What Does It Mean to be An Artist?

Lately I have been pondering the question “what does it mean to be an artist?” I started taking art classes since I could remember. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer with pride “I want to become a painter”. My favorite art teacher considered me one of those very “gifted” children who were supposed to pursue the artists’ path and go to art school. However, reality hit hard; assignments and exams took over my life. I couldn’t go to art classes anymore and stopped drawing altogether. It almost felt like that part of me never even existed.

It was not until the second year in college when I started drawing again. I remember vividly that it was after watching La Belle Noiseuse, a movie about a painter who is fascinated by the female form. All of the sudden I was feeling inspired and started drawing with a black ink pen and it was a such a beautiful experience. Then I drew a portrait of my roommate according to one of her Facebook profile pictures. Without any charcoal drawing training, I surprised even myself by how good it turned out and the amount of compliments it received. From then on, I would draw and paint in my spare time; for me it was mostly just an artistic outlet and meditative process.

After graduating and traveling around the world, I returned home for a while and began oil painting at an art atelier with my mom who always believed in my artistic talents. I enjoyed it very much but at certain point it got frustrating because I could be a painful perfectionist and expect everything to be exact and take long periods of time to finish one painting. For my mother, it would only take maybe a few days because she was so much more care-free and less self-critical. She would often tell me that the reason for the schism was that I was not yet confident enough to completely express myself creatively despite my superior artistic skills. I did not agree with her then, thinking that I simply set higher standards for myself. However, now when I look back, I agree with her, being an artist is all about self-expression.

To be more free in self-expression, first of all, we have to be more in touch with our inner life and be genuine with our true emotions. It is about reinterpreting our experiences and transform our perceptions, thoughts, and emotions into something more tangible that can communicate with others or just yourself. In present society, we are so used to putting on masks and usually end up creating things that cater more to the taste of others or for commercial reasons. A music blogger Bob Lefsetz, once wrote about what it means to be an artist.

“It means to lay your soul down. Your truth. The fame is ancillary. If the success comes first, then you’re an empty vessel. It’s kind of like love. Would you like to get all your sex at a brothel? Sex without love isn’t as good as masturbation. Because what makes sex so good is the connection between the two people who are doing it. What made the records of yore so good was the connection between the creator and the listener.

Oh, don’t tell me you’re into this artist or that. It’s kind of like the movie business. We’ve seen it all. It’s just endless remakes. Endless riffs on what’s come before. But what if an artist went off on his own path, only following his own muse, desirous of connecting but unwilling to compromise. Then you’d have Stevie Wonder.”

Art is love, passion, life. Art is paradoxical, irrational and full of contradictions. Being an artist is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and completely open before engaging in the practice of contemplation and creation. It can be a daunting experience but only in this way can you create something you are passionate about and call yourself “an artist”.

Frida Kahlo: A Style Inspiration

Frida Kahlo is a true legend that clearly needs no introduction. Despite a lifetime of obstacles and pain, she was an ingenious and inimitable painter as well as a resilient and passionate lover of life. She had devoted all of her kaleidoscopic ways to her idiosyncratic art, countless tempestuous affairs, and more importantly, love. But today we are going to focus on her iconic dress sense which continues to dazzle and inspire even to this day.

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Maxi Dress & Skirt with a Twist

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Frida contracted polio at the age of 6, which stunted the growth of her right leg, and experienced a dreadful trolley accident as a teenager, which left her bedridden for almost a year. Because of this series of unfortunate events, she opted for maxi dresses and skirts partially intended to disguise her imperfections. In addition, the vibrant colors of nature in her garden not only inspired her paintings, but also the eclectic patterns in her unique choices of clothing.

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Valentino Resort Collection 2015

Anything Frill

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Natives of the South of Mexico, Frida and the Tehuana dress had an inseparable link. She was almost always seen in a Tehuana dress with the beautiful white frill, implying her tremendous pride in her vivid Mexican heritage and deep-rooted attachment to her country.  It also contributed to the colorful composition of her abundant self-portraits which made her one of the most significant surrealist painters of all time. Moreover, we have to admit that a beautiful flowing dress with a frilly hemline has an incredibly feminine flair and flirtatious touch.

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Valentino Resort Collection 2015

Rebozo / Giant Scarf 

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A Rebozo is a traditional Mexican scarf. Frida wore it constantly, suggesting her immense vulnerability and self-consciousness. Nonetheless, they are usually called shawls in other parts of the world and you can see them in every Parisian corner. It is the perfect transitional piece and a must-have in your fall and winter collection. Wear a big bright-hued scarf with your minimalist outfit to add some extra color and warmth.

