WEB EXCLUSIVE – ON THE MOVE
VICTORIA HAYES jacket
VICTORIA HAYES jacket and pants
VICTORIA HAYES jacket
VICTORIA HAYES jacket and pants
Tofinu Girls, Benin 2014
“The Tofinu people of Ganvie built houses on stilts in Lake Nokoué during the 16th and 17th centuries to escape capture by Fon warriors and avoid being sold to European slave traders. This location provided a safe haven for the Tofinu people, who still live here and use boats for transport.”
Lundi and His Shoes, Burkina Faso 2014
“We drove deep into Burkina Faso to visit the Lobi people, ‘the children of the forest.’ Their strong ties to the spirit world were evident from the shrines around their clay homes. Lundi, who was born on a Monday, was wearing an oversized patterned shirt that had been carefully repaired several times. I felt his pride in his clothing and indestructible shoes.”
Brothers at the Mami Wata Festival, Benin 2014
“African and Dutch wax textiles are important to West African history, folklore, tradition, and identity. Numerous times I saw a mother with her children all dressed head to toe in the same print. Bridal dowries often include several symbolic wax fabrics to ensure desirable things for a marriage, such as fertility, prosperity, and love.”
Egungun Child Spirit, Benin 2014
“The Egungun masquerades represent the spirits of the departed Yoruba ancestors, but locals say that they actually are the deceased. During this Egungun ceremony in the Dassa region, spectators immediately collapsed as if they had died when spirits touched them. Moments later, they were resurrected to rejoin the celebration.”
African Soil, Ghana 2014
“This photograph was taken on a road in rural Ghana that was under construction by a Chinese company. The earth was being leveled and red dust blanketed the landscape. The first time I visited Kenya, the rich, red soil stained the white soles of my running shoes. I liked carrying this physical reminder of Africa with me once I returned home.”
Hamar Woman, Ethiopia 2013
“Around 430 BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of Libyan women in garments of goat leather with hair “fringed at the edges, and colored with vermilion.” I was reminded of this in the Omo Valley when I saw Hamar women with their hair covered in a mixture of red ocher and ghee wearing beaded goat skins.”
Khat Market, Ethiopia 2013
“Ethiopia has dangerous roads and thus sometimes apocalyptic scenery, like overturned cargo trucks with blood on the driver’s seat and bees swarming the crushed produce in the back. The faster the trucks move, the more money the drivers make. Khat, a legal narcotic and major cash crop in Ethiopia, is used heavily by truck drivers and contributes to the carnage.”
Circadian Landscape by Jessica Antola is available for purchase at Damiani Books
Photographer: Justice Apple @justiceapple | Stylist: Isaiah Walls @theisaiahwalls
Producer: Tarayn Sanders @taraynsanders | Groomer: Samantha Tobin @samjomakeup
Models: Christian Dion: @we_staycoolin, Levi Berlin @levithejedi
Christian wears Suit by 5000
Levi wears shirt by Comme des Garcons
Christian wears Jacket by 5000
Actress Chelsea Lopez plays in front of the camera while giving us a peak into her minimal world of art and object. Chelsea changes the context of each prop through her interaction with them, and her personality shines as a character amongst objects. Peak inside her white box stage.
Photography by Nobuyoshi Araki | Styling by Shun Watanabe | Model Issa Lish @ Women Management
Known for his prolific exploration of Kinbaku-bi (緊縛美), “the beauty of tight binding”, subversive still-lifes, and controversial erotic imagery, iconic fine art photographer Nobuyoshi Araki teams up with top model Issa Lish in Tokyo, Japan for an invitation into his world.
Makeup by Ken Nakano, Hair by Koji Ichikawa using LAICALE, Manicure by Yuko at reAulii, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Stylist Assistants: Leonard Arceo and Yohei Yamada, Makeup Assistant Sunao, Hair Assistant Hiromitsu Yahune.
Iris Van Herpen, Paris, France, 2017
At the intersection of science, art, heritage craft, and fashion lies a singular point, the inimitable and pioneering couturier, Iris Van Herpen. Known for seamlessly blending lazer-cut fabrics, 3-D printing technology, cutting edge fabrics, and haute couture hand-work, Van Herpen’s work is a summation of the old world and the new.
Photography by Maya Fuhr @ The Canvas Agency | Interview by Benjamin Price
All clothing (not including models’ own) Iris Van Herpen Couture
Untitled I, Paris France, 2017
Amid the canals and stone-paved streets of Amsterdam lies a haute couture atelier led by a woman who is equal parts scientist, architect, artist, dancer, and designer. Iris Van Herpen sits at the helm, diving deep into different multi-disciplinary worlds to push fashion design further into the future. She is known as one of the most innovative and pioneering fashion designers in the world. Through her experimentation with different materials and collaborations, Van Herpen has created fantastic, awe-inspiring pieces that have defied previous ideas of what fashion can be.
