Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I learned about Costumes on Stage

On Saturday, the Friends of the Textile and Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum hosted an event called Costumes on Stage which featured co-director of Opera Atelier Marshall Pynkoski, freelance costume designer Martha Mann,  and costumer/cutter Rita Brown.  As the event photographer, I had only half an ear open to the presentation but I managed to scribble down a few notes nonetheless.

Detail from Costume designed by Martha Mann
Marshall Pynkoski, co-director of Opera Atelier, spoke with great enthusiasm about his love of the 18th century as inspiration for his productions. One of the challenges he expressed was how to bring forward the depths of emotion from the actors so that the production did not become "just a parade of gorgeous costumes". To show costumes in motion, four Opera Atelier dancers took to the stage.

Dancers from Opera Atelier
Martha Mann, who is designed Opera Atelier's costumes for the Marriage of Figaro including those shown above, talked about her process as a designer which encompassed:

1. Analysis: an initial analysis of the music and words to understand the period and setting of the production, the time of day, season of the year, social status of the characters
2. Concept Meeting with the Director: an effort to understand what the director is trying to say with this production and to clarify questions from her initial analysis
3. Research: a process which includes looking through picture files, paintings, books to identify motifs for the period, silhouettes and shapes of clothing, colour and styles of fabrics.
4. Rough drawings: development of initial pencil and watercolour sketches for costumes to establish shape, colour pallete for presentation and review with director, set designer and other parties
5. Final drawings: finalization of sketches as a communication tool for director. cutter, sewer, wig person, jewellery accessories, director and actor

Costume by Martha Mann for Opera Atelier, Marriage of Figaro

Although the sketches are "final", there still is much work to be done and that is when someone like Rita Brown steps in.  Before cutting can begin, the concept for the costume may have to be modified depending on the size of an actor. As well, the availability of fabrics can affect the desired result and must be considered. A cutter must work closely with the designer and the actor through the various fittings to help define the character in visual form.  According to Rita Brown, a "successful costume as one that is a blend of illusion and reality, clearly delineates the character, costs little, and wears forever".

Costumes from the Shaw Festival by Rita Brown

For both designer and cutter, two key challenges were identified. One was that the modern body is not corseted from a young age and that affects the creation of costumes with a defined period silhouette. Actors must be able to breathe and move freely and tight corsets are not comfortable on modern bodies. Another issue was the availability of fabrics for period productions. Since the stage never deals in reality, finding and choosing a fabric that meets budgetary constraints and which creates the illusion of belonging to a certain period is necessary.  In Martha Mann's words, "a costume will always reflect the aesthetic of now." 

Dr. Alexandra Palmer, Rita Brown, Marshall Pynkoski, Martha Mann

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Culture Days

Culture is on this weekend's agenda. There are so many fun and fabulous cultural activities to chose from that it is hard to pick just one!

Martha Mann, Marshall Pynkoski, Rita Brown
Costumes on Stage
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010

Costumes on Stage at the ROM:
Saturday, September 25, 2010 from 10 am to 1 pm
This event, presented by the Friends of Textiles and Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum, focuses on the process of costume creation - from the director's original concept to the garment worn on stage. The speakers will be Marshall Pynkoski of Opera Atelier co-artistic director; Martha Mann, costume designer for Opera Atelier's recent production of Marriage of Figaro; and Rita Brown, costumer for the Shaw Festival.  (Note: This event is not a free Culture Day event and advance registration is required at the ROM.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 1 p.m.
See a demonstration of traditional Tibetan boot making and a special one day exhibition of Tibetan footwear. There will also be two scheduled guided tours of the museum.

Canadian Art Hop Tour
Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 1 to 5 p.m.
Take a gallery tour around Toronto. Stops include galleries in these areas: Richmond Street West, King Street West/Tecumseth, Queen West, Distillery District, Yorkville, Ossington and Dundas Street West (loop Gallery, of which I am a member will be a stop at 320 pm). To learn more about what's on at loop Gallery, check out the loop Gallery blog, of which I am blogmaster!

Saturday, September 25, 2010 from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
The public is invited to an orchestra rehearsal of the COC’s new production of Verdi’s Aida. A pre-rehearsal chat in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre gives audience members insight into the opera and the rehearsal process at 6:45 pm. Tickets to Rings 3 and 4 of R. Fraser Elliott Hall will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday. 

Culture Days is a cross Canada happening over September 24-26, 2010. It is designed to raise the awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of all Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities. For more information on Culture Days please visit this link.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Artful Fashion by Mary Katrantzou

I rarely post about the current runway shows, but occasionally a collection comes along that compels me to stop and take notice. On Monday at London Fashion Week, there was a collection by a relative unknown by the name of Mary Katrantzou that combines art and fashion in a novel way.

