Monday, October 27, 2014

HELENA RUBINSTEIN: BEAUTY IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER (c) By Polly Guerin

Helena Rubinstein may not be a household name, but the legendary magnate built a cosmetic empire and crowned herself Queen of her domain, reigning over the beauty routines of women worldwide for decades. Her story is one of inspiration for all women who aspire to ascend the ladder to success. What it took was a passion for living, a drive extraordinary and perseverance to succeed. And, it is about time that recognition be given to this pioneering woman who made her beauty business one of the hallmarks of the cosmetic industry.
   The Jewish Museum exhibit, Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power, through March 22, 2015 is the first museum exhibition to focus on the innovative cosmetics entrepreneur and art collector.. By the time of her death, Rubinstein had risen from her humble origins in a small town Jewish Poland to become a global icon of female entrepreneurship and a leader in art, fashion, design and philanthropy.  As head of a cosmetic empire that extended across four continents, she was, arguably, the first modern self-made woman magnate.
   Rubinstein was born in a small town in Poland in 1872. In 1888, when she was sixteen Rubinstein fled the prospect of an arranged marriage and found her way from Krakow to Vienna to Australia, where she established her first business, Helena Rubinstein & Co., producing skin creams; and at the same time she married her first husband, Edward Titus.
   Her talent for business and its inherent feminism reflects her modern thinking. One of the first slogans Rubinstein used to promote her cosmetics, "Beauty is Power," is an advertisement that first appeared in an Australian newspaper in 1904. This was revolutionary at the turn of the century when the use of cosmetics, associated with the painted faces of actresses and prostitutes, was widely frowned upon by the middle class, but Rubinstein found the means for ordinary women to transform themselves.  Her business challenged the myth of beauty and taste as inborn, or something to which on the wealthy were entitled. By encouraging women to define themselves as sell-expressive individuals, Rubinstein contributed to their empowerment.
She eventually returned to Europe where she established salons in the grandest districts of London and Paris, and also began collecting African and Oceanic art in 1909.
The Salon Format Inspired by the tradition of European literary salons, Rubinstein conceived of her beauty salons as intimate environments where progressive ideas were exchanged under the guidance of a sophisticated patroness. At the outbreak of World War I she moved to the United States, where she founded her first salon in 1915.  Today the term 'beauty salon" means a hairdresser or a day spa. But Rubinstein salon was a place designed entirely by women, where a client could learn not only how to improve her looks, but also how to re-conceive her standards of taste, to understand design, color, and art in order to express her own personality. What Rubinstein advocated was new and profound in the early 20th century. She offered women the ideal of self-invention, a fundamental principle of modernity.
The Art Collection Madame (as she was universally known) ruled with a firm hand and empowered
women. Case in point, at a huge rally in 1911 some women suffragists wore lip rouge as a badge of emancipation.
   Selections from Rubinstein's famous art collection include works by Pablo Picasso, Elie Nadelman, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Joan Miro and Henri Matisse, among others, as well as thirty works from
her collection of African and Oceanic art. When people found it strange that a woman who had dedicated her life to beauty would purchase such "ugly things," Rubinstein said, "I had always favored the unusual and when I followed sound advice, as well as my own 'inner eye;'  my purchases were invariably good.":
   Other highlights include Rubinstein's beloved miniature period rooms, jewelry, and clothing designed by Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli and Paul Poiret. Her savvy for self-promotion is evident in portraits of her made by the leading artists of her day, from Marie Laurencin to Any Warhol.  Most interesting are the vintage advetisements, cosmetics products and professional films related to her beauty business.
At The Jewish Museum, located on Museum Mile at Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street,  www.thejm.org.
Ta Ta Darlings!!! Madame is my inspiration, she really set the independent mark for women. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs on www.pollytalk.com and in the left hand column click on the Blog of your interest be it amazing women, visionary men, treasures in New York or poetry.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ENERGETIC BLISS with SHARON BYKERK-LONERGAN By Polly Guerin

In a world filled with the cacophony of city life, the stress of work or personal health concerns it is comforting to know that women seeking the resurgence of  harmony in their lifestyle need go no further but turn to Sharon’s Energetic Bliss.  Her mission statement says it all. “My belief in the healing arts is deeply profound, providing an Energetic “whole” – istic approach.  I pledge to keep the power of gentle professional touch alive by providing an important service to women that can truly improve their quality of life by being the conduit, for their own self-healing.”  Sharon is a woman determined to succeed in holistic healing with a subtle approach that underscores the philosophy of Energetic Bliss.


