Art, Music + Travel
BY JOÃO PAULO NUNES
The Construction of the Self through Clothing The exhibition “Aware: Art Fashion Identity”, currently on at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, sets out to depict how artists and designers examine clothing as a mechanism to construct and communicate individual and collective identities. Despite some lukewarm reviews in a number of newspapers, mostly owing to somewhat set expectations of what themes fashion exhibitions should focus on, this is an outstanding and thought-provoking collection of pieces by talented artists and designers that addresses the conceptual roles that fashion can have. The exhibition contains work by 30 emerging as well as established international contemporary practitioners including Hussein Chalayan, Andreas Gursky, Susie MacMurray, Alexander McQueen, Yoko Ono, Grayson Perry, Cindy Sherman, Yinka Shonibare and Yohji Yamamoto. Occupying the main galleries of the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens building, “Aware” is divided into four clearly demarcated sections. The circular and fluid layout of the galleries allows the visitor the possibility of revisiting the art works at different paces and developing personal interpretations of the rich layers of meaning that they produce regarding the role of fashion in the construction of identity. The first section, “Storytelling”, acknowledges the role of clothing in the representation of the self, within a formative background of personal history and moulded by shared cultural experiences. Visitors are welcomed to the exhibition by Grayson Perry’s “Artist’s Robe’”(2004), an elaborate patchwork coat of luxurious fabrics and a comment on the role and the status of artists in today’s world. This section also hosts works by artists Lucy Orta and Cindy Sherman and introduces the narrative of the exhibition by questioning the role of the body and the garment as material embodiments of identity and emotions. In this context, Susie MacMurray’s “Widow (2009), an elegant dress structure of black nappa leather covered in sharp dressmaker pins, translates the internal pain of love loss into an aggressive external presentation of the garment as object that inflicts pain to the wearer while repelling human contact. The second section “Building” addresses the concept that clothing can be both a form of protection and a way to carry one’s own shelter, referencing the nomadic, portable nature of modern life. On display is “Shelter Me 1” (2005) by Mella Jaarsma, well-known for work establishing parallels between garments and architecture. Jaarsma’s piece depicts shelter not as a house but as the minimal construction needed for individual protection according to the proportions of the human body. Similarly, Azra Akšamija’s “Nomadic Mosque” (2005) portrays a garment as wearable religious architecture, challenging commonly held notions of the physical public and collective spaces of worship.
By Angela Jelicic
- Photography: Marco Casiraghi When we travel, it is the sounds, smells, tastes and sights that stay in our hearts and minds. Photographer Marco Casiraghi shares these experiences with us as he captures Vietnam’s rich culture that explodes with refreshing colour. Casiraghi is a published photographer, journalist and writer. His work has appeared in Viajes National Geographic, Marie Claire Travel and Yacht and Sail and other major publications.