Photo by Yannis Vlames

Inspired by images form old issues of Architectural Digest and the World of Interiors, the designer created surrealist looks that turn the wearer into a walking sculpture. Images of lavish room interiors are placed on the body in such a way that the effect is like a tromp l'oeil painting. For some outfits, sculptural jewelery pieces seemingly inspired by chandeliers enhance this effect. In one interview I read, Mary Katranzou said "With this collection, I wanted to put the room on the woman, rather than the woman in the room."

Mary Katrantzou has a degree in Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design which probably explains the sculptural qualities of the garments she designs. She also graduated from Central Saint Martins in Textile Design where her graduating show was themed around trompe l’oeil and digital prints of oversized jewellery (inspired by Russian Constructivism and early 70s movie posters) featured on dresses.

This is a designer that I'll be keeping my eyes on.  Her looks are available at Harvey Nichols in London and Barneys in the USA, among other stores. To see more of her designs, click here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Karl Lagerfeld Parcours de Travail

Schwarzkopf, Freja Beha by Karl Lagerfeld 2009

Fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld's work as a photographer is now on display at la Maison Europeenne de Photographie de Paris. This exhibition is titled  "Parcours de Travail" meaning "course work" in English. The portraits, fashion, landscape and architecture photos go back as far as 1987 when Lagerfeld picked up a camera and will be on display until October 31, 2010. Is there anything that KL cannot do?

5/7 roue de Paris
75004 Paris 4

Friday, September 17, 2010

Art and the Opera: Auguste Rodin's Sculpture Eustache de Saint Pierre

Eustache de Saint Pierre by August Rodin
I braved heavy rains to attend yesterday's unveiling of Auguste Rodin's bronze sculpture Eustache de Saint Pierre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.  On loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Canadian Opera Company, the sculpture is positioned on the first landing of the grand staircase to best capture the light.

This 7 foot sculpture is one of Rodin's most important works and deals with imminent death, heroism and martyrdom. Created by Rodin in 1887 and cast in 1987, the sculpture was commissioned to commemorate an important incident which happened in Calais during the Hundred Years' War. In 1347, the English had blocked the French port for more than a year. The people of Calias were facing starvation and were forced to surrender. The King of England offered to spare the townfolk of any of six of the town leaders would offer themselves up for execution. The first to volunteer was Eustace de Saint Pierre and others soon followed his lead. In the end, the men were spared because the pregnant Queen persuaded her husband to have sympathy on the men as she believed their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn baby.

On hand to supervise the installation and to answer questions were Michael Parke-Taylor, Curator of Modern Art and Margaret Haupt, Deputy Director, Collections Management and Conservation. In this photo, you get a sense of the sculpture's monumental scale.

Michael Parke-Taylor and Margaret Haupt and the Rodin sculpture

This sculpture, cast #6 of 8, was donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1992 by Joey and Toby Tanenbaum and has been in storage for several years during the recent renovation. It will be on display at the Four Seasons Centre for two years. If you have the opportunity to see it, look closely at the scale of the hands and feet. The slightly exaggerated size relative to the rest of the body conveys power and pathos. If you are walking or driving by Queen and University, look for the sculpture in the south-east corner of the building. During the COC season, the building itself becomes an art-installation with the audience playing the part of living sculpture pre-and-post-performance and during intermissions.

Photos by: Ingrid Mida 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Conversation with Julian Schnabel

Untitled (Self-Portrait) copyright 2005 Julian Schnabel
I was one of the lucky ones who had a ticket to attend this evening's "Meet the Artist" event with American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel.  Curator David Moos led the conversation with the artist who spoke with great eloquence and wit about the inspiration and creative process behind his paintings and films. 

David Moos and Julian Schnabel at the AGO
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010
What I learned from Mr. Schnabel is that process of making art is more important to him than the end result. He referred to a painting by Cezanne that he saw that afternoon at the AGO in which the joy of its creation was evident on the canvas. In the practice of "making things", Schnabel said that it gives him "a feeling of what it means to be human" and that is the quality of the moment and the journey of making that thing that is important. He does not make drawings before beginning a painting; he simply begins by bonding with the subject, working to respect their vulnerability in creating a representation of their being on canvas. He knows when a painting is done because "everything just lines up". 

On the wall of the exhibition itself, there is this quote from Schnabel about process:  
"And whether it's the screen in a movie or whether it's the rectangle that is the perimeter of a painting, it's an arena where this battle takes place, between everything that you know and don't know. And I think that I apply the same system to both paintings and films. I don't know what it is going to look like when I'm done. I know how to start. I know how to lean towards the divine light. But I figure it out as I'm going along, and the process of doing, that's the thing."

For Schnabel, art is a means of transcending death. He said "in the act of making a representation of life, you are denying death". 

Schnabel credits his parents with giving him the belief that he could do anything and it was with that conviction that he made the seemless transition from being a painter to being a painter AND a filmmaker.  