At first glance, Van Herpen’s iconic designs look like sinuous creatures from mysterious planets, chemical reactions, waterfalls frozen in time, and skins of unknown species – but in reality they are the results of copious research, experimentation, and countless hours of handwork. The fusion of technology and heritage craft work is what makes Van Herpen’s designs so unique. From the initial research stage to the fashion show presentations, every iota of information is explored and disseminated to produce magical worlds that hold a mirror to our own reality of climate change, space travel, and the global stage.
Iris sat down with me, thousands of miles away in her studio, speaking through a computer screen – our conversation punctuated by the atelier cat running across the keyboard. The studio team draped, melted, 3D printed, and slice through materials for the upcoming couture collection in the background. Here is our exclusive interview with Iris Van Herpen and Iris Covet Book.
Guadalupe, Paris, France, 2017
What does a typical day look like in the Iris Van Herpen studios?
It really depends on what we are working on… right now we are working on the new collection. There is a lot of experimenting and creating with new materials. I’m a bit in-between my own space where I do design work, guide the process, and give feedback to the team, then going to meetings with different collaborators for certain projects. The atelier is filled with people with fashion backgrounds and people from other disciplines.
I was going to ask if you have sculptors, plaster specialists, or mold-makers in studio. Traditional fashion labels have a lot of draping and patternmaking, but I was wondering if there are physicists and artists, etc…
I work with people outside of the fashion world a lot such as architects, scientists, or other artists. It is sort of spontaneous. I won’t have them here all the time; it’s a day here and a day there with different disciplines, and sometimes I will go to their studio.
In the past, what has been one of your most fruitful collaborations?
One that is very special to me is my work with Philip Beesley who is an architect and artist from Toronto, and I’ve been working with him for four or five years now. Our process has become very intertwined… like a friendship. He’s always exploring with his team, and we share a lot of the process and experimentation together. If I find a new material, then I’ll send it to him and the other way around. So, it’s really like a collective intelligence there, which is a nice way of sharing. On a much more personal level, I would say that my work with choreographer Benjamin Millepied was special because I come from a dance background. I found huge inspiration in the work he does and the way he works; it was very special to see our worlds coming together.
Looking at your designs, your earlier work specifically, it appears like there is conflict between movement and form. How does your understanding and love of movement and the materiality that you’re using work together?
Well, dance is where I learned how to transform my own body, but also how to use the space around me. In the early years, I was questioning not only how to design for the body, but also discovering the space around it and how it can be transformed. That was like principal research, which I’m still doing, but it became more sentimental along the way – maybe because dance is still part of my work, but it has grown bigger with art, architecture, and even scientific collaboration. I have just expanded my focus, and therefore become more reliant on the materials I use to express the relationship between body and space.
Henry (Film Strip), Paris, France, 2017
Henry, Paris, France, 2017
Speaking of materiality, there’s a material library here in New York City that has every new material that you can think of. Every time a new one is created they send it to the library to be catalogued. Do you use spaces like that to gain inspiration or do you have custom materials that you make?
In the first years of the studio, I would find materials and then use them in my own way. By now, the process is a little bit more personal and elaborative. Mostly we don’t use the material as it is. We either develop a new material, sometimes as the result of a collaboration, or we use existing materials that we then transform into new hybrids. So, a big part of the design process actually depends on the material design. We start developing the techniques and materials and I start draping – where in the beginning I would just shop for the right material and then drape. It’s evolved over time.
I want to now switch gears and talk about the conceptual inspiration of the collection. When you begin researching, what sparks your interest? Is it something small or something more meta such as an intangible theory?
Well, it can be both actually. I’m thinking of [the collection] “Micro” where we explored microscopic structures that I found inspiring. Everything around us, like my own body and materials surrounding me on a micro level. Then there are collections like “Magnetic Motion” which was inspired by the conversations I had with scientists about really big subjects like parallel universes and the whole perception of life, which was a lot more philosophical. Sometimes it’s simply in the material that is next to me, and sometimes it’s a super inspiring theory that changes my way of looking at life.
Growing up, were you very interested in studying nature and science?
Yeah, absolutely. I grew up in a very small little village next to the water. So, nature was really part of my youth; it shaped me. My parents stimulated my interest in the arts, so nature and art together were an integral part of my growing up. I think it’s important to understand, or at least appreciate, how the world works around you and the importance of nature.
How do you see your design reacting to global warming and these heightened more chaotic political spheres?
