Happy Holidays!

A snowy day in Toronto 

It has been a mad rash of birthday and holiday parties. I've consumed too much champagne and dare say had more than my share of fun. I'll be taking a break and I'll be back in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my friends! May the coming year be filled with delight!  

If I were in New York over the Holidays.....

Sometimes I wish I was Eloise and lived in the Plaza Hotel with the magic of Manhattan at my doorstep. I'm not going to be in New York over the holidays but a friend is and she asked me what I'd recommend. Here is my list of top three shows in the Big Apple.

Overcoat 2004 by Charles LeDray
Photograph by Tom Powel
Charles LeDray WORKWORKWORKWORKWORK at the Whitney Museum
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021, United States
(212) 570-3600
Subway: 77th Street - Lexington

This retrospective of New York-based sculptor Charles LeDray's work celebrates his highly original and uncanny manipulation of scale to create objects such as tiny men's jackets out of cloth, teeny flip flops out of rubber and embroidery floss and little chairs carved out of bone. His meticulous technique and the small scale of his work, some of which is the size of a child's finger, evoke whimsy and wonder.

Balenciaga Infanta evening dress 1939 (left) and Evening dress and stole 1952 (right)

Balenciaga Exhibition at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute
684 Park Avenue, New York
(212) 628-0420

One of the great fashion couturiers was Balenciaga (1895-1972). His mastery of line, cut and tailoring created sculptural pieces that are unparalleled in their elegance and beauty. In the exhibition BALENCIAGA: Spanish Master,  curator Hamish Bowles presents important examples of the couturier’s designs borrowed from archives and private collectors, including the flamenco-style gowns, the fichu stoles and matador-inspired hats, the evening dresses that evoke the austere sweep of a nun’s wimple.

Men's 3 piece court suit, France c1785
His and Hers Exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
7th Ave W 27th St
New York, NY 10001
(212) 217-7676

His & Hers explores changing perceptions of "masculine" and "feminine" dress from the mid-18th century to the present and includes more than 100 garments, accessories, and textiles.

Last Minute Shopping Ideas at Loop Gallery

Is there anything more original than a gift of art? Loop Gallery is holding a Holiday Small Works Salon by member and invited artists, including moi. Included in the show are two of my pen and ink drawings of shoes!

Soulier de bal 1879 by Ingrid Mida 2010

Soulier Charles IX (1879) by Ingrid Mida 2010

Drop by this weekend and pick up that perfect creative last minute stocking stuffer or under the tree surpise.

Loop Gallery is located at 1273 Dundas Street West in Toronto. For more info visit the Loop Gallery website or blog.

Gallery hours this weekend:
Friday     1 - 9 pm (including opening night party from 6-9 pm)
Saturday 12 - 5 pm
Sunday    1 - 4 pm

At the bus stop, Paris

El Anatsui at the ROM

A partial view of El Anatsui's sculpture at the ROM

Another must-see exhibit in Toronto is the work of El Anatsui now on at the Royal Ontario Museum. This talented artist creates the most extraordinary wall hangings out of found objects like tin cans and bottle caps. Spanning an entire wall, these hangings shimmer like glistening fabric, creating beauty out of what would otherwise be discarded.

This is the first retrospective of El Anatsui's career which spans four decades. The exhibition includes wood and metal sculptures, ceramics, paintings, prints and drawings. Ghanian-born El Anatsui is internationally renowned and considered one of the most original artists of his generation.

It was a few years back when I first saw a single sculpture of El Anatsui's in a group sculpture show in New York and was astounded by its originality.  I'll never look at a bottle cap in quite the same way again.

Arts reviewer Leah Sandals interviewed El Anatsui for the National Post and posted her interview here.  When I read the interview, I could not stop thinking about one part in which El Anatsui suggested that if an artist works in more than one medium, he/she is flitting around. "If you pick a medium or a process, you (must) stay with it for a long time." But as soon as I walked into the exhibition itself, I saw that he contradicted himself by not only working in bottle-cap sculptures, but also wood sculpture, ceramics, painting, prints and drawings.

The ROM is the first stop for this exhibition before it begins a tour of the USA.

