Artist collaboration

This kitten's got claws: Brandi Milne for Sugarpill

I blinked a few times when I first laid eyes on this set by indie brand Sugarpill, thinking it was odd that Mark Ryden had collaborated with them.  But then I saw that the company had teamed up with Brandi Milne, another Pop Surrealist whose work, upon closer inspection, is markedly different than Ryden's. 

I won't make any excuses as to why I didn't get to posting about this before now even though it was originally released for Valentine's Day; the reason is that I'm simply disorganized.  The set got buried under a bunch of other makeup items in the office, and it wasn't until I recently started seeing mentions on various art blogs of Milne's new solo exhibition, which opened last week, that I remembered I had it. 

Sugarpill Feline Fancy set

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy liquid lipstick

I love that one of the little teeth from the outside of the palette made its way to the interior of the box.

Sugarpill Feline Fancy box interior

There was a truly overwhelming amount of information and interviews with Milne, so I hope by whittling it down somewhat I can still do her art justice.  Get ready for a lot of quotes since I believe the artist's own words are the most useful in understanding their work.

Milne, a self-taught artist, drew and colored throughout her childhood in Anaheim, California (and in a strict Christian household) and began showing her work in various galleries in the early aughts.  By January 2008 she was able to make painting her full-time career.  Let's explore the various themes in her work and how her style has evolved over the years, shall we?

Early on, Milne's style was more illustrative, most likely due to the fact that she hadn't been exposed to much contemporary art.  She explains, "I grew up completely unaware of contemporary artists. In the 90s when I was drawing in my room ('developing my style' at that time), I didn’t know of Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia, or anyone painting wild things the way they were. So I had only my own world of things that influenced me – the children’s books I had as a kid, Bugs Bunny cartoons, coloring books, Woody Woodpecker and Heckle and Jeckle, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio, vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations, music that had inspired me – and the way my imagination interpreted all of it." 

Brandi Milne, Lucky You, 2009
(image from thinkspacegallery.com)

Her passion for art grew, and now Milne cites Mucha, Erte, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, along with the aforementioned Garcia, as her chief influences.  She gradually switched to painting, which allowed her to be a little less precise than drawing neat, contained lines.  "I used to work on paper/illustration board with watercolors, pencil and ink in order to keep things REAL tight and clean. I used to hold my breath whenever I worked, and my poor hand would cramp up because I was so pressed for perfection. Over time, I couldn’t stand feeling like a mistake would set me back the entire piece – I wanted to be free. Painting on wood was my ticket out of that stress filled bind I was putting myself in, and I took the leap a few years back, scared as hell! But since then, that freedom is the rabbit I’ve been chasing!"  Interestingly, Milne's husband custom makes all of the wood panels she uses as her canvas.  I always love a supportive spouse. :) 

Other stylistic shifts include Milne's choice of colors.  Earlier work presents a fairly neutral palette, but more recently Milne has favored a brighter, arguably more feminine palette that's heavy on red, pink and white.  In reference to her latest exhibition, she says, "In this new body of work, my palette went from really bright brights—fluorescents paired with really dark contrasts. I wanted to illustrate life blossoming from darkness. That so much beauty and life can spark from or grow from a place that seems frightening or lifeless...I love red and hyper pinks and whites. There was a year within the process of making this body of work where all I wanted to paint was reds and pinks and whites."  This is most likely the influence of a new florescent shade of red she stumbled across at an art supplies store a few years ago.  In any case, red, pink and white is the dominant color scheme for Milne these days, and this is reflected in the Sugarpill palette as well.

Brandi Milne, Little One, 2017(image from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

One aspect of Milne's style that's more or less remained consistent is the oddly extended limbs of the girls in her paintings.

Brandi Milne, And the Choir Sings Quiet, 2008(image from thinkspacegallery.com)

She notes that this feature came naturally: "I enjoy bending scale in my work...it wasn’t as important to bend the scale as it was to make the characters feel as if they were at home in their environment. These things are not intentional – they come [instinctively]...Maybe the exaggerated limbs represent a feeling of being larger than life. A feeling of being able to reach and grow beyond what one might feel their capabilities limit. "  So not only do these long arms and legs make for a more cohesive composition, they also represent the emotional "stretching" required to handle life's challenges.

