To Hang with the Best

All is Vanity by Ingrid Mida 2011
Although it feels like I've not had much studio time lately, the universe has aligned to suggest that I start making the time. I was asked to participate in Toronto Image Work's Hang with the Best Show which opens today at their gallery in 80 Spadina Avenue in Toronto.  As well, photos from my All is Vanity series will appear in an art book being put together by the team at Artsync (If you missed my interview on Artsync, you can watch it here). And finally, the lovely Emma from Oxford, England fell in love with my Masquerade series and has ordered two of these type of works. I haven't done any embroidery in what seems like ages but I rediscovered that stitching is like meditation!

The Art of the Interview

Nathalie Bondil, Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry-Maxime Loriot at the MMFA
Photo courtesy of the MMFA
Conducting an interview is like a dance. There is a back and forth between interviewer and interviewee that requires finesse and sensitivity. Your senses have to be on high alert, gauging their mood and reactions to your questions, listening to their responses, coming up with the next question..... Depending on their willingness to participate, it can be exhilarating or it can be like pulling teeth.

To my utter surprise and delight, my interviews with Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot fell into the exhilarating category. Generous with their time, charming and articulate, they made my job in writing for Fashion Projects look easy. My interview with Nathalie Bondlin was published on Fashion Projects on Wednesday and can be read here.  And my interview with Thierry-Maxime Loriot was published today and can be read here.

And although I did not interview Jean Paul Gaultier directly, I was at the back of a group of about ten journalists and I can attest to his sweet, funny and humble nature. The one thing he said that has stuck with me was this:  "Be yourself. Have confidence in yourself. Live your dream." 

Jean Paul Gaultier's Teddy Bear with a Shell Bra
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011

The Guilty Pleasures of Summer

1950s Vintage Swimsuit
The lazy days of summer have long last.  I have completed my writing assignments for Fashion Projects and Worn Fashion Journal. One darling boy just finished his last exam this afternoon and the other has graduated... I have a long list of projects to tackle at my studio and another long list of research topics and interview subjects on my to-do list but all I want to do is hang out in my backyard for a bit and enjoy the warm temps and sunny skies. I should have been at the museum this aft, but I opted to do nothing instead. Talk about guilty pleasure! What are your summer plans?

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Dita von Teese for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier
Photo courtesy of the MMFA
My review of the exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk has been published at Fashion Projects.  My interview with Director and Chief Curator Nathalie Bondlin will be published on Wednesday and my interview with Exhibition Curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot will be published on Friday of this week.

This exhibition continues at the MMFA in Montreal until October 2, 2011. Thereafter it will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art (November 13, 2011 – February 12, 2012), The  Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, de Young (March 24 – August 19, 2012), Fundacion Mapfre in Madrid (September 26 – November 18, 2012) and Kunsthal Rotterdam in the Netherlands (February 9 – May 12, 2013).

Vestiaire/Cloakroom by Lorène Bourgeois at Harbourfront Centre

Blitz child II by Lorene Bourgeois, 2011

Lorène Bourgeois: Vestiaire/Cloakroom opened at the Harbourfront Centre, Project room last night. In this show, Lorène presents a series of large-scale drawings and a video, based upon the subject of clothing and its relation to the human body and head.

"Recently, I have been exploring the territory of head and face protection, including gas masks and military helmets. I am interested not only in the social and utilitarian functions of these artifacts, but also in their qualities as physical objects - the way they frame or envelop the body, and the way they disclose or conceal the human form.

"Isolated from their original context, these objects seem to oscillate between functionality and theatricality, between absurdity and threat. It is this tension, the moment when the function of clothing slips into something less recognizable, that I wish to investigate."

Lorène Bourgeois lives and works in Toronto. Her work in drawing, painting, and printmaking has been exhibited across Canada, as well as in France, Korea, Russia, and the United States. A member of Loop Gallery and Open Studio in Toronto, she teaches in the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University.

Lorène and I are friends and I admire her work very much. We will be having a show together at Loop Gallery in May 2012.

Scenes from the Preview of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier

MMFA, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier
Photo by Ingrid MIda 2011
JPG Smart Car
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Press waiting to preview the JPG exhibition
Photo by Ingrid Mida
As I waited outside yesterday at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to enter the press preview of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, I was feeling a bit jaded. Although it has been said that "fashion is for everybody", sometimes that world can be a bit insular. And while my niche in writing about art and fashion is a unique one, it still requires me to have a thick skin.