Well, I think there are two paths in my work: one of them is within the material and technique, and the other is looking at the materials as part of the process of sustainability, but it’s not something I want to communicate. Sustainability has become a PR tool, and I personally find that it is happening too much. For me, it is a natural focus because we want to move forward and still live on this planet in 20 years. I don’t think it should be the central message because it can easily become everything you do, and as an artist or fashion designer, I think a specific environmental issue isn’t a long-term vision. It’s part of the process, but the message that I want to communicate is much bigger than that. I believe that in the long term fashion will change slowly. The materials we use and the way we use them will become better and more sustainable. I hope to help a little bit there, but it’s not something I can do on my own.
Untitled II, Paris France, 2017
Do you think that fashion – because it is one of the top polluting industries in the world – will change in the future? How do you hope consumer relations will change?
I think a very big step in this would be that the whole system becomes more personal again and less globalized. The problem is that most things are made in bulk, and more than half of everything that is being made is not being bought. I believe that the future will be technology that will make the process more personal again because I think through technology there is more direct communication possible between customer and designer. If we go to smaller productions again, we can reduce half of the waste because we’ll start making what people actually need rather than making twice as much. Hopefully we can begin utilizing the materials that can be 100% reused again like with 3-D printing. These are the two big steps that need to be made, and it will take awhile.
Well, speaking of technique and new technology I think that a lot of the interest in your early work was your use of techniques like laser cutting and 3D printing which were not as normalized as they are now. How do you foresee these two worlds of technological futurism and craft heritage melding?
I see the diversity of new techniques and new tools as equal to my hands, and I would not use one over the other: it’s a hybrid between them. For me craftsmanship is as valuable and as important as the newer techniques that I work with. I noticed that by using various techniques we can actually improve the others. Sometimes we want to work on a piece that we simply cannot make by hand, and a 3D printer can inspire the process where we are actually able to make it by hand. So, it’s really interesting how the knowledge from one goes into the other, and I think in the beginning the processes were quite separated. I would work on 3D printed garment, and I would work on a handcrafted garment, but now we have blended the processes. In one dress there can be 3D printing, laser cutting, hand molding, and stitching all in one and no one is able to see the differences anymore; I think that is very beautiful. In the end it is not about the technique behind it anymore, but about the freedom to combine different techniques. I’m able to go into the absolute maximum of intricacy if I’m not limited by one technique because every technique has its possibilities and its limitations.
I think that the future is – I don’t want to say cyborgs – but humans and computer technology coming together to create. You can see that in your fashion shows, which have been very viscerally engaging and surreal. Where does that inspiration come from? Does it come from your concepts? What does this theatrical element add to the show?
It’s really part of my process. I try to translate the energy of the experimentation that I feel from the work into the collection. When I started working on Aeriform I had my collaborators performance in mind, and really working with the empty gravitational aspect of their work, and the way of working that conflict together. So, I work to make those elements the base of designing the garments, while keeping the whole performance alive. Some shows are very minimal in their setting because the inspiration comes from something physical like an artist or work of art, and I want to show people my process and concept. Sometimes the collection comes from a completely different world, and I let the collection be itself.
Chen Chen, Paris France, 2017
You have worked with Bjork, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Tilda Swinton; do you feel the context of your work changes with the visibility and the popularity of these artists?
Well, I guess it connects to different people. They are very specific identities. They all created their own worlds, their own system, and fan bases. The body itself is my source of integration, and these people bringing it into their own world and their own vision creates a new perspective of my work. I think it’s very important because I don’t want my work to be this very controlled and linear thing.
In reference to the “worlds” that you design into, do you often build worlds in your mind when designing?
Not really to be honest. My interest is in the here-and-now because the inspirations that’s translated into my work comes from architecture, art, or things that I see around me. To me, the world we live in is actually so fascinating and it has so many sides. So, I want to look at different perspectives. Some people think I’m inspired by science fiction, but I think the world we live in is magical. It’s really more like zooming in and zooming out – focused on where I am at this point.
Magical and terrifying all at once.
Yeah, yeah, it has everything in it.
In the past you have referenced your work as “New Couture”, what does that mean to you?
It’s a place where innovation is possible. It’s a place where craftsmanship is possible. To me, it’s a place that has real humanity and personality in the work, and it has its place in the digital age and in the digital transformation that we are going through. To me, it’s really about finding the relationship between the world we come from and the world we’re going to. We have to learn how to use all of these great tools in combination with our humanity. I think those tools can be used to create art and beauty, not just functional technology to make our lives quicker and easier.
That’s beautiful. I think that we are at crossroads of so much negativity in politics and in nature, but the world also has a lot of positivity and beauty. What do you want to say to the world as a designer, as an artist?
I think fashion is not only a form of art, but also a place of innovation and progress. I think it is important that we we start collaborating with science and art because all of these disciplines have to change. If we talk about sustainability and moving forward, design is needed everywhere, and I don’t think we’re making progress if we keep on only focusing on one method of thinking. I think disciplines have to cross over to create a collective intelligence to direct the sustainability of design. We’re never going do it on our own. I think that one of the bigger messages behind my work is that the power of collaboration will affect future change.