Brandi Milne, Before I Hide Away, 2012

Brandi Milne, Here Inside My Broken Heart, 2014

Brandi Milne, Weep Now or Nevermore, 2017(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Thematically speaking, Milne's portrayals of female characters are highly autobiographical.  The title work from her 2009 show "Run Rabbit, Run", for example, represents the emotional strife faced by Milne after the passing of her mother.  "The idea and feeling behind this body of work is strongly related to my mother’s passing in March ’08. My work is emotionally narrative (not by choice), and because I’m struggling through this huge loss, it’s reflected in my new works. I’ve tied in the show’s theme ‘Run Rabbit, Run’ – a lyric from Pink Floyd that hit hard for me one day while I was listening to Dark Side of the Moon, and really feeling my mom’s absence. It struck a note with me, and opened up this idea in my mind. This was the inspiration for my new show, and in turn, extremely helpful in my heart...My girls are an endless narrative for me. She’s my way of voicing an emotion in a piece, sad, innocent, scared."

Brandi Milne, Run Rabbit, Run, 2009(image from thinkspacegallery.com)

This painting depicts Milne trying to stay close to a dear friend who moved away

Brandi Milne, She Wears the Trees In Her Hair, and the Clouds In Her Eyes, 2012

And for I Never Dreamed of Such a Place, she explains, "She's kind of broken. Her body is broken, she’s giving up and hitting bottom. And then myself – I feel like the way that I grew up was in kind of a religious bubble. So in that aspect, I feel like I’m really innocent, you know? As a lamb, being slaughtered. That’s me...It looks cheery, but it’s bloody. She’s broken and I’ve been going through a lot – trying to help myself. So it’s all coming out in the work.”  

Brandi Milne, I Never Dreamed of Such a Place, 2014(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

These works show Milne's vulnerability but also her resilience.  Take, for example, Hold Fast, in which a girl receives stitches administered by a fairy godmother-like being, who's an embodiment of the artist herself "mending" her own psychological wounds.  It may seem a tad gruesome at first, but it's actually a message of healing and renewal.

Brandi Milne, Hold Fast, 2014

As for other themes, Milne's work weaves together the many influences from her childhood mentioned previously:  Fisher Price toys, holiday decorations, and, of course, proximity to Disneyland.  "Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo, etc. Having loved all those cartoons, going to Disneyland was surreal. The Tea Cup ride with all the lanterns in the shady trees and twinkly lights above. Flying over that lit-up city in the Peter Pan ride, Frog and Toad, the Matterhorn? Being at Disneyland as a kid, is really unparalleled to anything else. It was hugely influential," she says.   Additionally, her mother's religious outlook, coupled with the darker side of fairy tales and Disney movies, inspired the concept of duality that permeates so many of her paintings.  While they seem to be cheerful and innocent upon first glance, something sinister lurks beneath the candy-coated surface.  One example is Be Good for Goodness Sake, in which two happy snowmen naively enjoy some frosty cold milk...that's actually laced with opium, given the labels on the bottle.  (Yes, "milk of the poppy" is indeed a Game of Thrones reference.)

Brandi Milne, Be Good for Goodness Sake, 2015

Or Soothe Yourself, which shows an innocent little bunny surrounded by brightly colored sweets munching on a gingerbread man.  It's an adorable scene until you notice the gingerbread man is (understandably) frowning, while equally sad-looking teeth look on.  A piece of taffy (?) on the left cradles what appears to be a dead tooth, and the cherry cordial on the lower right has broken and spilled onto the snow.

Brandi Milne, Soothe Yourself, 2014(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Milne says, "I love duality. It was so confusing to me growing up, I really couldn’t wrap my head around it and I fought it for so long. I believed that things should be black or white; that you were either a good person or a bad person. You were either happy or you were sad. In Disney movies, particularly, I was absolutely astonished to see that Disney chose to include such horrifically sad moments in his storytelling. We were watching a CARTOON and suddenly there was death and heartbreak and I was FEELING it!! I wanted to reject it, fast forward to the fun cute happy parts. I was disturbed by it. But as I was exploring my own work as an adult, I realized that it was that duality I was feeling and that I wanted to talk about. I love beauty and I love happiness, but I wouldn’t have either if I didn’t have the opposites and everything in between...This new body of work was inspired by the notion of good vs. evil, and the fairytale-like memories of being a kid.  I painted what it felt like to be happy and innocent and naive and then to discover certain truths about the world and reality."  This idea of yin/yang forces is expressed in several paintings from her latest exhibition.  Lynrose depicts a bright pink gingerbread house set among a forest filled with candy canes and ice cream.  While it looks positively charming at first, several ominous-looking skeletons are creeping up onto the house, and a closer look reveals that even the tree and shrub next to it have skull-like faces.