HOLISTIC HEALING Sharon has dedicated her life to the well being of others. She is a woman whose hands have a distinct therapeutic touch that is gentle, yet goes deep into sensitizing where a client’s energy centers need the most attention and revitalization.  With soft persuasive hands, Sharon‘s gentle professional touch serves as a conduit that also helps women to heal themselves and clear toxins whether emotional, chemical or both. Her services are tuned into the needs of the individual and her uncanny ability to immediately attune to a client’s concerns makes her a truly sensitive practitioner.
THE SERVICES Sharon practices in disciplines including Reiki, Aromatherapy Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Polarity Therapy and Onnetsu Far Infrared Therapy. The wall in her salon attests to the fact that Sharon has honed her skills and authenticated her diverse practice. The serene salon has a skyline view with windows opening to the sunlight. A warm bed-like massage table, on which a client reclines, in a fully clothed session, provides a soothing experience that calms and restores disharmony in the energy fields of the body.  You can almost feel the tension and the burden of everyday concerns melt away. 
POLARITY THERAPY I can attest to the Polarity Therapy treatment as I was fortunate recently to experience it.  Sharon’s featherlike touch scanned my body reaching blocked currents in the body’s energy field, and at one place in particular, she touched a spot that dramatically resonated to her touch with a gentle but almost electrifying reaction.  I assessed this to mean that there may be severe blocking of energy in that area as well in other places. After the session I felt light and euphoric. I now realize that the power of gentle professional touch can truly improve the quality of life by clearing and balancing chakra/energy centers, relieve pain, activate the body’s natural ability to heal itself, relieve stress and release toxins or impurities, to name a few.
ENERGETIC BLISS, Natural Health Care for Women, focuses on your total well-being in treatments that soothe your senses, restore your body and replenish your spirit. Energetic Bliss is located at 121 Newark Ave., Suite 402, Downtown Jersey City, NJ 07302. Tel. 971.239.8476 or sharon@energetic bliss.com By appointment only. Visit her Web Site at www.energeticbliss.com

Thursday, May 30, 2013

GUERIN, POLLY's Illustrated Lecture on her book: COOPER-HEWITT DYNASTY OF NEW YORK

NYPL:  NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY


M i d - M a n h a t t a n
40th Street and 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016
212-340-0837

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
6:30 p.m. on the 6th floor

w e l c o m e s
Polly Guérin
presenting an illustrated lecture on her book
THE COOPER-HEWITT DYNASTY OF NEW YORK


About the presenter:
Polly Guérin
is a former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York
and the author of four college textbooks, four blogs,magazine articles and pollytalk columns.
Her featureson the decorative arts, antiques, collectibles and design have appeared in Art & Antiques magazine. She is alsotheauthor of four blogs: pollytalkfromnewyork;menremarkablevisionaries; womendeterminedtosucceed and poetryfromtheheartbypollyguerin.

Monday, May 13, 2013

PALMER, POTTER: Retail Pioneer and Bertha Honore (c) by Polly Guerin

womendeterminedtosucceed.blogspot
While retail theater on television is currently celebrating the rise of the department store, viewers would be served better to know that the true story of the man you brought retailing to the pinnacle of showmanship was Potter Palmer. He was the creator of what we now know as the modern department store. (It was not Marshall Field or Harry Selfridge) Palmer ranks highest among the remarkable visionaries who made shopping an adventure and entertainment destination.    However, he was more than just a merchant king he also gave Chicago, the grand Palmer House Hotel and many other ‘firsts’  including  introducing impressionism to the United States. Palmer's wife, Bertha Honore, shares in the limelight by becoming one of Chicago's most distinguished leaders for women's rights.   RETAIL ORIGINS Palmer invented many of the retail practices we take for granted today. He was the first captain of the merchant class to allow women to exchange merchandise.  He created the motto, “the customer is always right,” originated a liberal credit policy, opened the bargain basement concept and last but not least installed dazzling window displays. Obviously Palmer influenced other retailers who adopted his successful retail innovations. A man ahead of his time, Palmer hired one of the first female architects to construct a building for the World’s Columbia Exposition in 1892.                                                                                                                 LOVE UNDER FIRE Such a story is worth  historical reverence and to this end Corn Bred Films has set the record straight about  the lives of Bertha and Potter Palmer, one of the first and foremost power couples in the United States. Corn Bred's new 30 minute documentary film, LOVE UNDER FIRE, tells the epic love story between young socialite Bertha Honore and Potter Palmer, a self-made man twenty years her senior. Their passion for Chicago, the city they loved is a riveting saga that reveals more than meets the eye.                                                                           
PALMER ARRIVES Potter Palmer came from upstate New York and was interested in retailing.  He stopped off in Chicago a burgeoning Midwest town with mud roads but a growing community. Palmer saw opportunity and decided he wanted to be part of the city and prospered in real estate and retailing. After reaching an elevated level of business and social recognition, when he was thirty-eight years old Palmer was worth millions of dollars, a fine catch to say the least. Due to Palmer’s social ascendancy, he was invited to dinner at the home of real estate maven, where Palmer met thirteen year old Bertha Honore, an event that would forever change his  life.                                                                                                              PALMER HOTEL Bertha Honore was a remarkable woman, determined to succeed and did so in more way than when years later she married Palmer. Palmer was a man of great gestures and he built the Palmer Hotel as a wedding present for his bride. During the raging fire that destroyed Chicago in 1875 and the Palmer Hotel, Bertha seemingly rose from the ashes, a woman of great fortitude. She was the first woman to appear before Congress to petition the government for funds, and traveled throughout Europe, influencing royalty and industrialists. Palmer let Bertha shine in the limelight. She continued to be a great supporter of women’s education, wages and working conditions. This powerful couple’s story is breathtaking and illuminating as to how two people forged a legacy that makes the Palmers important figures in the historic record of our country’s evolution as a great retail empire.
TO ENJOY THIS REMARKABLE STORY OF THE PALMERS AND TO PURCHASE A COPY OF THE DVD, LOVE UNDER FIRE, CONTACT www.courtingbertha.com Or call 708.359.2783,