Francesca, Paris, France, 2017
Makeup by Jay Kwan | Special Thanks to Fanny Moal @ Karla Otto Paris
For more information visit irisvanherpen.com
With a dedicated studio practice that spans multiple disciplines, Mickalene Thomas explores and challenges societal understandings of beauty, femininity, and identity through her work. Known for her bodacious collage-style, rhinestone-clad paintings, the refreshingly-uncontrived, artistic mastermind is the embodiment of chaos and control.
Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur
Unisex Suit and Shirt by Vivienne Westwood, Sunglasses Artist’s Own
The ground-floor, sprawling, warehouse studio that Mickalene Thomas runs is anything but the archetypal cluttered creative hub one might picture when visiting an artist’s studio. Instead, its organization suggests a need for clarity and control required for the artist to create. Small-scale collages, paper and material remnants drape across a single work surface like a patchwork tablecloth, with a pair of scissors propped suggestively on a roll of electric green tape as a centerpiece to its cacophony of color. In a far corner of the studio, a heavy vinyl curtain is swagged aside revealing a space reminiscent of a car-paint room, the color-spattered work table in the center is cleared with equipment tucked away. Adjacent to it, a barrage of carts are trolleyed up neatly, loaded like pack mules with a rainbow of oil pastels, paint tubes, mixing utensils, and a spectrum of boxed rhinestones. Mickalene pushes one with a generous smear of cobalt paint and a pair of knives towards an unfinished piece that she’s “mucking up”, its wheels singing furiously like an operatic aria of the paint’s destiny. Flanking the walls, large-scale canvases of works-in-progress commune with one another, while awaiting canvases are filed away orderly in gargantuan cabinets. The multi-disciplinary artist needs space to breathe and listen to the dialogue of her work as it banters across the nucleus of the studio floor. A library elicit of her groovy, soulful sets offers an inviting corner to entertain studio visits, but we will stand and talk today as Thomas works on a diptych.
An alumni of Pratt and Yale and a United States Artists Fellow, Mickalene Thomas is a dichotomy of soft-spoken eloquence and outspoken intellect, a juxtaposition that feels arresting and gravitational. With a separate office space that runs the length of the studio and a quarter its width, it’s evident Thomas runs a tight ship over her studio practice and team. The role of boss aside, Mickalene Thomas is a distinguished visual artist, filmmaker, and curator whose work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and is housed in many permanent collections including Guggenheim, Brooklyn Museum, MoMA PS1 New York, and Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, among others. Her work embraces art-historical, political, and pop-cultural references. Employing the disciplines of photography, painting, collage, sculpture, and installation, her exploration of the complex notions of femininity challenges prevailing definitions of beauty and aesthetic representations of women.
Here IRIS Covet Book shares some studio time with the artist as she articulates on adding to the dialogue of the conventional canon of Western art history.
Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit, 2016
Were there any influencing factors in your childhood that really helped nurture your love of art? What motivated you to pursue this as a life and career for yourself as an artist?
Being raised by an adventurous, industrious and resourceful single mother who exposed me and my brother to art at a very young age. Around the age of 7 to 12, my mother enrolled my brother and I into various art programs in New Jersey and New York. My fondest memories are at both the Newark Museum and the Henry Settlement in the Lower Eastside. In our house there was a constant engagement with art, fashion, and music. My mother’s eldest brother was a trained fashion illustrator. He illustrated for magazines and designed some record covers, as well. I loved looking at his drawings, they remind me of Bill Traylor’s work. The biggest inspiration on this “jersey girl” was New York City.
We ventured to the city on every weekend we could afford, to attend the Met Museum and to see Broadway shows, mostly Off Broadway. My mother surrounded us with her creative friends. They organized house parties and fashion shows around Newark and East Orange. She and several in her group of her friends produced these events. Their parties were called “Better Days” and one of the plays I remember was called Put A Little Sugar in My Bowl. My mom’s friend gave me the script to the play. Looking back and reading the script reminds me of Tyler Perry plays, excluding the religious banter. I guess you might say that art chose me. I’m a product of my mother’s creative environment.
You work in so many different disciplines. You do photography, collage, painting, sculpture, and installation. Presently, what disciplines are you utilizing in your work?
Including performance, video, and the other five disciplines you mentioned, I oscillate among all of these disciplines, depending on the scope of my project, the concept, or idea; eventually making a decision on which discipline is best to execute the idea. Currently, there are two main techniques that are a major thread in my work, which I use in tandem–photography and silkscreen. I employ silkscreen as a way to bring forth the photographic elements into my painting. Silkscreen is used in my work as a tool to convey that language. It’s extremely important to me that the photographic images on the painting, appear as a collaged element rather than literally gluing or pasting a photograph onto the paintings. Photography plays a primary role in my studio practice, and it’s the strongest thread throughout my work. I shoot all of my resources for my work; for found resources, after scanning, them I put them through a photographic process to claim them as my own. What excites me currently as an artist is transforming my photographic images into a painting language. Although, sometimes my photographs and collages serve as blueprints for my paintings. Now I’m thinking about how I could use these disciplines within performance. My new body of work is video based and performative. Working in film has given me license to explore the moving image as the editing process relates to collage.