Brandi Milne, Lynrose, 2017

The title piece also seems utterly harmless initially:  it shows a group of jolly, red-cheeked snowmen enjoying some frozen treats.  But then you notice the trees in the background are dead, and the ice cream container has a faded skull and crossbones.

Brandi Milne, Once Upon A Quiet Kingdom, 2017(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Despite the darker imagery in these paintings and others, by and large snowmen represent feelings of happy nostalgia for Milne.  She explains, "The snowman is the jolliest fellow! My mom LOVED Christmas –  she would transform the house with tinsel and knick knacks and vintage decor, Christmas music would be playing on the big family stereo and it was such happiness for me as a kid.  It was a wonderland!!  All these years later, I find myself trying to illustrate that feeling – trying to recreate it in my work.  The snowman tchotchke was a rare find in the house (there were plenty or reindeer and angels and Santa’s to be found), but I remember specifically adoring what snowmen figures we had, and probably hoarding them from my siblings.  The snowman best represents that spirit for me...I wanted that Christmas wonderland to last all year round!"  (Interesting side note:  Milne also enjoys drawing snowmen since she her favorite shape is a circle - "it has no harsh corners".  I suspect this is also the reason for so many paintings featuring Humpty Dumpty, her love/hate relationship with his character notwithstanding.)

Brandi Milne, No Reason to Stay, 2017

Brandi Milne, Candy, 2017(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Brandi Milne, Holiday Takes A Holiday, 2014

While many of Milne's paintings represent the concept of duality, sometimes they're simply whimsical and joyful, with nary a menacing skeleton or dead tree to be found - just unbridled sweetness.  "Wide-eyed and maniacal, I try to capture the feeling of pure happiness and bliss as a kid."   I couldn't find anything dark or upsetting in the Sugarpill palette or in these paintings. 

Brandi Milne, Eat Cakes, You Kitty, 2014

Brandi Milne, Sweet Thing, 2014

I'm particularly struck by the maraschino cherries scattered about in this one.  They just look so succulent and juicy.  Milne greatly enjoys painting these too:  "I can't stop painting cherries and all I want is for everything to be translucent!"

Brandi Milne, The Last of the Snowmen(images from brandimilne.blogspot.com)

I love these since they remind me of characters from children's books, which makes sense given that Milne has illustrated one, not to mention all the delicious treats.  You know I'm all about sweets as well as childhood nostalgia since my own was so happy.  Milne's reminiscing about her mother's holiday decorations, coupled with the imagery in the paintings, instantly transport me back to celebrating various holidays with my family.  (In particular I'm remembering this adorable ceramic ghost with a red face my mom put out for Halloween, and a beautiful ceramic Christmas tree with multi-colored lights...if it wasn't out of my price range I'd commission Milne to paint a couple pieces featuring these items).

Anyway, while there was an enormous amount of information online, I still have a couple unsolved mysteries surrounding Milne's work.  First, I'm curious to know about the German references.

This little lamb seems to be wearing a traditional Alpine hat. 

Brandi Milne, Once Upon a Time, Life was Sweeter than We Knew, 2015

There are German words on the script in Strutter.

Brandi Milne, Strutter, 2012

And this poor little snowman is saying "ouch" in German, while in Long After This a sad pumpkin begs "love me".

Brandi Milne, Autsch, 2014

Brandi Milne, Long After This, 2014

Milne herself was also recently photographed wearing what appears to be a dirndl.

Brandi+Milne+by+Jessica+Louise(images from brandimilne.com)

I suppose it could be related to fairy tales, since the most famous ones in the Western world come from the Brothers Grimm.  Or perhaps Milne has a German background or just appreciates German culture.  Whatever it is, I'm surprised I didn't come across any explanations for it. 