Sunday, May 5, 2013

HAUSMAN, KATHRYN: Design Pioneer, ADSNY (c) By Polly Guerin

Kathryn Hausman (Photo: Zenith Richards)
There are women born with many gifts and then there is Kathryn Hausman, a woman determined to succeed beyond any obstacles in her path, a woman who went past the glass ceiling and scaled to the heights of success in every field she endeavored.  How shall we define a woman of such diverse talents: mother, designer, entrepreneur of Medusa’S Heirlooms, collector and philanthropist, president of the Art Deco Society of  New York and glamour icon!!!  Hausman manages to toss all her responsibilities in the air and produce a legacy of achievement that is befitting a modern woman.  No, not one who came into her success through marriage or inheritance but through personal perseverance and persistence. Hausman was determined to succeed and to make the world a better place. She pursued her dreams and leaves a legacy to inspire other women to pursue their dreams as she did.     
MEDUSA’S HEIRLOOMS I remember meeting Kathryn many years ago when I was an accessories editor and found the starling creator introducing her hair ornaments and delightful accessories someplace on Third Avenue. And then I followed her to Bloomingdale's where sales were booming and another story was in the works. Striving and surviving throughout the decades and gaining momentum she built a thriving business and still has a big following nationwide, and Bendel’s is her best New York Customer. In her showroom at 385 Fifth Avenue baskets of hair ornaments, barrettes and jeweled accessories spill out from floor to ceiling and sparkle like diamonds, in a treasure trove display where buyers stepping into the magic kingdom descend to place orders of hair accessories for their boutiques and stores. 
SOUND INVESTMENT Hausman, a single divorced and devoted mother of two sons, invested in her family with unwavering devotion and to this end she said, "With the financial success of Medusa's Heirlooms I did something smart and bought a brownstone on East 89th street for $155,000 in 1978. If one is invited to this amazing home/museum there you will find Hausman's Goldscheider collection of ceramics made in Vienna from 1885 to 1938--gaily painted female figures from the 1920s that depict Hollywood actresses and exotic dancers. So rare and wonderful is the collection that its celebrity was presented  in an exhibition “Goldscheider Ceramics---A World Brand from Vienna” at the Leo Baeck Institute, part of the Center for Jewish History at 15 West 16 Street in 2009. In the future Hausman plans to document her Goldscheider collection in a book that no doubt will have profound collectible value.     
A COLLECTOR'S DEN That’s not all that is housed at Hausman’ s brownstone, in her personal collection drawers spill forth with Bakelite jewelry and with so many other treasures in her Art Deco-inspired interior it is like visiting a petite museum. She is as decorative as her collections. “I always dress a little costomey,” says the iconic designer.  “I like vintage clothes or a bit of eccentricity.”  A loyal friend with unwavering faithfulness, Kathryn seems to have the ability to put other people’s interests and needs before her own, and to this end she has also mentored young students from the Fashion Institute of Technology who have the opportunity to learn the accessories business first hand in her Medusa's Heirlooms' showroom.         
ART DECO SOCIETY PRESIDENT Kathy Hausman has been involved in the Art Deco Society of New York for over thirty years. She says, “I joined the Board as a shy, young Deco advocate and served as a Board member for many years and later was elected to be the Social Director producing great parties and balls at prestigious private clubs and venues. When Bill Weber, who was president for years and my inspiration became ill I was elected vice president and in the following year, 1999 I was voted in as president.”  Hausman’s role became even more demanding and in 1997 she represented and attended the ICAD’s Congress in Los Angeles. She was so inspired that she proposed at the ICAD’s 2001 Congress in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an official offer to host ICAD’s Congress in New York City. The vote was unanimous!!! 
ICADS NEW YORK CONGRESS In 2005 drew 250 attendees from all over the world to experience New York’s Art Deco treasures.  Scholarly lectures, parties and historical New York venues were orchestrated by Hausman in places of extraordinary historical reverence. I remember the Australian contingent and never met friendlier and more enthusiastic attendees but there were many other Deco international friends and this congress set the stage that recognized Hausman as a born leader on the world stage.                                                                                       
DECO GOALS FULFILLED Dawning on the heels of her success and after serving as President of ADSNY, Art Deco Society of New York for over 15 years, Kathryn Hausman leaves a legacy of achievement that cannot be matched by many other women.  As she said, “I am not leaving! I will sail perpetually on the ADSNY ship, but will no longer be at the helm.” Hausman’s Medusa’s Heirlooms continues to be one of New York’s eminent accessories firms. The Art Deco Society of New York, on the other hand, will never be the same, for under Hausman’s administration the organization was imbued with heightened awareness of the Art Deco significance of New York’s treasures and the events were always a sensation, a rare opportunity of expand one’s appreciation of Art Deco.
THANK YOU KATHRYN HAUSMAN, A MODERN WOMAN DETERMINED TO SUCCEED WHO RAISED THE LEVEL OF ART DECO APPRECIATION. SHE LEAVES A LEGACY OF CONSIDERABLE ACHIEVEMENT THAT HAS INSPIRED AND ENRICHED THE LIVES OF SO MAY DECO ENTHUSIASTS.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

