Category Archives: Make

Viva Italia

I last worked on the following post October 29, 2016. I got busy with other stuff, and then the election happened. I thought about scrapping the whole post, starting over with a different perspective. Honestly, I even thought about never doing another Clothes Story again. But, those feelings were all part of the grieving process, and now I have a renewed belief in the power of sharing our stories. I also have a renewed appreciation for stepping outside of our bubbles and for being in community. Oh, and the exploration of fantasy and illusion in the film, 8 1/2 is something that’s come up repeatedly in this post truth moment in history. So, without further ado…

One early October morning “certain parents” made the mistake of telling their teen that “Ha, ha, ha, the truth is we don’t know what we are doing!” as they dropped him off for an over night camping trip. Don’t do that. Teenagers’ hormones are trouble enough, and they don’t need their parents sharing their  existential crises – or at least displaying such a dark humor about it. They need their parents to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and smoothies and tell them everything is going to be okay.

Early Fall of 2016 I waded into a midlife crises – I’m being dramatic, of course – and in such a dramatic state I started to fantasize about remaking the film, 8 1/2.

From a female artist’s point of view.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Back up. Midlife crises? Why now? Maybe because I had come off a summer where I did things I had previously been afraid to do. That always shakes things up, doesn’t it? I had fallen into a tiny acting role on a friend’s movie – an exhilarating experience. I had also started playing shows with k-blamo on which I do vocals. Another exhilarating experience. Oh, that golden chakra. And the turquoise one, for that matter! Fall meant “back to work”. Even though I had taught all summer, the boys going back to school meant it was time to buckle down in the studio. Buckle down? I didn’t want to buckle down. Like Guido in 8 1/2 I wanted to break out of that traffic-trapped car and float up, up, and away. Something had changed within me, and I needed to explore it further.

In Federico Fellini’s 1963 black and white film, 8 1/2, the main character is an artist as well. He is film director, Guido, just off one production and now being hounded to give his vision for his next film – a science fiction piece, no less. Guido starts out at some sort of healing spa, and ends up swimming in a sea of his own memories and dreams. Marcello Mastroianni, at the height of his cool style quotient, plays Guido.

So, here I am. A female artist wandering the west side of Los Angeles that no movie crew is really looking for. No mistress is showing up – unless she is represented by social media distractions. Instead, my co-conspirator is patiently taking filming direction from me by the bus depot. The bus depot matches my skirt.

Big Blue Bus blue.

Big Blue Bus blue.

Like Guido, the film director character in 8 1/2, I avoid my artistic project’s completion (in this case, a graphic novel that is so long it makes me want to cry) by wandering the city in a beautiful outfit and revisiting my entire life’s story. I even start my journey in my own spa – my childhood bathtub full of healing salts where I end up talking to my mother as if I was ten again, and to the moon outside the window – a window that is no longer there. Fellini talks to his dead parents in a sunny graveyard, suddenly dressed as a priest. Dream sequences, heavy symbols, Jungian imagery that 8 1/2 is known for? Check. Like Fellini, I need a note attached to the camera reminding me that this is a comedy – that life is a comedy. Eventually, Guido contemplates the idea of the “ideal woman” in an actress he wants to cast. I contemplate who I strive to be, as my own “ideal woman”.

How did I get to deciding that a piece of Italian cinema so illustrated my crises? The seed was planted with a wander into an Italian menswear shop. One thing led to another, and through a series of cappuccinos, a visit from Tuscan friends, and on-the-street filming, I ended up at 8 1/2.

Brioni

I like portals, and the Brioni store in Beverly Hills is a portal to the elegant, gorgeous Italian bespoke shops of the 1940’s and 50’s. The Artist and I wandered into this epicenter of fine fabrics and spectacular stylings of fine men’s tailoring one lovely Fall afternoon.

It was the red velvet that beckoned us initially. What is it about velvet suits that grabs us? It’s decadent, luxurious, and oh, so soft. It conjures up falcons, estates, and silver goblets. Three out of four people in my immediate family love velvet suits. My husband even contemplated a velvet suit for our wedding in 1993. One of my favorite moments from a trip to Florence, Italy in 1997 was taking a photo of a business man in a blue velvet suit, standing in a plaza chatting with his friends at lunch time. Casual. No big deal. I performed with a band in a velvet jumpsuit around the same time. Now, The Artist wears a similar, red velvet jacket to the one in the top photo. Velvet is back.

