• Looking through the window, we can see the residue of what is hopefully the last of this winter's endless snowstorms (spring is just around the corner). What's the best way to cope? Be smart and take advantage of it: Have a long and cozy breakfast in bed; grab that book you planned to read for so long; or why not just try a new and delicious recipe?

    In this issue we will introduce you to one of the most important young contemporary sculptors in the world: Xavier Mascaró. We were lucky to catch him between flights, at his studio here in New York. We are equally fascinated by the message of the stars, and in a Q & A Miami-based astrologist Lisa Sydney will introduce us to her world of glamour, fame, and astrology. Last but not least, food and recipes. In this issue we have an elegant, easy (but don't tell anyone), and utterly delicious fish soup. You can prepare it a day ahead for stress-free entertaining after a busy day visiting your favorite galleries or museums. Get your friends together!

    This month also marks the anniversary of the actual birth of The Pied à Terre. It was on a snowy day about a year ago that the idea was born. We can assure you it's been a joyride ever since! Right now we are planning visits to Los Angeles, Paris, and Bogota, so you have a lot to look forward to. Don't forget to sign up for your free subscription to make sure you don't miss out.

    Please enjoy this, our third issue, and as always: Remember to get your daily dose of luxury!

    From Urban's Kitchen!

    Xavier Mascaró
    Contemporary Sculptor

    Paulette Pascarella
    Lisa Sydney

    Karen Lehrman Bloch
    My Pied à Terre

  • Lisa Sydney, aka Feltenstein, is a glamorous, internationally recognized astrologer with numerous media credits to her name. Based in Miami, she has been practicing astrology for a few decades and has studied with some of the greatest masters from Burma to London to Egypt, supplementing her knowledge of astrology with Eastern philosophy, the occult sciences, the Kabbalah, and ancient architecture. In addition to her media presence, she travels all over the world consulting with politicians, designers, educators, and captains of industry. As a fashion designer, trendsetter, and student of trends, her appeal as an astrologer is unparalleled. Lisa has served as a member of the board of The New World Symphony for sixteen years as well as The Children's Home Society of South Florida. Her fabulosity-meter is off the charts. The Pied à Terre meets her on a gorgeous day in her magnificent Miami home

  • First a small question. What is astrology? Message of the Stars.

    When did you get interested in astrology and for how long have you been doing it professionally? Astrology is a calling. I have been professionally involved since 1971-longer than I am old!

    Why and when should we consult an astrologist for advice? Astrology is about optimal timing for life's events. Best to get advice/reading before signing off on any major decisions/commitments, for example choosing a partner, getting married, divorced, signing a business deal, buying or selling real estate, surgery dates (cosmetic, dental or other), and even best results to get your hair colored!

    What does Mercury Retrograde stand for? Miscommunication, detours, and repetition. Mercury, the planet of communication, goes retrograde (slows down the rotation) four times a year, lasting approximately three weeks. It literally puts a different spin on everyone's story as personal and universal navigational systems are down. "Murphy's Law" goes into effect: anything that can go wrong usually will. It's a bad time to buy anything new, particularly computers, phones, and all electrical equipment. Also an infamous time for commitments not honored, missed appointments, luggage and new love misplaced. On the upside, it's a cosmic time-out. Astrology advises that during Mercury Retrograde don't engage in the new but review, revise, and revisit the past and no signing on any dotted lines.

    Who comes to you for advice? Everyone, and there are no typical clients. Astrological clients cross all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds.

    Do you follow your own advice? Of course! I walk my talk.

    Is there an increasing interest in astrology during a recession? Yes and no. The increasing interest in astrology now is more about the profound times we live in-and as the planet that rules astrology, Uranus, makes its presence felt in the world, 2011 will debut, electrify, and pioneer a span of compelling planetary interest.

    Does, for example, the full moon affect all signs the same, or are some signs more sensitive? It's a known fact that during a full moon the ocean's tide is high and so are emotions. We are all affected by full moons, but the sign that the moon is full in will definitely feel heightened drama. Also, Cancers, ruled by the moon, can count on full-moon meltdowns. Full moons are best used to bring things to an end.

    Do you as an astrologist have a favorite astrological sign? Leo, of course, me me me! LOL

    Can two people have exactly the same astrological "fingerprint"? Or is every individual unique? This is how you can determine the truly proficient astrologer: no two people have exactly the same astrological fingerprint. Even twins are set apart by cosmic mathematics.

    What is your daily dose of luxury? Spraying on my favorite perfume.