AUSTEN, ALICE: Legendary Photographer (c) By Polly Guerin

Alice Austen’s white cottage still stands at the water’s edge in the neighborhood of Clifton on Staten Island--- a testament to Alice’s long and remarkable life as a photographer. Born into comfortable circumstances Alice had no need to pursue a career, but photography, that started out as perhaps a hobby, became a passion. A young woman determined to succeed; Alice deserves her due recognition as a pioneer in this genre. 
FIRST LADY OF THE LENS She was one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers and over the course of her life created 8000 images. For thing in the late nineteenth century, cameras were a cumbersome affair but Alice surpassed any restraints and managed to carve a niche in the photography world with images that preserve a myriad of subjects. She captured the great transatlantic ships that still pass in front of her house, the coming of the automobile to the beginning of tennis the countryside and world beyond. The Alice Austen House Museum, Clear Comfort, is located at 2 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island, New York.
FROM SOCIETY BELLE TO PHOTOGRAPHER It was her Danish Uncle Oswald who brought home a camera in 1876 and her Uncle Peter who showed her how to develop the negative images on the dry plates she exposed. Alice was captivated by the new art form and advanced forward with alacrity. However, Alice always insisted, that except for these initial demonstrations, she simply “learned by doing.” By the time she was eighteen, Alice was a professional photographer and her family was sufficiently comfortable to indulge her in the best of the cumbersome equipment she required. A closet on the second floor was converted into Alice’s darkroom. Ships sailing the Narrows were her favorite photographic subject---over the years she saw and recorded them all---racing yachts, schooners, tugs, warships, luxury liners and immigrant ships from the vantage point of Clear Comfort, a Victorian gothic cottage on the shores of the Verrazano Narrows.
LAUNCHING A NEW CAREER Most belles during Alice’s time would not have taken on such a demanding task as photography was not a lighthearted affair. Wearing her Sunday best, a bustle fashion gown with striped overskirt one can only imagine how difficult it may have been to photograph the fine old houses and historic buildings on the island. It was not an easy adventure--at the same time lugging around fifty pounds of photographic equipment. She hauled her camera and tripod along to picnics, masquerades and chronicled the social life of musical evenings in her friends’ parlors as well as family gatherings and weddings. She even climbed a fencepost, not caring if she exposed her ankles, in pursuit of the picture she wanted of local auto speed trials.
POSING HER SUBJECTS Alice would go to almost any length of get the picture she wanted. She was rather a perfectionist and she did not care how impatient her complaining subjects became. The expression of her subjects and the overall composition had to be just right and the exposure in the right light. She enjoyed recording Americans at work, boat races, amusement parks, country fairs in Vermont and the great world fairs in Chicago and Buffalo. She may have spent more than twenty summers aboard and always traveled off the beaten path to capture the activities in some tiny town and she felt equally free to visit places considered unseemly for a lady. Alice usually traveled with two cameras capable of producing images of different proportions, which filled a large steamer trunk. It was a cumbersome affair but Alice was a strong woman capable of carrying her heavy equipment creating in her lifetime images with lasting beauty that chronicle a legacy from America’s past.

