Do you make the time to observe your surroundings? I mean really observe your surroundings. It’s easy to let the day slip away, a passing blur like in the passenger window. Constant distractions are literally at the tips of our fingers.
Today I got to see one of Banksy’s pieces today. I saw a few days ago that he made this in the UWS. It was a stone’s throw from my new apartment. As soon as I found out the location, I made my way there. I hopped up the stairs of the subway, eagerly anticipating what I’d see.
At the corner, I saw a guy with headphones. I tugged at his sleeve to tell him the news. Excitement tumbled out of my mouth like a really long hast tag:
He was happy to hear about it, and see it from afar. But he didn’t stop to see it.
I stood in front of it for a while. People stopped to look. It started with children, asking their mothers about it. They seemed the most observant. Then, the adults would get engaged, explaining the concept. A small crowd started to form. I started talking to a man and woman, taking photos for them in front of the piece. I went on and on about Banksy’s artist residency here in New York. When the man came back for his camera phone, he remarked:
“The painting is so simple. It doesn’t take a lot of skill. I think I could do it.”
I couldn’t help but think:
“If you can barely take the time to look, how can you take the time to create?”
I mentioned in my last post that I started a new job. Part of my training took me to Richmond. After work, I decided to roam around the city for a bit by myself. My only plan was to check out a few vintage stores, figuring that fashion would somehow lead me to an adventure. I hopped into the hotel shuttle bus and gave them the address to a local vintage retailer in Carytown.
I had no real desire to buy anything, but just wanted to walk around – absorb some of the local scenery during my short time in the city. Chatting with the driver, I looked out the window. We passed an old bus terminal that was absolutely irresistible to me. It was covered with hundreds of the most evocative, brightly hued art I’d seen. Set against the warm, sunny late afternoon the setting seemed dreamlike.
Cooing while trying to snap a few photos from the van, the driver sensed my enthusiasm. He didn’t really know what the site was, other than it was an old bus terminal. I asked him if we could take a quick detour and investigate the site.
Everywhere I looked was beautiful! The space has previously belonged to the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC). Built in 1902, the structure housed trollies and buses that were not in use or needed repair. The site was abandoned back in 2009. Residents were unhappy with the crumbling buildings. They pushed for a creative use of the space, hoping to install stores and restaurants to boost the local economy.
The city’s response was to create a Street Art Festival, inviting artists from around the world to create large scale murals. Since the time frame was limited, it became a hotbed of creativity. Artists were working side-by-side, helping and inspiring one another.
Hamilton Glass, a Richmon-based artist, likened the festival is like a jam session for artists:
“We feed off each other, he said about five hours into his mural. It’s great painting next to someone who’s being creative.“
I could have spent all day here! There was no evidence of any businesses within the compound. But there was a young couple walking around taking photos. They took a photo of me, which shows you the scale of the work. It’s really massive and overwhelming!
Like a kid in a candy store, I ran down the empty streets eagerly taking in as much art as I could. Every mural was so interesting and unique. Some were even 3-dimentional. One of my favorites was a blue wall filled with metal birds.
After closer inspection, the birds are decorated with names and poems. If you’re in Richmond, I highly recommend stopping by to see it for yourself: 2501 W. Cary St.
To see the rest of my photos from the Old GRTC Bus Terminal, follow me on Instagram!
Prior to the opening of Punk: Chaos to Couture, there was quite a bit of buzz. From what I gathered, a lot of people criticized the exhibition before they even saw it. Strong criticism like this make me wary. I like to make my own observations first. So I was careful not to read anything about the show until I got a chance to take it in myself.
The punk aesthetic can be seen in intentional rips and tears, hardware embellishments, and a sort of disheveled look. Leather is always a nice finishing touch, too. These two leather pieces really caught my attention.
Ensembles by Balmain, 2011.
The skirt was my favorite part of the look. Black and red leather covered in studs, intentionally shredded and pieced back together with safety pins. While it has a DIY feel, work like this takes meticulous precision to complete. Look at how the safety pins are placed so closely next to one another.
As I moved through the galleries, I was really interested not only the details of the garments, but also how the space of the galleries had changed. After noting how the designers distressed and embellished the garments, I focused on the design of the space. The museum staff had cleverly used styrofoam which they carved with graffiti and tags. It was very faint, but visible in this columned gallery.
Wedding Dress by Zandra Rhodes, 1977
I also started to see a correlation to other exhibits I’d see. This jersey wedding dress by Zandra Rhodes reminded me a lot of what I had seen at Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced. Burrows liked to use jersey and finished the edges with a zig zag stitch. This kept the silhouette light, and made the edges wavy.
Burrows called this the lettuce edge. You can see how Zandra Rhodes used this same technique, but also used int for cut outs in the skirt. Punctuated with crystals and chains, the jersey curls and waves around the body. It’s attached to the satin bodice with safety pins.
The construction details on this gown reminded me of staples.
