Pleasure and Pain: Not All Shoes Are Meant for Walking

 

If, as Mark Twain said, “Clothes makes the man”, then the Peabody Essex Museum’s newest exhibit is full throttle support for a complementary adage: “Shoes make the woman”.

“Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” showcases 300 pairs of shoes by more than 130 designers and artists that range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the comfortable to the downright punishing. Although men’s shoes are represented with bling and panache, over 70% of the exhibit is devoted to women’s shoes.

With its recent acquisition of 20th– and 21st-century fashion, PEM has the largest shoe collection in the country. Over 100 are included in the exhibit, many of which have never been displayed before.

“We are in the process of building a fashion presence at PEM,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Deputy Director and coordinating curator for the exhibition. “There is a growing appetite for compelling exhibitions about fashion.”

Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the PEM show marks its U.S. debut and will run through March 12, 2017.

Curated by themes, the five-section show (Transformation, Status, Seduction, Creation and Obsession) features shoes worn by high profile celebrities such as David Beckham, Elton John, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana. Among the artists and designers represented are Manolo Blahnik (of “Sex and the City” notoriety), Christian Louboutin (with his signature red soles), Christian Dior, Jimmy Choo and Prada. Combat boots and sneakers share center stage with stilettos and seductive boudoir mules.

 

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Beaded evening shoes by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, 1958-1960.

 

It is the pairing of designer and consumer that is at the heart of the exhibit. “Shoes are about the personal creativity of the designer and the person who wears that shoe. It’s a partnership between two people who likely never meet. Creation is about communication,” Hartigan said.

The shoes on display aren’t just meant to protect feet and promote locomotion. They are also projections of the mood, identity and status of the wearer. “Shoes are extensions of ourselves,” she added.

Blahnik’s Mondrian-inspired red and yellow “Tendona” shoes would be conversation-stoppers at any gathering as would Louboutin’s impossibly high-heeled “Anemone” design, with its red satin bursts and feathers. The shoes seem molded to fit a Barbie doll’s nonhuman foot, and in fact, Barbie does have her very own accessory line of three Louboutin designs.

 

Manolo Blahnik , 'Tendona' shoe, 2015. Leather. Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik

“Tedona” by Manolo Blahnik, 2015, made of leather and on loan from the designer..

 

These shoes aren’t meant for the average consumer (even Barbie’s version retails for $35). With starting prices of $700, they are associated with more than female sexuality and power. “High heels have always been worn by rich people of high society,” said Hartigan, noting that the Egyptians first developed platform shoes in 3500 B.C. so the wealthy could be seen as walking high off the ground.

Historians looking for more than the dazzle of sequins and crystals (yes, there is even a Swarovski Cinderella glass slipper) can linger among the lotus shoes made for bound feet, 16th century chopines and men’s shoes with noisy slap-soles that were worn in Europe in the 17th century.

 

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Chopines by an artist in Venice, Italy, about 1600 made of punched leather and pine.

 

Fashionistas will delight in the chance to see Vivienne Westwood’s dramatically exaggerated lace-up blue platform heels that famously caused model Naomi Campbell to stumble on a Paris runway in 1993. A picture of Campbell good-naturedly laughing after her very public tumble is part of the display.

 

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The Vivienne Westwood blue, platform-heeled “Super Elevated Gillie” shoes that caused Naomi Campbell’s infamous 1993 Paris catwalk show tumble.

 

The exhibit also has a distinctive local flavor, acknowledging New England’s importance as a shoe manufacturing center and featuring selections from the late Boston style maven Marilyn Riseman and noted North Shore collectors Jimmy Raye and Lillian Montalto Bohlen.

Turning momentarily serious, the section “Seduction” shines a spotlight on the often-blurred lines between objectification and celebration of women’s sexuality. Inspired by bondage and 18th century prostitution, mules and high heels have always represented both passion and exploitation.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this is “Fetish”, an unwearable pair of stilettos created by Louboutin in collaboration with film director David Lynch, whose signature style (“Blue Velvet”, “Twin Peaks”) is darkly twisted sensuality. The only way one can wear these shoes is by crawling. A picture of a woman doing just that is part of the exhibit.

 

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“Fetish” by Louboutin in collaboration with David Lynch.

 

Walking through the galleries, it’s evident that while the lion’s share of shoes is designed for women, the designers are predominantly men. Although high heels may empower and literally elevate women, they can do so at a cost of permanent back and foot problems.

Asked whether he has sympathy for women who wear his designer high heels, Louboutin was unambiguous in a 2012 interview with “Grazia” magazine. “High heels are pleasure with pain. If you can’t walk in them, don’t wear them,” he scoffed.