El Anatsui, When I Last Wrote to You about Africa
On until February 27, 2011
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

Maharaja, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts

When life is a frantic mix of holiday parties, Christmas shopping and family get-togethers, taking the time to refresh and restore my spirit is a top priority. What better place to do that than in an art gallery? Gazing at beauty is almost a meditative act, bringing a sense of calm to my soul.

At the Art Gallery of Ontario, Maharaja, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, organized in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, features over 200 objects, including paintings, tapestry, thrones, weapons, and jewels, most on view in North America for the first time. Maha means "great" and raja means "king" and the exhibition features on an array of extraordinarily beautiful objects created for the 600 kings that ruled India before 1947.

One of the most opulent pieces of jewelery on display is the magnificent Patiala Necklace (pictured above), which was part of the largest single commission that the French house of Cartier has ever executed.  Completed in 1928 and restored in 2002, this piece of ceremonial jewellery contains 2,930 diamonds and weighs almost one thousand carats. When I toured the exhibition with curator Dr. Stephen Inglis,  adjunct curator of the exhibition and curator emeritus from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, he told me the story of how a Cartier employee discovered the platinum skeleton of this necklace in a London antique shop, stripped of most of the diamonds. It was purchased by Cartier and took two years to restore. Most of the larger diamonds have been replaced with cubic zirconia but it still is breathtaking in its beauty! As I gazed at it with longing, I suggested that I might like to try it on and I was told I was too tiny to wear such a thing. But a girl can dream....

Also on display, but not mentioned on the AGO website or press materials, are a selection of the loveliest saris I've ever seen, including a wedding sari that is so laden with gold that it would be a burden to wear.

If you fancy opulent jewels, beautiful garments, and extraordinary accessories, or you just want to step away from the frantic holiday pace, visit the AGO's Maharaja exhibit. Your eyes will sparkle with delight!

Maharaja, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts
November 20, 2010 - April 3, 2011
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West, Toronto

At Dior, Paris

Dear Santa, I want a Chanel Doll for Christmas!

Dear Santa,
I've been a very good girl this year. I did all my chores every day and I orchestrated my mother's three moves in eight months. I ate more vegetables than ever, including lots of broccoli which is not really to my liking. I was kind and patient with all, even when it wasn't appreciated or reciprocated. 
I wasn't going to ask for anything this year but I just cannot help myself. On my way to work at the museum I stopped to admire these oh-so-cute Coco Chanel dolls in the window of Chanel. I think they are just over the top fabulous!! I would never buy such a thing for myself, but maybe you might put one under the tree for me.
I hope you will enjoy a relaxing holiday after your Christmas duties are done for the year. 
Wishing you all the best,
P.S. I've attached a photo for you, just in case you are not sure which doll it is.

What I'm Reading (and not Reading) This Week

Isabella Blow, one of the fashion world's brightest lights, committed suicide in May 2007. It has been said that her untimely death weighed heavily on Alexander McQueen, who spurned his friend when he sold his label to Gucci. Two books were recently released about Isabella and I chose Blow by Blow which was written by her husband Detmar Blow with Tom Sykes (brother of Vogue editor Plum Sykes). While Isabella had a difficult and painful childhood, what was even more painful was to read the authors spin on it. The tenor of this book is whiny, unimaginative and unpleasant. Detmar manages to insert himself into the story as much as possible, name-dropping on every page and making the story more about him than about Isabella. I could not finish the book even though I read to page 190. I really wanted to like this book but I cannot recommend it.

In stark contrast to the blow-hard style of Blow by Blow is the witty and poignant memoir written by Toronto gallery owner Leo Kamen called Rolling the Bones. 

Like most creative people, Leo Kamen had a difficult childhood, but he writes about his experiences with a degree of detachment and humour, allowing readers to laugh along with him.  His direct style and deft touch with the pen moved the story along and kept me engaged. There is no bitterness or rancour in Leo's memoir and his fighting spirit and joie de vive make me wish I knew him better. His descriptions of people and places are vivid and amusing. For example:

"Mrs. Fluck, our grade eight art teacher, was as thin as a stalk of asparagus. She dressed in long sweaters and grey skirts. Whenever she spoke, she sounded as if she had cotton gauze stuck up her nose. I had vague ideas about what artists were like, but Mrs. Fluck didn't fit the bill. I assumed she went straight home every day after school, wrapped herself up in a housecoat and crawled into a can of sardines for dinner. Only her name, cursed as it was with one too many consonants, gave her a racy reputation she didn't deserve. I never created anything of artistic note in her classes, though towards the end of the year I managed a ceramic lion that bore a striking resemblance to our family cat. I glazed it bright spinach green and placed it on top of our television set at home, where it remained for years." 

