CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
New York | PeopleJanuary 15, 2009

Moroccan French Grandeur

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Yes, it's true. Daniele Pollitz appeared at my house one winter evening in New York as I was hosting a small tea comite for my dear friends from Casablanca.  There she was, at my door with a few other guests.  Reserved, not very tall, extremely polite-almost too formal-but with a "je ne sais quoi" of distant elegance I recognized from afar.

I am used to this kind of European body language, and am very often intrigued by it.  It's one of those challenges where you are confronted with someone you know has a certain allure but still don't know exactly where it comes from, if it's justified or just pure theatrical performance.

A few weeks later Daniele writes me before going to Miami Art Basel to thank me for the hospitality.  Wishing me happy New Year, she invites me to visit the beautiful downtown loft she decorated, sip an original Moroccan Mint tea and show me her latest art creations upon her return.  I thank her, accept the invitation and agree to meet the following month on 17th Street, where she lives.

A large elevator, the size of a room, takes me to the fifth floor where Daniele is expecting me.  She is dressed in black, wearing a very bright pink lipstick that reminds me of Saint Laurent Jardin Majorelles'Bougainvillae.  At the entrance door I almost stumble in front of an imperative portrait of a blond woman wearing a mysterious black mask and diamonds around her neck and finger.  "Oh my God Daniele, who's that?" "C'est moi, cherie," she answers while I smell the aroma of warm Moroccan Mint spiced tea, having some certainty that I'll enjoy this afternoon visit.

Born in Morocco during the French Protectorate, Daniele was raised in Paris.  She spent her summers with her grandmother, a very elegant woman who lived an extremely privileged life in a mansion in the city of Casablanca.  This childhood experience resulted in Daniele's cohesion of a French upbringing with a natural sensibility of Oriental traditions.

I am invited to sit on a white sofa filled with all kinds of cushions.  I am surrounded by different sculptures in bronze, all sorts of metals, resin, stone and terra-cotta. I don't dare ask too many questions, as I truly have no idea where to start. Daniele takes the lead: "You are looking at my husband's bust," she says.  "I was very upset at him when I did that.  Many years after his death I had a dream, and the next day I decided to sculpt his portrait and my harsh feelings disappeared."  I chose to remain silent and let her continue.

"In 1970, invited by my grandfather I moved to New York City, as I did not want to marry the wealthy Jewish men my father kept introducing to me.  They were boring, and I had much in my mind I wanted to explore."

Daniele got a job at the UN for a while because of her knowledge of languages.  She then met her future lifelong friend Denise Rich (coincidentally my neighbor in the building today), who was also working at the UN.  The two became close friends, worked close by, lived in an elegant Upper East Side brown stone and had the best single life one could desire, until they both married wealthy Jewish businessmen and became part time, comfortable housewives.

Daniele decided to explore other areas besides being just a wife and a mum to two beautiful children.   She began sculpting at the Creative Arts Center.

She now talks, almost to herself, looking somehow high into the space of her own memories.  Taking advantage of the situation, I sneak furtively into intriguing little chocolate cakes and strawberries served on an old Moroccan glass dish, lying on a vintage Louis Vuitton leather pouff. They are absolutely delicious.

Daniele looks out into space, but notices every one of my moves.  "You like those, right?  I sensed it.  By the way, remind me to talk to you about my Moroccan cuisine courses."  With my mouth full, I can't avoid the intrigue in my thoughts: What is this woman all about after all?  I don't exactly get it.

Fortunately, we are back on track.  From 1988 to 1990, Daniele studied at the New School. In 2002 at the Art Student League, Daniele started welding and did some amazing bas-relief landscape with bodyshape inclusion made of leather.

Her interpretation of the human body is influenced by her childhood exposure to the women at the hammam, or "baths" in Morocco.  Figurative elements of both sexes dominate her work, but the forms are clearly stylized.  Her slightly abstract conception of partial figures gives an elegance and spatial consciousness to her work.

One day Daniele, looking at her closet with a friend of hers, discovered she had far too many shoes from the time she was the Fashiontours queen. "Fashion tours?" I ask, "What in heaven were fashion tours?"  "Oh," she replies, "I forgot to mention, the Fashiontours were customized couture trips to Paris."  Believe it or not, far before globalization, Daniele and her husband Ed Pollitz - a famous novel writer in his free time - thought a woman needed a good bargain on more than things labeled Kraft and Swanson. She also needed bargains on things labeled Dior, Givenchy and Saint Laurent.

The Pollitzes were a well-connected and well-heeled New York couple and teamed up for what they considered a great venture.  They realized that with more women taking jobs (we are talking about the 80's) these women needed better clothes. If they were in the market for Paris fashion - and spent considerable sums on what they wore anyway - they could get a better deal abroad.

