Last month I attended a neat gallery opening and talk by Austin Kleon, a writer and artist best known for his Newspaper Blackout poetry. During his presentation, he pointed out a slide of himself working in his studio wearing cargo shorts. He stopped his rehearsed lecture for a moment and kind of off-handedly mentioned a pet theory he had about how some artists are really concerned with looking like artists, while others actually don't care so much what they look like so long as they actually create like artists. Cargo shorts, he said, seemed to catch a lot of grief but they were really utilitarian. And he stated he'd like to have utility over fashion.
|Bill Cunningham at work...|
I was reminded of others who have really individual "looks" with an emphasis on utility... like the Bauhaus designer Lazlo Moholy-Nagy in his coveralls. Or fashion journalist Angelo Flaccavento in his ever-present high-water baggy pants, tight jacket, glasses and pen in breast pocket. I admire both men for being kind of no-nonsense and craftman-like in how they did/do their jobs as well as how they dress for their jobs. What strikes me about them both is that the thought seemed to be first, "what do I do," not "what should I look like I do." The thing is, they also look like what they do, you know, authentically.
Maybe there is a romantic ideal of how artists are supposed to dress. Maybe the media and fashion industries have co-opted what real artists wear (and wore in the past) and have given us back a stylized idea of it and mass produced it for optimum sales.
Artists, in particular, seem to fall prey to the marketing of what they should look like. I'm not sure accountants have that problem. or carpenters. Or plumbers.
I know a few really fashionable, hip, trendy folks who also happen to make great art, but they are a stark minority compared to the many more hipster-ish fashionistas who talk a good game, but, when it comes down to it, don't produce.
Either way, this kind of thing has been on my mind lately.