Alice Austen used her camera in a very personal way to record people, places and interesting travels. Her photographs show us real people and places as they actually appeared and we are made luckier by the fact that she captured these images of a wonderful time in America’s history. Further Reading: ALICE’S WORLD, The Life and Photography of an American Original: Alice Austen, 1866-1952 by Ann Novotny, Chatham Press, Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

GREEN, HETTY: THE EMPRESS OF FINANCE (c) By Polly Guerin

Henrietta Howland Robinson, known as Hetty Green, beat the robber barons at their own game; invested her dowry in bonds rather than in a husband and was the first woman to make a substantial impact on Wall Street. Why should we be interested in Hetty? Because this feisty Victorian , despite stiff competition of the mostly male business environment, paved the way for women to think differently about their circumstances. Hetty was known for her financial prowess and ability to parlay her wealth through shrewdly investing in the stock market and made a fortune on wall street. Hetty Geeen was an American woman determined to succeed and this in itself is a remarkable feat that she achieved in the Gilded Age.
MARRIAGE AND INVESTING Hetty wasn’t expected to do anything particular but to marry and bring in capital that would then be managed by a male, family member. It was the era when women did not have control of their finances or inheritance. Hetty would shun such an idea and set her path of independence from the start. As was the custom when time came for marriage, her parents handed Hetty $l,200 for gowns and carriages and sent her off to the nation’s financial capital to attract a spouse. Nothing doing, Hetty invested $l, 000 of that money in bonds and from then on she was on a roll, caught up in the web of investing.
GREEN’S HERITAGE Hetty was born, Henrietta Howland Robinson in 1834-1916, and her family was wealthy merchants owning vast fleets of whaling ships in New Bedford, MA. Early on Henrietta (Hetty) cleaved to her father and from the age of six she was reading financial newspapers to him and this is how she learned about stocks and bonds; by thirteen Hetty became the family bookkeeper. At the age of 33, Hetty married Edward Henry Green, a member of a wealthy Vermont family. Ahead of her time, she made him renounce all rights to her money before the wedding on July 11, 1867. The young couple moved to London and there raised a son, Edward Howland Robinson ‘Ned’ Green and daughter Hetty Sylvia Ann Howland Green. When her father died in 1864, Hetty inherited $7.5 million and started a legal campaign to get access to the money she inherited. Against the objections of most of her family , she invested in Civil War bonds.
A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WOMAN When the family returned to New York City Hetty began parlaying her inheritances into her own astonishing fortune. She conducted much of her business at the offices of the Seaboard National Bank in order to avoid paying rent elsewhere and this begins a routine of stinginess and denial when she could easily have afforded all the luxuries that her wealth could afford.. She could be seen in the financial arenas of business wearing her unusually dour dress, which was mostly black and which she rarely cleaned as it being too expensive to do so, and this formidable appearance she was nicknamed, “The Witch of Wall Street.” Surrounded by her trunks and papers she ate frugally. Yet she was a successful business woman who dealt mainly in real estate, invested in railroads, and lent money. It is legendary that on several occasions the city o f New York came to Hetty in need of loans, particularly during the Panic of 1907 when she wrote a check for $l.l million.
DENIAL TO THE END Sadly, Hetty’s stinginess carried over to the welfare of her children. When her son Ned broke his leg she denied him immediate professional medical attention deeming it too expensive and held back her daughter from marriage because she disapproved of all over Sylvia’s suitors because she suspected they wanted to get their hands on her money. When her children left home Hetty moved repeatedly to small apartments in different boroughs, mainly to avoid tax officials in any state. She failed in the great arena of philanthropy as parting with money was at the hallmark of her stinginess. So fearful was she of parting with money that she did not underwrite the great institutions, libraries or hospitals of the era. When it came to finance Hetty was a genius; yet she led a life of extreme thrift.

In Janet Wallach’s book, The Richest Woman in America, Doubleday she says that Hetty was a talented investor who had the bad luck to be born in an era when the guild of Victorian men, shut out a whole class of minds---women’s. Fortunately, not so today, women have scaled the heights of management and proving their mettle and breaking new ground in the financial world.