Friday, June 30, 2006

Three White Peacocks

So I made it. Today marks my official first day of work at the Watermill. And, all in all, so far so good. After a solid 12 hours of travel by plane, airport shuttle, and the Long Island Rail Road, I arrived in the Hamptons. Surprisingly, this part of New York is not at all what I expected. In fact, there were moments where I felt like I was in Northern Wisconsin. At a glance its like every other wooded, northern countryside area I have ever been to. But, I quickly realized that at the end of each and every little private dirt road was something especially glamorous, and the stuff along the main roads was for the middle class workers in the area that help keep it all running.

The Watermill site itself is quite lovely...though in a fair amount of disarray right now. Over the course of the next two weeks we will be landscaping like crazy to pull it all together in time for an opening benefit to kick off the summer program. I will be wielding a shovel until then, before I take up scissors and measuring tape starting July 1.

The food is wonderful (thanks to our very funny Australian chef Graham) and the other artists on board seem great too. Already it is clear to me that I do not speak nearly enough languages to be running with this crowd. As I type, one of my new friends is speaking on the phone in French. He's German. Last night he was speaking Italian. I'm so American.

Bob Wilson himself clearly runs this ship, and everyone around here happily fusses and fetches for him. He was one of the first people I met when I arrived on the grounds. He gave me a walking tour of the joint...telling me about the rocks he had imported from other countries for Watermill, the carved burial stones that pre-date Jesus that I will probably be helping to install, and about his quest to have nothing more than three white peacocks in the open courtyard the night of the benefit instead of art. They will be a living counterpoint to three Agnes Martin pieces that will be on display in a facing gallery space.

I would love to share photographs, but I dont have a means quite yet because I have no digital camera. I'm hoping to find a way, though. Hang tight.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summer Camp

In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, I will be hopping on a plane to NYC to begin my 6 week stint with Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center. I'm excited, horrified, nervous, anxious, and most importantly ready to get back into my studio work. Already I'm scheming to find a means of incorporating my new collar designs into whatever he has in mind for the residency.

Because there are so many unanswered questions as this point, I cannot say with certainty when I will next update this blog. I see no reason why it wont happen soon, though.

In the meantime, please talk amongst yourselves. You have been doing such a good job of it so far!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hats Please: Part II

"Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are." -Quentin Crisp

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hats Please

Illustrations by J.C. Leyendecker from the 1920s and 1930s are what ultimately made me realize the potential a hat holds in a man's wardrobe. While his famous Arrow Collar Man is commonly seen without his hat, when we do see him wearing one its with an undeniable sense of purpose and necessity...even if that that purpose and necessity is for aesthetic reasons alone. The shape of the hat is appropriate for the shape of the gentleman's face, the hatband coordinates with the garments being worn, the level of formality the hat indicates sits in perfect harmony with the occasion it is worn at, and of course the hat's material is seasonally appropriate. No one likes a cold or sweaty head.

Beyond the pages of catalog illustration, there are those who manage to always do it right in their day to day. Quentin Crisp was rarely out of doors without his trademark fedora, and it is now a well known fact that his studio apartment in NYC was a filthy rat's nest like none other. But for those who never saw this side of the socialite's life, his hat may have been a clue. Its mangled brim made a remark of its own - a glimpse of disarray in an otherwise highly considered package. Or maybe all of that is just academic overanalysis, and the brim was bent with the simple purpose of showcasing Quentin's lavendar hair and eyeshadow. Who knows.

Boys, what I am getting at is that I want to see you wearing more hats. I have friends who wear hats...some with much more success than others. Regardless of possible failures I have seen, I admire the fact that they are willing to wear one at all in a society that no longer sees the point. The point is that they're damn cool. The point is that they're what you need to tell us what you're all about. The point is that one or two hats have the potential of loading your personal aesthetic arsenal with tricks and treats that will show us you're not just another dolt on the street who doesn't think about how he looks, but in fact gives a shit about what's in his mind and, in turn, on his head.

My brother purchased a lovely short brimmed straw panama yesterday from Byrnie Utz Hats downtown that we immediately knew was the hat for him. We saw it in the front window, and within a mere 10 minutes it was purchased and on his head as we continued up Union Street. And clearly it did the trick as passers by admired, and Khadeja who worked at the gift shop at the Space Needle wanted to know exactly where he got it. I'm already looking forward to seeing it paired with a navy suit and brown oxfords or loafers.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Dinner With Jack: The Snowflake Will Know

After his lecture last night at the Portland Art Museum, I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner by famous textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. I've known Mr. Larsen for a short while now, and was delighted to be able to see him again. Apart from being able to simply enjoy the company of such a recognized figure in my field, I am even more interested in having a living connection to a group of artists and designers from the 1950s and 1960s that I admire so much. Jack Larsen existed in social and creative circles along side John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, etc. Reading about these guys is one thing, and hearing the history come out of the mouth of someone who was there is nothing short of amazing.