Once inside the store, the atmosphere was all mirrors, gold, and black. I felt like I was inside an Italian race car with bouquets of roses everywhere. We were greeted by Sheila, who because of our enthusiasm (and probably our outfits!) treated us like we were museum goers, and she was the knowledgeable docent.

Clothing can be art to me, especially when they are so well made. Once Sheila told me about the attention and work that went into each suit, handmade in Italy, we bonded about the scene in Valentino, the Last Emperor that shows the handful of seamstresses making one of his incredible dresses. I love that scene – the intricate craftiness of it all. I grew up starting Saturday afternoons at the fabric store with my mom and then going home, each of us with a project at hand, cutting and sewing at the machine. Now, The Artist is pretty skilled himself, manipulating suit jackets with silver thread, vintage buttons, and yes, even adding Rushmore patches like you see on his jacket above.

If the Fall was the filming of my 8 1/2, then Brioni was a trip to the wardrobe department.

Caffe 8 and Half

If there’s catering on this movie set, then for me it would be  Caffe 8 1/2 in Santa Monica which I started getting into this past Fall as well. It’s kind of hidden, but oh so good. EVERYTHING is good here. I kind of went overboard on the sugar last time (Two words: Nutella. Pie.), but I do not dissuade you from completely giving in to the whole experience. Any cafe that has a Fellini theme and a Marcello Mastroianni photo mural wins me over easy. Next time I am trying a panini, for sure. Getting ideas from Yelp at the moment where the reviews are all glowing.img_1318

img_1305

img_1308

img_1326

Wait, are these photos of my OUTFIT at Caffe 8 and a Half? Why, yes they are.

The owner, Gaetano makes your visit to Caffé 8 1/2 even more special.

The owner, Gaetano makes your visit to Caffé 8 1/2 even more special.

Which brings us back to Brioni because…

On the Brioni website we see some red carpet photos of people wearing their suits, and one of them is of Chiara Mastroianni (French-Italian actress and singer) who is the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni (AND Catherine Deneuve… but that’s a whole other post. Wait, I already did that one). I don’t usually get stars in my eyes, but I swoon for the European art house cinema stars of my youth – my youth of seeing the films back in college, I mean. Marcello actually wears Brioni in this film. His look created a desire for a lighter suit, a more modern, on the go presence that reached all the way across the Atlantic.

original-marcello-mastroianni-bodycopy-jpg-e15419b0

Oh. My. Goodness.

Under a Tuscan Sun

Lastly, there was Tuscany. I had one of those rare, sleepy afternoons this Fall where I curled up with a blanket and a self-indulgent movie. The “airplane” movie was something I found on Netflix called Under the Tuscan Sun. I’m not even going to talk about this movie in the same post as I mention Fellini – but, then again there is a whole character in this film who is obsessed with her past relationship with the great director. She even acts out a scene from one of his movies. Didn’t see that coming. I just wanted an escapist hour and a half, and I am back on set! Besides the always charismatic Diane Lane, the film’s other star is the location of Cortona in the Tuscan province of Arezzo.

Now, here’s the crazy thing. Next thing you know, in the last days of October we were so happy to hook up with our friends visiting from Italy. He was originally one of our good British friends from our year in Leeds, UK. She was the wonderful Italian woman he met while camping in Spain, and lucky us, they brought along their six year old daughter who taught me a bit of Italian. And where do they live? In that same Tuscan province of Arezzo! A highlight of the visit was the little girl trying her first skateboard on the Venice boardwalk. They brought with them a bit of child like curiosity from the village which I so needed.

ending-scene-8-12

Italy was everywhere, and it was guiding me through a Fall of transitions. I entered through a suit shop, took to the streets making a handful of haiku like music videos in support of a new EP, and was infused with fresh energy by our Italian visitors. The summer had already been a gateway to embracing my love of performance, as my partner and I performed music and spoken word at a couple of Los Angeles events (with plans for more!). Like Guido in 8 1/2, I realized a film crew was in fact following me. In this case, the crew turned out to be the world that constantly encourages me to produce, that promises to eat up whatever I make. So, I ordered a new business card… and splattered them all with hot pink acrylic. The circus-like ending to 8 1/2? Maybe that’s what 2017 needs. The artists, the dreamers, the lovers, the activated… dancing in the new year across what looks like a barren landscape, still hoping to make the world sing.