Recycling was another theme I loved. I think it takes someone really creative to take discards and turn them into something fashionable. This part of the exhibit was called Bricolage, which is taking random materials to create a work of art. Bits of paper, envelopes, trash bags and other discarded objects were whipped up into the most inventive garments. Others were made of fabrics treated to look like trash.
Ensemble by John Galliano, 2001.
This ensemble by Galliano is actually cotton twill printed with a newspaper pattern. Raffia, lurex, and scotch tape complete the look.
But my favorite room was dedicated to graffiti fashion.
Evening gown by Dolce Gabbana, 2008.
I’m fascinated with graffiti because it reclaims our right to art in daily life. Art is generally the first to go with budget cuts in any organization – schools, corporations, the government. It’s spontaneous, fun – and often temporary.
Alexander McQueen’s performance dress was on display, too. This dress was presented on stage, and the paint was sprayed in real time in front of the audience.
Dress by Alexander McQueen, 1999.
Also on display was this dress by Vivienne Westwood. It reminded me of Philip Guston’s later work. (Guston was an abstract expressionist painter. His later work was very cartoonish. Have a look for yourself.)
Dress by Vivienne Westwood, 2007.
Dress by Vivienne Westwood, 2007.
I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t read any of the reviews before I went. The DIY themes gave me lots of ideas how I’d like to customize my own wardrobe. There will be updates when I get to these projects this summer.
Unless otherwise mentioned, all images courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Menswear is something I usually consider outside of my expertise. While I definitely can spot a well-dressed man, I’m not really in the market for buying men’s clothing. However, my adventurous nature leads me to meeting interesting people who then show me new, cool places. A few months ago, I met Shael. He is the owner of Estetiks, the coolest menswear boutique I’ve ever seen.
As I walked inside, I was floored with excitement. I instantly loved the graffiti art that decorated the interior. Shael features local artists that rotate their work periodically. He also had work by one of my favorite graffiti artists, Shepard Fairey (below).
The merchandise was no disappointment. Neatly displayed and carefully edited pieces caught my attention after I tore myself away from the artwork. The clothes have some serious panache.
No boring t-shirts here! I loved the vibrant colors and tribal inspired tanks.
Estetiks also offers shoes and accessories. If you know someone that skateboards, you must bring them here to shop. I recently got a lesson in skateboarding, and know it’s all about having the right shoes. (I was wearing 5 inch platform wedges. Next time, I’ll have something more practical.)
All this amazing merchandise makes me wish I had someone to shop for! Ladies, if you are looking for a gift for your special guy I recommend the following:
- 10 Deep “Leopard Camo” Field Shorts: Leopard + Camo? Amazing! These shorts are fun and funky. Plus, they can be rolled up to expose the contrasting fabric inside. Also available online
- Stance “Sunchild” Club 200 Socks: Socks make a cool mini-gift because, honestly, who likes to buy socks for themselves? And generally, when you need them, you don’t buy the fancy ones. These awesome socks add a little flare to your guy’s outfit without being over the top. Also available online
Every now and then, I’ll find a site that wows me. Street Art News is definitely one of those sites. I discovered the site through their facebook page. The site brings you the best of street art from around the world.
Last Sunday, I went to the graffiti exhibit, Art in the Street, at MoCA. If you’ve been to my blog before, you’ll know how much I love graffiti (click here for older posts). Much to my delight, it seemed that others were appreciating graffiti as much as I was. My initial euphoria of seeing a museum space covered in graffiti grew as I went from room to room. What a radical departure from typical exhibitions. No frames. No paint that is neatly confined to a prefabricated canvas. Art had taken over the gallery, the walls – even the bathrooms.
Everywhere I looked, I could see people having a graffiti-educed epiphany: art as we know it has changed shape, yet again. Art and fashion have a funny way of changing on us. Since both are modes of self-expression, they change frequently to adapt to the flux of our physical and emotional landscapes.
A large part of why graffiti is becoming accepted as art is our obsession with “the new“. Being modern – attaining the new – has become the the sole value of many cultures. Because of this focus, we are attracted to that which is fleeting. Beauty lies in the transient experience. Graffiti is here today, only to be whitewashed tomorrow. We are grateful to experience its message and beauty, and sad to see it go.
There are still those that resist the change. Graffiti just doesn’t seem to fit into their definition of art. It just goes against tradition too much. This resistance is amusing to me. It reminds me so much of the early Impressionist artists. Now worth millions, Impressionist art battled against the establishment. They were tired of replicating the ideals of beauty recognized by the great art schools in Paris. Charles Baudelaire commented about this shift in aesthetics:
It is true that the great tradition is lost, and that the new one is not yet established. But what was the great tradition, if not the habitiual idealization of ancient life . . . Since all centuries and all peoples have their own forms of beauty, so inevitably we have ours . . .
It’s funny to think that Baudelaire said this in the 1860s . . .
