Thursday, June 3, 2010

Art Fair Fashion Faux Pas, Fellow Artists

I’ve heard them referred to in hoops slang as “Marilyns”. Presumably the nickname for them came from someone’s remembrance of Marilyn Monroe wearing some sort of poofy short shorts. And I suppose they could have called them “Monroes” except that Earl “The Pearl” Monroe actually wore them, and while that would make the description still apt, it would drain it of all humor.

They’re those very short athletic shorts -- solid color with contrast piping -- that were worn in the sixties and even up to the early seventies – you remember? …big basketball players with very short shorts and socks pulled up to their knees? The socks have made a come back (bo-o-o-o-o!) along with headbands (his-s-s-s-s-s!). Thankfully, Marilyns have not.

Anyway, I was doing a show down in Florida. I played hooky from my booth and was walking the show, taking the opportunity to view the work of my fellow artists. I came upon a simply stunning display of pottery. Beautifully glazed, skillfully thrown, and artfully assembled work that was just jaw-dropping.

Then I saw the artist.

He was about six feet tall, balding, well into his 50s, mustached, wearing aviator sunglasses and, yes…


Even if this had been 1965 and those shorts (that very pair) had been brand new (along with the aviator sunglasses) and, therefore, still possibly “stylish”, this fellow’s 34 inch inseam of un-tanned hairy leg was not, I am relatively certain, what the fashion designer had in mind when he/she invented the “Marilyn”.

A case could be made for criminal prosecution of that fashion designer. But an even stronger case could be made for that artist/potter to have known better than to wear an old pair of Marilyns to an art fair. At least not to an art fair where he actually had hopes of making sales.

Sure, I could have admired that artist for his self-confidence, as well as his sense of priority – he obviously puts all of his creative energy – all of his care and concern – into the making of his wonderful work. And, on the other hand, I know people who obsess about their clothing. They spend all their time and too much of their money trying to impress others with their obvious good taste. I don’t think that’s a good thing either.

But I have to admit that I wondered (and wondered if I was not alone in my wondering) if there wasn’t something equally tasteless in his work that I hadn’t noticed when that work first caught my eye. I looked the work over again and decided that my first impression of the work was the correct one. I just wonder if all the public is as “forgiving”.

Anyway, I have to imagine that it’s tough to find the proper way to present ourselves at art fairs. And I suppose that maybe I worry about it too much. Maybe it doesn’t matter. But I really think that:

1.The way we present ourselves will reflect upon our work. Maybe not to the total detriment of bad sales (if we dress in bad taste) – and probably not to the point of a great increase in sales (should we hit upon a really good “look”). But I think it does matter.

2. As we age it seems we tend to lose track of trends and how fast those trends are suddenly passé. Some fashion is relatively timeless – but it seems the more “trendy” a fashion statement, the more important it is to be aware when it is no longer fashionable. The trendy look may make a bigger splash – tell your patrons that you are “hip” – but with that trendyness comes the bigger downside in being as embarrassingly as out of step as you once appeared to be in step, when you fail to change with the times.

3. Some things aren’t a matter of taste or up-to-date fashion. Some things just look tacky. Dirty, overly worn clothes. Really badly fitting clothes.

4. I think there are ways of caring that neither appear to be overly conscious of one’s look, nor in the least “trendy”. At my age, even if I thought that the latest fashion “look” was a good one, I don’t think I’d go for it – I think it’s part of growing old gracefully to know when one looks as silly in the latest fashion as they do while wearing their hippest clothing from ten or twenty years ago.

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