Creative Confections; Ice-Cream Skulls and Leggy Lolli’s What is your name? Brent Ray Fraser How old are you? 11,491 days. What do you do? I’m a full-time artist. When did you know you were an artist? My first experience was in1984, Miss Smith’s Kindergarten class. I was five years old. We mixed primary colours with our fingers to create paintings for our parents. My mom would hang them on the kitchen fridge. I was motivated to hang art on that door for years. It’s funny because now I create abstract paintings with the very same method I used when I was five. What do you consider yourself then, a painter, a photographer, a performance artist? Right now I consider myself ‘Untitled, 2010’. I don’t fall into a specific category. Not that I don’t want to, I just don’t like restrictive titles. I express myself through my art, which takes on many forms. A single label would make my life pretty narrow. The beautiful aspect to art is that it can change shapes to reflect the artist. Where does your inspiration come from? It comes from experiences. I think about art all the time and always get lost in deep thought. My ideas are found on my way back to reality. Why fashion-based art? When I originally conceived the idea about incorporating clothing and fashion within my work I did not consider it fashion-based art. From 2008-2009 my thoughts revolved around how we are perceived as individuals. The first thing we notice about others is clothing. Our fashion and style depicts who we are. Stereotypes, labels and assumptions follow. Our individuality becomes lost in a sea of brands and labels. All I want is for my work to be seen and understood by all. By portraying the clothing we see around us in my work, I can reflect this characteristic, creating an immediate familiarity with the viewer. Did you view fashion as art before you incorporated it into your work, or more as “lifestlye” and self expression? Fashion is art and designers are artists, but it was not my original intention to portray them or their work within mine. I was intrigued by Marcel Duchampe and the use of ready-mades within art may years ago. It was profound for me, so I decided to investigate its depth by incorporating found objects within my work. It was exciting for me and continues on to this day. Fashion came into play because of its implications as art. The way it can alter ones perception got me thinking about how it can conveyed. The suit jacket was the first to be included because of its characteristics and personality. Luxury brand names later followed due to their social status in consumerism. From that point on I looked at fashion from a different point of view and I wanted others to do the same. How did you come to work with Louis Vuitton? In 2008 I began drawing shoe portraits of women in their favorite heels. I would instruct them to pose for a camera and email me the pics. Then I would choose the best one and create a work of art from it. In 2008 Flare magazine wrote an article about me and my saucy stiletto portraits. Louis Vuitton caught wind shortly after and contacted me. They were looking to boost shoe sales by showcasing me at private events across Canada. I’d come with a pad of paper and sit and draw quick sketches of all the ladies wearing their favorite pair of Louis’s. I was quick enough to draw all the guests and everyone left with a gift portraiture. This went on for a year and took me across Canada. What is your motto? I have more than one motto. First and foremost, “Love what you do and it will love you back”. The second is “life in every breath”. Last but not least, “kick ass and take names”. Your latest venture ‘Popsicles’ ‘examines recognizably contemporary subject matters’, can you elaborate? This is my recent artist statement: “The original idea for this series stems from our urge to collect and consume. It has evolved into a body of work that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Popsicles is a combination of things. The obvious is the frozen treat we all recognize. I originally wanted to create a body of work that we can all connect with. Confectionery is not only a nostalgic food; it’s a product that is mass-produced in a variety of forms. Popsicles also captures the mystical side of my creative mind. Each work portrays objects I’ve photographed specifically for this series. Things I find not only visually stimulating, but also artistically challenging. I think art should be provocative and intriguing. Candy is fun, interactive, colorful, sweet and sour and has a long history in popular culture. It’s a treat enjoyed by all walks of life. By combining it with unusual elements, the art can begin to speak a different language. Art in many ways is candy. It tempts us, pleases us and continually engages our senses”. How do you know when your art is finished? Creating art is like having a great conversation. It is never finished. You can always pick up where you left off. But at the same time, there comes a point between two, when words are chosen so well, that it leaves you speechless. What have you learned from your art? I’ve learned who I am. What can we expect to see from you in the future? The beautiful thing I love so much about my art’s thought process is that there is always something just around the corner. What I can say is that I am working with a taxidermist’s mannequins. The conceptual elements in my work are beginning to evolve and things are going to get really interesting. For more on Brent Ray Fraser, visit the artist’s website: BrentRayFraser.com
