Thursday, October 31, 2013

Can I Help You?

Proving that my outfit does not affect my level of efficiency
t-shirt - retail
vintage bead-trimmed jacket - The Sentimentalist
skirt - thrifted
leggings - gift from Faye at Faye's Finds
Swear Boots - old standbys from the 90's 
wig - Value Village
skull face - did it myself!
Happy Halloween, Y'all!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New York Stories Part 1 - Jean Paul Gaultier at the Brooklyn Museum*

* aka Jean Paul Gaultier and Three Fashionistas Invade Brooklyn

Autumn - when a not-so-young woman's thoughts turn to..... New York!  I made what is becoming the annual pilgrimage to my favourite city, New York, last week, timing the trip to coincide with the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, and the opening of the exhibit, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, at the Brooklyn Museum.  I was thrilled to be invited to the press preview for the show that took place on Wednesday, October 23rd at the Museum, as were my friends Jean and Valerie, aka The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.

A very nice man (actually several) wanted to take our photo, so we used it as an opportunity to get a shot of the three of us in front of the poster advertising the show, which features model Tanel Bedrossiantz wearing the velvet cone breast dress from Gaultier's 1984-1985 "Barbes" Fall Winter collection.  Jean is on the left, Valerie on the right, and I am the shameless hussy seated on the floor, unknowingly flashing a lot of thigh. 

I don't get excited about many fashion designers - there are a few, including Rick Owens, Issey Miyake, and Pierre Cardin, whose designs I admire and covet, but I don't have a burning desire to meet them.   For me, the two designers whose work I see as art rather than clothing are Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen.  One of my few regrets in life is not seeing the McQueen exhibit when it was in New York, and I was determined not to miss the Gaultier one.  Gaultier, born in Paris, started his career working with Pierre Cardin and by the 1980's was a renowned young designer.  His work has a strong theatrical flair, and he has explored this in designs for performers like Madonna and Kylie Minogue, costumes for films (ie. The Fifth Element) and for the performing arts.  He has always championed inclusivity in his designs and says that everyone, no matter what age, colour, or body shape, can wear them.   In his remarks at the press preview, Gaultier emphasized his belief in individuality in statements like, " I always love the difference" and "why try to be like the other, when you are not?"

M. Gaultier spoke for almost 8 minutes to the members of the press gathered at the Museum and displayed great charm, warmth and wit.  Click play on the video above to hear him discuss the exhibit, the animated mannequins, and his design inspirations. 

The exhibit, which was initiated and produced by The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011, features 130 outfits, accompanied by videos, sketches, and photographs.  Rather than a chronological arrangement, the outfits are organized into seven thematic sections:  The Odyssey, The Boudoir, Muses, Punk CanCan, Skin Deep, Metropolis, and Urban Jungle.

The trio responsible for the exhibit pose for photos after the introduction - from left, Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, designer Jean Paul Gaultier, and the exhibition curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot.

I had noticed M. Loriot before I knew who he was, as he was rather difficult to miss in his fantastic leather flight suit that looked like it was custom-made for him. 

The combination of the outfit and M. Loriot's boyish good looks was irresistible and so I shamelessly maneuvered myself into a photograph with him.

I had to get a photo of these two very cool gentlemen I ran into a few times at the event.  I am pretty sure the turban worn by the man on the left was orange, so I'm not sure why it's showing up yellow in the photo.

an Italian journalist wearing a Gaultier dress

The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas were also wearing Gaultier-designed dresses

The exhibit is a theatrical spectacle in itself - many of the mannequins revolve to show all angles of the outfits and some travel on continuously moving catwalks.  Thirty-two of the mannequins have interactive faces created by high-definition audiovisual projections of celebrities who have lent their faces and voices to the project.  The custom-made mannequins were the work of Denis Marleau and Stephanie Jasmin of UBU/Companie de creation of Montreal, Jolicoeur International of Quebec. You can see some of the animated mannequins from the Odyssey section in the short video above.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibit were the fantastical wigs and headpieces created by renowned hairstylist Odile Gilbert and her Atelier 68 team.