Combining all these different disciplines…is it in anyway a metaphor for the complexities of your identity?
I think all of our identities are complexed, and these different disciplines provide a platform for me to navigate and explore my identities. As my art morphs and transforms, so do I as a person with my ideas and sense of self. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, neither is my art. I harbor various complexities in the same way as I oscillate within different disciplines. My mythos isn’t to be defined by the work that I make, in the same way that it’s an extension of myself. I can’t escape the methodologies of these disciplines because they are all pertinent for me to tell my story by any means necessary.
The strongest discipline in my work is photography. I see it as one of the most powerful tools constructing or deconstructing our identities. It’s our own black mirror, within the constructs of us having the need to constantly see ourselves instead of really seeing each other. Photography is it’s own visual language, it’s how we communicate–it’s on all our devices, it’s the new handshake, it’s the how are you today, and our third eye. I’m interested in using the photographic lens and other devices that will allow me to see myself and others.
Unisex Suit and Shirt by Vivienne Westwood, Sunglasses Artist’s Own
Where do you begin? How do you start a piece? During our photo shoot, I noticed there were several smaller collages on a work table.
The small collages are an iteration of my practice through a photographic process. I make a series of collages based on the photographs taken during photo shoots. The collages aren’t necessarily one-to-one with the paintings, they are research, resource, and a discovery into the the process of my paintings. The collages have their own strength that I try to bring into the paintings. The exploration within the collage materials allow me to be uninhabited and free of constraints. The discovery of making the collages is allowing the scissors to do it’s magic by cutting shapes and forms that tell a story with the images that I’m using. All my cut scraps are reusable for new images. I have piles and piles of images and materials, organized and chaos, colored and textured, pattern and glittered, layered and integrated. It’s exciting to think about all of those materials and how they will juxtapose with one another.
How did the rhinestones come to be such a touchstone part of your work?
I started experimenting with rhinestones when I became interested in the notions of pointillism during my time at Yale. In relation to my work, rhinestones seemed to be the most relevant material, and I realized that they provide a perfect combination of content, process, and materials not as an accoutrement. They serve to challenge my ideas of what paintings are, and can be. As my work evolved and developed stronger, the rhinestones started taking on other meanings as I expanded them into my practice.
I love that you really embraced that. Even though you referred to them as non-traditional material, you have given it this life to become its own medium, like oil or acrylic.
They are just as important as the acrylic and oil paint, the silkscreen, the oil sticks, and gestural marks. They play the same role as these materials and formalities. All of the elements or materials that I employ, represent the notions of artifice, constructed ideas, and means of how we consider adornment on ourselves and in our environments. How we can utilize and manipulate them to exude a certain quality, beauty or light. Also, rhinestones are a very interesting material to work with, the challenges are vast, and it possesses a multiplicity of ideas and notions that I feel like I could grow with as an artist. Figuring out how to use them in my paintings, but also as a material like paint is very exciting for me.
All of the collages in the interior spaces that you present within your work…I’m so fascinated by them because they look like such an interesting world to reside within. What does the interior as a subject matter mean for your?
For me, the interiors are just as important as the portraits because I think of interiors as portraitures. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the things they surround themselves with and how they live. There’s this residue of life, of cultural history, of storytelling, and all that is domestic that describes the home. How we surround ourselves to complete who we are, and the home or interior, is one of them; the landscape is another. I’m interested in how we reside within these spaces, and how these spaces tell a story of who we are.
I’m mostly trying to reference my childhood, and the environment that I found to be most comforting and inspiring as a young girl. I don’t necessarily think of it as being representative of a specific cultural or ethnic identity–while that may serve as one of the inspirations, it really is meant to reflect on the extensions of my own identity and history.
You just opened a show at Rice University in Houston that featured one of your installations. Are the installations something that you utilize as an extension of the set from the photographic process, or a three-dimensional form derived from the collages or paintings of the interiors?
Yes they are. In some ways they’re really about me trying to make sense of home. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I think that a home is the constructed safe space for families. One of the things that we identify as the “American dream” is having a home. Most people aspire to obtain home as an object of gratification or fulfillment of success regardless of demographic socially, financially, or culturally. There’s still this overarching aspiration of security once you have a home. My environments started in graduate school, when I was photographing myself. I would put up fabric backdrop to create self portraits. So when I started photographing my mother, I started adding things to the environment to formally figure out the compositions for my paintings. Overtime the blank wall was filled and covered with fabrics and wallpaper. I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years, but it’s just been the past three or four years that these environments have been recently exhibited. This part of my practice has developed and expanded into various iterations site-specifically expanding from tableaus in the corner of my studio into major installations where the viewer can activate the space.