Over dinner I asked Jack about Cage and Cunningham. As it turns out, shortly after moving to NYC around 1952 and starting a small business that provided custom hand-woven cloths to patrons in the city, Jack asked his friend John Cage to work as his graphic designer. While Cage was making a name for himself as a musician, he was also peaking people's interests by way of his unusual approach to designing posters and publicity for his events. Scavanged materials, unconventional layouts and oddball marketing schemes were mainstays in Cage's approach. In Jack's eyes, he was the perfect person to recruit for the job.

For Larsen's holiday card to send to clients and friends, Cage proposed a hand-cut paper snowflake placed in a small handmade Japanese style box upon a small piece of one of Larsen's fabrics. The snowflake was also printed with "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" on either of side of the invisible ink. A lovely proposition, but daunting when thinking of the 16-fold hand cut paper circle needing to be recreated hundreds of times for Larsen's many clients (this dirty work, as I now understand, would have been passed on to Merce Cunningham).

Below is a transcript of the conversation Jack had with Cage so many years ago, as recounted to me last night:

Larsen: John, your idea is a lovely one, but I'm afraid the notion of handcutting hundreds of snowflakes is a bit much. Perhaps we could have them die-cut instead and save you and Merce the trouble of doing so much work.

Cage: I dont think it would be the same.

L: No, but with the right printer, I doubt I would be able to tell the difference between the two.

C: Perhaps, but I would be able to tell the difference.

L: I've seen this done recently, and the results are quite nice. I'm certain you couldn't tell the difference...

C: Even if I were unable to see the difference, the snowflake would know.

And, for you inquisitive types, Jack was wearing a very nice seersucker suit over a collarless indigo died shirt (with matching pocket square in the coat's front welt pocket) and a woven straw hat with a black band. Brown leather penny loafers, sans pennies, and tan socks with a diamond pattern. The hat is Amish, and was puchased mail order by Larsen for a mere 19 dollars.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

On White

"A protocol of white---which, remember, is the presence of all color---formed a retaining wall around the personality of its flamboyant celebrity resident. Just as insecure urbanites dress in black, Liberace chose a palette of white, with all its associations of class, confidence, heavenly purity and arctic death."

-Susan Yelavich
Nest Magazine, Fall 2000

"In summer I sleep under a white ermine cover and in winter, under sable." -Karl Lagerfeld

Sunday, June 18, 2006

From Freak Flag to P-FLAG

I did it! And I couldn't be happier. The 2006 Fremont Solstice Celebration and Parade were absolutely fantastic, and I had a blast being a part of it all. I, as you can see, opted to use paint as my attire for the day. My good friends Anna (Calamity Jane meets Daisy Duke meets Rosie the Riveter meets...), Jason (performing a birthing ritual featuring one of my cocoons and his naked self) and Amanda (the fairest of summer maidens) were willing participants at my side as we accompanied a zydeco band the full length of the parade running from West Fremont to Gas Works Park. Anna put her brilliance to work once again with a gold base layer under a beautifully rendered floral motif in peachy red. We were in the most pleasant of company including giant papier mache heads, George Bush in a flight suit, fertility gods and goddesses, hundreds of nude bicyclists, and my very favorite...a troupe of 30 or so little kids riding uni-cycles! The weather was lovely, the streets were beyond full, smiles were on every face, and I met a personal goal that I'm quite proud of.

The best thing about these types of events is that no one cares, and at the very same time everyone cares. Regardless of your age, race, sexuality, body type, gender, preference, diet, language, etc, you're given a chance to celebrate, decorate yourself, and take the streets with a neighborhood in full support of what you're doing. Of course I realize this review is a bit candy coated and that not everything in life is so consistantly pleasant or wonderful...but for the 2 hours that parade took place, it sure did feel like it.

Sadly, I have no interest or impulse to do it all over again next weekend for Seattle's gay pride celebrations. But why would I? Banding together with the folks in Fremont was a pleasure and a blessing. Their open minds made it all really wonderful. What good would it do me to repeat the gesture for one of the most superficial crowds around? While I adore the notion of taking the streets with my homo brothers and sisters, the thought of a repeat performance in body paint makes me cringe as I forecast the steady gaze of judgemental eyes, and the objectification that is likely at an event like that. I think instead I'll opt for sleeves and pantlegs...maybe hang out with the moms and dads of P-FLAG. Am I foolish to think of the situation in this light? Is what's good for one crowd good for another?