Advertisements

Thunderbird

I received a package recently, and in it was this story and a gift…

Here is a birth month story I want to tell you. Once, three days ago or three hundred years from now, there was a beautiful artist who lived in a dry land. This artist sang and wrote and painted about women who could fly, women who rode on cloud-buffalo and stepped over skyscrapers, women who could melt into their ancestors or disappear into daily life, women who could soar above circumstances as though gravity simply did not exist for them.

"Cloud-Buffalo", watercolor on panel, 8" x 8", 2011, collection of Lissa Carter

“Cloud-Buffalo” by me, watercolor on panel, 8″ x 8″, 2011, collection of Lissa Carter

This artist had a friend who had left the dry country and traveled far east, into a land of frozen winters and wet summers. This friend sat beside a fire one thundering, rainy night and watched tongues of lightning flicker through clouds. In the patterns of fire on her eyelids, she thought she saw the shape of the cloud-buffalo woman her friend had painted. Rain fell in sheets and drenched her to the bone as she ran back to her home. 

That night, she dreamt of the artist. The artist was hovering in a night sky filled with stars, and every time she stretched her arms out, rain fell beneath her. “How are you doing that?” called her friend. The artist laughed and said, “The ground needs water so I came up here where it is!”

A few days after she had awakened from that dream, the friend was wandering through a merchant’s trove of junk and treasures. A small box filled with a spill of bright color caught her eye, the colors of rain and rivers and deserts and sunsets. Lifting it into her hands, she saw that it was a Thunderbird, the Navajo icon of rain, power, creativity, and magic. The friend thought of dry land, and art, and women who could fly. She knew this talisman belonged to her friend, the artist, in whose hands it could bring water of many kinds to the thirsty ground. Aho!                                xoxoLissa

IMG_0732 IMG_0736 IMG_0737 IMG_0740 IMG_0742 IMG_0746

Hat by Roxy. Stone necklace by Nicole. Blouse by Promod. Levi’s jeans altered by me. Sunglasses by Ray Ban. Thunderbird bead necklace is gift from the goddess, Lissa.

Chakra Necklace and Guru Dog

        Talk’n chakras again. I can’t stop. It’s summer. School’s still out for some of us. I’ve scheduled all activities for the afternoon so this means I’m getting enough sleep. This means I’m not too tired to meditate when I wake up OR when I’m going to bed. It’s the perfect spiritual storm.

There are so many ways to approach these photos. I can’t decide. My ideas all relate to the chakras… but, which chakra? I am over-chakrawelmed! Has this ever happened to you before? Am I wearing too many different colors at once? Is there a chakra dressing expert out there? Hello? No? But you know one? And she doesn’t have a computer? Figures.

I think the reason for the rainbow avalanche is the fantastic necklace pictured above made by my friend, Jodi Pantuck. Jodi used to sell her jewelry on Etsy. As far as I know, now she is only creating for the lucky few when inspired.

Okay, let’s go through all the chakras and relate this post to them, and then see what happens. Why not? We have nothing more important to do – at least nothing that we can remember we are supposed to do.