Or, as a shoe designer in ancient Roman times (when high heels were popular with both men and women) might have put it, “caveat emptor”.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain runs through March 12, 2017 at the Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem. For more information, visit pem.org.

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Christine Barr Sullivan Remembered

 

When she passed away suddenly on October 25 at age 72, Christine Barr Sullivan left a large footprint and even larger shoes to fill.

 

“She was always on the move. If she hadn’t just started something new, she was thinking about what to do next,” said John Neely, her husband of many decades.

 

Her commitment to public service and her love affair with Salem are common threads in a multifaceted career. She started in Washington, D.C. as North Shore Congressman Michael Harrington’s Chief of Staff and then moved on to state government as Secretary of Consumer Affairs under Governor Michael Dukakis after earning a graduate degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

 

Although familiar with Salem from her work with then Councilman Harrington, Sullivan had never lived there. After graduate school, she bought a house there, quickly becoming part of the fabric of the city, commuting to Boston for her job in state government.

 

Her first meeting with Neely was when he was working in the MA State Energy Office and she was asked to find someone to speak to a group of business people at a breakfast Councilman Harrington was hosting. “Christine introduced herself and said those fabulous words, ‘The Danish is over there,’” Neely said, adding with a chuckle that for some reason, nothing clicked between them with that first meeting.

 

The second time, however, Sullivan was in her state government position and needed help getting a new energy-related agency off the ground. She called Neely, who was then living in Colorado, did a phone interview and hired him. This time, a romance developed and the two married and Neely moved to Salem.

 

As their family grew, Sullivan’s focus shifted to a path that afforded her more flexibility and the ability to be a working mother. After starting Best of Salem magazine and launching a successful marketing and public relations firm, she found her niche with the Enterprise Center, the Salem State University (SSU) business incubator. (@EnterpriseCtr and facebook.com/EnterpriseCtr).

 

In 2002, soon after becoming CEO of the Enterprise Center, Sullivan invited Patricia Zaido, who had recently lost her husband, to lunch. Zaido had also just retired from the SSU faculty after a 37-year career where she served as Chair of the Theater Department and as the founding Executive Director of the Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

 

“She was telling me all the things she was doing with the Enterprise Center and I was enthused about it, ” Zaido recalled. “I was trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life.” Zaido became executive director of the Salem Partnership a short time after that lunch with Sullivan.

 

The Salem Partnership is a non-profit whose goal is to revitalize economic development in Salem with a close focus on the downtown district.

 

The two became fast friends and colleagues, working closely on many joint projects. “We went to five or six meetings a month together,” Zaido said. “We really got to know each other well.”

 

Eventually, they both became interested in Creative Economy, a new concept that recognizes the contribution people in the creative domain make to the economic development of a region. Both women got the reluctant agreement of their respective boards to explore the concept for Salem and the North Shore.

 

“I guess we were both doing a good enough job that they were willing to go along with us if we wanted to do this,” Zaido said with a laugh.

 

The two women brought their idea to the North Shore, co-founding the Creative Economy Association of the North Shore. (@ceanstweet and facebook.com/creative.economy) Not satisfied with just the North Shore, they decided to expand their reach and to have Salem host the first statewide Creative Economy conference.

 

Out of that conference, they eventually succeeded in getting legislation passed to create the Creative Economy Council. Although it was an uphill battle, the two were tenacious and persistent. “Christine would not take no for an answer,” Zaido said.

 

Sullivan served on many local boards, including the Salem YMCA, Northeast Arc, the Bentley Academy Charter School and the North Shore and Salem Chambers of Commerce.

 

“Christine was smart, funny and always motivated. She showed me the way in Salem and the North Shore, providing thought-provoking insights,” said Rinus Oosthoek, Executive Director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. “She would never settle for the ordinary.”

 

When Sullivan retired in 2014, SSU and the Salem Chamber of Commerce established the Sullivan Education Fund to “continue and grow the extensive educational programs at the Enterprise Center, and to help entrepreneurs learn the skills to start and grow their businesses.”

 

“Christine was a unique and remarkable woman,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. “It is truly difficult to imagine Salem without her positive, enthusiastic presence. Her commitment to this community and to our Commonwealth was deep and powerful, and her work changed so many lives for the better.”

 

Never ones to rest on their laurels, Sullivan and Zaido were in the midst of launching their latest project based on the concept of an “Age Friendly City” that was developed by the World Health Organization in 2010. They applied to the WHO network and Salem was accepted, the first city on the North Shore and only the third in MA to achieve that status.

 

After “a lot of hard work”, they developed a 72-page strategic plan that is scheduled to go to the WHO for certification next week. The plan identifies areas where Salem is strong now and areas where it needs improvement.