PS: If you're considering body paint in the hot summer sun, please opt for an under-layer of sun screen. Unless, of course, you're fond of the subsequent sunburn pattern you're likely to get. I'm delighted to be able to keep wearing Anna's hand painted flowers for a few more days!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Promises, promises...

I'm a closet hippie. To my closest friends this is no surprise. To the rest of you, it may be mildly alarming. At any rate, I've wholly embraced this part of my personality and you have no reason to fret. Its healthy. I swear.

I will, however, be fully channeling this internal drive by participating in this weekend's Fremont Solstice Parade. The spirit of free play and art for all is alive and well by way of the Fremont Arts Council of Seattle, and they really let their freak flag fly each year with their solstice celebration. I couldnt be more excited. I promised myself that I would take part before I leave Seattle. And since that clock is ticking, its now or never.

Body paint, here I come.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Skirt by Cepress, Pleats by Beaton and Tennant

While working on a skirt for my friend Drew today, I found myself repeatedly opting only for books on Stephen Tennant and Cecil Beaton when needing to weight down and set freshly steamed pleats in the boiled wool I was constructing. I intentionally dodged the varied tomes on fashion history at hand, even though they would have been a better choice since they are heavier.

It was almost as though I felt my pleats would somehow be better served if sat upon by the words of my aesthete heros of the 1930s; as though the playfulness of Beaton and immeasureable beauty of Tennant would creep into the folds and somehow make the piece swing more gingerly, with a bit more aplomb. Am I alone in thinking that this could actually help? Surely such a lovely duo could have a hand in my studio practice...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

We wear what we want....because we're Masters

I graduated today.

Officially, I am a master. Ridiculous, I know. And because of the steady stream of exhibitions, gatherings, departmental functions, university ceremonies, I'm quite content at this point to know that all of the hubbub is over and I can begin the life that lies beyond graduate school.

Today's ceremony, specific to the School of Art at the University of Washington, was similar to most other college graduation ceremonies I have been to; a handful of speeches from distinguished folks, a longwinded speech from our not-so-charismatic director, a long list of names being read, etc. I wore no cap and gown. None of us grads did. Clearly, the sentiment of my peers and I was that we did not have to wear such a charming set of duds more than once in our life. Once as undergrads was enough. And since this was a departmental ceremony and not for the larger university, the pressure to be seen in proper academic garb was less.

As I left my apartment and walked to the event, I was reminded of the popular quest to customize your cap and gown for the sake of such a special day. Heaven forbid mom and dad (and the rest of the world) not know exactly which one you are in the crowd of black tassled squares. As an undergraduate I opted for tasteful tone on tone ornamentation on my thirty dollar rig, completely trimming the set in one inch black sequined tape. Oh...and I also made the gown a bit slimmer and shorter. But for an update in my degree, I considered an update in wardrobe. I pondered making use of this red cocoon I had crafted in winter. It had all the makings of academic gear (floppy and cumbersome velvet, satin detailing, guaranteed warmth, potential to initiate tripping, etc) perhaps with an even more unreasonable and impractical design. I would had worn it if I could have guaranteed my instructors would have been willing to put my degree in my mouth as I crossed the stage, given the piece is without arm holes.

In hindsight, I realize this all paled in comparison to the giant inflatable pink flamingo that I encountered atop the mortarboard of an otherwise modest looking undergraduate woman on her way to Husky Stadium.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Stitch here to begin

My 20 year stint as a student in the public education system has come to a graceful close, and have I decided to start this blog as a means of documenting what is next, and what will come of this life I have begun creating for myself as a seamster. Today I am in Seattle, WA. By July 1 I will be in NYC. After that, god only knows.

The Watermill Center, headed by experimental theatre champ and noted set designer Robert Wilson, has me signed on as a participant in their international summer program. For 6 weeks I will be working beside nearly 100 other young designers, craftspeople, dancers, actors, musicians, architects, and spirited souls to collaborate for the sake of a larger creative somethingoranother. For as much as I seem to know about the experience at this point, I still feel like I have no sense of what I am in for. Rest assured this new home on the web will be my means of sharing the experience with you all.

And in the meantime before I fly east, you'll get random musings from a guy who thinks about fashion, art, and why on earth people decorate themselves in the ways they do.