The second item that left me scratching my head was how the collaboration with Sugarpill came about.  I'm assuming Sugarpill reached out to Milne first and they went from there, but it would have been nice to hear more about the process, the inspiration for the palette (who thought of a cat theme?) and how the artwork was created to reflect it.  I watched this video of a studio visit and read about Milne's artistic process, so I know a bit about how she operates, but I imagine things might be a little different when a commission for a makeup company is involved.  At least we know the artwork was an original piece made just for Sugarpill.

That was pretty long despite my best effort to condense everything I found while also trying not to leave out any major points regarding Milne's work.  So if you're still reading, thank you!  Overall, the Sugarpill palette is a wonderful addition to the Museum's artist collaboration collection and also helps make up for the fact that I failed to nab the Trinket lip gloss from 2016. I enjoy Milne's work so much I may have to ask Santa for a book of her work.  ;)  I feel as though I gravitate towards it since we're about the same age - we grew up with the same toys, Disney movies, cartoons (and even had similar holiday decorations!) and also because we had happy childhoods.  And obviously I love any artwork featuring delectable-looking sweets

What do you think? 


¡Es un milagro! ¡Bienvenido Pai Pai!

So I have some big news!  No, the Museum does not have a physical space, but this is almost as good.  You might remember I've had a long-time love affair with Mexican brand Pai Pai, but was dismayed at the inability to obtain their lipsticks in the U.S. Well, the makeup gods smiled upon me, for Pai Pai has revamped their website and international shipping is now only 20 Mexican pesos (roughly $1.12 U.S. dollars).  It was a veritable Christmas in July miracle!  Naturally I bought plenty of goodies. Welcome to the Makeup Museum's collection, Pai Pai!

I thought I'd start with the most recent collab and work my way back.  For those of you not familiar with Pai Pai, the company has the genius idea to work with a different Mexican artist each season to create limited edition lipstick packaging that celebrates the country's heritage.  The newest partnership is with 24 year-old, Mexico City-based Jorge Serrano.  I couldn't find anything about what inspired the prints for his collection, as the Pai Pai blog seems to have disappeared in the website redesign, and the cached version only provided a general description of his style.  I've been following him on Instagram (he has such a great feed - lots of color and uplifting quotes rendered in his beautiful calligraphy) and was thinking about requesting an interview, but I'm not 100% sure he's fluent in English and my Spanish is so atrocious at this point I couldn't ask him anything.  So while I don't have any real information, I must say that I am positively in love with the vibrant, tropical lusciousness of this collection. As I lamented in the notes for the summer 2017 exhibition, I was so sad not to be able to buy Serrano's designs since they would have been perfect for the fruity theme, but I'm glad they're in my hot little hands now.  That's all that matters.  :)

Jorge Serrano for Pai Pai

Jorge Serrano for Pai Pai

I love all the designs but these 2 are my favorites - pineapples galore and that bird is just too cute.

Jorge Serrano for Pai Pai

Serrano has dabbled in these motifs before.  Some examples from 2015 and 2014:

Jorge Serrano - Alas Olas

Bird illustration by Jorge Serrano

Pineapple print by Jorge Serrano

Pineapple print by Jorge Serrano

Thematically speaking, his work reminds me a little bit of I Scream Colour's - pop culture icons and mermaids abound.

Lady Gaga illustration by Jorge Serrano

These two were for Nylon Espanol.

Jorge Serrano for Nylon - Britney

Jorge Serrano for Nylon(images from @soyserrano)

Overall, Serrano is yet another artist whose work I have recently fallen in love with.  :)

Next up, released a little further back in the spring was a collection by Poni Lab, a design company run by sisters Minerva and Denisse Mendoza.  These illustrations are also a ton of fun!  I love pineapple anything, as you know, but I think my favorite was the reverse mermaid...who's wearing lipstick.  Not only is it adorable, it was also inspired by Rene Magritte's 1934 work The Collective Invention (and/or possibly this one.) So bonus points for a really cool art history reference!