    What inspires you? Venus! La Vida Bella Divino! Beauty, Buddha, The Temple of Dendera, Egypt, Angkor Wat, The Rolling Stones, and of course, the intelligence of the atom.

    Best way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Pursuing personal passions (watching old movies in bed with ginger ale).

    What is your favorite food? Marshmallows.

    Cocktail? Kettle One Vodka, very, very well shaken, straight up, ice cold martini glass, olives, dirty ice on the side...

    Favorite clothing designer? I love Valentino and Karl Lagerfeld. However, at the moment I find myself mixing a Chanel jacket with my own designed Cosmic Connection T-shirts on a daily basis.

    Favorite perfume? I never reveal my scent!

    Favorite book/author? Autobiography of A Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda and of course Juan Montoya's new coffee table design book.

    Do you have a charity that is close to your heart? The Health Store Foundation and the David Sheldrick Foundation-a haven for saving elephant orphans in Kenya, Africa.

    In what magazines do your horoscopes appear? Florida International Magazine.

    For more information visit her website at www.thecosmicconnection.com.

  • I've thought a lot about having a pied-à-terre in recent months. In the past 17.5 months to be exact. Ever since the birth of my highly spirited, unrelentingly curious son. Not to escape from him (although any new mother would be lying if she didn't admit to harboring a thought or two along those lines). No, I think about having a temporary, high-glam escape from the 15-block radius that pushing a stroller permits you on a daily basis.

    The term pied-à-terre is of course French, literally meaning "foot on the ground." It has come to imply a semi-permanent residence for, as Wikipedia somewhat archaically puts it, "a person of some means." In my fantasy pied-à-terres, one foot may indeed be on the ground but the other is, quite typically for me, flying high in the air. One day I dream of having a pied-à-terre in Santiago; another day it's in São Paulo; a few days later I have rationalized the need for one in Milan, then Madrid, then Istanbul. And let's not forget Paris.

    The problem with this type of fantasy thinking-especially during a pitifully bleak winter-is that it feeds on itself. Why, for instance, should I be limited to only one pied-à-terre? Why can't I have a pied-à-terre in each of these cities-a different pied-à-terre for each of my moods, for each month of the year? And of course I would need a NetJets card to shuttle from pied to pied: airports have become so déclassé.

    Those of us guilty of spiral fantasizing can take some comfort in the fact that our culture has become awfully good at inducing it. Buy this watch and you will instantly live a jet-set lifestyle; wear this handbag and you will immediately become as chic as the ad selling it; own a pied in this city and you will promptly be seen as cool/hip/suave/posh.

    But the real meaning of pied-à-terre is not about fantasy. Say what you will about the French, their language is fairly precise. A pied-à-terre was never meant to be about pure escape, flights of fancy, or superficial glamour. It was meant to offer something solid, substantial, even practical-a foot on the ground. Translated into today's holistic terms, a pied-à-terre should offer not just escape, but restoration, revitalization, renewal. A quietly grand haven that rocks your inner world to such a degree you truly become a person of (real) means.

    It is tempting at this point to say that one shouldn't even need a flat in another city to build this sort of inner sanctuary. But that would be disingenuous. We hail from travel-artists extraordinaire; our hunter/gatherer ancestors got around. Moreover, a pied-of-substance in no way needs to be ascetic or rustic. Depth and beauty are not mutually exclusive; even a touch of glamour has its place.

    Still, as I watch my toddler son-possibly the most gregarious human on earth after Bill Clinton-make our rather ugly and dull 15-block radius seem as enchanting as the Greek Isles, I can't help but wonder if pied-à-terre is fundamentally a state of mind. He takes delight in every person, object, dustball that he encounters. He smiles at the world, and it nearly always (we do live in New York City after all) smiles back at him. Every day is a new opportunity to explore and engage, and to my continual fascination, complete strangers seem to take momentary refuge in his unmitigated joy and reverence for life. You could say he offers everyone in his smallish world a sort of movable pied-à-terre feast.

    I look forward to taking him to Paris, Milan, São Paulo, and Istanbul, even if I don't have a high-glam pied-à-terre to share with him. I have no doubt that he'll provide plenty of his own type of glamour wherever he goes. At the moment, I don't think it's going to be difficult to instill in him a basic understanding of the difference between the superficial and the substantive, between show and tell. Indeed, I hope to continue to learn some of the more essential components from him.