Hinged corset embellished with jewels, shells and mother of pearl, from the Mermaids collection

Gaultier's designs exemplify "God is in the details".   We had a limited amount of time in which to view the exhibit after the press conference, and I could have spent hours just examining the elaborate embellishments and fabric constructions.

detail from "Ex-Voto" gown from the Virgins (or Madonnas) Collection

The exhibit section titled The Boudoir celebrates the designer's fascination with corsetry and lingerie and features some of his iconic cone bras and corsets created for Madonna's 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour and 2012 MDNA tour.  The satin ribbon corset-style gown above was from the Black Swan Collection.  Gaultier's childhood teddy bear, "Nana", is displayed in the glass case to the left of the mannequin, wearing his first cone bra, created in the 1960's.

detail of ribbon corset dress

Four corsets from the show - clockwise from top left:  Corset made of vintage lame worn by Madonna in her Blond Ambition tour, wheat and braided straw corset from the Countryside Babes collection, patent-leather cage corset shown with costume sketch for Madonna's MDNA 2012 tour, Fan-style man's satin corset from House of Pleasures collection.

 photo of Madonna by Jean-Baptiste Mondino
The exhibit included photographs of celebrities wearing Gaultier creations such as this one of Madonna in the gold lame corset pictured above.  There were also reproductions of some of the original costume sketches for her tours.

The most dramatically staged section was the Punk CanCan room, with its graffiti painted walls. This section of the exhibit showed the variety of influences at play in Gaultier's designs - London punk, Scottish tartan, Parisian classicism, camouflage, etc.  The outfits also demonstrate the variety of materials used in his designs - denim, leather, latex, wool, feathers, chain mail, tulle, lace, etc.

studded chain mail biker-style jacket from the 2009 Haute Couture Spring/Summer Calligraphy collection

 The face of model Eve Salvail is projected onto one of the mannequins

 Left - dress from Paris and Its Muses collection (2000 - 2001); Right - leather jacket from Rock Stars Collection (Mens' Pret-a-Porter 1997 - 1998)

Detail of camouflage-effect ruffled tulle evening gown worn by Sarah Jessica Parker at the MTV Awards in 2000

Outfits in the "Urban Jungle" section showing Gaultier's mixing and matching of multi-ethnic influences.

Left - Synthetic fur and bull-print satin robe-look coat.   Right - Mongolian shearling coat that had been worn by Bjork on the runway.  Both outfits from The Great Journey Collection.

"Shield" fan-pleated chiffon gown with tulle veil from the Tribute to Africa collection

The presence of the designer was as exciting as the exhibit and he was continually being surrounded by members of the press

I spotted M. Gaultier walking away from the crowd of fans, and throwing all tact and propriety out the window,  I scurried after him, having no idea of what I was going to say.    I can't remember exactly what I said -  it was probably incoherently mushy, but he took it all with generous good humour and said to me, "You have a good look, and you look like a person who is very comfortable in her own skin".  He then shook my hand and headed off.  Talk about a SQUEEEEEEEE moment, and luckily, Valerie was passing by and managed to capture it on film.

Gaultier, obliging a photographer with an impish grin, posing next to a photograph of himself by Pierre et Giles

Talk about ending on a high note!  An obliging photographer, Petros Poulopoulos, took this photo of the three of us with the Man of the Hour, and was kind enough to send it to us.

You can read more about the event and the exhibit on the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas' blog here and on the website for the Brooklyn Museum here.   The exhibit continues until February 23rd, 2014. Many thanks to the Brooklyn Museum and Sally Williams for the opportunity to attend the event.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Fade Away

At one of the art exhibit openings I attended earlier this month, the concept of women becoming invisible once they turn 50 came up in a conversation I had with another woman who appeared to be in her late 50's.  This was not the first time I had this conversation - a couple of my friends who have passed 50 pointed this out to me as I was about to turn 50 myself.  In the most recent case, the statement was said with such certainty that I could only respond with "Says Who!?"  If invisibility was a super power that could be used whenever one wished, that was bestowed upon women as a 50th birthday gift, it would be something to celebrate.  However, this is not the case.  As I understand it, once a woman turns 50, she fades into the woodwork, so to speak, in regard to her visibility to the opposite sex.  You also vanish from the media, and all advertising campaigns, unless you happen to be Andie MacDowell, Michelle Pfieffer, Madonna, or Julianne Moore.   Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to affect her ability to be seen by other women.