They initiated these "Parisian Fashion Tours" which included a stay in the luxurious hotel Meurice, private fashion shows at maisons like Chanel, seminars and daily shopping expeditions assisted by Paris connaisseur Daniele herself and two other bilingual guides.

Among designer boutiques to be visited were Hermes, Lanvin, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Tan Giudicelli and Saint Laurent. French department stores were on the itinerary too.

Each guest was treated to a shampoo, cut and set at the salon of the legendary stylist Claude Maxime Mondial, and to a Bourjois make up session.  Moreover, three groups of lunches at brasseries and dinners in restaurants such as La Tour D'Argent, with the company from time to time of actor Jean Paul Belmondo, a friend of Daniele's family, and the charms of her own amused father, who as a gentleman would open and close the doors of those awestruck American ladies.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I already wrote about a "Wardrobe Guru" based in New York City, but nothing compared to this avant-garde marketed Parisian glamour! Daniele pauses while looking at her latest creation, an enlarged photo on a 16'x17' canvas with Swaroski crystals, glitter and painted lace used as sculptural accents of her little granddaughter Eloise.  Looking at a picture her daughter recently gave her, she couldn't avoid transforming the little girl into a "Red Carpet Hollywood diva", as Daniele says.

"My daughter said it was maybe a little too early for such a transformation on her daughter who still is a child." This is why Daniele decided to keep the portrait and get inspired by it for future projects involving the aura of people, their passions, hobbies, and personal belongings.  She's actually working on a portrait of a little boy who is very fond of chocolate.  The photo shown to me secretly is submerged with aluminum paper and the child looks truly as if he's in a full state of grace.

Daniele comes back with another antique wooden box similar to the one in which she kept her pictures. In this Pandora's box, amongst her tools, I find old Valenciennes laces, vintage buttons collected during her Parisian visits, Chinese beads from downtown flea markets, acrylic spray paints, brushes, colored cotton and silk threads, Swarovski crystals, pearls, satin ribbons, photographs and obviously pieces of her friend, the canvas.

I cannot possibly tell everyone how this woman continued surprising me during the several hours I stayed at her charming and inspiring place. Without mentioning the personal route through my life's visual memories and references, I find myself ready to select the most appropriate picture and hand it to Daniele.  I surrender to her creative potential in transforming my aura into something I haven't yet discovered in my own personal journey.

With those same eyes, the eyes of an artist, she surrendered to the Joelle Lifestyle featured protocol of an aura expedition. It resumes at the end to a mutual journey of self and recognition of the other. Daniele hasn't read yet my feature and as a woman of immense grandeur, I must confess I am a little apprehensive of whatever reaction she'll have.

The good thing is she invited me to have dinner and attempt to learn some of her delicious cuisine around a great white wine and Moroccan music, with a group of artists and extremely talented photographers like Laurent Elie Badessi, author of that splendid portrait of this intriguing lady artist Femme du Monde ( woman of the world), Daniele Pollitz.

Joelle's Picks:

The Artist Sculptor: Daniele Pollitz - New York

The portrait: A 16"x17" custom made iconic enlarged photograph on canvas with sculptural accents of the aura emanating from your child, pet or your own.  Before starting any work, the artist will have an in-depth consultation with you to insure your satisfaction.  The cost of this very individualized portrait is $950 and takes about one month to produce.  Material can be sent through E-mail and the canvas can be shipped internationally.  For more details and info contact : divapapou@aol.com

The International Cooking Expert Club:

The Cooking Club will be offered every season, starting in March.  Usually it is conducted on Wednesday evening starting at 6:30pm and finishes around 10:30pm after dinner.  This cooking experience will take place in Daniele's artist's loft in Chelsea, and is booked in a series of three classes. A menu from a different country each session will be selected by Daniele Pollitz to discuss and review. In particular, the salon will highlight the cuisine of :

Southern France: Bouillabaisse and vegetables, Tian and fruit desserts.  Morocco: couscous, Tagines and Moroccan salads.  Spain: Gazpacho, Paella and Crema Catalane. Recipes will be distributed and everyone will be asked to participate in the preparation of the meal. Daniele wants to convey to her students how easy and fun it is to cook for a crowd.

After the preparation of the meal participants will sit for an early dinner and enjoy the fruits of their labor with a glass of wine. Each member will be required to come with a story, a poem or a song to enhance the evening. -    Included in the package is an invitation for each member to bring a guest to the last cooking class dinner to celebrate new friendships. -    The salon can accommodate a maximum of 6 guests. The cost for 3 classes is $360 payable in advance to insure space.  (A substitution is allowed if notified a week in advance)

The Source: The Washington Post Money: Paris by the Planetload March 24, 1983 - Mich Broder

Photo credits: Vintage photos all right reserved Daniele Pollitz - Portrait of Daniele - Laurent Elie Badessi

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