Red carpet shoes
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Luckily it was not long before my spirits were lifted. At the press conference, Nathalie Bondil, director and chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts talked about her vision for the exhibition of Jean Paul Gaultier's work. She saw beyond the provocative and humourous aspects of his work, identifying him as a contemporary artist with an important but subtle message about the dictates of beauty, where "everyone can wear his fashions regardless of size, age, gender, or sexual identity". She thought that this was something society needed to hear and initiated the exhibition which was funded by the museum, (an important distinction in my mind compared to marketing oriented exhibitions funded by the fashion house). Although Ms. Bondil described herself as "not a fashion person", she is both beautiful in looks and spirit. When one well known fashion diva walked in twenty minutes late to the conference and started up the self-serve espresso machine, Ms. Bondil laughed and said "Je me recommence" (I start again). And at the end of the day, I had a one-on-one half hour interview for Fashion Projects with Ms. Bondil and she was as articulate, gracious and fresh as if it was her first interview.

Nathalie Bondil, JPG, and Thierry Maxime Loroit
Photo courtesy of the MMFA
Jean Paul Gaultier being interviewed for TV in the Skin Deep Gallery
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Jean Paul Gaultier laughed often and was both humble and sweet. He said "I am no longer l'enfant terrible. I am just the old terrible."  He worked hard to convey his message that "there is not only one type of beauty".   I'm not sure how many other journalists appreciated his humanist approach to fashion, but it was refreshing to hear it spoken.

On the steps of the MMFA
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
I have so much more to share about The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier and will follow up in upcoming posts with links to my review and interview for Fashion Projects as well as photos and video clips.

This exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts opens to the public on Friday, June 17, 2011 and runs until October 2, 2011. It will later travel to Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid and the Netherlands.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier
Photo courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
I'm off to Montreal this morning to attend tomorrow's press preview of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. And I'm going even though there is a looming strike at Air Canada and there are a myriad of important events on the schedule for this week.

From what I've read and seen in the advance press materials, the show is going to be spectacular. I was granted interviews with curators Nathalie Bondil and Thierry Maxime Loriot and will be writing an exhibition review for Fashion Projects.

In preparation for my trip, I looked back at posts I wrote about Gaultier in the past (of which there are nine!). I also reread my posts from June 2008 about the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective which also was held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Back then, I wished that I'd been able to attend the opening for that exhibition and three years later I have just such an invitation in hand....

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

During its run in London at the Royal Opera House, Christopher Wheeldon's version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland performed by the Royal Ballet was a hit. The National Ballet of Canada recently brought this co-production to Canada and it has been playing to packed audiences since its opening. The reviews have been glowing on all accounts including this one in the Globe and Mail

A few months ago, I toured the National Ballet's costume facility and got a sneak peak at the costumes. Of course, I  bought my tickets without delay.

Wonderland Tutus in the Hallway at the National Ballet

Inside the hat department of the National Ballet
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a captivating and lively balletic version of the famous story of Alice. The action is non-stop and although Wheeldon has taken liberties with the story, the entire show is enchanting. Not only are the dancers superb, but the production is filled with magical costumes and brilliant sets. It is my new favourite ballet. In fact, it is a ballet that I would say is worth sitting in the rafters to see. Get your tickets, if you can, at the National Ballet website

Book Review: Seventeenth-Century Dress Patterns, Book One

The cover of this book with the ghostly x-ray image of a slashed satin bodice from 1630 is but a hint of the extraordinary contents within. Edited by Susan North and Jenny Tiramani, Seventeenth-Century Dress Patterns (Book One) includes patterns for items from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection including several waistcoats, a mantle, a smock, hood, gloves and other items. Enhanced by colour photographs, x-ray images, highly detailed patterns, cutting instructions, technique descriptions and images of paintings, the book is intended to provide experts and home-sewers with the means to replicate these pieces as well as minimize the repeated handling of the objects from the museum's collection. Seventeenth-Century Dress Patterns is extraordinary in its content and its beauty and also builds on the cumulative work of Janet Arnold as well as other dress historians like Norah Waugh and Dorothy Burnham.

This is the first book in a new pattern book series published by the Victoria and Albert Museum. The new format was the inspiration of Jenny Tiramani, who not only worked as a costumer for the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre from 1997 to 2005, but also completed Janet Arnold's last book Patterns of Fashion 4 (after Janet's untimely death). Last year, I heard Jenny Tiramani speak at the Royal Ontario Museum when she visited to research some items from the museum's collection (read the post about her talk here). Her attention to detail, willingness to share her knowledge and her charm are reflected within the pages of this meticulously crafted book.

