Thursday, August 27, 2009

as this rather nonexistant summer draws to a close....

As there was in the victorian times, a year without a summer, this has most certainly been the year Chicago had no summer. It is as if the long separated lovers of spring and fall finally decided to consumate their affections, wet cold and grey as the days they spent apart. Or to be narcisistic about it, I could say that the weather was bound to my slightly discoloured mood for the past few months. You know that scene in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman's character is laying at the bottom of the pool staring up at everyone above in silence and its as if they existed in separate universes; I'd like to think that I went about this so called summer with that sort of feeling swimming about my head.
So I graduated, and turning back to it now, it is another lifetime behind me. Honestly, I don't even go downtown anymore, I couldn't tell you the last time I was in the south loop for anything...must have been at least two months ago. And I think I'm alright with that, that that area of the city is just a blank slate in my mind. Well, except the library. I have finally returned to reading, once a great joy of mine. I remember being younger and ravenously devouring thousands of pages a week. Somewhere in my senior year the lightbulb or biological clock or whatnot went off in my head that I needed to acquire a library of my own, and perhaps thats the last stage in the transition from larval teen form to fully formed adult. The bookcase I have had my whole life, which once held my herd of My Little Ponies and later the plethora of bad plastic jewelry from Hottopic, now is a temple to my hipster-esque taste in knowledge. It also doesn't hurt that I rearranged it all in the art school grad color wheel pallet scheme. Yes, my bookcase is not arranged by subject or author, its arranged in a rainbow, and I wouldn't claim it to be my own idea by a long shot. But it provides some ironic combinations, like World War Z next to a fashion design textbook from 1942 next to the geology textbook my mother had in the 70's from UIC which is next to my freshman year in high school French 101 book which is next to Atlas Shrugged.

I moved south, far south, where its cheap enough to have a 2 bedroom on my own. Its...isolated here, sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes bad. I was very ill for a good part of the past few months, falling somehow into the shady conspiracy world of what drug companies and doctors can get away with doing to people. On the days I could barely get out of bed, loosing my mind from the poisons I was being forced to take, it was torture to be so far from the people I have held dear, and yet on the days, now, as I dumped out all of the medicines and refused to take anymore, that I have my strength and clarity back, I enjoy having a home to myself. And it is that, a home. It is not a place I pass out at the end of a 14 hour day at school, it is a place I keep my belongings, a place I put my art up on the walls, a place where I can sit and reflect. Granted in my weeks of illness, it got rather.....lets say sloppy. But with good reason! And, having finished my biggest project to date last friday (i'll get to that), I cleaned and rearranged, taking cues from my ever so clean and organized roommate from my old place. Despite feeling so sick, I did quite a bit signifigant this summer, hopefully to the benefit of getting into gradschool or advancing up the job ladder.

Well first of all, I had an art piece in a gallery show. Funny to see how people who have known me for a good year or more had no idea that I actually was an artist. The theme of the show was Telephones, and it was shown at the Barbara and Barbara gallery just north of Augusta on Western. The barbs are always awesome and I was elated to be part of the show. I'm looking forward to hopefully having a piece in their "self portrait" show in november-ish. I've been waiting to make a piece of that sort for a very long time and it will be rather cathardic to get that out of my system as well.

So please excuse the crappy cell phone shots of that one. Eventually I'll take a picture of the whole thing, seeing as how its tacked up on the wall right next to my bookcase, but I'm still actually pondering the idea of continuing some more work on it. The title of the piece was "Rituals of Ineptitude", and I was trying to deal with my somewhat strange OCD complex about talking on the phone that I've somewhat overcome. If you've ever spoken to me on the phone before, you'll understand. Basically my cell phone plan is 1 hour of talk a month with unlimited text. The piece itself was done in something of a scatterbrained satin stitch that I fell in love with immensely, as well as chain stitch and a slight bit of french knots. I found the process of "drawing" with the thread much like the jerky way I went about working with oil pastels in high school, sort of violently jabbing small slashes of bright colors side by side rather than make a clear blend between them. I guess you could say I've come full circle on the fine arts going into fashion design going back into fine arts.