  1. Root Chakra  Well, I’m wearing red lipstick. It’s my favorite color and I love lipstick. I really don’t need to say anything else about it… Okaaay; It’s grounding. Might be hard to believe, but I put on something red and then everything is suddenly right.
  2. Sacral Chakra The orange chair, obviously! Joy and pleasure is basically this metal patio chair. I mean, look at how it is making me pose when I sit in it. Who am I, right now? Good thing you are not seeing the shots of me in the chair I edited out! To be honest, they were along the lines of a PG 13 Almodovar film. But for me… totally sassy.
  3. Solar Plexus  Okay, I’m going to go all out here and say that the doodle is part of my outfit. In many lands, dogs are incorporated into people’s outfits. I’m not objectifying. It’s like when we dress similar to or complimentary to who we are keeping company with. The doodle came over to be in the shots on his own because he sensed that the solar plexus was missing. He’s like a guru dog. Oh, yeah. Solar is all about being in your power. Guru Dog brings it.
  4. Heart Chakra  Oooh, heart is my next area of focus in meditation. Notice the green foliage at the bottom of my dress. This is a photo print dress. I LOVE photo print. It’s got some kind of architectural thing going on as well… we’ll get to that. The heart is of course about love, giving, forgiveness, compassion. One of my favorite chakras.
  5. Throat Chakra  I will say that the brilliant sky blue at the top of the dress illustrates  the expression of creativity that Gregory Ain was so brilliant at when he designed the house  in these photographs. Oh, the modern home as social commentary. Yes, these case study houses cost more than twice as much as neighboring homes in 1948, but they had sliding walls that could convert them into one bedroom, two bedroom, or three bedroom houses! Also, he is considered to be the first architect to design a house that did not contemplate servants. Talk about speaking your mind. Notice how this chakra has the highest word count.
  6. Third Eye  One of my favorite colors, the enchanting indigo. I could have easily made the whole post about this chakra because my third eye was ON when I put this outfit on in the morning. I “didn’t know” that I was going to receive this necklace later in the day – picking it up from a mail box where Jodi left it for me. I love picking things up from secret locations; especially when they are incredible, sparkly creations in little shiny black boxes that match the dress I am wearing PERFECTLY. Third eye dressing, I tell you. Third eye.
  7. Crown Chakra  Okay, let’s be honest here. The crown chakra mystifies me. Either that, or I totally get it, and it is just not easily put into words. I mean, the mantra is “I am at one with everything.” Isn’t that a conversation stopper? I do have purple on my dress, I can say that much. One of these chakras had to have the smallest word count, and why not have it be the last one?

I think we are starting to remember that stuff that’s really important that we have to do. What was it? Order dog’s flea medication. Right. Look that thing up on the DMV website. Right. Email someone about something. Oh, yeah. Is it all becoming clearer? Maybe it was the solar plexus at work. Wait a second, does that mean this post was really all about the the Guru Dog? Animal photobombs and becomes center of universe.

Dress by rag & bone. Shoes by Dansko. Necklace by Jodi Pantuck.

Photos by Evan Hartzell

Sartorial Sublimation: The Art of the Reframe

Hello everyone! My name is Lissa, and I am highly honored to be a Clothes Stories guest blogger. I am a student and practitioner of Expressive Arts therapy, and one of my favorite techniques in expressive arts is the reframe. Sometimes this takes the form of literally re-framing a piece of art to emphasize a new aspect of your work. Other times, it is writing out an old story from a new, and liberating, perspective. This is the Clothes Story of how I did an expressive arts reframe of my relationships through the transformation of my wedding dress.

At the age of 25, I married my kung fu instructor, and although he had many positive qualities as a kung fu instructor, they did not translate well into marriage. It all ended in a severe case of learned helplessness and a devastating three-year custody battle.

Photograph from my wedding at 25.

Even though the dress I married in was purchased for only 63 dollars in the garment district of Los Angeles, it was a rather lovely floor length confection of white lace with an empire waist and flowery straps. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it, although I felt my stomach drop every time I encountered the thing in the back of my closet.

After the divorce, I went into a downward spiral of rage, grief, and powerlessness in the face of my custody battle.

I took up with a man who was both incredibly charming and highly unstable. When I finally broke it off and moved to North Carolina to start my masters degree, this man—we’ll call him ‘Dorian’—pleaded with me to come see him, even sending me a ticket so that we could meet one last time for forgiveness and closure. I ignored the ticket. I knew how he cycled between loving attentiveness and physical/emotional abuse.

Fast forward two years, and I was happily ensconced in graduate school in the mountains of NC when my friend Briana invited me to her wedding. Briana’s pleasure group had been instrumental in my survival of the terrible divorce years, and I was thrilled that she had found such happiness. Her wedding was to be a flapper-style 1920’s era speakeasy affair, and although I loved the aesthetic and wanted to dive in, I was a single mother and a self-employed graduate student. There was no way I would be able to afford the flight to California, let alone buy new clothes for the occasion!

But I am persistent, and I am resourceful, and I REALLY wanted to be there. As I cudgeled my brain to think of a way to get to California, I remembered Dorian’s ticket to Los Angeles. I quickly called up the airline and found that it was still valid, but would  expire the day after Briana’s wedding! I took this as a sign and booked my trip.

Now the flight was taken care of, but what would I wear?