And then I wonder: is graffiti a way of reclaiming our cultural rights to the arts? Public funding for the arts has decreased dramatically across the globe. The recession, the “new economy”- call it what you will – but when times are tough and budget cuts are in order, the arts are usually the first on the chopping block. Schools are focused on making students cubical workers, not entrepreneurs or problem-solvers. Curricula are focused measuring learning outcomes that are outdated and praise regurgitation of information. Creativity, innovation, and critical thinking are lost somewhere between the glossy brochures and graduation for most schools. I believe this is attributed to a fixation on measuring learning. Most schools measure learning by tests. This creates droves of students that become good test-takers, not lifelong learners.
The architect Viollet-le-Duc gave an appraisale of the 19th century school system, that churned out replica-makers instead of free-thinking artists. It could be just as applicable today:
The young artist enters the Ecole, he gets medals . . . but at what price? Upon condition of keeping precisely and without any deviation within the limits imposed by the corporation of professors, of following the beaten track submissively, of having only exactly the ideas permitted by the corporation and above all of not indicating the presumption of having any of his own . . . We observe besides that the student body naturally includes more mediocrities than talented people, that, the majority always itself on the side of routine, there is no ridicule sufficient for the person who shows some inclination towards originality. [E. Viollet-le-Duc. “L’Enseignement des arts.” Gazette des beaux-arts (June, 1862). Cited in Diane Kelder’s The Great Book of French Impressionism.]
Obsession with the new, reclaiming our rights to art, a statement against traditional education . . . graffiti can be all of those and more. Add to the discussion by posingt a comment.
Graffiti can cause strong reactions. I engaged with a person recently who felt thought there could be little meaning from street art, and that graffiti was an offense of the worst kind. His direct quote, is as follows:
The graffiti pictures, you just love the color blends and the risk they took and the rebellious attitude. Maybe if someone put graffiti on your house or on you directly you would also find such pleasure in that.
Some people do put graffiti straight on their bodies, and I think it’s pretty cool.
This gives me some great ideas for Halloween . . . .although it’s doubtful I’d make it out of the house with at least some clothing covering me.
So when does graffiti meet fashion? While I wish I could say I was the first to be inspired by the Urban Landscape and graffiti, I certainly am not. One of the most iconic designers to use graffiti was Stephen Sprouse (1953 – 2004). A fashion designer and artist, Sprouse infused elite, Fifth Avenue culture and their wardrobe with street style. His signatures? Day-glo colors and graffiti-printed clothing.
His first major success was in 1983, and his cloths sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and swanky boutiques. Interesting that suck ritzy clientele would adorn their body in wearable graffiti.
Part of the allure was high quality, expensive fabrics that were custom dyed and hand painted by Sprouse himself. It was a disheveled, deluxe chic. Other characteristics of his clothes included the Day-Glo colors, all-black palettes, mirrored sequins, high-tech fabrics and Velcro attachments.
In 1987-8, Sprouse produced a line that used Andy Warhol’s Camouflage as a screen print as well as abstract graffiti prints of Jesus Christ that were a collaboration with artist Keith Haring.
His biggest success was a collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton in 2001. The collection was Sprouse’s graffiti sprawled rendition of the Louis Vuitton logo and name printed over the classic monogram design. The fashion world went gaga, and the pieces sold-out instantly.
Posthumously, his success continues. For both Fall 2006 and 2008, Marc Jacobs utilized Sprouse’s graffiti images for handbags, shoes, and scarves for Louis Vuitton, which sold-out instantly. This tribute to Sprouse garnered worldwide press, and a cult-like following.
Marc Jacobs went on about Sprouse and how, with his graffiti infused clothing, has changed the landscape of fashion. Jacobs wanted to deface the traditional LV monogram with graffiti, which he says:
has always viewed and a defiant act, a rebellious act but that creates a new surface with, giving new meaning to something old.
Mr. Jacobs is such a fan that he appeared in several magazine editorials naked and painted in Sprouse’s graffiti.
Apparently, so does LVMH, the mega conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, They graffiti-ed all of the store fronts for the collection debut, and are still pulling profits in this economic downturn. I guess graffiti can be genius after all.
My new journey has been that of a commuter. Driving to LA can be strenuous, especially in the early morning. This morning, I was very tired. I was thankful I didn’t have to drive.
Traveling by train has fascinated me since I went to college. Where I grew up, there were no train services. When I attended college, there were train services that went everywhere. I loved not getting stuck in traffic, and the seamless ride. I wondered why the entire country was not equipped for train travel. It’s efficient, environmentally conscientious, and it decreases stress levels.
Riding a train gives you such a unique vantage point of the cities you are traveling through. Today, I felt especially inspired by the urban landscape I was viewing on the way to work. Driving, there is never time to notice the changing landscape around you. I felt inspired to photograph different fleeting moments I found to be beautiful and interesting. While the industrial landscapes may be unappealing at first, there is something quite extraordinary about the creativity and genius of modern man.
Take a moment to enjoy the photographic journey: