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Two things typically catch my eye in a storefront’s window: something so beautiful that it scares me into never buying it, or something so wonderfully Plain Jane-like that I MUST have it.

Today’s wonderfully Plain Jane-like item is Madewell’s “Low-key” Christmas pull-over sweater made with merino wool. I guess it’s the plush chenille stars that make it not so high-key of a holiday sweater, but whatever. Buy me one, please!

Before my mother has even thought about where she is buying her turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, I’m already stocking up on eggnog and reviewing my holiday music collection (and by “collection” I mean, list of Pandora stations.) I know some folks hate the sight of colorful lights dangling from house trimmings and wrapped around trees before Thanksgiving is over, but I revel in it.

Growing up, my favorite holiday memories involved listening to the holiday albums my mother played by the Jackson 5, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, and the Temptations. These artists typically sit on top of my list of tunes to listen to during the holiday season, but that was until I stumbled upon the Academy Award-winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” on Netflix.

The feature-length documentary told the story of backup singers Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton and few others who were “…behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century.” And here is where I fell in love with Darlene Love, her story and the holiday music she created.

Before being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, Love served as the lead voice behind many Phil Spector-produced ‘60s hits including “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?,” “He’s a Rebel,” and the classic holiday tune “(Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home.”

If you have never taken a closer look at the inspiring talent that is Darlene Love (before her breakout role as Danny Glover’s wife Trish Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon franchise), then I suggest you watch “20 Feet from Stardom,” check out her website and watch a few YouTube videos. But in the meantime, how about you listen to my favorite Darlene Love holiday tunes. (more…)

Art Basel in Miami, Florida was the first event that gave me FOMO. As an arts and culture writer, my peers and colleagues never discussed the annual art exhibition in sunny Florida where people got to experience art from around the world, and comb through Miami’s local art scene, party, and network. At least, not around me.

art basel crosshatch mural

It was in 2012 when #artbasel showed up on my Instagram feed. I was in New York interviewing for an intern position at a music and entertainment publication teetering between both excitement because I was finally in NYC, and annoyance because the guy I was dating was failing to return my texts and phone calls. It sucked that I was in his city and he was away for work, but I really wanted some words of encouragement before walking into my interview.

Nervously fidgeting through Instagram brought me to discover a beautiful mural, what I now know was probably snapped at the Wynwood Walls, Miami’s warehouse district of windowless buildings that now act as giant canvases for artists.

Hours later with my interview finally behind me, I walked to Central Park. I was in awe with New York City in the winter. I sat on a bench and explored #artbasel on Instagram, and that’s when the FOMO took over.

art basel Ned Vena
Manhattan at the end of 2017 | Ned Vena

There’s an annual art exhibition that happens in Miami Beach, Florida?!, I thought. I felt ashamed. The foundation of my career was built on questionable cultural and political analysis and highlighting the amazing art scene in Philadelphia. Before falling into music journalism, something I would later regret, I aspired to build my name to be synonymous with art. Instead, I picked the low hanging fruit that was presented to me in the name of maintaining a personal publishing record.

Art felt too difficult to cover. I didn’t think it was pretentious or anything. As an over-prepared perfectionist, I wallowed in the fact that I studied journalism and not art history. I fell in love with art history after failing the class freshman year. I felt like a poser writing about a topic I never studied but recently discovered.

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Half-Life (after Rembrandt) | Glenn Brown

It never occurred to me to keep writing, visiting museums and art galleries, adding a few more art courses to my roster after I started doing well in the courses, or reading publications like the New Yorker. I just suffered through completing my journalism degree because I was already behind in graduating, and covering music was delivered to me on a silver platter. Sometimes obtaining the juiciest fruit requires a little more effort. The fall on your ass is a little harder, but damn it it’s worth it! And I robbed myself of that feeling.

Years after I ditched covering art, my favorite thing to do has been marveling at the art that was posted online during Art Basel. FOMO turned into regret. I was now a writer/artist hybrid after two years of continuing education art courses. As a student of art, I wondered how Art Basel would affect me.

Women Words #53 (Ingres) | Betty Tompkins

Fate brought me to Fort Lauderdale the weekend of Art Basel, so I got the chance to find out. Being a student of art helped me gain a greater appreciation for the pieces I gushed over within Miami’s Convention Center. And my interest in art evolved from looking at something as beautiful and unique to having a genuine interest in the artists’ process.

Sitting Couple on Bench | Lynn Chadwick

I realized that creating artwork can be just as haunting as analyzing it. Not everyone will understand the final piece and question whether you know what you’re doing. The most important thing you can do is move on and repeat the creative process whether it’s on paper or canvas. I thank Art Basel for this lesson.