ARTnews magazine’s February 2012 issue has the contemporary design theme of Where Fashion Meets Art. Having recently described the difference between decorative art and “provocative” art, the intersection of art and fashion struck me as another worthy subject.
In art—unless we’re creating in a remote location, with no contact with the outside world—it’s inevitable that our colors, patterns, techniques and content will be informed by where we live, what we see and hear, current events and personal experiences.
One look at this gorgeous punch bowl and you can hear the Jazz Age and see flappers doing the Charleston! (Punch bowl from the Jazz Bowl series, Viktor Schreckengost, 1931, on display at the new Art in the Americas wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.)
I get a kick out of Westerns filmed in the 1950s, ostensibly depicting an era 75 years earlier. The hairstyles, dresses and even undergarments have the distinctive pointy bust line and short curled under bangs of 1950s fashions. The same holds true for movies from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Consider the outfits and hairstyles from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A 19th century woman wouldn’t dare be seen in public with a loose ponytail!
How does this happen? Does someone send a memo to movers and shakers in the worlds of art and design? For example, global anxieties lead to interpretations of anxiety in art and design…
In contemporary clothing and décor, the dark and urban look is everywhere now, fitting the economic climate and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Camouflage prints are in vogue. Cement and stainless steel are popular, adding an edge to commercial and residential spaces.
I believe these trends express global emotions. Art and design keeps a finger on the pulse. We often process our world through art. These faux rusted metal soffits we did for Legal Seafood’s flagship restaurant, Legal Harborside, Boston are gritty, edgy, and attractive—the perfect up-to-the-minute look for retail and hospitality contemporary design.
Fashion and art also respond to current events by going in the opposite direction. The movie sets of the 30s were more glamorous than ever, an antidote to the Great Depression. Currently, we see sequins and bling on clothes and homes with chandeliers and shimmery metallic paint finishes. Arteriors painted this ceiling with a metallic gold finish, providing a captivating, shimmery background for a crystal chandelier.
Curators of art museums select art that expresses human experiences. These two paintings of mine (Stephanie Maria ) won second place in the Danforth Art Museum’s Member’s Show in 2009. They are a response to our culture’s focus on violence and “hero making,” a theme born of 9/11. I doubt I would’ve used the same imagery 15 years ago.
In art, fashion, and interior design, trends shape content and ideas—but trends should always be tempered by authenticity. The geometric neon styles of the 1980s were all the rage in their day but look incredibly out-of-date now. If we focus on the flavor of the week, we risk losing touch with enduring artistic values.
As artists, quality and integrity need to mean more than momentary trends. If we do exactly what everyone else is doing, our art will be stale and formulaic. No one wants to fast forward ten or twenty years and have their art labeled as “so millennium!”
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