Can you see me?

From my experience, and those of my similar- age friends, 50 is a weird age to be as a single woman, You are considered too old to be date-able by men of almost every age except for those in their 70's and up.  Men your age want someone in their 30's, often to start a second family after divorcing the first wife ( I've met more than a few of those).  Younger men may think you're cool (I have been told this by a few of our 20-something male students), but often it's a cooler version of their mother.   Men in their 30's and 40's are often still pursuing women in their 20's.  It was suggested to me by a couple of male friends when I was creating a profile for an online dating site that I would do a lot better in terms of attracting potential suitors if I lied about my age.  Apparently, this is what most people do, but it would have never occurred to me.  The last three men I dated for any length of time were all younger than me, and didn't seem to have any problem with my age, but then, I wasn't 50, the age equivalent of the kiss of death with regard to dating.

How about now?

Fortunately, I don't spend a lot of time and energy dwelling on this idea of a "best before date".  I'm lucky enough to have an interesting, full life that keeps me inspired and entertained.  Sharing your life with someone you love, who loves you back,  is a blessing that should not be taken for granted, but not having a significant other does not mean that you can't enjoy your life.  It is also by no means a reflection on your ability to love and be loved, to which my friends (and Fred) can attest. 

Yep, there I am again

I refuse to fade away, like a pattern on the wallpaper in your grandparent's house.  Single, or coupled, we should all strive to put our best, most visible self out into the world.  If we only get one go-round, then why not see, and be seen?  Let the world know you exist and perhaps your visibility will inspire someone else to feel better about themselves, and decide to be visible too.  No one ever inspired someone else by blending into the background.

A friend sent me the link to the video below, called Fabulous Fashionistas, a British documentary about 6 women, with an average age of 80, who are leading fulfilling, stylish, and very visible lives.  It is incredibly entertaining, and inspiring.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Art-Full October - Part Two

I had the pleasure of attending the opening of an exhibit of new work by Port Dover-based artist, Vicki Easton McClung at Strand Fine Art Services on October 4th.  I had previously met McClung at her exhibit in February 2012 (you can see my post about the show here) and had purchased one of her stuffed sculptures.  This exhibit was a two-parter, "A Coloured Balance"consisted of new paintings,  "constructed of colour, gesture, space and surprise" and "Tie One On", featuring refurbished men's ties.  McClung raided the closets of friends and family for unwanted ties, and then asked for volunteers to model her artfully embellished creations.  I was quite honoured to be asked to be a tie model.

Three dames, tie-ing one on.  
From left - Rosemary, a friend of the artist, Vicki Easton McClung, and me. in the fringed tie I had selected to model.  My red converse received lots of attention at the opening, where apparently many people had not seen red leather converse, especially not worn by a 50-something woman.

McClung's paintings were very different from the ones I had seen previously, and when asked about this, she said she never does the same thing twice and is always trying something different.  As stated in the title of the show, they really were experiments in colour, space and gesture.   McClung's sister and I had an animated discussion about the paintings and while attempting to play art critic,  we thought they would be more effective if they were significantly larger. When we presented this opinion to McClung, (you know you're comfortable with someone when you start making suggestions as to how you think they can improve their art), she said, "I can't do larger". 

The colours in the paintings were very soothing, including pastel pink, lavender, and various shades of green.  The one above was titled "Division".

The wall of re-furbished ties provided the entertainment for the evening, as people admired, purchased and modelled their favourites.  The ties had been made into conversation pieces with the addition of fringe, sequins, tassels, fur, bells, and even cuffs from some good old Canadian work-socks.

