Clé de Peau's holiday collection was one of those "order without thinking" kind of purchases for the Museum - as soon as I saw the elegant, Art Deco-inspired ladies on the packaging I knew it would be an excellent asset to the Museum's holdings. New Orleans artist Ashley Longshore was responsible for these lovely designs. In general, Longshore took her cue from Clé de Peau Creative Director Lucia Pieroni, who wanted to capture the feel of the women painted by Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980). "When Clé de Peau Beauté approached me to create the packaging for the collection, I felt I had the opportunity to collaborate with both Lucia and Tamara. I think I brought a sense of modernity to the work that was truly my own yet noticeably inspired by the powerful, bold women who Tamara de Lempicka was known for painting," Longshore says.
The brush set is gorgeous, but I wasn't able to find the original artwork it came from. This was the most similar piece I could find at the Clé de Peau website. All of Longshore's original pieces are for sale, and each one has a little blurb explaining the artist's inspiration behind them.
"I really wanted this piece to symbolize pure confidence and elegance, that’s why I used a peacock. The peacock is the most beautiful of all birds: confident and radiant."
"I wanted this painting to be simplistic and elegant and capture that spirit of art deco. Her profile is so elegant and demure. Her jewelry is the perfect statement to her beauty. The soft periwinkle blues and the gold is so sophisticated and radiant."
The lip glosses:
And the paintings.
"This woman symbolizes minimalist refined beauty - like that of a flower it doesn't have to try too hard. It blossoms and it is what is it is and we appreciate its beauty for what it is."
"Hummingbirds are very symbolic in my artwork because they move so quickly you have to enjoy every moment of their beauty and I created this panting to embody how we should appreciate every precious moment in our lives."
There was also this stunning face cream, which I did not purchase as it went for a cool $535, not to mention the artwork was only featured on the outer box and not on the jar itself.
But just for fun, here are the original paintings that appeared on the box.
"Ahhh! It took millions of years in the earth to create something that sparkles so much that we love so much I painted this because sometimes it takes time to find your inner beauty so for me this is how we appreciate our brilliance as women."
"As a woman the happiest of days is a day you feel confident, beautiful, elegant and are surrounded by jewels."
There were also these two paintings, but I don't think they appeared on any of the Clé de Peau packaging.
"This piece I really wanted to showcase elements of being a woman that are fun. Her jewelry, the illuminating gold leaf, the hummingbird representing the fleeting moments of our life, the jewels, the camellia. This piece was made to represent the height of femininity."
"The camellia is not just a symbol of Clé de Peau but for me it symbolized the height of what our beauty can be and as women we all want to be the bloomed moment and stay in that moment so for me this is the forever moment."
(images from cledepeaubeaute.com)
Naturally I was very curious to check out more of Longshore's work to see if the Clé de Peau pieces were in keeping with her aesthetic. To my great surprise I found her other paintings far more brash and humorous than what we're seeing on the Clé de Peau collection. Longshore classifies herself as a pop artist, and that comes across much clearer in her other work. I think the Clé de Peau pieces (which were brand new commissions for the artist, so no recycling of previous work here) are most reminiscent of Longshore's Audrey series. "Audrey represents the woman we all aspire to be...she is so elegant. So beautiful, so philanthropic, such a lady, that neck, that profile…I want that," she says. “Eyes closed, Audrey, for me, radiates goodness. What a perfect template for the perfect woman. Her image is very comforting. She’s like my 'woobie.' The imagery is also about the many hats a woman wears. It’s amazing to be a woman in the United States today.”
While the above examples bear a good resemblance to the women on the Clé de Peau packaging, the other Audreys are more along Longshore's trademark pop art lines. The series takes a turn for the wacky with a range of bizarre additions perched atop the icon's head: art-themed snowglobes, sea creatures, even Star Wars storm troopers.
She can make anything look good!
Indeed, I found most of Longshore's paintings to be funny, modern takes on the Pop Art tradition. I think Warhol would have greatly admired this version of David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps, "Bat Van", or Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring as Wonder Woman.
I also love the rather irreverent, brazen attitude of these word-based paintings. Speaking of words, another reason I became an instant fan of Longshore is her foul mouth, for which she is completely unapologetic. If you check her Instagram (and you really should - not only do you get to see more of her work, she finds the weirdest, most hilarious online clips) I think nearly all of her photos have #fuckyeah as a hashtag, and she notes that "fuck is my fave word" right in her profile.
Literally LOL at this one.
While most of Longshore's work is fairly straightforward, I must say I was puzzled by a few of the other topics she takes on, namely trophy wives and status symbols. While Longshore maintains that her paintings on these are good-natured fun and that she's not mocking those women or the general lifestyle of the 1% ("I love trophy wives, I mean, they’re the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen, they’re incredible. I often fantasize about what it would be like to be that, just a beautiful little flower that has to put your hand out for everything”) I feel her paintings tell a very different story. I had an entire section of this post trying to reconcile her words with her work, but ended up rambling for well over 1,000 words with no conclusion so I scrapped it. Instead, I'll highlight the artist's business acumen, which ties into the Clé de Peau collection.