    Karen Lehrman Bloch, editorial director of Grafia Books and author of The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World (Doubleday, 1997), is working on a book about soulful interiors.
  • Mythmakers and icons pervade Xavier Mascaró's life and work. A sculptor of robust, imposing, yet poignant pieces, the Spanish artist draws influences from the work of Egyptian and Grecian artists and the generations of sculptors who have come before him. Archetypes and oracles provide us with information about the meaning within our life experiences (and perhaps shape them as well); Mascaró references and manipulates both the archetypal and the prophetic in his sculpture to convey simultaneously the ephemerality and the eternality of time, place, and feeling. His work has an uncanny ability to express presence and absence, substance and void, at the same time.

  • Born in Paris, Xavier Mascaró received his fine arts education in Barcelona, Spain. In 1989, he created his first bronze works, moving on to sculpt with forged iron in 1995. After exhibiting in Madrid and New York, Mascaró developed an artistic discourse using the iconic forms of horses, masks, and armatures. Maletilla, a four-ton iron structure, measures more than eight feet high with a diameter of more than thirteen feet and plays with the use of moving images and music to convey the passage and flow of time, a subject that fascinates Mascaró. According to the sculptor, Maletilla depicts the actions of "expressed emotions related to childhood and nostalgia contained in a temporary construction, similar to the ones built in Spanish towns to occasionally hold bullfights."

    Xavier Mascaró possesses one of the most original iconic voices in modern-day sculpture. His work is haunting in the way it reveals interiors as exterior spaces. His sculptures are often spare, yet at the same time texturally and architecturally complex, conveying the iconographic quality of medieval armor. Interior and exterior, whether elided or juxtaposed, are important concepts in his work. Myriad entry points and levels present themselves for approaching his work, among them the subtle yet rich colors, the complex and large-scale fabrication, and the meticulous, masterful artistry each piece exudes. In 2008, while walking in the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris, I was able to observe the grays and ochres of the rusted-iron Guardians, whose imposing yet peaceful forms filled the open areas of the park's allée like an army of meditating soldiers. This large-scale public installation is Mascaró's largest work to date. Repeated in four principal cities in Spain, Guardians earned Mascaró international recognition. Describing these public works, Mascaró explains, "I love working in monumental scale. It is a pleasure to walk along the pieces and feel their overwhelming presence by my side." Carlos Saura, one of the leading figures of Spanish cinema, has said of the Guardian series, "I imagine hundreds of Guardians, perhaps thousands of them, all born of fire and wrought by the iron, lined up on the beach and assailed by rust, but still erect on their pedestals, beatifically contemplating the red evening sun."

  • Recently, in the wake of his return from Kenya and Spain, I met with Mascaró at one of his working studios, located on New York City's West Side in the industrial area that houses massive artists' lofts. (In his second, even larger, studio in Spain, assistants help with the casting, welding, filing, and burnishing of the bulk of his work.) Revealing his fondness for the specificity of memories and the iconographic visual images they encapsulate, Mascaró's studio is strewn with evidence of pieces in process; quick paper sketch studies, some dashed off on newsprint, are taped to the walls. All of his works in progress-black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings in sketchbooks lying near his leather armchair, sculptural works set on flat surfaces, shards of glass wrapped in metal to form new icons-resound with the imagery of Mascaró's cultural heritage. Each of his pieces seems to surge with energy, making his studio a laboratory of intense, distilled emotion and virile juxtapositions. His sketches at first glance recall improvisatory lines and loops, yet they compel with the celebratory pleasure they express.

  • As his sculpture so eloquently declares, time moves onward, and change is a constant. So it is for Mascaró's work: he has recently begun working in copper plate and is experimenting with combining different metals within resins. Silk screening and photography are also playing a role in his graphic work. But whatever new forms and media Mascaró's future work may employ, the finely wrought chain that links his oeuvre together will likely remain: he once commented in a conversation with art historian and curator Tomás-Llorens, "I'm fascinated and strongly affected by something that Giacometti said: 'to drag a presence from a void.' That is just what I want. To evoke a presence. If I didn't want to have this presence of form in front of me, I wouldn't be doing this-I'd be doing something else."

  • Sometimes a moment comes along that sparks broad ideas and possibilities. Weekends in the country, weeknight gatherings over good food, shopping the farmers market, a party at the Whitney, all which brings about friends passionate about life as a moveable feast and a dialogue for a new online magazine celebrating the art of living. As different as the two of us are, both of us seek out beauty and expression. Together we will explore and chronicle our shared and sometimes diverse ideas of art, food, living and the generosity of life. We will toast the celebrators, stylemakers, and artmakers. We will play in the world's greatest cities and the fields of upstate New York and bring our monthly collective home. Along with us, we will also add new contributors.

    Urban Karlsson
    Ron Reeves