Title: Seventeenth-Century Dress Patterns, Book One
Edited by: Susan North and Jenny Tiramani
Publisher: V&A Publishing, London, 2011
Category: Non-fiction, Historical Dress
Number of Pages: 160

Glamour versus Reality

I am guilty....of presenting an illusion of a glamourous life that is seemingly filled with parties, champagne, and new frocks spilling out of my closet. My friend Madamoiselle Poirot, who wrote a very thoughtful post about illusion versus reality, said "it sounds like you do your supermarket shop in an evening gown." The comment made me laugh since that evening I had been pumping gas in an evening gown, but it made me pause and consider how illusion and reality can be part of the same continuum.

As an artist, a writer, a researcher, a wife, a mother and more, I dress according to the role I'm playing on any given day. And while I might be seen in ripped jeans and a t-shirt on my studio days, other days might find me wearing Prada while closeted in a windowless back room of the museum. And then there are those events for which nothing less than an evening gown will do...

And while it might seem like a lot of fun to attend opening parties, press previews and exhibitions, these events are work.  I usually do hours of research beforehand. I arrive prepared with a notebook  and a camera at the ready and then have to deal with where I rank in the hierarchy of journalists and whether I can get an interview.  Plus there is an enormous pressure to look fabulous.. I return home, my feet aching from hours of standing in heels, and have to start writing before I forget the parts that I didn't write down at the event.

What I am trying to say is that the reality is not as glamourous as it seems and it takes a very thick skin to survive with one's self esteem intact!

Beyond the parties, the work of being an artist is mostly a solitary journey. I go to my studio and am alone with my thoughts as I conjur up art pieces that reference the subtext of my life. At times, my studio is my sanctuary, but at other times, when I am blocked, it is the last place I want to go. As joyful as the act of creation is, there is also the judgment that comes with a gallery show. Is it meaningful, important work? Does anyone like it enough to buy it? Does anyone care?

What has become an unexpected pleasure for me is my work at the museum. In spite of the almost Edwardian working conditions, I often get to do research that makes my heart sing.  There was a time after I finished my first masters degree, that I fancied getting a Phd, but all too soon I was caught up in my quest for pretty frocks and a mortgage.  This work has made me realized that I am happiest when I in a stack of books, on a quest for more knowledge or unraveling a mystery. As I get older, I have less patience for the things that don't really matter - like feigning interest in something or someone who really doesn't warrant the time or energy.   That's my reality.


Bibha Mohapahan Dress for Rent Frock Repeat, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2011
Last night a mix of media and fashion types mingled at the Spoke Club in Toronto to celebrate the debut of Rent- Frock-Repeat. We balanced cocktails and appetizers as a bevy of beautiful gowns appeared on the floor, on screen and on ipads all around.

This web-based business was created by Lisa Delorme and Kristy Wieber to cater to women who attend charity galas, formal dinners, weddings, and other events. Offering chic, up-to-the minute fashions, the  rental of a dress is as easy as the click of a mouse. The price of a rental approximates about ten to fifteen percent of the retail cost of the gown. Renting instead of buying a frock could translate into savings for those of us who don't like to be seen in the same dress....And in case you were wondering, I wore my own frock: a black lace Giambatista Valli sleeveless sheath dress....

Party at the Spoke Club

My Fashion Calendar for June

Invite to the Jean Paul Gaultier Opening Night Party

In the past few months, I've traveled to New York, LA, San Francisco, San Diego, and Paris in the quest of art and fashion. Although I am a bit weary, the show that looks to be the most promising in terms of spectacle is the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective at the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal. This show called "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier" is a celebration of the designer's 35 year career. Opening to the public on June 17th, the exhibition will later travel to Dallas and San Francisco.  I will  be attending the press preview on June 13th to interview the curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot and to write a review for Fashion Projects.  The opening night event just might to be THE party of the season, and of course that necessitated a new frock by Jean Paul Gaultier which is awaiting its debut in my closet.

Also on my calendar is this Thursday's party at the Spoke Club for Rent-Frock-Repeat This is a business that offers cocktail and evening gowns for rental.  Apparently, all it takes is a click of a mouse to chose from RfR’s inventory of designer collections and two sizes of the dress will be delivered to the customer's home or office. After the party, the dresses go back in a postage paid package. It is that simple! And what a clever idea for those that like to keep their look up-to-the-minute.

Beyond that, I will be speaking to costume history students again at Ryerson University and also have a writing deadline for Worn Fashion Journal. And then, I'm looking forward to a relatively quiet summer, especially as the sun has finally made an appearance in Toronto and my backyard beckons.
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