I rifled through my closet. Nothing I owned had even the vaguest 1920’s aesthetic. And then, at the far back, I encountered my wedding dress. My heart began to beat faster. What better way to reclaim that dress than by wearing it to the wedding of a woman who had helped me through my divorce?

I took it off the hanger and assessed the situation. The sleeves would need to change. It would need to be shortened and given a drop waist. The lace already had a fringe effect….this was going to work!

I cut it off with my shears and dumped the whole thing into a vat of strong tea and mango peels to give it a vintage sepia color. With ribbon, I created a drop waist at the hip line and sewed on a large flower “given” to me by Michael’s (I found it orphaned on the floor!). Voila! The dress was utterly transformed. In the same way I had rebuilt my life with resourcefulness and creativity, this dress had gone from a generic, innocent lace gown to a sexy, original piece that felt like it had history and maturity. I felt like Cinderella. 


But the story isn’t over yet.

When I arrived at the airport, ready to visit friends and celebrate the wedding, Dorian was waiting for me. My heart dropped to my shoes. I hadn’t taken the time to consider that because he had originally paid for the ticket, my full itinerary would be emailed to him!

There followed a strange and surreal time of fear, ceremony, and closure. I was amazed to discover how much more powerful I had become as a person. I set firm boundaries and I spoke my truth. I refused to be intimidated by Dorian’s verbal abuse, and I ended things with him for once and for all.

And I made a mistake.

You see, in North Carolina, I had met someone. I had met a man who genuinely loved me, a man so full of creativity and intelligence and support and patience that I almost couldn’t believe he was real. I didn’t want him to know that I had ever been involved with someone like Dorian. So I hid that truth from him. I didn’t tell him about my years with Dorian. I didn’t tell him where my ticket to Los Angeles came from. I returned from Briana’s beautiful and soulful wedding and told my beloved all about it, but I did not tell him I had seen Dorian.

Photo “booth” at Briana’s wedding.

Well… As we all know, truth has a way of emerging into the light. And as it turned out, something in me really wanted honesty and full disclosure with the man I love.  One night, as I was sleeping, I confessed the whole story by TALKING IN MY SLEEP.  (Note to self: don’t try to keep any more secrets.)

When  I woke, he was crying. We had a long, painful and deeply vulnerable conversation, and we braved it out. We kept talking, we kept processing, we kept listening, and we kept our hearts open. He never gave up on me.  In the months that followed, he proposed.

Now we live together in the mountains of Asheville. Last week, I set up a date for us at a 1920’s style mystery theater, with my friend Briana, who has since moved to North Carolina. Full circle!

My beloved.

My beloved saw the dress laid out on the bed and quailed. He told me he still associates it with Dorian and that terrible sleep-talking conversation. But he is a brave and patient man, and after we had discussed it for a while, he asked me to wear it anyway.

We walked through the streets of downtown Asheville,  past the beautiful art-deco buildings, arm in arm and excited for the sense of history we felt. We laughed and talked and dined and were serenaded by live piano in an old saloon. And we reclaimed that dress once again–for ourselves, and for our love.

We are getting married in September. That is a whole other Clothes Story, but in the meantime, it is wonderful to know that with tea, scissors, flowers, intention, and communication, an outfit that once represented pain, difficulty, and betrayal can be transformed and reframed into a vehicle of love–not once, but twice.

Dress, unknown brand, LA garment district, tea-dyed and altered. Shoes, Chelsea Crew, vintage store find. Necklace, handmade, acquired in a handmade gift exchange in Malibu. Slip, vintage, thrift store find.

Read more about Lissa here, and enjoy her blog, True Beauty Always… it’s radiant, like her!  xoLaura

The Ghost Daughter 

Photo by Aristotle

Photo by Aristotle

Mauricio Navarro abstract

Mauricio Navarro, untitled, acrylic & resin on canvas, 30″ x 24″

Quick post here… I had a couple of “serious” posts I was working on that I just stuck in the trash. (It wasn’t lack of commitment. I just didn’t really have any good outfit photos!)  Instead, well, I just finished The Ghost Daughter last night, and I am in the glow of it’s awesome ending. One of my favorite people in the world, Maureen O’Leary wrote this glorious work of fiction. Yesterday, I also saw the work of a promising, emerging artist, Mauricio Navarro. I must write about both of them!