Rolling the Bones is available at the Leo Kamen Gallery in Toronto and in e-book format at www.leokamenauthor.com. There also is a contest on Akimbo which runs until December 9th offering three books to lucky winners.

Title: Rolling the Bones, a memoir
Author: Leo Kamen
Publisher: General Karma, Toronto
Category: Non-fiction, Memoir
Number of Pages: 248

Inside my Studio

I rarely invite people to my studio. In part, that is because it is usually a mess! When I'm in the midst of a project, there is stuff everywhere and I know I can just close the door and walk away. Of course, if I have a photo shoot, I have to clean it up but otherwise having it too tidy seems to distract from my creative process. But having completed all the work for my next show, the studio is about as tidy as it will ever be.

What I see from the front door

Painting corner
Sewing corner

A shelf in my studio

A shelf in my studio

Dress Sculptures

What I haven't shown you is the photo backdrop but that is just a wall of white so you are not missing much. This space is my sanctuary, a room of my own.

The Date Has Been Set

The work is done. 
The date has been set.
The invites have been printed.
The press releases are ready.

All is Vanity
Loop Gallery, 1273 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Opening Reception Saturday, January 22, 2011  2-5 pm
Q&A Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 3 pm moderated by Lyla Rye

Le Code de la Mode

Dress codes today are almost non-existent but it was not so long ago that to be deemed fashionable, a woman had to make an enormous investment in time and money in her wardrobe.  In the 19th century, the books on etiquette often included several chapters on the topic of dress. Clothing was the way a society woman defined herself showing that the wearer had the time to devote to the many changes of costume required in a day and also had the financial means to do so.

Le Moniteur de la Mode, February 1879, pg 55
"A society woman who wants to be well dressed for all occasions at all times needs at least seven or eight toilettes per day: a morning dressing gown, a riding outfit, an elegant simple gown for lunch, a day dress if walking, an afternoon dress for visiting by carriage, a smart outfit to drive through the Bois de Boulogne, a gown for dinner, and a gala dress for evening or the theatre. There is nothing exaggerated about this, and it could be more complicated still at the beach, in summer, with bathing costumes, and in autumn and winter, with hunting and skating costumes, if she shares these wholesome activities with men." (Despaigne, Henri. Le Code de la mode, Paris, 1866, pg. 85)

For the "comme il faut" woman of the nineteenth century, "dress was a veritable science to which she devoted a third of her day." Attention also had to be paid to the codified progression of attire with simplicity and restraint expected for day dress and increased formality and opulence expected in the evening.

Society women hardly ever walked which is something that still seems to define the fashionable set today, given the dominance  and demand for unwearable high heels by the most fashionable shoemakers of our time (Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blanik et al).

The Meaning of Clothing

"Clothing is to the body what education is to the mind. Clothing consists of similar elements for everyone, yet it varies according to the taste, attitude, order, care, elegance, and distinction everyone brings to it."
                                               Comtesse de Bassanville, Paris, 1859

Portrait of the Empress Eugenie dressed as Marie Antoinette by Franz Xaver Winterhaller, 1854, oil on canvas
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)
In the book Fashioning the Bourgeoisie, Phillipe Perrot compares the origin of clothing with the origin of language, both defined by vast unknowns and complexities. Both clothing and language happen "somewhere in geographical and social space." And while the purpose of clothing is typically thought to be protection, modesty and adornment, the variety of body coverings across time and cultures refutes that. He cites the example of the natives of Tierra del Fuego who remain nude to hunt in the snow.

Perrot asserts that it is "through dress that groups and individuals give themselves meaning." For example, articles of clothing like the equestrienne styled blazer or yoga pants, that originally served functions for hunting or sport, are worn today to signify other qualities like an aristocratic aura or sportiness.

"Sign or symbol, clothing affirms and reveals cleavages, hierarchies, and solidarities according to a code guaranteed and perpetuated by society and its institutions." (page 8, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie). Consider the elaborate dress codes of the 19th century in which lace and feathers were forbidden before noon and decolletage, too-ample skirts or showy jewels were in bad taste before evening. And women of a certain age had to forego "bright colors, elegant designs, the latest fashions, and graceful ornaments such as feathers, flowers and jewels." Stepping outside of these dictates left one subject to ridicule and scorn.

