question is ‘which book?’ Blogs aren’t book reviews’, my friend tells me. I was still thinking about this as I drove in the downpour and floods recently to the northern most part of London imaginable that is still London, and there, as soon as I entered Wood Green Library was something facing me demanding that I write about IT. An installation by artist Gitl Wallerstein Braun called Genesis. I have known Gitl for several years now and my admiration keeps on growing.

Gitl was born in 1950 in Haifa to Holocaust survivors so poor and sick that she was sent to an orphanage. She came to England, had 8 children and, when the last one left, she took hold of her life and sent it hurtling off in a new direction. She wanted to be an artist but first had to learn to speak English. So she went to Wood Green Library and started studying. Right from the beginning. Hence the donation to Wood Green library – officially one of the busiest in England. “I wanted to give something back,” she told me.

Aged 50, she enrolled at Central St Martins School of Art and since graduating in 2006 has worked with enormous dedication and to great critical acclaim. The latest picture is high over the books – I’m not sure what that’s telling me, but I can stare at Gitl’s pictures of textiles for hours and find so many different meanings. They are intensely suggestive and sensual. The inspiration this time for Gitl was finding an old artist’s palette in an auction room but, as I look at the hole for the artist’s thumb I see another eye – or is it an abyss.? All Gitl’s art has a story. Her story. But I look at this and think of many stories. It’s on permanent display so go there and stop for moment to contemplate a masterpiece. She is such an inspiration to women, to immigrants, to artists and just to anyone who wants to learn and understand and think.

Artful lessons in power dressing

Evening Standard: Feb 18 2010

Artful lessons in power dressing

Godolphin and Latymer School for Girls in Hammersmith, hosting its first Arts Festival next week, has men talking for three out of four evenings Andrew Marr, Chris Patten and William Boyd. But on Tuesday 23rd, Francine Stock and Anne Sebba, both mothers with daughters at the school, will be discussing how women use power and influence.

Sebba, biographer of Laura Ashley, Mother Teresa, Jennie Churchill now researching Wallis Simpson, thinks women excel at manipulating behind the throne. To prove her point she will wear killer high heels and a jacket by Alexander McQueen, the late fashion designer whose clothes “made women feel powerful”. Hmmm … what sort of lesson is that?