By Jacqueline Parrish
Light-up Lenses, Wheat Corsets, Comic-Book Lamps and Lasers “Blood, sweat and tears,” Jeffrey laughs from his U.K. studio; pricking his finger while putting the finishing touches on the latest costume piece for legendary pop-rock band U2. “It’s true what they say,” he grins, flourishing a half-stitched-together light-up shoe in one hand: “there’s DNA on these babies”. ‘Charming’ is the operative word to describe Jeffrey Michael; sporting large, black rimmed glasses, blonde hair and a boyish grin, the 24 year old Edmonton native is full of insight and amusing quips. His energy is infectious, his eloquence, refreshing and his personality, endearing. Specializing in light-up and avant-garde design, Jeffrey is fast becoming one of the most sought out costume and lighting designers in the world. Inimitable talent has both established and up-and-coming stars (such as pop/punk rocker Johnny Lazer) flocking to the creative genius who fashions one-of-a kind pieces for his clients: “(Lady) Gaga doesn’t want what Beyonce has, Beyonce doesn’t want what Rhianna wants, and Rhianna doesn’t want what anyone has,” he smiles. Self-described as ‘headstrong’, Jeffrey studied architecture at Carleton University, a love of building and creating fueling his years of study. Shifting his attention to a focus on lighting design, Jeffrey refused to be pigeon-holed as a ‘lighting designer’, choosing instead to capitalize on his creativity, dabbling in other design driven industries. A deeply ingrained love of organics and recycling, Jeffrey is always looking for ways to push boundaries; changing ordinary ‘things’ into extraordinary ‘somethings’. ‘Somethings’ which include light-up glasses for pop star Jason Derulo, lighting designs for (make-up giant) Rimmel’s latest campaign, stage designs for songstress Gabby Young, and beautiful installation pieces he’s dubbed ‘The Warhol Screens’ for an art gallery named ‘The Collection’. “I think the weirdest thing I’ve made so far is a wheat corset; it glows from the inside…..The lighting is a secret,” he smiles when I question him about it. “I like the idea that no one knows how any of it’s done; it adds an element of magic to it, I think.” Unlike traditional clothing or lighting designers, Jeffrey’s building blocks know no bounds, citing “maple leafs, Christmas balls, wheat, spoons and sunglass lenses” as materials he has used in the past. “Inspiration is everywhere,” he bubbles. “Just this morning I was walking down the street and came across this pretty purple flower that had little puffs coming off the end of the petals, and as soon as I saw it, ideas started racing through my mind.” A short tour around his London studio reveals a vision-board plastered with pictures of various celebrities, models and pop stars; Beyonce, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Coco Rocha. “It’s funny,” he grins, “I’ve actually had to remove some people’s pictures from my inspiration board because I’ve begun working with them…it would be a little unprofessional and embarrassing for them to come in and see their picture up on my wall”. On the opposite side of the room, hidden behind an enormous black and white art piece (which will soon see its way into Liberty House, an art gallery in Chelsea) is a different board, strikingly similar to his vision-board but with one small difference; it’s filled with pictures of those that he has worked with. Sort of a personal homage to what he has already accomplished; amongst the photos on this board are Georgia May Jagger, U2, and Johnny Blue Eyes (stylist of Brit band The Gossip, model Kate Moss, Dragonette and the Scissor Sisters). “I’m terrible at keeping secrets,” he admits while showing me one of his next projects; a light up glass bra for an unnamed celebrity; “I’m not at liberty to say,” he quips. “But, off the record…..” And while I’m also not at liberty to say, I’ll leave off with saying that a good number of pictures are soon going to be transferring vision-boards; an impressive but not surprising accomplishment for such a talented designer. When I question him about his experiences with those in the industry, and whether he’s ever found himself star-struck, he laughs and responds with sincerity: “I freak out on the inside, but I’m composed on the outside. My biggest celebrity freak-out has been Lady Gaga; I immediately called my mom. You hear horror stories about people in the industry, but everyone has been so nice. I think that if I only designed clothing, they would rip me apart, but that I’m involved with so many different mediums, I don’t think they quite know what to make of me. There are so many people I’ve met that I look up to. Johnny Blue Eyes is so intelligent and he gives his clients confidence. Emma Crosby (at London a la Mode) is also a big inspiration. She believed in me and got me into Liberties; we’re still very close.” His next career-move may see him back in his home country (albeit for a short amount of time), and involves a Vogue-caliber photographer, a LABB make-up artist and his team of agents: “You set yourself dreams then when you get to them, you have to make new dreams. You re-prioritize. You can always go harder. You’re the only person that can care about your career”, he says bluntly “you’re the only one that can promote your career.”
