The Semi-Cautionary Tale of Dora Maar

I recently came across a feature article in the Summer 2017 issue of Porter magazine about Dora Maar, who was a brilliant artist and photographer in her own right yet was remembered almost exclusively as being one of Picasso's muses and mistresses. This story captivated me because Picasso the Great was able to bend, and eventually break, this strong and intelligent woman. Still, she did not allow herself to be completely destroyed.

I wanted to know more.

On one fateful day in 1936, a young Dora met Picasso at Café des Deux Magots. Besotted, they carried on a seven-year long, obsessive love affair. But he was a cruel man. He pitted Dora against Marie-Therèse Walter, another mistress, to battle for his affections–vile–which downright drove her mad.

(Most women–like most people, in general–naturally have a deep-seated fear of having her significant other leave her for someone else. This toxic fear can be all-consuming and manifests itself in detrimental ways–shattering one's sense of self and creating the illusion of becoming nothing without the other. That is why it is so important to maintain a wholeness and completeness within ourselves. We cannot prevent someone from leaving us; we can only say "Goodbye and good luck.")

Picasso, with his mean, narcissistic ways, couldn't stand that Dora excelled in photography. He urged her to abandon her art form for painting instead, convincing her that inside every photographer was a repressed painter. The second she did, though, he swooped in and took over her equipment, lights, and backdrop. Moreover, he wielded his influence by imposing his signature Cubistic style of painting on her, shutting out the possibility for her own individuality to bloom. 

The final blow fell on Dora in 1943 when Picasso left her for Françoise Gilot. With her heart gouged and discarded, Dora was found sitting on the steps of her house naked and unhinged. Picasso's psychoanalyst then administered three weeks of electroshock therapy for the treatment of her nervous breakdown, which was forbidden at the time. Thereafter, Picasso bought a home for her, in which she lived alone and haunted by painful memories for many years.

But the story doesn't end there:

In the late 1950s, Dora Maar was resurrected. She returned to her art and a vibrant social life. Picasso never ceased his attempts to cause her pain and humiliation. She outlived him by 24 years.

To sum it up, here's a passage from Dora Maar: With and Without Picasso by Mary Ann Caws:

Her poems, kept in a medium-sized notebook, end with a sketch headed ‘Stage set for a tragedy’. The stage was indeed set, and the drama enacted. But Dora Maar’s recuperation through her painting, her photography, and her private poetic record of pain and something beyond it, is not a tragedy, but rather a courageous reclamation of her own life, even in–perhaps especially in–solitude.

On Having No Grand Story to Tell

Barbara said that she had no grand story to tell. No wind of History, none of the political turmoil of the times, nothing illustrative of any social drama. Poverty, perhaps, but not destitution. Violence, yes, but the acceptable face of violence, the kind of banal cruelty enacted within the family. That was all she said. Her own story, enmeshed in this one, is probably no more than the ordinary story of a lonely, unloved child, a child who has been silenced, forced to submit to someone stronger than they are; the kind of sadness that it is not easy to get over–a commonplace story. That is the only reason Barbara made films. To soothe. To heal the pain, assuage the humiliation, process the fear. “Wanda’s character is based on my own life and on my character, and also on the way I understand other people’s lives. Everything comes from my own experience. Everything I do is me.”
— from "Suite For Barbara Loden" by Nathalie Léger

Tofu & Haricots Verts Stir-Fry with Moroheiya Noodles

Sometimes I just want to eat something vegetarian, gentle, and clean. Tofu and haricots verts is always a good place to start. I also found these fabulous moroheiya noodles at Whole Foods. (Moroheiya is a leafy green vegetable that's considered a superfood because of its rich levels of vitamins, minerals and fiber.) Unlike ramen noodles, they contain no fat, sugar, or cholesterol. These noodles take no time to cook and have an addictive chewiness to them. Definitely a pantry staple. The other brilliant ingredient I discovered is The Ginger People's Organic Ginger Juice, which is a time-saver if you want the essence of ginger without peeling and grating it. (Also great in tea!)

Serves 1

1/2 block of tofu, sliced then cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
A handful of haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of organic ginger juice or freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
1 block of moroheiya noodles
A small bundle of fresh chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil


1. Fill a small saucepan with water. Bring to a boil and blanch the haricots verts for 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside.

2. Fill the same saucepan with water. Bring to a boil and cook the moroheiya noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. 

3. In a small bowl, combine the the tamari/soy sauce, ginger juice/grated ginger, and sesame oil. Set aside.

4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a slick of olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and stir with a wooden spatula until fragrant. Then, add the tofu. Let it get golden for a minute or two before stirring. Repeat until the tofu has an overall golden hue. Next, add the haricot verts and scallions. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour the tamari-ginger mixture evenly over the contents of the pan and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste, 

5. Turn off the heat. Using tongs, drop in the moroheiya noodles and toss to combine. Place in your bowl and garnish with fresh chives. 

Clark's Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Balm

I think that I may have just found the Holy Grail of lip balms: Clark's Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Balm ($19). It's not sticky, glossy or waxy. It has a gel-like consistency that glides on smoothly and enrobes your lips in a cushiony, healthy sheen. Jasmine extract in the formula emits the most beautiful smell.

Move over Chapstick, this is what I'd call an all-around classic lip balm. My lips go from feeling like raisins to plump juicy grapes after one swipe. And that packaging! Looks like a lucky charm, dontcha think?