Naomi Looking Forward #2, 2016
Installation at Newcomb Art Museum 2017 Variable Dimension
Do you usually have several pieces going simultaneously so that you can take a step back, think about it, and process it while working on another piece?
Yes, I work on several projects and works simultaneously. Sometimes chaotic, and then focused. Each project informs the other, allowing the works to have a strong dialogue between themselves. Sometimes I will struggle with one body of work, but then it makes sense in the other, and the works start speaking to each other, and the challenges erupt and make sense. The experience of making art is that it does not lie to you. It starts speaking to you in a certain way, and you have to listen to it. If you’re honest with yourself.
You take classical subject matter – nudes, portraiture, landscapes, interior spaces – and you re-appropriate them based upon your own cultural vantage point and perspective. When you first began your career how was the work received and has that changed over time?
It’s important to me that my work changes overtime. As I grow as a person I want my art to grow with me. It’s important as an artist to find your own voice and be authentic, and hopefully you’re adding a new dialogue to the discourse, to expand it, and to make it richer. I’m interested in using Western art historical canon by deconstructing the traditional notions of beauty within art. By bringing forth the women and beauty that have been removed from the stories, erased, and rewritten.
Art history is known to be so Eurocentric and non-inclusive.
What I’m excited about is the large circle of African American individuals as art historians: as our leaders within art history who are going to be in the position to allow these discourses to be put forth within the institutions. When you look at museums that start to embrace young African American curators, then there’s a shift because they’re entering a new paradigm that is going to allow new conversations to emerge and change in museums and other institutions. I think we need to encourage people of color to be a part of the creative field if they have that interest. There’s a huge generation of younger creative intellectuals that are coming forth that are really exciting. To me, those are the individuals I’m embracing because those are the people that are going to write our legacies and stories.
Earlier, you spoke about the photographic language acting as a kind of “black mirror”. Is that really what art is then, for you, a way of holding up the mirror to society?
I’ve read some of Lacan’s philosophy and something that really inspired me is his theory of the “mirror stage”. That our innate desire and notion of ourselves is to be validated by others, the desire is to be seen. Therefore, whena person gazes at you,it validates that existence because they’re looking at you. This idea of the gaze is very powerful and the notion of validation, and incorporating its existence into Art. Without it, we don’t see ourselves until others see us, which, in turn, gives us our sense of validation: recognizing something familiar in someone else. When we recognize our familiar selves in others, then things will change [in society].
Empathy is such a scarce quality today. How does this quality affect your work?
There’s always a greater part of empathy in artists. We are the most empathetic people. We are the leaders of the world and are capable of allowing people to become their better selves through our creativity. No matter how egotistical and selfish some artists can be, I think there’s still a greater part of empathy to making art. As an artist, we gift so much of ourselves to the world, the fiber of our existence as artists is to help others see the world through our eyes to create change.
Your work also focuses heavily on our understanding of beauty and expanding that. In fashion advertising the big buzzwords right now are diversity, inclusion…How do you think that society’s understanding of beauty is going to change in the coming decades?
The understanding of beauty today is going to become compacted with a deeper meaning of who you are, not necessarily what you look like.
You have this amazing space. It’s so huge, it’s orderly, and it’s still warm and inviting. It appears that you’re anything but the proverbial starving artist.
(laughter) I am! I am, really! I’m not starving, but I’m always hungry. I’m starving for women to sell their art at the same price point as their male counterparts without complaints of it being too expensive. I’m starving for inclusivity, and for being in the right collections, museums, biennials, on the art historian tongues, in the ear of curators, and working with the best galleries nationally and internationally. I’m starving to see more people of color and women having major retrospectives. I’m starving for auction houses to pay artists residuals.
I’m curious what you’ve had to overcome, either personally or professionally, to get to this place in your career. I feel like creative people often have a strong internal dialogue with themselves.
I persevered throughout my life. Everybody has a story, there was a glimpse of my story told in the documentary I directed about my mother in Happy Birthday To A Beautiful Woman.
What advice, then, would you share with any young person who is wanting to choose this for themselves as a life and career?
Despite your personal obstacles, it’s really important to maintain a strong studio practice and a sense of self.
Do you have a glass ceiling? What does success mean to you?
I once heard someone say, “the sky is not the limit it’s just the view”. There’s no glass ceiling for me because I’m hungry and greedy. One of the quotes that I love by Toni Morrison is “…if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” This is success to me. I can only keep trying to do more than my best.