Poni Lab for Pai Pai

Poni Lab for Pai Pai

I had no idea these were Dr. Who/Back to the Future motifs until I actually had them in my hands.  Looking online I just thought they were cute little prints, but then when I took a closer look I realized they were very specific references (which I've linked for those of you not familiar).  As I did with one of Paul & Joe's recent lipstick cases, I thought I'd show the details because they are simply too clever not to.  Let's see, we have a Weeping Angel (these are one of the creepier monsters from Dr. Who), Nikes on a hoverboard and puffy red vest worn by Marty McFly, complete with Doc's "Great Scott!" exclamation (Back to the Future), and then the Tardis and a Dalek from Dr. Who.  The car with "where we're going we don't need roads", which you can see in the pictures above, is from Back to the Future.

Pai Pai x Poni Lab

Alas, the other ones in this collection had already sold out, but they were overwhelmingly cute as well.  A literal sweet tooth, some Warhol-esque bananas, a print full of friendly dinosaurs, rainbows and cookies all transported me to my happy place. I mean, you can't be sad when looking at these, right?

Pai Pai x Poni Lab
 

As with Serrano I couldn't find a ton of information on what inspired Poni Lab and wasn't sure about their English fluency, but looking at their Instagram feed, it seems most of the the Pai Pai collection consisted of previously created patterns - it looks like only one was made specifically for Pai Pai, and that was also based on a previous design.

Poni Lab pouches

Poni Lab pineapple phone cases

Poni Lab dinosaur pouch

Poni Lab fish couple print

Nevertheless, I'm smitten with their style.  It's very nostalgic and playful, with lots of cartoony animals and cheerful anthropomorphic beings, and filled with some of my favorite motifs (pineapples and sweets).  And tons of unicorns, but also a few mermaids here and there. ;)

Poni Lab narwhal unicorn print

Poni Lab ice cream pouch

Poni Lab cherries print

Poni Lab it's pine-o-clock

Poni Lab unicorn plushes

Poni Lab pixelated unicorn pouch

Poni Lab mer-shiba pillow

I don't want kids but if I did, I'd buy this mer-kitty (or as Poni Lab calls them, "purr-maids"!) stuff in a heartbeat.

Poni Lab purrmaids

Poni Lab purrmaids t-shirt(images from @ponilab)

Finally, we have Talia Cu's amazing Frida Kahlo-inspired collection.  I've already discussed it so I won't re-hash it, but I must mention that these were actually sent to me for free by Pai Pai!  Talia spotted my blog post and contacted me on Instagram, saying she felt bad that I couldn't get my hands on them.  So she reached out to one of Pai Pai's founders on my behalf and told them all about the Museum, and they ended up sending these to me completely free.  It's the first time in 9 years of blogging that I've ever gotten anything for free from a makeup company!!  So a huge thanks to Talia and Pai Pai for their kindness and generosity.

Talia Cu for Pai Pai

I'm thrilled I was able to get all of these for the Museum, as they're all quite worthy additions.  I can't wait to see what the next collection is, as it's being teased on Instagram and the suspense is killing me...I think I might spy a pug design?!

What do you think?  Any favorites?

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Unicorns vs. Mermaids

Sigh.  After nearly 9 years of blogging I don't know why I still haven't learned to look before I leap when purchasing items for the Museum's collection.  After seeing the write-up at Allure of indie brand Tooth and Nail's Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette and previous mentions of this company in other reputable publications like Nylon, I nevertheless pondered whether I really needed yet another mermaid-themed palette to add to the Museum.  Initially I wasn't going to go for it, but I figured Allure would never steer me wrong, plus Tooth and Nail mentioned the name of the palette's illustrator/designer, Australia-based artist Megan Allison.  Once I read an independent artist was behind the design I had to buy it.

Tooth & Nail Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette

Tooth & Nail Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette

I actually got up the courage to email Megan with a request for an interview about her art and her work for Tooth and Nail.  She kindly obliged so here's some more in-depth information.  Megan has been drawing since high school and studied Visual Communication (graphic design) at the University of Technology Sydney.  When not working at her day job at an Australian packaging company, Megan creates stickers and enamel pins featuring a variety of whimsical (and sometimes creepy!) characters. 

Megan Allison - Blue Moon Dragon

Megan Allison - Kirby sticker

Megan Allison - Xenomorph pin

And since I had to know, she's Team Unicorn.  For shame!  Just kidding, of course.  ;) 

Megan Allison - Sweet Unicorn Carousel
(images from meganallisondesign.com)

Tooth and Nail found Megan via Instagram and contacted her to create some of the labels for their Sailor Moon-themed highlighters.  After the success of that collection, the company contacted her again for the Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette.  Hannah Foote, owner of Tooth and Nail, sent Megan a preliminary sketch of the general concept.