But where did the outfit come from? How is it related? As Roy Batty says, “Questions…” My main question is “Do I love something because it is just inherently great or because it reminds me of some personal memory?” Of course, I am conflicted on this answer. I want so badly to say, “Both!”

The Ghost Daughter opens with Mother Nature unleashing her power on a unique and storybook, central Californian town. This fictional earthquake was based on one in 1989 I experienced as “part of” my college education, we might say. The author, my good friend and housemate at the time had to kick her way out from underneath an oak desk at her downtown Santa Cruz place of employment. I think she knew it was an earthquake. On the other hand, I was luckily, sitting in a little field of cabbage painting a watercolor as part of an outdoor landscape painting class. I watched the redwoods “jumping” up and down. I stood up and hopped around, thinking the ground was going to open up any second. It was a long 15 seconds. Still, I didn’t think it was an earthquake. I thought it was the apocalypse – mostly because of what the grand, old trees were doing. And even now, I remember exactly what I was wearing. Black bolero hat on my long dark brown hair, white t shirt, red plaid above the knee prairie skirt, and cowboy boots – perfect outfit for an earthquake in that setting, I think.

Maureen wrote a novel I will definitely read again. It’s one of those books. I don’t think it is just because of the familiar subject matter – or even just because it addresses themes that I’ve been interested in as of late. Maureen’s descriptions capture my imagination. They make me smile, and sometimes they make me squirm. She paints with her words. It’s not just colors and patterns, though. She addresses all of the senses. Clothes have scents that tell so much more about where the character has been. Boots make sounds that express confidence. Maureen, you had me at the outfit descriptions. If you want a teaser (or inspiration for that matter), look at her Pinterest board!

So, back to my outfit above. This is personal, these outfits of The Ghost Daughter, I admit. Back in college I was trying to figure out who the grown up Laura was, and of course, because it was me, I would do it through outfits. Some of the young women who attended UC Santa Cruz at that time (1989) had style similar to Angel, one of The Ghost Daughter‘s main characters. First of all, natural, even wild hair was essential. There was no style ironing to be seen. There was white eyelet like you might see under a 1900 buttoned up dress. There were a lot of crochet fitted tops. Prairie skirts. Oh, the prairie skirts. Cowboy boots, of course. Jeans had to be railroad worker jeans, all worn and distressed. This was one of the looks I experimented with at that time. On other days, I might be 40’s vintage, grunge lover, or sporty girl borrowing from her boyfriend’s closet, but the cowgirl/prairie girl look was one of my favorites. So romantic and strong, this style evoked a love of poetry and the ability to mountain bike for miles over hilly terrain.

So, on this day I was almost finished with The Ghost Daughter, and I was accepting my love for this character, Angel – through my outfit. She reads like a real person I played at being back in those days. It was a revelation to realize that when I imagine my “higher self”, she dresses like Angel. I celebrated all those qualities I love about her as I wore this outfit all day long on my many adventures. Thank you, Maureen for reconnecting me with them.

Okay, and also on that same day I was picking up the older boy from his haircut appointment at Don’s Cutting Edge, and gosh darn it, but if one of the paintings hanging in the current exhibition didn’t just go so perfectly with my skirt! And it reminds me of Big Sur’s Gallery at Ventana – Ooh! And Big Sur plays a role in Ghost Daughter as well! The painting is by hair stylist and artist, Mauricio Navarro. From Mexico City originally, Mauricio grew up inspired by the colors and energy of the diverse metropolis. Now, his paintings, both representational and abstract, express both the city and the quiet moments in nature that Mauricio loves about living on the coast of California.  If you are local to Los Angeles, check out Mauricio’s current showing of his work up through August. You might end up with a ventana to another world on your wall, or at the very least, an new update to your hair.

Hat by Silver Wave, skirt by Everest Handcrafts, top vintage, boots by Hanna Anderson, necklace homemade, Will bag – hand painted and additional silkscreening by me!

 

Wear Your Art Collection

 

         

If you know me, you know that I am a non stop celebration of the Hundred Languages. Why just last night I was celebrating the language of food. I invented a Dutch goat cheese, peach, and honey quesadilla. Yes, corn tortilla. I know you were wondering. I was speaking food, and the invention perfectly fit my mood of wanting a dessert, but wanting a bit of savory as well. My family was very receptive to this spontaneous expression. It sounds like I am digressing from the above photos, but it is just that I think my synesthesia is breaking down the walls in my brain between food and fashion.