By Jacqueline Parrish
Popular Electronics Vocalist Pat Kordyback dishes on the band, female fans, and how their lives have changed. From humble beginnings in a dilapidated bunker off of Whyte Ave, Edmonton hip-hop/pop band Stereos have accomplished what every musician dreams of; a contract with music giant Universal after a successful stint on MuchMusic’s reality TV show disBAND. In less than a year, the energetic -and exceptionally attractive (I’ll admit to having a bit of a crush on the lead guitarist) - quintet has exploded onto the music scene; playing alongside pop superstars like Katy Perry, garnering dedicated followers and #1 hits, as well as recently joining popular pop/punk band Hedley on a cross Canada tour to the delight of thousands of screaming fans. A combination of catchy riffs and lyrics make for memorable songs you’ll find stuck in your head -on repeat. As I type, Stereos’ recent hit ‘Butterflies’ is blasting from my earphones, my iPod is tuned into one of Toronto’s most popular radio stations. Comprised of Pat Kordyback (vocals), Miles Holmwood (lead guitar), Daniel Johnson (bass guitar), Robb Chalifoux (rhythm guitar) and Aaron Verdonk (drums), Stereos have gone from playing to empty crowds and working dead-end jobs to Juno nominations and performing for crowds of thousands; their posters hanging on the walls of virtually every teenage girls’ room. Taking a few days off of their tour to come back to Toronto, I had a chance to talk to Pat about the band, their music, their fans, and their future plans; Where are you guys on tour right now? We’re heading off to Cleveland in the next couple of days to continue our tour. We just finished shooting a video here in Toronto for She Only Likes Me When She’s Drunk. I just listened to that song this morning; was it inspired by or based on a personal experience? (Laughs) Yeah, unfortunately, most of my songs are based on my life. I write from personal experiences, and let’s face it, we’re not talking about world issues or anything, most of the songs are about….. Girls? (Laughs) Yeah, exactly, girls. I write songs that I would want to listen to, what I think other people would want to listen to. So you write all of the music? I do. I write ninety percent of the songs, instruments, vocals. I bring it to the guys and then they put their own personal touch on it. I hear that you guys are going into the recording studio soon? What can we expect from your new album? It’s going to be more us, more R&B as opposed to pop/punk. I think that it will better reflect our personalities. When we released our album, it was a deluxe version where you get a new song each month so we keep busy recording. But I have enough written material to start on a new album. Were there ever moments where you guys debated ‘throwing in the towel’ and quitting? We never quit, even if we were playing a show where no one showed up, there were a couple of times when we probably should have just because we were flat broke, but we never did. At the time I was going to college, and I would go home and find pamphlets for colleges sitting on the table (laughs). So was your family supportive, then? My family was extremely supportive, actually; they were happy that I loved what I was doing, but I think they wanted me to go to school and be in the band at the same time. How have your guys’ lives changed since signing with Universal? Our lives have changed quite a bit, we went from having two jobs, bills, no food, and playing on the side for fun, to being able to focus on what we love full time. It’s great being able to do it one hundred percent. I think the worst job we had was immediately after the show (MuchMusic’s reality TV show disBAND) we flew home and went from being on television to working for a couple of weeks at a warehouse for Winners. Robb and me, unloading boxes. It was terrible. We lived in this really crappy house just off of Whyte Ave. So disgusting, when we came home from disBAND we actually had a mouse and fruit fly infestation. The band is very popular with the female population; what’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys? We woke up one morning when we first moved into our house in Toronto -after playing football outside on the front lawn the day before- to kids going through our trash. Once the TV show aired, our lives changed literally overnight. We’d never had to keep to ourselves before so it was a bit of a shock. We actually had to move out of that neighborhood and into a new house. What are the best and worst parts about being on tour? I think the best part is that we get to meet new people, make new