Monica D. MurgiaArt, creativity, and fashion
Life is spontaneous. It happens by itself. This is one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. While it is good to make plans and set goals, it’s important to make time for life to unfold before you. This isn’t living life according to whim. There is more to spontaneity than caprice and disorder.
As an artist, I can tell you how this is true. I can’t tell you where my ideas come from. They happen spontaneously. It’s difficult for me to approach a canvas or piece of paper with an expectation. When I try to make something specific, it never seems to turn out right. So my approach has been to let the materials “speak” to me. I mix the paint right on the canvas. I see what shapes start to appear on their own.
I sprayed and sprayed several hued paints on this board. I noticed how the colors mixed together, how each can sprayed differently. The only method I had was that I would keep painting until it felt right. I did countless layers of paint. The yard was filled with a thick cloud of fumes that made me dizzy. I stopped and mixed some oil paint with stand oil and dripped it over the board. I started thrashing the paint brush wildly at the board, giggling and having fun at not caring what the outcome would be. I turned the board to let the paint drip from one end to the other. Then I alternated between layers of spray paint and oil paint. From the photos, you can see how wildly different the painting looked at each stage.
Suddenly, almost magically, I knew the painting was finished. There was no way for me to schedule the right amount of time. I just had to feel it. To me, painting is like playing a game. When we play games, we get most fascination out of games that combine skill and chance. Games like poker or bridge. You don’t feel completely at the mercy of chance, and you don’t feel completely at the mercy of skill. It’s exciting and fun to not know the predictable outcome. Order and randomness go together, creating surprise. That’s how I define spontaneity – the perfect harmony of order and randomness.
One of my favorite Buddhist philosophers is Alan Watts. He has a great recorded talk called The Art of the Controlled Accident. He consistently compares Buddhist philosophy to painting. Life should be lived in a manner like painting. You can’t have calculated expectations for everything in your life. You have to approach situations with an open mind, only to search for possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. Never force something. It will only elude you. Instead, take the approach of letting the beautiful things around you emerge on their own. You will be surprised – and happy.
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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!
When I enjoy the work of other artists, I’m curious as to what they are trying to express. Looking at art always makes me feel something. It stirs up my emotions and thoughts. So I’m eager to see if what I feel is what the artist was hoping to express.
Cosmos by Kazimir Malevich, 1917. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Russian abstract painter and costume designer Kazimir Malevich. His work really fascinated me, initially because his experience as a costume designer influenced his later path as a painter. So, I started to look at his artwork.
Mystical Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) by Kazimir Malevich, c. 1920-7. Image courtesy of Malevich Paintings.
Malevich is most known for starting the art movement Suprematism. He conceived the idea of Suprematism around 1913, which focuses on basic geometric forms painted in a limited range of colors. Malevich believed that the true power of art was it’s ability to evoke emotion in the viewer. By using simple geometric forms, there was no way for political or social meanings to be imparted on the work of art. I loved the ideas behind his work. He saw painting as a way to make people feel something that could not be manipulated or placed out of context.
Mystical Religious Rotation of Shapes by Kazimir Malevich. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
Lucky for me, Malevich wrote a manifesto on what his artwork was trying to make people feel. He traveled to Berlin in the 1920s to exhibit his work and network with the faculty at Bauhaus. (New to my site? You should read my previous posts on the Bauhaus.) His manifesto, The Non-Obective World, was published as book 11 in the series Die Gegenstandslose Welt. (A friend told me this title translates to something like “a spirit without products” or “the spirit of the abstract”)
NYPL had a copy of The Non-Objective World, and I’m reading it now. The introduction was really powerful. It explains that, according to Malevich, art is eternally powerful because it originates from a feeling. Artists are inspired to create something because of an almost mystical experience. The urge to make something and share it with others is what makes an art object beautiful.
He insisted that art and the feelings which generate it are more basic and meaningful than religous beliefs and political conceptions. Religions and the state, in the past, employed art as a means to further their aim. The usefulness of works of technology is of short-lived but art indures forever. If humanity is to achieve a real and absolute order this must be founded on eternal values, that is, on art.
Bauhaus (or Staatliches Bauhaus) was a German design school that operated from 1919-1933. Founded by Walter Gropius, the school’s mission was to promote a synthesis of the arts. Importance was placed on considering how to unify all aspects of design, from typography, fashion, architecture, interior design and so on. (Gesamkunstwerk is the precise term in German) The school attracted many fantastic designers. A recognizable Bauhaus style emerged because many that attended the school were interested in functionality and minimalism.
Geometric forms, balanced compositions, and a sort of “futuristic” look are all telltale signs of Bauhaus design.
- László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), a Hungarian born artist and painter that emphasized the integration of new technology and industrialization in design. Moholy-Nagy taught several courses in diverse media, but was most interested with manipulating photography. He considered cameras to be a “new eye”, capable of seeing and capturing the world in ways in which the human eye cannot.
- Josef Albers (1888-1976), the famed color theorist and Modernist painter.