Tooth and Nail Unicorn vs. Mermaids sketch

From there Megan did her own sketch.

Tooth and Nail Unicorn vs. Mermaids sketch

Once approved, she did the full rendering, with the colors taking an entire day to get just right.  While Megan isn't loyal to one distinct style - she frequently goes back and forth between more traditional colored pencils to digital illustration and dark vs. cute themes - she enjoys tattoo design, an interest she shares with her sister (they have matching forearm tattoos, awww!)  I feel as though the mermaid looks a bit old school tattoo-inspired. 

  Tooth & Nail Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette

Seems all well and good, right?  Alas, a very sweet Instagram buddy of mine alerted me to the fact that Tooth and Nail has had a lot of customer complaints.  And it's true:  when I googled the company the fourth result that appeared was a complaint on Reddit.  Apparently not only was the customer service poor, the quality of the products themselves was shoddy.  While this one appeared nearly a year ago, other customers have shared their own tales of never receiving the products they ordered with a lengthy wait for a refund or zero resolution, some as recently as late May.  Sadly, the lack of service isn't limited to customers.  Via our email interview a few weeks ago, Megan stated that she never received the final versions of the products she designed (neither the Sailor Moon items nor the Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette), which was the agreed-upon payment for her services.  So not only have customers been ripped off, Tooth and Nail has allegedly also not paid their own designer.  I haven't been in touch with Megan since then so I'm hoping she has received her items in the past 2 weeks, but given everything I've seen it's doubtful.  It's especially disheartening since Megan agreed to accept products instead of money - it shouldn't be difficult for a company, even a small indie one, to fulfill their end of this simple barter. (Plus, as the wife of an extremely hard-working freelance designer who has had his share of clients screwing him over, I personally HATE people who don't think independent designers/artists deserve payment...which is more common than you'd think.  Freelance ain't free!)  

I certainly don't wish to vilify Tooth and Nail, but I felt the need to mention these incidents.  I'm also inclined to believe they're true - why would so many people complain without cause, and why is there no response from Tooth and Nail to any of them or going so far as to report/remove customers' comments on Instagram?  I understand that things happen beyond our control and that Tooth and Nail is a fairly new company with literally just two people rather than a huge, established business with lots of experienced staff to handle customer issues, but it seems other tiny indie companies are able to better handle any problems that come up.  With such a small company it's easy to get overwhelmed with orders, but whatever customer service system Tooth and Nails has in place clearly hasn't been working and needs to be addressed.  Maybe it has been, as I haven't witnessed any other complaints regarding the Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette...then again, perhaps any negative feedback has been wiped clean from social media.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I was conflicted for weeks about what to write or even to write anything at all, plus I was annoyed with myself for not doing proper background research on an unknown-to-me brand before purchasing the palette. Ultimately I decided to post because while Tooth and Nail may not be reliable or, at least, wasn't reliable in the past, I felt it was important to highlight Megan's work.  After all, focusing on the makeup design rather than the makeup itself is kind of what I do, right?  Oh, and in the snowball's chance in hell that any makeup companies are reading this post, I'd like to let you know that Megan is available for design/illustrative services, but you must pay her up front!

Thoughts?

UPDATE, 8/2:  Megan emailed me to let me know she followed up with Hannah a few more times and eventually received the agreed-upon items!  So hopefully this begins a new, more responsible phase for Tooth and Nail. 

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Off to Umbria with Fresh

As with Fresh's collaborations with Jo Ratcliffe and R. Nichols, this was quite a nice little surprise.  The company teamed up with renowned Italian ceramic house Rometti to create limited-edition packaging for their Umbrian Clay Mask.  I can't think of a more appropriate company to produce the design, as Rometti is not only based in Umbria near where the clay for Fresh is sourced, but obviously pottery-inspired limited edition packaging for a clay-based mask is perfect.

