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PRONE MORTAL FORM
Cindy Sherman, W.A. Sarmiento and reminiscing on the past
A SINISTER VIBE WITHIN A CHEESECAKE FACTORY
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.
WHERE I WAS FROM IS WHERE I WILL DIE
There is something comforting about familiar architecture— a house as a fixture of childhood memories, a portal to the past. Stories are exchanged in passing recalling whatever errant memory makes its way to the surface until the day comes when reality has replaced your memories with a new structure.
As a kid, my father would regularly take my brother and me to Souper Salad. To those who may be unfamiliar with this landmark establishment, Souper Salad is an all-you-can-eat value buffet, consisting of various soups and salads, side and dessert options. We spent the majority of our time on the west side of Peoria but there were occasional trips to Phoenix, during which we would stop at the Souper Salad off Interstate 17 and Peoria Avenue. I was fascinated by the unique building, which looked more like a giant sculpture of a diner-style straw dispenser than a franchise buffet spot. Arches circled the perimeter, bowing in and meeting in the center to erupt from the top of the structure almost like an explosion. My adolescent mind couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing; the bizarreness of the building, the way it emerges into view as you crawl along the interstate. The building represents my childhood, beautiful and odd.
As I grew older and made more frequent trips to Phoenix, I would pass the building and reminisce about the times spent there with my brother and father until, one day, the Souper Salad sign was gone, replaced instead by one that read Tombstone Tactical.
When I moved into the downtown Phoenix area almost a decade ago, I was awestruck by the buildings that lined the city blocks in the same way I had been fascinated by the Souper Salad building all those years before. Such unique architecture, so many towering structures independently designed with a unique vision, none seemingly informing the others. Different eras, different styles— a perfect encapsulation of Phoenix itself, always one foot begrudgingly in the past, while the other is lunging unsentimental toward the future.
My favorite drive in Phoenix is traveling north on Central from McDowell to Camelback. I love to stop and marvel at the incredible building that sits on the northeast corner of Central and Osborn— the Phoenix Financial Center. I always felt strangely comfortable in its shadow, and it elicited from me a familiarity I could never quite place.
Built-in 1964, the building was designed by Peruvian-born modern architect W.A. Sarmiento. The entire complex consists of three buildings: two circular structures with identical exteriors which are surrounded by U-shaped arches that stretch the entire perimeter, lying in the shadow of a ten-story curved tower that is both concrete and bronze.
Despite their apparent similarities, it took me a few years before I connected the dots that the Souper Salad building and the Phoenix Financial Center were both designed by Sarmiento. After leaving Peru, the architect studied in various locations across South America and spent 18 months in the office of Oscar Niemeyer before coming to the United States. Stateside, a strange run-in with another architect who worked for Bank Building & Equipment Corporation of America would result in him landing a job. Sarmiento subsequently spent his career designing hundreds of banks and other financial buildings during the postwar years in cities across the country. His works reflect a crisp International Style with a visible influence from Niemeyer, perhaps most obvious in his largest project, the aforementioned Phoenix Financial Center.
These two buildings perfectly represent both Phoenix and me, as well as the genesis of modernity into a fixture of nostalgia. While the Souper Salad building still stands, no concrete steps were taken to ensure its preservation and its new occupants reserve the right to demolish the building at any time — one foot half-heartedly in the past, the other stretching toward the future.
THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR ME AND MY FRIENDS
There was a Bad Jimmy pop-up at Sauvage that I was sadly unable to attend on account of being late and not wanting to stand in a line that seemed to stretch farther than the eye could see. I was also starving. We called an audible to check the wait time at Pizzeria Bianco— three hours. We then drove uptown to Valentine— closed on Mondays. In a last-ditch Hail Mary, we drove east toward the Biltmore and ended up, famished, at the Cheesecake Factory where the vibes were absolutely demonic— cosmic retribution.
EVERYTHING MERGES WITH THE NIGHT
TO CREATE IS TO PLAY GOD AND IT FEELS SO GOOD
Cindy Sherman's collaboration with Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons was a landmark moment in the intersection of fashion and art. In 1994, Sherman was invited by the fashion label to create a series of photographs that would be used in a direct mail campaign for the Fall/Winter collection and also displayed in their SoHo boutique.
Sherman was given free rein as Kawakubo sent her clothing from the collection and told her to use them as she wished. The images featured distorted and fragmented portraits of mannequins with their faces stretched and heaped with makeup, their bodies distorted and veiled in shadows. The clothing was also manipulated, with oversized shapes and unusual proportions that challenged conventional notions of fashion photography, even drawing into question if the clothing supplied by Kawakubo was used at all; in some photos, it lay in the background, and in others, the garments are possibly completely absent. The photos Sherman produced were unsettlingly pleasant.
Sherman and Kawakubo’s collaboration was a radical departure from tradition; they sought to challenge the industry's obsession with idealized beauty and standardized aesthetics. Sherman especially seemed to question the role that clothing plays in shaping and defining identity in the same way that Kawakubo had been for years. The styling draws our attention away from the clothing and focuses it on the concept. Controversially, the artist makes no obvious concession to the brand. And in turn, the brand is given a legitimizing boost from wholeheartedly embracing the artist.
The collection featuring Sherman's photographs was a critical and commercial success, with its innovative designs and provocative imagery drawing widespread attention and acclaim. The collaboration between Sherman and Kawakubo remains a landmark moment in fashion and art history and continues to inspire creatives alike.
I DON’T CARE IF I EVER GO BACK
I’m officially transitioning into my baseball era as the basketball season draws to a close. Catch me in section 133 for the remainder of the Diamondbacks season. I went 2 for 2 on hotdogs and Michelob Ultras watching the Diamondbacks defeat the Giants on Saturday.
Lakers in 5
THE SUN SHINES OUT OF OUR BEHINDS