It seems to me that with the exception of a few professions like bankers and judges, and perhaps a few formal occasions like weddings, dress codes seem to have been largely abandoned. And even though almost anything goes, clothing still  signifies status and identity. The clues are a lot more subtle, manifesting in cut, quality of textile, fit and also in accessories, especially shoes and handbags. Perhaps that is why prestige labels are so coveted.

Book Review: Fashioning the Bourgeois

If you have a a deep and abiding love of costume history and are able to find this book on the shelves of a library or in a book bin somewhere, don't hesitate to pick it up. It offers a fascinating analysis of the development of fashion in the nineteenth century, incorporating extensive quotations from primary sources of the period. Translated from the French, it is, in parts, dense and scholarly but well written and really quite accessible to both scholars and fashion history aficionados alike.

When this book was first published in 1981 under the original French title Les Dessus et les Dessous de la bourgeoisie, the author Philippe Perrot exploded the myth "that it is futile for historians to study things that seem inconsequential and trivial" like fashion. Most intellectual work on clothing had been to that point done by sociologists or economists. This book lay the groundwork for a body of "cross-disciplinary historical study that is based on the assumption that few, if any, human artifacts are without meaning, in that they are first created by humans and then more-or-less profoundly shape the way we live".  (pg xii of the Preface by Richard Bienvenu).

Fashioning the Bourgeoisie is divided into eleven chapters:
I. Toward a History of Appearances
II. Clothing's Old and New Regimes
III. The Vestimentary Landscape of the Nineteenth Century
IV. Traditional Trades and the Rise of the Nineteenth Century
V. The Department Store and the Spread of Bourgeois Clothing
VI. New Pretentions, New Distinctions
VII. The Imperatives of Propreity
VIII. Deviations from the Norm
IX. Invisible Clothing
X. The Circulation of Fashions
XI. Conclusion

For me, the first chapter - which is on the meaning of clothing - resonated very deeply as I seek to understand the role of fashion in my art practice. Chapter VII on The Imperatives of Propriety is likewise bewitching in the detailed descriptions of the minute requirements for a fashionable woman's wardrobe. Invisible clothing, chapter IX, reveals the history of undergarments, including the corset and crinoline.

If I only owned one book about the 19th century, this would be the one.  Many of the things we take for granted - the availability of ready to wear clothing, the existence of department stores, the emergence of the fashion designer, and differentiation in dress - are rooted in the technical, industrial, commercial and social innovations that happened in the 19th century. I only have this book for a few more days before it has to go back to the stacks of the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto.

P.S. Since writing this post, a reader pointed out that this book is actually available on Amazon. I'm not sure why I didn't check first. The library copy I have is so very old that I assumed it was out of print.


Cupid's Bounty
Pen and ink drawing, 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
by Ingrid Mida 2010

I'm probably not supposed to reveal that I'm participating in OCAD's Whodunit show, but I couldn't resist sharing my little drawing with you. Too often people buy art, not because they love it, but because it is by a "famous" name. At the OCAD sale,  the name of the artist is not revealed until after you purchase it, so you have to buy it for love! All works are 5 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches and cost only $75. Lineups typically stretch around the block. Get there early if you have your heart set on a particular work.

Public Preview
Online November 17 to 20
Onsite at OCADU
November 17 — Noon to 6pm
NOV 18 & 19 — Noon to 8pm
Free admission

Public Art Sale
November 20 — 10am to 4pm
Free Admission

OCAD University, 100 McCaul Street, Toronto

Avenue Montaigne, Paris

Announcing the Winners!

Let's party!! It is time to announce the winners of my blog giveaway. I wish I could offer a token of my appreciation to all that participated. Thank you for your feedback. It really was a pleasure to read your comments.

The winner of a copy of the newly released French Essence by Vicki Archer is Janet of FrenchBlue.

The winner of the Coco Avant Chanel dvd is High Heeled Life.

And the winners of my art notecards are Nathalie of Dolce Dreams and Laura of The Beau Monde Gallery.

If you are a winner, please email me at your earliest convenience so that I can arrange shipping to you.
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