Fresh Clay Mask Rometti

Why the clay mask to get the artistic treatment?  Fresh co-founder Alina Roytberg explains, “The Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask is one of our most iconic products. The mask is truly amazing, because it can be used on all skin types without drying out the complexion. When the product first came out, we didn’t launch it in a big way, and we’re very excited to do that now and be able to share the rich history behind the ingredient.”  The Umbrian Clay line was first launched in 2000 after Roytberg witnessed the amazingly clear complexion of a Rome-based friend who previously struggled with acne - the clay she found in a local store had done the trick.  Roytberg tracked down the source of the clay, which is a small town in Perugia called Nocera Umbra, and from there the Umbrian Clay line was born.  The clay has been used literally for centuries to treat various skin concerns and is a renewable resource that's mined ethically by Fresh. (You can read more about the production process here.)

Fresh Clay Mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

As for the design, Rometti Artistic Director Jean Christophe Clair says that he was inspired by all of Umbria, from its natural elements ("rivers", "hills" and "sunsets" were his key words) and architecture to its status, as he puts it, "the center of the history of Italy." The soft colors Clair used reflect the region's blue skies and earthy terracotta hues of the clay.



Rometti is a 90-year old company that's known for being the first Italian ceramic house to put a more avant-garde style on their wares as opposed to traditional Italian Renaissance and Art Nouveau designs.  Most of the early pieces were produced in conjunction with artists Corrado Cagli and Dante Baldelli.  I wasn't familiar with either of those two names, but apparently Baldelli was a nephew of Settimio Rometti, one of the company's founders.  He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome where he met Cagli.  Along with a host of other artists, including Futurist Giacomo Balla (love the Futurists!), they "were given complete freedom to experiment their artistry."  The Fresh collab maintains this tradition of artistic freedom today, as the company gave Rometti "free reign".  The design process came about easily, which is not surprising given that the mask is a product that comes directly from Rometti's everyday environment.  Says Roytberg, “It was one of those incredible things where you communicate without over-communicating because the response, for [the Rometti owners], it’s natural—they live in this world, they work with clay under the sky—so it’s one of those transcendental things that just happens."

 

 

 

While Clair created a unique new design for Fresh, it's clear he was continuing in the footsteps of Cagli and Baldelli, which you can see below in some examples of their work.  What's notable about these is the modern style given to traditional decorative themes, e.g. mythological scenes, farming, fishing, etc. - they're a far cry from, say, ancient Greek vases or majolica.  I'm including just a few pieces here but if you're finding yourself head over heels in love with Rometti's work, here's a whole book to drool over.

Corrado Cagli for Rometti, Marcia su Roma (March on Rome), 1930

Corrado Cagli for Rometti, Il lavoro dei campi, 1930


Dante Baldelli for Rometti, Pescatore, 1932-34

I spy mermaids!

Dante Baldelli for Rometti, Le Sirene, 1934

 I love this jellyfish-topped vase.

Dante Baldelli for Rometti ceramics, Medusa, 1936

I think Clair may have been looking at this 1936 piece when coming up with one of the designs that appeared on the Fresh packaging.

Dante Baldelli and Corrado Cagli for Rometti, Allegoria, 1930-32

And perhaps borrowed from one of his own more recent works for the face that appears on the lid.

Jean Christophe Clair for Rometti, Bacchanti, 2017

Some more recent Rometti collaborations that caught my eye were with surrealist artist Jean Cocteau (been eyeing this vintage compact with his work on it for over a year now but can't pull the trigger - so expensive!) and lingerie designer Chantal Thomass, both of which were overseen by Clair.

Cocteau for Rometti

Chantal Thomass for Rometti

 

Chantal Thomass for Rometti
(images from rometti.it , veniceclayartists.com and chantalthomass.com)

Final thoughts: I can appreciate Rometti's craftsmanship but the artwork in the Baldelli/Cagli vein just isn't my speed, so the Fresh packaging isn't my favorite.   However, the design was definitely the most representative of Rometti's aesthetic and it is a historic company.  And as I said earlier, if Fresh was going to choose any company to partner with to create a limited edition Umbrian Clay Mask, Rometti is absolutely perfect.  It shows that some thought went into the collaboration rather than blindly choosing a random artist who probably couldn't capture the essence of Umbria, not to mention clay, as well as Rometti can.

What do you think? 

