Friday, January 13, 2017

CASA AZUL













One of the main reasons I chose to travel to Mexico City was to visit Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul.  Originally her family’s home, the compound has been turned into a museum where you can see many of her belongings and some of her artwork.  It is truly a magical place where you can feel the vibrancy of her life and work.

I built up the experience throughout the trip, knowing that I would visit the museum on my last weekend in Mexico.  I searched high and low through the markets to find the perfect ensemble to wear, because I wanted it to be authentically Mexican; something Frida might have worn herself.  I bought tickets to the museum ahead of time, hoping to avoid any chance of disaster when the day finally came for me to visit Frida's house.

When I arrived at the museum on the date and time of my ticket, I found that they were closing early due to the New Year's holiday - and that I would have 15 minutes, at most, inside La Casa Azul.  After waiting so long to finally visit this special place, I was incredulous that I would not even have enough time to see all of the exhibitions.  Manic, I rushed through the space, missing many opportunities that I would have taken to linger over objects and read wall labels.  It was an immense disappointment - the pinnacle of my trip to Mexico was ruined.

Soon after I arrived, the guards began ushering attendees out of the exhibition halls and into the central courtyard (where the iconic blue walls and yellow stepped altar reside).  Resigned, I slowly walked toward the exit, stopping every few feet to take photos.  Moments passed, and many attendees left the museum.  But then something miraculous happened.  Inexplicably, the guards allowed me to remain.  In fact, no one approached me, or said anything at all.  They just stood guard by the entrance as every last person left the museum, except for myself and Will.  We slowly walked through the courtyard, taking photographs, and marveling at how quiet and serene the it was, now that all of the guests were gone.  I reveled in the experience of spending quiet, uninterrupted time within the walls of Frida's abode - and I can't imagine a better way to connect with the art and with her spirit.  We ended up staying inside for nearly an hour after the museum closed - an hour that I will treasure as one of the highlights of my visit to Frida's homeland.

Although I didn’t have the chance to mull over each object like I intended to, I left with an overall feeling of understanding what it must have been like for Frida to live her life within the walls of the Casa Azul, and the sense of calm that came with an oasis that blocked out the busyness and bustle of the outside world.

Photos by William Sealy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

MEXICAN DRESS


Here is another snap from my travels through Central Mexico.  I couldn't get over all of the amazing colors - and it made me wonder why some countries and populations are just more colorful than others.  I'll report back on my findings.  But for the time being, this embroidered Mexican dress is one of my favorite souvenirs from my visit to Guanajuato.

Do you have any favorite souvenirs from your travels?  I'd love to see them!

Photo by William Sealy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

CHAPEL OF JIMMY RAY














I’m back in New York City and am catching up on sharing some experiences from my travels over the past few weeks.  Thanks to those of you who followed along on Instagram!

I started my journey in San Miguel de Allende, a small, colorful town a few hours Northwest of Mexico City.  It is a haven for artists and artisans, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed roaming the quaint streets and peeping into colorful shops.

The highlight of my visit to San Miguel was the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, a complex outside the city where Anado McLauchlin, a California transplant, has established an artistic oasis.  A plot of land filled with his art, his home, a gallery, and his workshop, the Chapel is just one of the structures on the property.  Anado himself is a hilarious, warm, and chatty individual, and his husband Richard is equally inviting.  Anado and Richard showed us around their property, and we marveled at all the work that went into the many mosaics which cover most of the structures.  Their house is a wonder in and of itself, filled with colorful curiosities and their artwork as well as that of their friends.

I felt wonderfully inspired by all of the beauty that Anado and Richard had created, and the fact that they continuously work to bring more color and beauty to their surroundings.  I also felt a strong sense of gratitude at being able to meet Anado and see his work and hear him speak about it – so often the work of artists is only discovered and cherished after they are gone.  I was able to make a real connection with both Anado and Richard that I will treasure for years to come.

Photos by William Sealy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

YAYOI KUSAMA'S PUMPKIN AT THE HIRSHHORN




Yayoi Kusama is the most popular artist in the world.  Although I've seen and experienced her work many times over the years (here, here, and here are just a few), I still get excited each time I hear of some new Kusama experience.

When the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden unveiled Kusama's Pumpkin, 1994, a precursor to her retrospective exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Mirrors, I got to work making a spotted dress to coordinate with the 8-foot-tall sculpture.

Kusama sees pumpkins as universal symbols, and even uses them as self-portraits.  She has been quoted as saying,"Polka dots are fabulous," and this artwork combines two of her most well-known motifs: a spotted pumpkin becomes a stand-in for Kusama herself and also her vision of the world.

Kusama has suffered from hallucinations since she was a child, and her artwork is meant to show the world as she sees it.  I experienced a glimpse into her world while I was painting the spots on this dress: the repeating pattern made me slightly dizzy and nauseous at times, and when I looked away from the dress I could occasionally see a polka-dotted pattern continuing in my field of vision.  In those moments, I felt that I was connecting with Kusama's work in a deeper way, and in some part understanding what it is like to be her.