- Anni Albers (1899-1984): a textile designer, weaver, and printmaker that helped pioneer many young women’s careers.
yet knew very little of Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943), the instructor responsible for direction and development of these costumes.
- Do you think that the surrealist movement influences fashion even nowadays?
Absolutely. Surrealist elements have been incorporated into fashion since the movement started in the 1920s. I’d say it’s heyday for fashion designers and Surrealist collaborations was in the 1930s and 1940s, but it’s impact can be felt since. The Postwar interest in Surrealism and fashion was definitely influenced by Wesley Simpson. He was a New York textile converter that worked with French artists to create textile designs. This was a way for painters to have an expanded market. Not everyone can afford an oil painting by someone like Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte. But a few yards of fabric designed by the artist was a brilliant way to incorporate art into everyday life, and at a price point that many people could afford. I think recent interest in Surrealism and fashion has to do with the insight of curators like Dilys Blum (Philadelphia Museum of Art) as well as Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda (Metropolitan Museum of Art). These curators really brought awareness of Surrealism and it’s impact on fashion with the exhibits Shocking! The Art & Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli and Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations, respectively. These exhibits allowed a new generation to become familiar with Surrealism. After these exhibits opened, there was a clear correlation of Surrealist elements showing up in contemporary fashion design. Prada, Philip Treacy, Diane Von Furstenburg – they were just some of the numerous designers that referenced Surrealism in the past 5 years. I think that we will continue to see Surrealism impacting fashion because it gives a certain shock value. People want to be remembered, and that’s certainly easy if you’re wearing a gigantic lobster on your head.
- Do you think that art will carry on influencing fashion in the future?
- Dali has an important influence on the 20th century, do you think Dali is a visionary?
Honestly, I think he was a little crazy :) He famously said things like: “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” and “There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” But perhaps the chaos of his mind was what made him truly innovative. He saw and experienced things that others didn’t. I supposed that is what makes a visionary.
- In your opinion, what would be Schiaparelli fashion house if it would not have been closed in 1954 ?
- You surely heard about that, what do you think of the idea of Diego Della Valle to relaunch Schiaparelli house and give it a second breath?
I have heard this before. When I hear about these kinds of things, I try to push it to the back of my mind. I like to view collections and exhibitions without any expectations. It may be magnificent, it might not. I’m sure there will be elements of interest. If I had any advice to Diego Della Valle, it would be to read Schiaparelli’s autobiography, Shocking Life. If he is interested in relaunching her brand, I hope he takes the time to understand the way in which she perceived things.
As promised, I wanted to write more about the textile designs I saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was the original drawing that caught my eye. The design, entitled Swaying Trees, is by American artist Rockwell Kent.
This was a big surprise for me! Kent (1882 – 1971) studied painting under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. I’d learned a bit about his paintings while working at an art gallery. Henri encouraged Kent to paint landscapes of Monhegan island in Maine on his own. This experience of painting directly in nature greatly affected Kent. Whatever medium he chose, Kent’s work always captures the amazing power of nature.
Kent gained a reputation of a neo-Transcendentalist because of this. Transcendentalism was a philosophy that originated in the 1830s and asserted that spiritual experiences could be observed in nature. Time spent in nature often created a mystical or transcendental experience to those that followed this philosophy.
You can see that his textile designs capture natural themes. The other accompanying design is called Running Deer. Both of these were realized in 1950. Kent made a similar design for Bloomcraft Inc called Deer Season, which you can see below:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my favorite places to pass some time. Earlier this week, I took a group of students to a special event celebrating Punk: Chaos to Couture. As I wandered around the second floor, making my way to the exhibition, several sketches caught my eye. The main corridor that leads to the special exhibition gallery is generally lined with works on paper – prints, drawings, and so on. I noticed a lot of patterns, and knew they were textile designs. (I’ll be writing more about those later!) In the middle of this large corridor was a small table encased in plexiglass with the most wonderful sketches by Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979).
These drawings are from 1925, and just darling! I stood there a long time looking at them. (They were a bit difficult to photograph without casting a shadow, as you can see.) These sketches are simply entitled Sonia Delaunay: her paintings, her objects, her simultaneous fabrics, her fashions. I think these are really prime examples of her design sensibilities, which included the art theory her and her husband Robert developed. (New to my site? You should take a look at my previous posts on Sonia & Robert Delaunay)
Sonia, along with her husband, painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), developed a color theory called simultaneity – the sensation of movement when contrasting colors are placed side by side.
I love the geometry and color patterns in each of these sketches. They clearly show a harmony between the fine and decorative arts movements at the time. The green and black dress on the left is a nod to Cubism. The middle dress looks uncannily like the interior of an Art Deco building. Perhaps it was inspired by a tiled floor.
The silhouette is still column-like, which is a hallmark of the 1920s. There is no defined waist, and the garments seem to hang vertically from the shoulders and obscure the shape of the body. However, you can see that most of the hemlines are quite long – a definite contrast to the American flapper. A nice alternative silhouette to all The Great Gatesby buzz that’s been going around.
All images courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.GHTime Code(s):