Aesthete-Spy and Diana Vreeland by Diana Rivera

As an ongoing practice in creativity, I investigate the world with magnified eyes. I have been using my iPhone as a lens to capture the rare moments where something strikes me as evidence of creativity, that is, symbols of the imagination unfettered by logic, stamped in the visual landscape. I click on that moment as I attempt to seize that picture. I then allow these photos to guide me to the heart of the matter, linking me to the multi-sensory world around us. In the end, it’s about linking me to you and us to us–all beings and senses combined–and its especially the case when I transform into an aesthete-spy. An aesthete-spy observes you. We connect without you knowing. Or, do you?

aes·thete or es·thete (n):

1. One who cultivates an unusually high sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature.

2. One whose pursuit and admiration of beauty is regarded as excessive or affected.

The heart of the matter is what we hunt for, long for, allure to. Often times it is without logical reason. The matter may be the frame of the portrait, the color schema, the patterns, angles and/or textures of what you see, hear, smell or feel. It’s what may be missing, yet to be unfolded or has always been right in front of you. This is why we rely on artists and aesthete-spies to magnify, follow and document the trends sunk deep into the matter. In a way, we are like Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. Clues are our prey.

I recently saw the documentary on another aesthetic huntress, Diana Vreeland. The film is called “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” and it is worth a watch. She was a noted columnist and editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazine. The film presents an important depiction of this iconic woman. She was a wife, a mother, a socialite, a creative professional and an aesthete-spy. She was attuned to the physique and mystique congruent with being a femme of her epoch. It seems that the basis of her success was providing a visual landscape that transcended the matter of magazine and transported women to faraway lands. Check out her editorial here.

Diana Vreeland explained, “I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere. It was me—projecting to the public. That was my job. I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give ‘em what they never knew they wanted.”

For the professional aesthete-spy (and those in the making), Vreeland provides us a critical clue: How do we attune to the world around us in order to find those clues? How do those clues give us insight that will connect us to our audience and give them “what they never knew they wanted”?

I am learning this lesson myself. The title of the film (“Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel”) gives me, another aesthete-spy named Diana, a sense of what a clue may be. Let your eyes travel because they must. When they do, follow and document, relentlessly.


The 2012 of Creativity: Parisian Back Streets to the Imagination and Yann Tiersen by Diana Rivera

I have never met anyone with a developed sensitivity for films that abhorred the film Amelie. Sure there are people with gripes, but down right hate. No way. You’d have to be somehow cold-blooded, or at least luke warm, to not appreciate the capricious main character played by Audrey Tautou, the luminous Parisian cafes, and the mystical synchronicities in which I long 2012 to be etched. The realist may challenge idealism, stripping the essence out of belief as it slowly slips out of one’s powerful grip.

The Parisian streets of Amelie’s creative world are powerful routes into the cognitive road maps of the imagination. If they were, they would be composed by Yann Tiersen, the music composer to Amelie. I have personally fallen in and out of love, composed artistic and academic projects, serenaded by this soundtrack. I don’t think I stand alone in my interest–it’s a spectacular album.

Lately, I have been driving on a Yann Tiersen loop station to no clear end in sight. His other album, Dust Lane, has taken me momentarily out of Amelie’s Paris into other back lanes of the imagination: the desolate desert roads to let go to what you cling, and bizarre bridge crossings where longing and the ferocity of the future crash into subtle waves in the river. He makes it okay to ask: “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

I finally parked in a sonic dome with Yann Tiersen’s album, L’Absente. The album catapults the romance of courage back into the driver’s seat of the heart. For me, the song “Les Jour Tristes” is an ode to the creative artist who longs for the synchronicities and mysteries of life and art, yet balances the practicalities of the every day like bringing home the bacon, being courageous in the face of other people’s expectations or judgements, etc.

Here are the lyrics and the song:

It’s hard, hard not to sit on your hands
And bury your head in the sand
Hard not to make other plans
And claim that you’ve done all you can, all along
And life must go on
It’s hard, hard to stand up for what’s right
And bring home the bacon each night
Hard not to break down and cry
When every idea that you’ve tried has been wrong
But you must carry on

It’s hard but you know it’s worth the fight
‘Cause you know you’ve got the truth on your side
When the accusations fly, hold tight
Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say
Who cares what cowards think, anyway
They will understand one day, one day

It’s hard, hard when you’re here all alone
And everyone else has gone home
Harder to know right from wrong
When all objectivities gone
And its gone
But you still carry on
‘Cause you, you are the only one left
And you’ve got to clean up the mess
You know you’ll end like the rest
Bitter and twisted, unless
You stay strong and you carry on

It’s hard but you know it’s worth the fight
‘Cause you know you’ve got the truth on your side
When the accusations fly, hold tight
Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say
Who cares what cowards think, anyway
They will understand one day, one day

Yann Tiersen has led me through an emotional journey through music this season, and has taught me something fundamental to my resolution behind 2012. It is hard to believe in your artistry when there are accusations that hold you back. But, don’t be afraid of carrying on. Your art builds the streets, alleys, roads, bridges and freeways that drive others to feel, think and be. It is worth the battle, and there will be a major pay-off: sharing. Contributing. Offering your greatest passion to a world that could be otherwise stripped of beauty or meaning without you. It won’t be in the fantastical ways of Amelie. It will be in your signature form, led by the pulse of the Parisian streets, the dust lanes of resolution, the fortifying gates of courage.

