I had the most delightful encounters this week as a result of my recent trip to Montenegro thanks to new friends Sarah Jane Adams, her husband David, and Ari Seth Cohen. Sarah is a jewelry designer and Ari’s book, Advanced Style (which Sarah is in), has spurned a community of glamorous women who are 70 years old and above. One of these women is 95-year-old Ilona Royce-Smithkin. With red hair and red eyelashes she created, she is a burst of color and energy and in many ways reminds me of my dear teacher, 97-year-old yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch in terms of her zest for life. Ilona invited me up to her home in Greenwich Village in New York City which she has lived in for 65 years.
An artist and former art teacher, Ilona’s style of painting is personal impressionism which stresses color and form in a subject. She studied at the Reiman Schule in Berlin, Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Antwerp, the Art Students League in New York, and the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In the 1970s, she starred in a television series called Ilona’s Palette. If you’re in New York, you can see one of her paintings (above) hanging in The Beatrice Inn in Greenwich Village.
I was a Studio Art and Sociology double major at Wellesley College and studied Design & Italian Culture in Rome with Rhode Island School of Design before going the business route at Harvard Business School. Spending time in Ilona’s apartment brought me back to my art roots. Here is one of my early paintings. I had the honor of Ilona drawing my eye–a process that was intriguing and fun. I was fascinated by her eyes studying me and how she so deftly used the charcoal, as she gave me advice on life and relationships. One thing she said (I’m paraphrasing) was:
If you are preparing for a date and are feeling like you look great then wear muted or dark colors so he can see your face. If you think you’re not looking your best, wear bright colors or a fabulous dress so he focuses on your outfit.
Her advice was funny and priceless! Ironically, I had just injured the eye she was drawing and had no makeup on it so it was “naked.”
I then attended a party at the house of Debra Rapoport, another lady featured in Advanced Style. In fact, the party was a showcase of so many of the ladies in the book. It was a sea of color and beautiful hats. Who said you have to fade away as you get older? These women show us what is possible and are indeed an inspiration. Since I grew up in the arts–with my father as a professor-poet-playwright-composer and my mom an actress and journalist–there were always colorful people around us. I actually felt my father in the room with me! I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked because I was so engrossed in the conversations. Here are a few:
Ari took a beautiful picture of Tao in Montenegro and will be putting her in his next book that comes out in Spring 2016. In the meantime, be sure to buy an autographed Hardcover edition of Tao’s long-awaited autobiography, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master. It’s makes a wonderful, inspirational gift!!