Both the artist, Copious Harvey Smith and I enjoy breaking down the walls between languages. We also both understand that each language has it’s own qualities that bring out a different aspect of the same idea. For me, my characters and stories have outfits, soundtracks and painted “storyboards”. For Copious I see how her messages of healing cross into her music, paintings, writing, and now fashion. With Lucid Designs, Copious allows art collectors to wear what they would usually collect as one of her canvases or sculptures. Artists collaborating with fashion designers has become common, but usually it is a highly literal application of the artist’s “visual quotes” onto a textile design. Instead, Copious is using the human body as a canvas for her messages. Each piece involves the thoughtful placement of symbols and words in meaningful colors. More than a message t shirt, each shirt or hoodie becomes a talisman, a healing stone, or a power animal when someone chooses the piece they need.

Gaining a quality from what you are wearing? Now we’re talking my language. Let’s just look at this one hoodie. Copious says the actual hood with the words “light” and “dark” is about “the recovery of self through claiming all parts of us in ourselves and in turn offering a reflection of either our dark or light shadows.” On the front pocket, “The bird flying represents the freedom of claiming our whole selves, and no longer being triggered by the parts of ourselves that we reject or suppress.” Oh my goodness. I’m feeling this! Reminds me of my talks with Lissa about Persephone. Seriously happy Copious speaks so many languages.

Collect one of these pieces now and benefit a great cause. See the full gallery of wearable art here!

How to Be Weird

david-bowie-blue-jean

It’s strange when someone I don’t know personally passes away, and my first reaction is “No. I need them to be in this world.” The way I react to different deaths fascinates me. With my two grandmas I was sad, but I didn’t cry – they were both so “grande”.* An older, influential artist I met once in college? Cried for a whole day. Didn’t expect that. With my cat, I cried for a week. My mom? Epic, of course with layers of emotion. So, people I’ve never met, but were influential on my life? Usually, I react with, “Aw. Really? Aw, that’s so sad. Wow.” I accept it and move on pretty quickly. I was surprised with how I reacted with Bowie. Impossible, I thought. Why? I think I got a clue within the first 24 hours of the news.

I completely underestimated the effect of David Bowie on my childhood. I know I am not the only one having this thought process in the last few weeks. As a preteen, 1979-84, I went from disco to The Go Go’s, Blondie, Rockabilly, and Big Band. It was my friends who bought Bowie records, and we rocked out to them in their bedrooms. These were “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”, “Let’s Dance”, and “Tonight”. I was in the awkward glaring light of those 11-15 year old years, but what made it more complex… I was weird.

Merriam-Webster dictionary mentions “soothsayer” as a definition for weird. Soothsayer? You mean “a person who predicts the future by magical, intuitive, or more rational means”? So Bowie. Cambridge uses the word “unexpected” when describing weird. I like that one, too. From Oxford, I picked out “supernatural”… of course. And then when you go to Oxford’s more archaic definition (Scottish, really), we find “a person’s destiny”. Now we’re talking!

IMG_8054

Blurry photo of me drawing around five years old dressed as a… clown?

What were the first signs of weirdness? Oh, it’s hard to tell because like my friend, Maureen, I liked to talk to rocks as well when I was six years old, but that is usually thought of as… being a child. At about that age my parents asked me if I wanted to go to a “special school”. Because I talked to rocks? I don’t think so, but I remember I thought it was because I was really, really good at drawing swans. Seriously. I remember wondering why I had been chosen for such a privilege? To be taken away from all of my friends, my brother, and my mom who worked at my school? Must have been the swans. It had to be. No more neighborhood school. No more friends. And I actually wanted to go? That’s just weird.

Maybe I was a soothsayer! Because at the new school some of my really good friends had come as well. Also, at the new school we had more field trips, emergent curriculum, painting, music, projects, and Shakespeare. It was radical. And taking the bus was an Adventure.

IMG_8051

That’s me on the left side of the group, “observing” from outside the track. First day of school in home made alphabet jumpsuit. Little did they know what they were in for…

But still, my little ten year old self thought the new school wasn’t weird enough. The weird department was clearly lacking at this otherwise fine establishment, and my efforts to improve it landed me in the principal’s office with my new best friend.