(images from ashleylongshore.com)
Not only is Longshore is gifted artistically, she's quite a shrewd businesswoman. In addition to lucrative collabs with other companies like Anthropologie, Longshore harnesses the power of social media and regularly connects with clients online, eschewing traditional gallery sales. "As an artist twenty years ago, sending paper work to galleries, thinking that the gallery was the only way to make it, knowing that right off the cuff I would have to give up 50% and praying to god that some snob could really tell clients about me and tell them about me in a way that was really accurate, felt wrong at the beginning of my career...Just running numbers through my head, it only made sense to self-represent, and here we go with the internet. Next thing you know we have Facebook, there is Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all of these tools are free. They are free and so for me being able to connect with my clients in a world that is so visual and putting myself out there in that way where if someone likes it they can follow, if they don’t they can unfollow and on another level being able to freely explore on the internet was a game changer.” In an interview with Elle, she explains further, "With social media, artists are letting people into the process of creation, and people love that...Artists just want to be loved and understood. Galleries are the ones that have made it elitist. Who wants to walk into a gallery in Chelsea and have some emaciated girl scowling at you through her black, horn-rimmed glasses? I certainly don't. When people come in my studio, I give them a smile and a glass of Veuve." While I see her point about larger cosmopolitan galleries I know that smaller, local places are in fact welcoming, and I personally would never drop thousands on a piece of art that I hadn't seen in person.* But overall I admire her effort to democratize art and make it more accessible. Longshore also started a project called Artgasm, which allows collectors to get a handmade, signed piece by the artist in exchange for a $500 yearly membership fee - considerably more affordable than the thousands her paintings go for. "Let's say you could pay $2,500 and be a part of Jeff Koons' private art membership, and four times a year, you get something from Jeff Koons delivered to you, and it's signed by him. Do you think that would be cool? That is basically what I am doing. It's basically a way for me to work with other brands and a way for my collectors to get my custom pieces that are only going to go up in value," she states. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, Longshore's original pieces are for sale at the Clé de Peau website. I think this is one of the first times, if not the very first, I've seen an artist's work for sale directly alongside the makeup. That's a pretty savvy move on her part. And oh, how I'd love to have those paintings to display with the collection! A makeup museum curator can dream. :)
What's next for the artist? Besides a line of clutch purses and a book due out in February, on a grander scale, Longshore says she wants to help fellow artists. "I would like to be one of the artists that empowers these artists, that eliminates the starving artists. That I could help teach these artists how to utilise the magic and the gift that they’ve been given, to take images from their minds, put them on a canvas, or sculpture, and than to sell them, and have that money, and to use that money to travel, and learn, and to continue to put their their views and opinions out there. My greatest achievement would be to help artists all over he world do that. I want there to be more rich artists. I love that lawyers, doctors, and hedge funds and businessmen and all these people have all this wealth, but I can only imagine how beautiful the world would be if we had all these creative people that were just being showered with money because the universe loved what they were doing so much. I want to help these artists figure out how to keep that money and repurpose it into being more creative. That would be my greatest legacy." Ever the comedian, she adds, "I think I’ll be there when I have Thunder Pussy...[which is] gonna be my jet—my cherry-red jet—and it’s gonna have a cat with a lightning bolt on the back wing. And people will see Thunder Pussy, and they’ll go, ‘It’s her! She’s here!’ And then I’ll land, and I’ll be like the Oprah of the art world, and I’ll say, ‘Oh my little artist darlings!’ And I’ll teach them.” Sounds great to me.
Overall I thought this was a really well done collection. Longshore is full of surprises - in looking at the Clé de Peau collection, I never would have guessed that the person responsible for such elegant designs is the same woman who put an octopus on Audrey Hepburn's head. ;) While none of her usual humor and silliness showed through I think it's fitting that she opted for a more sophisticated vibe, which is what we expect from a brand like Clé de Peau. You could still tell the art was unmistakeably Longshore's, and that's the cornerstone of a successful artist collab: modifying one's work to suit the brand while maintaining one's overall aesthetic. As for Longshore herself, well, I'd love to hang out with her, given her larger-than-life personality and sense of humor.
*Case in point: last year around this time the husband emailed me a picture of a painting he saw in a gallery and said he really wanted to buy it. I looked at it and was completely underwhelmed. I didn't hate it but couldn't figure out why he thought it was so special. So off to the gallery we went...and my mind was blown. I couldn't believe how much better this piece was in person! It almost didn't look like the same painting, it was THAT much better. Sometimes art just doesn't translate to the digital realm - this is why physical galleries still have value in the Internet age. I guess I'm biased too since we know someone who runs a gallery in town and I can tell you she's not deliberately trying to screw artists out of their money nor is she the least bit snooty! Yes, the gallery gets a cut but they're certainly not out to bleed artists dry.