This is an artist with a profound level of talent and creativity. Seeing his monumental works in person and hearing him speak left an inedible mark on me. I realized it is a gift to be able to paint and "make things" and I will endeavour to savour more moments of the process in my studio. 

If you cannot make it to this exhibition, the AGO has many podcasts and other features on its site to learn more about Julian Schnabel's work as a painter and director. Check out this link

Julian Schnabel at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Art and Film
September 1, 2010 to January 2, 2011
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada

Monday, September 13, 2010

Read Me Like a Book!

Engaging with Art at the Collingwood Public Library by Ingrid Mida 2010
These two art-lovers spent a long while looking at my little piece, Homage to the Bell Jar II. I wish I'd had the nerve to go over and talk to them about it.

Read me Like a Book!
A Celebration of Book Arts at the Collingwood Public Library
55 St. Marie Street
Collingwood, Ontario
September 1 -26, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Magnificent Books

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Sotheby's of London is holding an auction of the Magnificent Books, Manuscripts and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick, 2nd Lord Hesketh on Dec. 7, 2010. Included in that collection is this extraordinary book of illustrations  Birds of America by John James Audubon. This rare book includes 435 hand-colored prints, made from engravings of Audubon's illustrations. It measures more than 3 feet by 2 feet (90 centimeters by 60 centimeters) because Audubon wanted to paint the birds life size. The book of four volumes is estimated to sell for 6 million pounds ($9.25 million) at auction.

Wouldn't you love to get a closer look?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poll Results: What is in Your Closet that You No Longer Wear?

Vintage Tea Dress by Ingrid Mida 2008
Over the course of the past six weeks, I've run an informal poll on the sidebar of my blog asking readers to  answer a four questions about what is in their closets. There were 56 respondents to the initial poll question.

Do you keep items of clothing in your closet that you no longer wear?
The vast majority of respondents (94%) answered yes.

How many items of clothing that you are no longer wearing do you have?
71% (38 people) had more than 10 items of clothing in their closet that they no longer wear.
15% (8 people) had between 1-5 items.
13% (7 people) had between 5-10 items.

What items of clothing that you no longer wear are you keeping? 
Possible choices included: wedding dress, other formal attire, work clothing, clothing gift from someone, clothing belonging to a beloved family member, and other.

Because multiple answers were permitted, the results are not as clear. 48 people answered this question about 2-3 items of clothing. It would appear that the vast majority of kept clothing includes: wedding dresses, formal attire and work clothing.

Why do you think you are keeping these items of clothing?
Of the 43 people that responded to this question, most people (79%) answered that they kept an item because they might wear it someday.
The next most popular answer was that it reminded them of a special time or event in their life.
Other possible answers included that it was too expensive to throw away which got 12 votes and it was given to me by someone that I care about which got 11 votes.

Although my poll was informal and unscientific, I think the results suggest that this would be a fruitful area of research. Although I already have one masters degree, I'm contemplating going back for another and I think this would be a fruitful area of research. To read about the project that inspired my poll, click here.

If you would like to answer a more detailed questionnaire about the clothing in your closet, please email me at artismylife@mac.com. And as well, I'm interested in posting more stories about a memory related to a special item of clothing for my Memories of a Dress Project.

What is in the back of your closet that you no longer wear? Do tell!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Reader

The Reader by Fragonard

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
                                                          Chinese Proverb

I love books almost as much as I love art. These two passions consume my time and my money. I am never without a book on my bedside table; in fact, there is a stack of books several feet high on the floor, all waiting to be read. There is bad weather in the forecast for this weekend and you can be sure that I'll have my nose in a book, and it won't be an e-book. I love the feel and smell of books. They have been my constant friend and companion. I have many favourites but some that have left a lingering essence in my psyche include: The Bell Jar, Anna Karenina, Little Women, Charlotte's Web, Heidi, The Fountainhead, Mrs. Dalloway, Emma, Tess of the Duberville....

What are you reading? Do you have any favourites to share with me?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Read Me Like a Book!

The Little Balloonist, Bookwork Sculpture by Ingrid Mida 2009

As a writer, an avid reader and as the daughter of a librarian, I have a special fondness for books. Creating art out of books and fashion magazines has been a relatively recent exploration. It took some courage to cut up a pristine book because I’ve always had such reverence for the written word. However, with the recent popularity of the e-readers, I fear that books will become a rarity and so I chose to celebrate them in a series of book sculptures.

Three of my bookworks will be on display (including Homage to the Bell Jar) as part of the Read Me Like a Book! exhibition at the Collingwood Public Library which opens today. All works are text based and were selected by curator Allison Billings to help celebrate the reopening of the library.  Having spent many summers of my childhood in Collingwood, it seemed like the perfect venue for this new and quirky artwork. 

Read Me Like a Book!
55 St. Marie Street
Collingwood, Ontario

September 1 - 26, 2010