 

“We now have to implement it,” Zaido said and paused before adding, “But we have to do it without Christine.”

Adea’s is a vegetarian Middle Eastern delight

 

David Winer, the 32-year-old owner, chef, manager and server at the recently opened restaurant, Adea’s Mediterranean Kitchen, has been up since before dawn, preparing the day’s homemade menu. At an hour when most people are enjoying their first cup of coffee, he is already busy stirring an enormous pot of Jerusalem Bean Soup that has been bubbling away for four hours.

 

“It’s a very simple recipe with very simple ingredients,” he said, describing the Israeli staple that is made of two kinds of beans, tomato paste, onions, salt pepper, oil and water. “That’s it. Then cook it for eight hours.” He checked to make sure the soup wasn’t burning.

 

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Jerusalem Bean Soup bubbles away.

 

The secret that separates Adea’s’ bean soup from its peers? “We cook it with a lot of love,” he said with a wide grin.

 

Adea’s, located at 90 Lafayette Street in the space previously occupied by Salem Theatre Company, is Salem’s first kosher vegetarian eatery. The 41-seat restaurant is open from 10 a.m. Sunday through Friday, closing at 3 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. the rest of the week.

 

Winer chose Salem for business and lifestyle reasons. He and his family live in an apartment around the corner from the restaurant and he loves how local Salem is. “It’s a city with a small town feel,” he said.

 

It also is a city known for its varied restaurants and excellent food. “They have the basics here, but there is nothing like ours. In Boston, there are hummus places all over the place. In Salem, there is no kosher or falafel restaurant,” he said.

 

Adea’s is under the kosher supervision of Chabad of the North Shore.

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Having a kosher restaurant is important to Winer because he and his family eat only kosher food. However, he points out that being kosher is an add-on value for Adea’s. For him, the larger issue is that he serves only vegetarian food. “It’s an environmentally friendly thing,” he said proudly.

 

The menu is small, featuring a handful of staples, including a hot hummus platter, stuffed grape leaves, Israeli salad, babaghanoush, and the crowd-pleasing bean soup. There are also two or three daily specials, such as roasted Tuscan vegetables with Tuscan beans and black bean and veggie soup with rice. “What we like about our menu is that it’s very small. We have a lot of leeway,” he said, emphasizing that everything is cooked fresh every day.

 

For Winer, returning to the North Shore is returning to his roots. He grew up in Swampscott, where he graduated from Swampscott High School in 2002. After earning a degree from University of Massachusetts in hospitality management, he worked in Florida and New York City. At age 24, he decided to go to Israel, intending to visit for six months. Instead, he stayed for six years, becoming co-partner of Tel Aviv’s Café Kaymak, a coffee shop.

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Adea’s famous hummus with tahini and chickpeas.

 

In Israel, Winer explained, there is a real “coffee shop culture”, which draws people for conversation and camaraderie. “Coffee shops are the real gathering places whereas in America, it’s usually bars and restaurants,” he said.

 

“It was a great learning experience for me,” he said of the “cool, funky, bohemian” place where he fine-tuned his recipes for hummus, falafel, bean soup and other Middle Eastern fare. “There is a lot of influence from there,” he said of Adea’s’ menu. “I wanted to create a place with an Israeli feel.”

 

His Israeli coffee shop provided more than just schooling in authentic Israeli cuisine. It also provided him the opportunity to meet Adena, his Ethopian-born Israeli wife.

 

“Cliché as it is, it was love at first sight,” he said. Adena came to an event at his Café Kaymak shop and one year later, they were married. The couple has two young children and do everything themselves.

 

Word of mouth about the new restaurant is nothing short of raves. Elana Gerson, of Salem, lived in Israel for five years. “The food is fantastic,” she said as she lunched on the Adea’s sampler platter. “I feel like I’m in Israel.”

 

Susan Steigman of Marblehead agreed. “The food is delicious and the service hospitable. The hummus is outstanding,” she said

 

On a recent Monday, the restaurant was nearly full as a steady flow of people ordered lunch. David and Adena were behind the counter, she taking customers’ orders and he wielding a giant spatula.

 

“It’s a real Mom and Pop restaurant. It’s just the two of us. We have no employees. It’s early mornings and late nights,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but we wanted it, we asked for it and we got it.”

 

Although Winer admits there were many unforeseen challenges to taking on an empty space and creating a restaurant from scratch, the man who “loves serving people” has no regrets.

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“The feedback has been unbelievable. My first loves are my daughters and my wife and my family. But when people say, ‘Wow, I love your food’, it makes me feel so good. I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I guess this was my calling.”

 

Judging from their cleaned plates and satisfied smiles, his customers couldn’t agree more.

 

For more information, visit http://adeasmk.com.