Hair and Makeup by Nina Soriano using Elemis, Production by Benjamin Price, Special Thanks to Susan Grogan at Mickalene Thomas Studio
All art work © Mickalene Thomas images courtesy of the artist
For more information visit mickalenethomas.com
George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, November 1963 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
In January of 1963, Avedon photographed Baldwin for a magazine assignment and suggested that they work on a book about life in America. Baldwin readily agreed. “This book,” said Baldwin at the time, “examines some national and contemporary phenomena in an attempt to discover why we live the way we do. We are afflicted by an ignorance of our natures vaster and more dangerous than our ignorance of life on Mars.”
Corresponding frequently with Baldwin, Avedon traveled extensively in 1963 and 1964 photographing portraits for the book while Baldwin wrote the essay. They met up periodically to share and discuss their progress. The collaboration resulted in some of Avedon’s most pivotal portraiture of his middle career, from civil rights icons (Malcolm X) to staunch segregationists (George Wallace); to aging stars (Joe Louis) and young fame seekers (Fabian); to powerful politicians (Adam Clayton Powell) and ordinary citizens; to young idealists (Julian Bond) and elderly pacifists (Norman Thomas); to patients committed to a mental institution who seek love, comfort, and some semblance of consideration.
At the core of the photographs – almost all of which will be on view at Pace Gallery – is the question of how Americans understand race relations and their own identities, and, by extension, the identities and civil rights of others.
“Both Avedon and Baldwin cared deeply about what was (or was not) going on in America in the early 1960s. It was an explosive time, not unlike the one we live in today. The events enveloping our country provoked Avedon’s careful reflection and examination of the place and its people. There is a lot to learn from looking at this prophetic work and considering the very profound statement it makes.”—Peter MacGill
Marilyn Monroe, actress, May 1957 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Nothing Personal was originally designed by Marvin Israel and published by Atheneum in November of 1964 under the aegis of legendary editor Simon Michael Bessie. Though denounced at the time of publication, Nothing Personal is now recognized as a masterwork whose powerful message of a confused and often compromised society seeking fleeting moments of joy, grace and occasional redemption remains equally relevant more than a half-century later.
Richard Avedon (1932–was born in New York City in 1923 and joined the Young Men’s Hebrew Association camera club at the age of 12. After serving as a Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, he began working as a freelance photographer, primarily for Harper’s Bazaar, in 1944. Under the tutelage of Alexey Brodovitch, Avedon quickly became the magazine’s lead photographer, while also creating formal portraits for many other sources, including his own portfolio.
First showcased in Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955, Avedon’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions worldwide. His first retrospective was held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington,
D.C. in 1962 and was followed by solo exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (1970), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1974), the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (1985), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1994), among others. Avedon was the first living photographer to receive two shows at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1978 and 2002).
Avedon died while working on an assignment called “Democracy” for The New Yorker during the 2004 presidential election. During his lifetime, he established The Richard Avedon Foundation in New York City, which now houses his archive and works with curators and collectors around the world.
Patients in a mental institution, February 1963 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Pace/MacGill, one of the world’s leading photography galleries has been dedicated to advancing fine art photography for over 30 years. Known for discovering artists, representinv masters, and placing important collections and archives into major public institutions, Pace/MacGill has presented some 200 exhibitions and published numerous catalogues on modern and contemporary photography. Founded in 1983 by Peter MacGill, in collaboration with Arne Glimcher of Pace and Richard Solomon of Pace Editions, Pace/MacGill is located at 32 East 57th Street in New York City.
Pace is a leading contemporary art gallery representing many of the most significant international artists and estates of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Founded by Arne Glimcher in Boston in 1960 and currently led by Marc Glimcher, Pace has been a constant, vital force in the art world and has introduced many renowned artists’ work to the public for the first time. Pace has mounted more than 900 exhibitions, including scholarly shows that have subsequently traveled to museums, and published over 450 exhibition catalogues. Today, Pace has nine locations worldwide: three galleries in New York; one in London; one in Palo Alto, California; one in Beijing; and spaces in Hong Kong, Paris, and Seoul. In 2016, the gallery launched Pace Art + Technology, a new program dedicated to showcasing interdisciplinary art groups, collectives and studios whose works explore the confluence of art and technology.
Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, March 1963 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Santa Monica Beach, September 1963 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
William Casby, born in slavery, March 1963 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Prolific fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim’s iconic images have pushed boundaries and inspired an entirely new generation of photographers. His career and his work is garnering new attention with a new book Gloss: The Work of Chris von Wangenheim.
Outtake from Christian Dior advertisement, 1976, “Fetching is You Dior,” Lisa Taylor and Whiskey
“We sort of fell into it,” explained New York’s PR powerhouse duo, Roger & Mauricio Padilha, “We have always loved Chris von Wangenheim’s work, but other than seeing his work in vintage magazines, there was no outlet to fully appreciate his body of work.”