Well after that came a fashion show that was actually last week. Normally I would be hesitant to be a part of a show at a club....the ones i've been to or helped out with haven't gone all that well or the other designers were a bit....subpar. But after meeting with the organizers of this one and showing them my portfolio, they were super professional about it and most of the other fashion was done by stores in the area that I actually was a fan of. And despite some last minute craziness backstage (which is always to be expected), I was pleased to have been a part of it, have another experience to slap on my resume.

So immediately the next day after the show (and me running on 4 full days of no sleep, which i'll slap up that picture in a bit, its amusing) I had perhaps the most amazing photoshoot of my career this far. I thought the ones I had during my time in the fashion photography class that I dragged myself to every saturday morning were out of this world, but this blew me away. Jettison Quarterly chose me to be the main focus of their fall issue's fashion editorial back in like June, and let me just say that things went astronomical from there! The issue should be published tenatively Sept 5, but I'll be sure to go into detail when it does. The humble side of me thinks that its sheer luck that all of this fell into my lap, but then the hardworking side of me demands these rewards for my talent. We shot in an apartment to die for up on the 81st floor of the handcock building (on a side note, i'd never been in a building that high up before. I lived 3 blocks from the sears tower for 3 years and never once went in it or any higher in any building more than like the 35th floor, so this was a jaw dropping experience) that the artist Jared Hatch so graciously let us work in. Elite gave us 3 models on a Friday night, and one of them was a winner of America's next top model (and when you see the photos, you'll see why she won. And all three of them were absolutely perfect). One of the models got swapped out at the 11th hour and I didn't know who it would be until I got to the shoot, at which point I discovered it was my favorite fit model .... (like how's this for a blast from the past?) I knew everything would fit perfectly. I had brought a bunch of those black clamps for styling, we didn't even crack the package open. I ended up using them around my apartment to hold up my stolen CTA train maps. I've definitely decided to keep going on the sort of atheticwear/futuristic thing that I started back in the spring with my first shoot with Jullian. In like 3 weeks I threw together 8 looks, and these garments all had multiple functions. The stuff that I was pulling out of thin air was was a relief really. A good part of the beginning of my summer was spent in deep turmoil over whether or not I should stay with this or scrap it and go back to school for paleontology. Needless to say, that doctorate will have to take a backseat to me getting my masters in fashion design. Really, everything came together for this shoot, the space, the models, the team, the makeup artist, the photographer, and my work. It was this huge step up for me, but now I've gone from hamburger helper to fillet mignon, I can't stop thanking everyone who helped me get there for this. I am going off the walls wanting to see the final images, but I know better than to be a pest, this next issue of Jettison is going to knock everyone's socks off.

I snapped this pic with my blackberry of two of the models posing, on a Zaha Hadid couch. Funny enough, the photo that everyone liked from this look was the one at the exact moment I took this picture and the model on the right looked over at me. Sometimes life just comes together like that, all the puzzle pieces that were strewn about for so long suddenly make sense in how they go together and the pieces fall in line in quick succession.

