Don’t know what to wear on New Year’s Eve?

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The countdown to New Year’s Eve has begun and you still haven’t decided on a suitable outfit. You want to stand out, look amazing, spectacular and unforgettable. There’s one designer who can guarantee that your entrance will make heads turn and jaws drop: Jean-Paul Gaultier, French designer extraordinaire. If the price tag for one of his outrageous, superbly crafted and innovative designs is over your budget, head off to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne for some inspiration. The NGV is the only Australian venue to host the international traveling exhibition of over 140 Jean Paul Gaultier garments. What an extravaganza!

My trip Down Under fortunately coincided with this ground-breaking exhibition. Talk about interactive – this exhibition positively brings the models alive with animated human faces projected right onto the mannequins’ faces, resulting in talking, singing models that appear to be humanoid robotic hybrids. 

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It’s almost creepy. I was admiring one of Gaultier’s earlier designs using the iconic French blue-and-white marine stripes when the cute sailor mannequin looked me straight in the eye and winked with a devilish smile on his lips!

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Gaultier himself appeared on the face on one of the models, explaining in a sexy French-accented voice that his inspiration is rooted in his belief in gender equality, in being able to express who you are – that includes all facets of one’s personality. He believes in illusion and in turning expectations upside down – men wearing long dresses, dresses worn back the front or the naked body displayed on the outside of the garment. At age 62, the designer appears to have broken all conventions, so the mind boggles at what he has yet to create.

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The four large galleries housing his creations were thematically varied – one of the galleries was fashioned like a Parisian catwalk surrounded by graffiti-riddled walls while another resembled Amsterdam’s red light district. The guy is a genius – he has expanded the realm of fashion beyond the stratosphere. His work is drenched in fetishist sexual innuendo. Using all manner of embellishment – feathers, fur, sequins, embossed metals and tulle, his designs are a melange of cultural icons and gender-bending references. 

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I think he is incapable of producing anything that is even mildly mundane or pedestrian – even silverware finds its way into his designs:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHe has dressed the likes of Beyonce, Madonna and Nicole Kidman, and his haute couture is paraded on red carpets around the world. But us ordinary folks can take his lead by expressing our individuality. So dive into your closets (and your partners’ closets) and see what unlikely pairings to ring in the new year with a personal stlyle that spells ‘THIS IS ME’. Above all, have fun and have a Happy New Year!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFor more information on the exhibition:http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/jeanpaulgaultier/overview.

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Art lights up my life: Bernardi Roig and others

Dan Flavin installation 1996, Menil Collection, Houston

Contemporary art chafes against constraint of any shape or form. This manifests itself in many ways, from seeking out unexpected and alternative venues for exhibiting art, to experimenting with new media and materials that until recently were not part of the artistic lexicon. Light is one of those relatively new mediums that has been harnessed and embraced as a legitimate art form, successfully championed (see above) by the minimalist artist Dan Flavin (1933-1996), James Turell and Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson to mention a few. 

On a recent visit to The Philips Collection in D.C. I was introduced to the dazzling works of Bernardi Roig, an artist from Palma de Mallorca whose installations combine the power of light with figurative sculpture. 

ROIG 8Several of Roig’s works were spread throughout the museum – inside and out. The image of a life sized figure dragging a long train of light like penance was startling. There was something absurd and meaningless about this activity yet one felt that the figure was committed to this journey and accepted his fate. I responded deeply to the work despite the ‘artspeak’ text provided by the museum: “Roig’s work addresses existential dualities of blinding and illumination, absence and presence, memory and temporality as well as entrapment and liberation.” Sometimes it’s best to just look at the art and let it speak for itself.

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Another artist who works in a most extraordinary new medium is German-born artist Wolfgang Laib. His medium of choice is beeswax. The Philips Collection commissioned him to create a permanent installation within the museum. The result is a small chamber, not much larger than a closet, that is totally covered in burnished beeswax. 

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For this particular work, the artist was inspired by Rothko and I see the connection in the subtle play of color tones created by the wax. Entering the space one is assaulted by a heady aroma of honey warmed by a single light bulb. I don’t know if I was imagining it, but I thought I could even hear the murmur of the hive….

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(f you’re fascinated by the way artists can use beeswax, check out another up-and-coming artist who works in the same medium – Jessica Sanders.)

HEADS UP EVERYBODY! SHARING IS IN ORDER – CHECK OUT THE BLOG  POSTED ON THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, FEATURING MY PERSONAL ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL!!!!!