Statement Jewelry

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I used to purchase a lot of earrings whenever I went to a boutique because they are my favorite type of jewelry. I bought feather earrings, indigenous culture inspired earrings, rhinestone earrings…pretty much any kind you could think of. But now I just wear my tiny Chanel clovers because I have grown too lazy to take them off before showers (I know, I know…It’s such a bad habit). Regardless, a distinctive piece of statement jewelry can easily brighten up your entire outfit. A plain black sweater may be a bit boring? Add a turquoise necklace. Having a bad hair day? Wear a pair of statement earrings to draw more attention to your beautiful features.

Floral Headpiece 

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The signature look of Frida was an ensemble of a slightly updated Tehuana dress and a tightly braided bun with a floral headpiece. The flowers brought out her intense, brooding eyes and their vivacity was pertinent to Frida’s inherent pain and dark beauty. Although it seems unrealistic to wear a floral headband in daily life, it is a splendid addition to your festival outfits or wedding gowns.

Strong Brows

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I have naturally very thin eyebrows which have been kinda of bothering me since I entered adolescence. For those who are blessed with thick brows, I have only one advice: “NEVER overly pluck them.” They are so beautiful and add great definition to your face. I am not gonna say, “Oh look at Cara Delevingne or any other “It girl” with thick brows.” But keep in mind, looking more “au naturel” is always better for any age.

Shchukin Collection @ Fondation Louis Vuitton

Today was simply fabulous! First of all, I exchanged my A.P.C. wool backpack (aka my camera bag) for a brand-new one without a receipt! (who says Parisians are not nice?) and then spent the rest of my day at Fondation Louis Vuitton and took an enormous amount of photographs (Please click on images for a clearer view and captions).

Fondation Louis Vuitton is located in the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the 16eme arrondissement. Between now and February 20 2017, it showcases a large-scale private art collection of Sergei Shchukin (similar to Getty Museum in Los Angeles), which was made possible by the personal wealth of Bernard Arnault, Chief Executive Officer of LVMH.

The Building

The grandeur of this magnificent building just takes your breath away. The outlook of the foundation is supposed to be silver, designed by Frank Gehry, but was added colored mesh panels recently by Daniel Buren, creating a kaleidoscopic effect that changes throughout the day. The building shares similarities with Disney Concert Hall and Guggenheim as Gehry has been known for his mastery of combining contemporary art and architectural design.

 

The Shchukin Collection

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The Crowd Photo: Olivia Deng

There are 11 galleries which display the biggest private art collection I have ever seen. They are divided into 14 sections — portraits, landscapes, impressionism, fauvism, cubism, etc. Here are some of the categories that I have found particularly intriguing.

The Painters

The series of self-portraits and portraits by some of Shchukin’s  favorite painters, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Detrain is shown at the very beginning of the exhibition.

 

Decorative & Narrative Paintings

“These are some symbolist, romantic, and impressionist paintings of his collection — a mixture of genre scenes and allegories. They are quite conventional, emphasizing the decorative and narrative functions of paintings.”

 

Landscapes & Impressions (Claude Monet)

“Shchukin was particularly fond of landscape, which is distinctively shown in his galleries where the paintings unfolded a common horizon from one salon to another. Contemplating the Shchukin collection through these landscapes, we may better understand both the collector’s deep sensibility and the often romantic and melancholy cast of his choices. “

 

“The Great Iconostasis” (Paul Gauguin)

“This part of the collection reveal Shchukin’s attraction to primitivist, Orientalist, and African forms of artistic expression, qualities he also sought in the art of Rousseau, Matisse, and Picasso.”

 

Women

“Portraits of women constitute the second biggest set of paintings in the Shchukin collection after landscapes. The women seem a little mentally absent, abandoning the physical envelope in which they supposed to be embodied. They abstract themselves and by indifference deny both their role as women in reality and their function in painting as idealizations of femininity. “

 

Henri Matisse 

His paintings flourish in a plant-like splendor, revolutionizing the definition of applied art.  I remember doing an imitation of Matisse’s when I was little and it was so much fun! Because unlike other masters in the art world, instead of precision and “exactitude”, Matisse’s fauvist pieces are known for their vivid colors and abstract nature.

 

Pablo Picasso

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso. My art teacher once told me that many artists may develop great skills over the years but it becomes increasingly difficult for them to maintain the innocence and creativity of their works. However, Picasso was not only known as a bonafide genius for the immaculate accuracy in the early period portraits, but more importantly for his dominant influence on cubist and abstract art.

 

At almost sunset

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On the Terrance Photo: Olivia Deng

P.S.: I highly recommend getting tickets online early; otherwise, you will wait in line for at least an hour. Bisous, Olivia.

(Quoted texts belong to LVMH.)