2000 Zen: Stepping on the Tight Rope by Diana Rivera

“If I die, what a beautiful death in the exercise of your passion”–Philip Petit

I heard a story once about a French man who in the 1970’s walked across a tight rope that connected the Twin Towers. In mid air, an audience of New Yorkers gasped as he balanced back and forth. Somewhere in my realism I staked it as just a story with no accurate details, assuming that it never happened. Never make assumptions about what is possible…The story is absolutely true!

Philip Petit, a 24 year old French man, walked across a wire between the towers in 1974. What he did raised that quintessential eyebrow from people that seemed to ask ‘how the heck did he do that?’ How did he feel safe doing that? The story is the basis for the Oscar winning documentary, “Man on Wire.”

Indeed Mr. Petit had a history of walking between things…in mid air! Here is an image of him walking between the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

When Petit first learned that the tallest towers in the world were being built in the early 70’s, a seed was planted in the form of a dream. “When you have a dream, it’s tangible…nagging…but the object of my dream didn’t exist yet.”

At this point, an 8 month long mission mounted to figure out how he would walk between towers. This is when an incredible amount of creative thought and collaboration took place. He rallied a group of French, Australian and American colleagues to help him. They flew back and forth between Paris and NYC. At the towers, they created aliases as construction workers to go up and down the guarded areas. They observed the ebbs and flows of the weather patterns. Back in France, they made miniature models of the towers and spent hours in conversation figuring out the internal plan of rigging a wire between two buildings.

When you watch the documentary, you will learn about their escapades and witness the feat of their triumph. I will share with you this video of the post-wire experience:

Looking at 2000 zen, I think of Philip as an inspiration for our times. He planted a seed to his dream, his excitement and passion garnered support and he made it happen. That is an exceptional layer of the story. Another layer is his fearlessness on the rope itself. There was no safety net, how could he possibly do it without one?! I could never do it without one….

This is the key!

Petit did have one. It was an internal one, a transparent one, even an external one held in the body of the clouds over head or the wind in his wings. There is an ethereal quality to the trust but the net was there and he believed in it.

BIG key…

As the man on wire explains, just short of receiving an Oscar for Best Documentary: “To me, it’s so simple. Life should be lived on the edge. You have to experience rebellion. To refuse to taper yourself to rules, to refuse your success, to repeat yourself, to see each day, every year, every idea as a true challenge, then you are going to live your life on the tight rope.”

Today, tomorrow, this year and this decade there is a choice to go out on the high wire of life. It will not be Petit’s wire, but your own metaphorical one. You can climb up the flights of stairs, take the elevator or just fly your way up, but get there. Once you do, feel free to just step on the tight rope if you are ready. If not, what would make you feel safe?


Everyone has a safety net that is activated in every situation be it professional or personal. How big is yours? What is it comprised of? How how has it served you so far? What if it could be of more service to you? What would have to happen?

Published in: on January 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm  Comments (4)  
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How “Rage” Grew from “The Tango Lesson” or How “The Tango Lesson” Grew from “Rage” by Diana Rivera

Have you ever wanted to create something but got side tracked by another project? You are all nodding your heads.

Has it ever been that the secondary project ends up coming to life but you still have an intention to get the original project done? You might still be nodding your heads.

Do read on…I swear there is a point to this.

I’m a sucker for Tango. My perception of it is blissfully romanticized by my love for Astor Piazolla—the great Tango Composer and Accordion player. Black slick outfits, close contact between dancers and swift movements that leave you lingering for the next encounter…I’m all about it.

I was first drawn to Sally Potter’s film, “The Tango Lesson,” because of the magnificent key art:

The woman who is diving toward the chest of her dance partner is the Independent Film Maker and Director, Sally Potter, and this was the first film I had seen by her. You might know her for her other projects such as “Orlando.”

Here is a trailer:

Years ago I understood that the movie was about an artist who wanted to get away from London and got inspired to go to Buenos Aires to not only finish a film concept but got swept away—literally–by the art of tango. I had a particular focus then toward the tension-infused relationship between her and her dance teacher. There was this push-and-pull quality between the two. Who will control the tango: the teacher or Potter, the director?

In the “Tango Lesson,” Potter talks about having writer’s block on a film project. The premise was ambiguous but had to do with the underworld of a model or group of models (again unclear). We never knew what the title of the film was but we saw silent snippets that alluded to the intrigue. At any rate, this film came out in 1997 and in 2009 she released “Rage.” I rented it recently and the story line had to do with a run-way model. At that point, it dawned on me: the project she was blocked about in “The Tango Lesson” was the movie “Rage.” This was a total ‘a-ha’ moment! Potter, this established artist, perhaps truly did have writer’s block, got sidetracked for good reasons but ultimately stood by her original project and made it happen…even if it was more than a decade later. Acclaimed artists do that too! Of course they do!

Does time really make a difference when you’re called to do a project? Looking at her filmography, she has definitely been active in film from 1997-2009. You can imagine that life and other artistic endeavors do create and recreate the time-line on projects. In the case of Potter, it seems that they can often fuel an original project into existence.

If your agenda is flexible, you can leave yourself the possibility of manifesting your project in its own due course. Indeed there is always a back story to things, and if I could get Potter on the line, I’d have some serious chatter to sponsor with her on perseverance, the nature of time-lines in creative projects, etc. Since we are left to piece things together, I have attached a meaning to her projects that gives me perspective about my own and yours.


What is a project you have worked on that has been sidetracked? How open is your time-line? How would it be for you if it were brought to full fruition 10 years later than you expected?

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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