fans. They don’t really know about us in the states because we haven’t been released there yet. We’re touring around in a van and a trailer; it’s very cozy. But we all get along great. We’re just a band on tour playing live; sometimes you think that the grass is always greener on the other side. What’s the most embarrassing thing on your iPod? You’re going to laugh, but I’d say the most embarrassing thing on my iPod is my own demos. But it’s only because I like to critique myself! What artists would you love to collaborate with? I’d love to collaborate with The-Dream, The Black Eyed Peas and Rancid. How does the band deal with negative attention? I love it. I think it makes us work harder, and even if people are talking negatively about us, at least they’re talking about us. What are some of your wardrobe essentials? You seem to be rather fond of jerseys…… (Laughs) You noticed that! I did have an obsession with basketball jerseys last year. Actually I had a fan bring me a really expensive jersey to an autograph signing once. It was crazy that she would shell out that much money for the two seconds I had to meet her. It was very nice of her. What’s the weirdest gift a fan has given you? Socks. Socks? Yes! And to all of the fans, bring us socks. We love socks! What do you guys hope to accomplish within the next year? We’re going to keep going, and I think we’ll have a clearer picture of where we’re headed. We are not a flash in the pan, and we want to keep away from the whole boy band image. Anything else you want to add? Uhm……..no? Usually this is where you thank your family or fans or give a shout out to people…….you don’t have to, just helping you out….. (Laughs) Yeah, thank the fans! Tweet us, Facebook us! Bring us socks! Check out Stereos on their website http://WeAreStereos.com, and download them on iTunes.
By Charmaine Lowe
“She makes steel look light as a feather”, a student described, in reference to University of Alberta professor and internationally acclaimed steel sculptor, Isla Burns. And such a compliment is far from unwarranted when you take a look at Isla Burns’ work. Her finely crafted and painstakingly detailed steel creations look as though they are made from pottery or painted porcelain, rather than such an industrial material as steel. After seeing the wonders this woman can make with steel, it came as no shock to hear she’s had shows in such cities as New York and London, pieces commissioned by the city of Barcelona, Spain, and can call famed New York art critic Clement Greenberg her pen pal. On a wintery Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege to sit down with for tea at a local Japanese restaurant with Isla Burns, and Western Canada fashion week creator, Sandra Sing Fernandes. Over a steamy cup of green tea, a surprisingly shy and unpretentious Isla Burns shared with us the evolution of her craft, her experiences in life and in the art world, and provided some inspiring words for aspiring young artists.
By Jacqueline Parrish
Not So Prim-Roses: Swedish Rock Band The Wildflowers Muses on Music, Fashion, the Future and Starring Alongside Music Industry Luminary Lady Gaga Injecting their androgynous retro-glam music, style and attitude into the world of rock, Swedish band, the Wildflowers reign as one of the few contemporary bands that can legitimately refer to themselves as rock and roll. A shamelessly brazen attitude, propensity for nail polish, sunglasses, skinnies and fast-paced songs evocative of ‘60s and ‘70s punk, blues and rock has the Wildflowers poised to blow your sound system. Their wild antics and nonchalant dispositions make one thing glaringly obvious; they don’t care what you think of them, just as long as you do. Comprised of three tattooed blonde triplets, Izzy, Kelii and Rock Landeberg, and newcomer, guitarist Erik Henriksson from Sweden, the Wildflowers are one of the hottest untapped European imports around. The influence of iconic bands such as The Doors, The Clash, The Ramones and Jimi Hendrix is as apparent in their music as it is in their style. Appreciative of both their talent and unconventional appearance, Lady Gaga handpicked the gorgeous triplets to star in her darkly comedic music video for “Paparazzi”; a roll that saw the three of them living out the fantasy of every Gaga-eyed male in existence as they made-out with the music industry darling en masse. Unlike previous decades, this generation is lacking in any truly great, sustainable rock and roll bands; with their high-energy stage presence, insurmountable drive to succeed, and attitudes that epitomize rock, I have my fingers crossed that The