"Forget yourself.  Become one with eternity.  Become part of your environment." --Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Mirrors opens at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on February 23, 2017.

Photos by William Sealy.

Monday, December 5, 2016

WHAT I LEARNED FROM ART BASEL


I’ve just returned from Art Basel Miami Beach, an event I look forward to for months in advance, and begin planning my outfits for weeks ahead of time. I planned to create three garments inspired by works at the fairs, and photograph them on site.  After a horrific paint spill and a disappearing painting, I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do.  In fact, I didn’t even complete one and I left Miami feeling unfulfilled.  But there’s always a silver lining to failed creative endeavors – you learn something about yourself and your process along the way. 

The photo above is an example of one of these failed attempts.  After losing an entire garment to an unfortunate paint spill in my suitcase on the flight to Miami, I set out to make a new dress.  Inspired by Kenneth Noland’s Mach II from Acquavella Galleries, a work of art I saw at Art Basel during the VIP Preview day, I hand-painted this dress in my hotel room using childrens’ finger paints I bought at Walgreens.  I wasn’t very happy with the result, given my limited resources, but set out to photograph the piece nonetheless.  When I returned to the fair, I found that the piece had sold, and was already out of the country with its new owner, a private collector. Slightly devastated, I posed for this photo outside the fair.  In a strangely poignant turn of events, when the photo was uploaded to my computer, it was slightly mutilated in the process, resulting in the bewildering version above.  In a weird way, the photo seems more like a work of art to me than the dress; all I had to do was remove my control from the process.

That, in a nutshell, is what I learned this year: no matter how much you plan and prepare ahead of time, there are always external factors that are out of your control.  The finished product may be completely divergent from what you set out to create, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a success – as long as you learned something along the way.

Kenneth Noland, Mach II, 1964 via Acquavella Galleries at Art Basel Miami Beach

Photo of me by William Sealy; painting photo by me.

Monday, November 21, 2016

RIDGEWOOD ARTS COUNCIL











Friday was a very special day for Artfully Awear. 

I was invited by the Ridgewood Arts Council in Ridgewood, NJ, to give a talk about my work and exhibit my handmade dresses in the Stable Gallery.  An old stable which has been converted into a lovely art gallery, The Stable is a cozy, split level space in town.  Upstairs, I displayed my dresses, and downstairs was set up for my presentation.

When guests arrived, they were met with food and drink provided by local businesses, and a member of the community playing classical guitar.  There were between 50-60 attendees, which made for a warm and engaging crowd.

I told the story of Artfully Awear, from its inception to current projects, accompanied by lots of photos.  I answered questions about my process and future goals, and even discussed some of my artistic struggles.  At the end, Susan Knudsen, the Mayor of Ridgewood, presented me with a Certificate of Participation and a beautiful Dale Chihuly book - what could be more perfect?

Afterward, everyone mingled and I was able to meet so many members of Ridgewood's burgeoning art community.  It was so refreshing to be surrounded by so many art appreciators and it was an extra special treat to have everyone see (and touch!) my art dresses.

Many thanks to the town of Ridgewood for the warm welcome!  And extra special thanks to Drew Martin and Audrey Fink for organizing, and to Sherry Frank for hosting me.

Photos by Drew Martin and Dana Glazer.

Friday, October 14, 2016

IAN DAVENPORT


I need to be honest about this dress.  I hate it.

When I saw there was an Ian Davenport exhibition opening at Paul Kasmin Gallery, I knew I had to make a dress for it.  I was so excited.  I found a white dress and got to planning – I would tape off the stripes so I could paint each different color, and freehand the swirls at the hem.  It would be FUN.  I got to work.

Hours and days into the project, and I began to hate it.  I toiled away, struggling with bleeding paint, fabric that was too thin, running out of supplies, and on and on.  At some point along the way, I started to HATE the dress.  I didn’t want to look at it anymore.  It came to represent all of the challenges and frustrations of every project.

I couldn’t give up on it, not after I had invested so many hours.  So I finished the dress, but I knew I hadn’t captured the essence of Ian Davenport’s painting.  I didn’t want to wear it.  But the invested time forced me to put it on and go to the gallery.  At the gallery, the photos weren’t working.  The lighting was difficult and the dress had gotten wrinkled, and everything was just WRONG.

I was so frustrated.  I wasn’t going to post the photo.  I needed a break from this whole thing.  Art is hard.  Replicating art is harder.  Making art when you have a full-time job is nearly impossible.  WHY BOTHER?

And then I realized that the struggles and trials of making something are a part of the experience.  If it were easy, then everyone would do it.  But they don’t, because it’s hard.  Learning how to work with new mediums and styles and brushes and tape and paint is, actually, one of the best parts of making things.  When something doesn’t turn out the way I want or expect it to, I need to embrace it.  What else can you do?  You can start from scratch or you can ROCK the thing that you made and let it speak for itself, telling the story of all of the things you learned from it.

So here it is, in all of its glory, the dress that gave me hell.  But in the process, it also forced me to solve problems and embrace challenges, so maybe it was worth it.  Maybe.

Photo by Kathy Paciello.