Inevitably for von Wangenheim, the memory of he and his work slowly faded from the fashion scene shortly after his death in 1981. Decades later, von Wangenheim is back in the spotlight with Gloss, a provocative new book by brothers & business partners, Mauricio & Roger Padilha. Gloss is the third photo essay book by the Padillha brothers, who have similar works on other fashion world visionaries. It is an extensive photographic journey, featuring over 200 images of artist’s published, unpublished, and personal work. It also includes a collection of evocative interviews with some of his favorite subjects such as the iconic photo of model Lisa Taylor, being fashionably mauled by an equally dashing doberman pincher.
When photographer Chris von Wangenheim died at the age of 39, he was on course to becoming one of the most emblematic photographers of the 70s art and fashion worlds. Along with his contemporaries, Helmut Newton and Guy Borden, von Wangenheim transcribed the hedonistic cultural mood of the times into gorgeous photographs that pushed the boundaries of art and fashion. His work included advertising campaigns for fashion heavy-weights like Dior & Valentino, as well as iconic fashion editorials for Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, & Interview.
From Bianca Jagger to Jerry Hall, von Wangenheim’s subjects were always as prolific as how he chose to envision them. Skimming through Gloss, the reader is bound to encounter such enigmatic imagery as Gia Carangi’s nude body suggestively juxtaposed behind a chainlink fence or the iconic photograph of Grace Jones mounting a taxidermy leopard. Along with the glamour, disco, sex and drugs of the 70s, they were also violent times. Cars vandalized and set ablaze were real-life backdrops to a rising number of murder cases plaguing the city of New York. Von Wangenheim’s work was a titillating fusion of fashion glam with the grit of the Nightly News. The result elevated the commentary of the images and branded them with edge, mesmerizing his clients and fans with an exhilarating shock factor.
Outtake from Christian Dior advertisement, 1977, “Explosive is You Dior,” Chris O’Connor
“Chris moved to NYC in the late 60’s and assisted a lot of photographers such as James Moore before venturing out on his own. We’d say that the primary inspiration behind his images was NYC itself. His photography captures the grittiness, violence, danger, and glamour of New York throughout the 70s,” explains Roger.
“It was so sexy, dangerous, and always had a cool narrative,” says Roger, about his and Mauricio’s discovery of von Wangenheim, when they were teens living in Long Island. The narrative element of the images piqued the brothers’ imaginations as they’d leaf through Vogue Magazines.
Despite fashion being the medium, “He cared more about the women and the direction of the images than he did about the fashions of the time,” say the brothers, “Our main goal is to always spotlight artists who were super influential but never got their due. So much of contemporary photography owes a great debt to Chris and when future generations look at work that they feel is new or exciting, we want them to know where it comes from and who did it first.”
What was your intention in creating Gloss : The Work of Chris von Wangenheim ?
We have always loved Chris von Wangenheim’s work but other than seeing his work in vintage magazines, there was no outlet to fully appreciate his body of work. As he died at such a young age
and his archives were unattended to, Chris (or any absence of a celebration of his work after he passed) became an enigma in the fashion world. This mystery, coupled with truly extraordinary photographs and a continuing fascination with anything to do with fashion in the 1970’s were all the elements we thought could make a fascinating book.
Did you decide to use Chris von Wangenheim as a book subject organically or was it a calculated process that happened over time?
All of our books happen organically through our interests. If we were more calculated, I suppose we’d pick a subject that had a guaranteed massive sell through. It’s a lot harder to market a book on a forgotten artist than it is to market a book on one of those housewives on TV! But if we aren’t fans of the subject matter initially, we just can’t spend a few years of our lives writing a book about it.
Christian Dior advertisement, 1976, “Nightlife is You Dior,” Patti Hansen
How did you find a starting point to sort through the tons of archives and what was your editing process in selecting the final images to publish in the book?
We always know what we want to include in our books. We are the subjects ultimate fans so we approach selection of images to reflect what we, as fans, would want to see in a monograph on our favorite artist. So many times we see books on artists we admire and disagree with what the authors might choose to include or the order or classification the images are in.
How extensive was his archive?
Not very. as his death was sudden, he didn’t really organize them to leave behind as a body of work the way an aging artist might. Also, the archives were spread apart between many different parties so there was a lot of investigation work done on our part to make sure we saw the best and most important work to include in the book.
What is your goal for the reader to take away from the publication?
Our main goal is to always spotlight artists who were super influential but never got their due. So much of contemporary photography owes a great debt to Chris and when future generations looks at work that they feel is new or exciting, we want them to know where it comes from and who did it first.
Unpublished image of Karen Bjornson and Whiskey Circa 1977
All photo courtesy of MAO PR | Text by Matt Bell