Wildflowers may be just the group to change that. The band was nice enough to take a few minutes out of their schedule to answer a few questions about their music, their fashion, and their future: You were Snake of Eden, and now you’re The Wildflowers. Why the name change? Izzy: After four years in Los Angeles and being a band for two years we felt that the band had changed musical direction from when it started, and the band name Snake of Eden felt too much like a hair-metal band. The Wildflowers feels like it fits our music perfectly and symbolizes the blooming of the band. Is there anyone, other artists, bands, etc., who has had an influence on your band with regards to both music and style? Izzy: We’re into 70’s punk and 60’s-70’s rock & roll and blues. Style-wise we think that Steven Tyler, David Bowie and (T. Rex’s) Mark Bolan had some of the coolest sense of fashion. Kelii: Fashion, art and music goes hand in hand with each other. The way we dress is a visual way to show people what we’re all about and what kind of music we play. What are some of your wardrobe essentials? Kelii: Skinny pants, vests and shirts, fancy shoes, accessories such as jewelry, sunglasses and some hats. A wardrobe should be like a treasure chamber filled with tasty stuff! Where do you find most of your clothing/accessories? Rock: Sometimes vintage shops, often girls clothes. For some reason it’s cheaper and fits better. Kind of hard to find underwear at the girls section, so we don’t wear any. Are there any designers in particular that you like and or follow? Izzy: We like what Vivienne Westwood did for the Sex Pistols in the 70’s. But we often try to avoid designers’ clothes with their name on (it). It’s not our style to wear branded clothes. But we like designed clothes! Erik: If it looks cool it’s cool! No matter who designed the clothes. You were in Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” music video; awesome experience or not so much? Izzy: Lady Gaga is a cool girl with great fashion and a lot of true talent. It was a fun experience to be a part of such a big production, and a plus: her lips were sweeter than a honey-pie! (Laughs) You’re in Tokyo working on a new album, what was the appeal of Japan? Izzy: Tokyo is a big city with so many possibilities and so many styles and it gives us a lot of inspiration for our music and fashion. It’s hard to not get sucked in to the Japanese fashion and lifestyle. We decided to go to Tokyo to try our music here, and people here seem to appreciate the music scene a lot! Strangest thing about living in Tokyo is? Rock: It is possible to rent a model as company for the night, the Harajuku girls dress up as dolls. Dominos pizza costs about 30 dollars a pizza, you can buy used underwear in vending machines and the boiled eggs are amazing! What can we expect from your new album/songs? Izzy: New sound compared to the old songs. Genuine rock & roll sound with punk attitude. Every song’s got its own personality and we’re really proud to show them to everyone. You’re brothers who work together; any wicked fights or do you all get along fairly well? Izzy: We fight about small things, but nothing serious. Kelii: We’ve been together almost every day of our life and we’re still not tired of each other. Guess that’s called love. Any plans to play in Canada? Rock: No, not any plans right now. But you never know what The Wildflowers do next! We would love to play there again! What does the band hope to accomplish in 2010? Kelii: What about taking over the world? No really, we want to get a great deal with a record label and get lots of promotion and get out on the roads and just play live as much as possible! Izzy: And a soul trip to India. If you weren’t musicians, you would be? Izzy: Astronaut. Kelii: If I weren’t a musician I would be like Bret Michaels in Poison! (Laughs) Rock: Pimp. Completely random question: 1 thing that you love and 1 thing that you hate: Izzy: I love diamonds, and I hate beautiful girls with false teeth. Kelii: I love to be on stage, I hate fake people. Rock: I love candy and I hate awkward silence. Erik: I love life, I try not to hate. Anything else you would like to add? Rock: We have recorded new songs already that will be available in the beginning of February! Erik: Check out our myspace for latest news about the band: www.myspace.com/snakeofedenrocks. And check us out at YouTube for “the Wildflowers rock & roll show”. Izzy: Love to all of our fans, and all the creative people. *Disclaimer* The Wildflowers YouTube rock & roll show is described as “a delight of decadence, filth and pure rock n roll”. You’ve been warned.