McClung's friends and family were decked out in ties of their choice

The tie embellished with sequins and googly eyes in the centre was my second choice when asked to select one to model.

It ended up being purchased by this man, and it suited him perfectly

The ties seemed to bring out the wearers' silly side - these two discovered they were both wearing "porcupine" ties

Gallery owners Bill and Andrew rocked their ties with bold coloured pants

McClung and her sister (who joined me in playing art critic)

Ties with feathers....

Ties with fur....
There were a number of ties that had zippers that when unzipped, revealed some strategically placed tufts of fur or feathers,  reflecting McClung's wicked sense of humour, and echoing the anatomically correct details on her stuffed figures from her previous show

I had an interesting discussion with these three about street photographer Vivian Maier.  I was also rather enamoured with the turquoise, gold and leopard print tie she was wearing.

Gratuitous kitty photo!   Bill and Andrew's cats live at the gallery but are restricted to the upstairs during opening events.  After the guests had departed, they were allowed downstairs and this one was particularly intrigued by the flowers a guest had brought.

McClung's exhibit continues at Strand Fine Art Services until October 26th.  The ties can be purchased for $35 each.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Art-full October - Part 1

It seems that in London, the weekends are feast or famine when it comes to Arts and Culture events.  Last weekend there were at least three art exhibit openings downtown.  I managed to attend two of them, both exhibits of new works by women artists whom I was looking forward to chatting with.  On October 3rd, Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft's exhibit, titled "Canadians and Americans (Best Friends Forever....It's Complicated)" opened at the Michael Gibson Gallery.  Thorneycroft's recent works have used moments in Canadian history,  Canadian stereotypes and national identity as subjects for large format colour photographs that resonate with a delightful black humour.  The photos in her current show feature backgrounds of famous or familiar landscapes, populated with action figures and dolls representing American characters, acting out narratives that examine our experience with American history and popular culture.  Bits and pieces of Canadiana manage to infiltrate each narrative.

"Lake O'Hara (Clark, Northern Dancer and the Evil Weasel)"     

At first viewing, I didn't notice the "evil weasel" in the bottom left corner of the photo, holding a piece of Kryptonite.

Photographer Diana Thorneycroft (right) jokes with Charles Lee, whose Montreal Canadiens T-shirt echoes the one worn by the Gilligan figure in the photo behind them.

Gallery owner, Michael Gibson (right) talks to Robert Everett-Green from the Globe and Mail, whose fabulously bold jacket and pants stood out amid the sea of dark colours worn by the other attendees.

 Gallery guests viewing Thorneycroft's "Nighthawks (What Would Jack Bauer Do?)"  Yes, that is a Alfred Hitchcock "The Birds" Barbie doll and Jack Bauer action figure in the foreground.

"The Battle of Queenston Heights (War of 1812)"
Image from Gibson Gallery website

One of my favourite pieces in the show is the photo above, depicting the War of 1812 as fought with footballs and hockey pucks by American Football players and Canadian Hockey players. Thorneycroft examines the power imbalance that exists in relationships, including the one between Canada and the United States.  You can read more about Thorneycroft's ideas behind the works in this exhibit here.

Detail of "Battle of Queenston Heights"
Thorneycroft made the footballs and hockey pucks from clay

Three generations enjoy the exhibit

Thorneycroft meets London artist Helmut Becker and hilarity ensues.  Becker works in paper and flax, and is a Professor Emeritus at Western University, teaching print and paper making.

Of course, I had to get a photo with the vivacious artist, who managed to engage in conversation with almost everyone who attended the show.  Her open, warm personality made everyone feel welcome, and that their attendance was appreciated.  She and I bonded over a mutual love of Doc Martens!

To see all of the photos in the exhibit, please visit the website for the Michael Gibson Gallery
The exhibit runs until October 26th.  My next post features the art of Vicki Easton McClung currently on display at Strand Fine Art.