Well....what's next? Uh....well I got some sleep. That was important and this would be me....after 4 days, 3 nights of no sleep, and on top of that, the ADD medication I was taking was magically recalled because of a "super-potent" production mishap according to the FDA, so I had a really fun time dealing with basically what ammounted to an overdose, and the doctors, pharmacy, and drug company get away with it completely when I had 3 days of hell not knowing what was going on. Since leaving school, I completely lost all the weight I had gained from all the stress in college. Long ago I kept onto my junior year prom dress (and I realize that by this point i am digressing into trivial personal matters, but as my self image has always had an effect on my work, and well, er, public persona I suppose you could call it, I shall digress) which was from when I was my slimmest in my whole life. And all through college I would pull out the hideous concoction of poly duchess satin and get upset that it did not fit at all. Now, i can zip the whole dress up and have to hold it up or else it just slides off. Pants that I bought at christmas that were too tight at the time and resulted in the ever evil muffin top look (hence the winter of cosby sweaters for me), are now so loose that they need to be taken in at least 2-3 inches at the waistband, or just altogether scrapped. I found a pair of St. John jeans at a thrift store that were a size 2, I went home and squeezed myself into them , even hacked them apart into skinny jeans no less. and 10 years ago, just being a size 12 seemed impossible, here I am now able to wriggle into the garments that I've made for the giraffes. I'm forever covered in bruises because I was so used to just having that weight to me, and I'll bump into things as I am a klutz, and forget that now its just bone. My favorite little black dress that I bought myself as a grade school graduation present has always been the sort of high water mark per say for my weight, and I actually had to take it in at the side seams over an inch, which would mean in total I took it in like 4 sizes. I had to hem it up 3" because it was hanging down so far that it was going past my knees. And when I wore it at christmas, the buttons at the bust and hips were straining to stay in place, now here I am taking it in all over. What I swore last summer I would never never ever wear, the American Apparel lame high waisted leggings, here I just went out last night in a pair of the matte black ones and a white dress shirt from Theory (dude I love thriftin, I find the best stuff). At first I thought I'd get crap for basically not wearing anything, but even my mother, who would give me crap for anything outside of conservative wear, didn't flinch when I showed up in them, and at work no one said a thing, not even my coworker who likes to make cracks at me when I wear a pencil skirt and heels.

So it slowly sunk in that for the first time in my life, I've really made myself a physical representation of my happy state. Not everything is perfect by a long shot, but finally that horrible cloud that hung over me for my whole life has disipated, maybe its no homework, maybe its the fact that I pay my rent and I earn every cent of it. I am, as you will have most certainly noticed by this point, a diehard workaholic. I had never been so happy as I was when I took that photo of myself, exhausted to the point of just falling over from working so hard to reach my goals. And my job, I really do enjoy my job! I've worked at Barry Regent Cleaners up in lakeview for well....three months now. If they'd bump me up one more day a week I'd be a happy little clam, but even now I'm proud of my job and after 8.5 hours of sewing, I go home and sew more. That was my real test this summer if I was going to stick with this design thing, if I could do it to pay the bills and still come home and enjoy it. And I do, very much so. Work is one of the top cleaners in the city, so its not just some hole in the wall place stereotypical cleaners. Its the size of like a walgreens, and on a daily basis, i have probably $50,000 worth of garments pass through my hands, and thats just doing alterations. I see mcqueen, jil sander, armani, dolce and gabana, viktor and rolf, and etro each shift. It was funny, I must have applied to 500 office jobs, and this was the first sewing job that i applied to, and they called me the next day to have me start. I'm exceptionally pleased with the job, plus the commute to work is a 14 mile round trip, so biking all that has been one of the motivations for the weightloss. it just feels good to come home and look at the things i have, and know that its all mine and I earned it.

so yes, whats next? Well, Jettison is going to come out soon, and there's plans in the works for me to have my own gallery/fashion show thing, but that's still in planning. Something along the lines of cat chow's fashion installations is what I'm musing on. I want to do some large scale illustrations to go along with the garments to further pull out my ideas and inspirations. Living down in pilsen means that to get back and forth from the old hood I have to cut down Damen, which gets into sketchy territory going under the rail yard by 14th. seriously its a tunnel for 4 blocks, so I like to cut through the UIC medical district and make googley eyes at the post modern architecture. Ah yes, I have become quite interested in architecture as of late, and mid century modern furniture design.

And then? Well....I guess I'd like to see if anything comes of that, and I do have a few commissions on the side right now to chug along on, but really nothing is keeping me here. There was, but that blew up in my face about two months ago, so now I'm still looking across the pond at grad schools, but there's also two companies headquartered in portland that I would really like to work for. So I suppose this fall will be a refinement of my portfolio, and maybe having some menswear in the winter issue of Jettison, but I'm trying not to get ahead of myself too soon. Really I have a future laid open and clean to be steered in any direction. I have enough plans to keep me content in the short term, but my long term is like a leaf in the wind, dreams and hopes light in the air, nothing concrete. And i'm happy with it that way.