IMG_8050

Clockwise from left: Samantha, Cori, and I. Yes, I’m wearing a Shaun Cassidy t shirt. And, yes we are creating some kind of singing ritual around french fries. I mean, our teacher took us on a field trip to CARL’S JR. We HAD to mess with it.

My new best friend, Cori was one of those Bowie kids. She had all kinds of music playing at her house that I wasn’t hearing anywhere else. They had relatives in Europe, so they had ACCESS. Her slightly older brother was basically Ziggy Stardust’s little brother. Cori wore tuxedos to school. I wore jumpsuits my mom made me with the alphabet all over it. For us, a fun playdate was reading some random play aloud to each other.

So, one day we decided that we would offer lessons on how to be weird. The lessons were free, and would be conveniently located in the girls’ restroom during lunch recess, right next to the sinks. I recall there was a nice big mirror there. We were bright sparks of color in a whited out restroom. It looked like we were filming “Life on Mars”.

The lessons (which were really just the early days of performance art education) were going well until one day we were discovered by the authorities. Someone who spotted in us the signs of a weird revolution must have told. I don’t blame them. This special school was inside of a TRACT. Who can blame those local kids for being scared? We were bussed in from outside the tract. What was the administration thinking?

40's pattern

1940’s pattern.

Fast forward to the world of surf punks and skaters in middle school…  I continued my exploration of weird. I decided I was born in the wrong decade so I started dressing like it was the 1940’s. This was when I started designing and making my own clothes as well as picking up treasures at yard sales. I also started learning about the darker side of American history, reading about slavery, Native Americans and listening to my cousins’ stories in Mexico about missing journalists and what our government was doing in Latin America. Around this time, I remember singing Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” over the bar b q at a family get together which of course, concerned my relatives.

IMG_8055

My blue eye shadow matches my AMAZING 1940’s blue velvet dress I found for graduation at the swap meet. You just. Can’t. See. It. Under my robe. I realize these years were before camera phones, so there were no fun outfit photos. Waah.

“Let’s Dance” marked the beginning of high school, and I wanted to dance… if only with the English boy who had the locker above me and dressed up like Bowie in “Blue Jeans” for Halloween. Yeah, even the metallic makeup. Meanwhile, I was only scaring my friends and others. For me, everyday was Halloween. A memorable outfit was my dad’s red 60’s hawaiian shirt tucked into my mom’s long, pleated, electric blue, wool skirt. African elephant necklace and black combat boots completed the look. For some reason I was very comfortable making every day an art performance… but I had encouragement.

Looking back on those formative years, I could say that was when I really needed Bowie. He was my first “Teacher of Weirdness” that I needed in homogeneous Orange County. He taught me to do the unexpected, to express myself through music, art and style with abandon. To not only dress up to clean the house, but make songs about it… choreographed of course. He taught me to stay in touch with what we come into this world as – “real humans”. Because we’re born as real humans. We’re born as artists. Capable of talking to rocks and traveling to Mars.

Jump almost thirty years ahead, and I am riding in the car early on a Monday morning staring at the news on my phone. Next to me is an artist driving the car that also inspires me every day since I fell in love with him when we were 18. Behind me are two incredible teenage artists who are my sons. For one of them – the song-writing one at the moment, “Ziggy Stardust” is one of his favorite albums. We’ve always made music. We’ve always made art. We’ve always been the best kind of weird – together. And whenever I had those moments as an adult when I thought, “Oh, my goodness. Who do I think I am? What am I doing?” Bowie was one of those people I would think of. I would think, “But… Bowie.” Always looking for encouragement, he was the example to me of acceptance of oneself, calling the bluff of artistic boundaries, and risking the approval of others for the sake of the possibility of discovering something new. So, I needed him in this world, and that was why.

But here is the crazy thing. With my mom, the moment I found out she passed away, I felt her rise up like a super hero. I was so proud of her. I was so beyond impressed. Within a few hours, I felt the same thing with Bowie. I didn’t even know him, so how do you explain that? I could try, but I’d rather embrace the mystery. Mysteries can be so beautiful. Especially when they are made of stardust and metallic makeup.

 

 

*While the Spanish word, “grande” can mean big or great, it also can mean old – but it’s a big, great kind of old… of course.