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Friday with Frida: more Kahlo-inspired makeup

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  In honor of this festive day I thought I'd do a quick follow-up to Republic Nail's Frida Kahlo-themed polishes.  Turns out, another beauty brand beat them to the punch in early 2016 with a line of lipsticks featuring packaging inspired by the artist.  You might remember how enamored I was of Mexican company Pai Pai back in 2015, when I was positively drooling over their concept of collaborating with a different Mexican artist each season to create limited edition packaging.  Anyway, I spotted their summer 2017 collection on Instagram and was once again smitten, so I decided to catch up and see what else they had been up to since I posted about them.  That's when I found these lipsticks.

Paipai - Talia Cu

The fashion illustrator/journalist behind these, Talia Cu (Castellanos)1 had a less literal interpretation of Kahlo's work than Republic Nail.  Cu was interested in expressing the essence of Kahlo herself rather than reproducing her work, wanting to explore Kahlo's personality and fashion sense more than her art.  To accomplish this, Cu looked to both Kahlo's general surroundings and the pictures of her personal belongings photographed by Ishiuchi Miyako.  As I noted in the Republic Nail post, Kahlo's clothing, accessories and other items weren't discovered in her home until 50 years after her death.  In 2011 Miyako embarked on a breathtaking series that captured Kahlo's spirit through her personal effects (over 300 were photographed!).  It was these photos, along with other meaningful items from Kahlo's day-to-day life, that Cu used as a jumping off point for her designs.  I tried translating Cu's explanation as best I could (my Spanish is incredibly rusty) from this Vogue Mexico article.2  "I wanted to give a unique perspective and not necessarily focus on her art.  Mainly, I took inspiration from the photographs Ishiuchi Miyako took of Frida Kahlo's things, and I also wanted to revisit certain iconic motifs in her art (watermelon, monkeys, the phrase 'viva la vida') to create this small universe that built her personality."  If any illustrator is suited to take on this task, it's Cu - one look at her Instagram, which is chock full of vibrant street fashion sketches and animations, told me she could breathe new life into Kahlo's style as expressed through various items.

Paipai - Talia Cu
(images from paipai.mx)

Ishiuchi Miyako, "Frida by Ishiuchi #2" and "#11"

Ishiuchi Miyako, "Frida by Ishiuchi #50"
(images from michaelhoppengallery.com and itsnicethat.com)

Cu imagined what Kahlo would look like wearing those cat-eye sunglasses, borrowing (I suspect, given the shape of the flowers atop her head) a portrait by Nickolas Muray.  The green and white polka dot print on the lipstick may also have been a nod to the green floral background from one of Kahlo's most famous photos.

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo
(image from nickolasmuray.com)

As noted previously, Kahlo kept several monkeys, along with a host of other animals, as surrogate children. (One thing I didn't know before was that monkeys were also a symbol of lust in traditional Mexican folklore.)  Cu created a charming monkey print to represent Kahlo's attachment to these animals.

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Monkeys, 1943(image from fridakahlo.org)

Frida Kahlo, 1943(image from nydailynews.com)

I thought a cactus print was kind of strange since I don't remember these plants appearing in any Kahlo paintings, until I did a little more digging - I spotted many cacti in the garden as well as a cactus wall surrounding Kahlo's beloved home, La Casa Azul (it's now a museum and I want to go!), so I'm assuming that's where it came from.

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo - Casa Azul(image from latinflyer.com)

Watermelons were a popular motif in Kahlo's still-life paintings.  Once again Cu gives them a fun, playful twist - they seem much less heavy than the fruits that appear in Kahlo's work.   Knowing that Kahlo added the inscription on Viva La Vida, Sandias just a few days before her death, for example, is rather bleak.  Cu's color choice of bright blue and peach, as well as the exuberant, lightweight lines of the fruit, transforms the phrase into an upbeat slogan of sorts.  (Oddly enough, you can actually buy a ceramic watermelon with the inscription from La Casa Azul's gift shop.)

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo, Viva La Vida, 1954

Frida Kahlo, Still Life with Watermelons, 1953

Frida Kahlo, The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened, 1943

Frida Kahlo, Coconuts, 1951(images from fridakahlo.org)

By the way, if you're wondering why I'm using stock photos of the lipsticks instead of my own, there's a simple reason:  Pai Pai's shipping cost was completely prohibitive.  I was finally ready to pull the trigger on some items from this collection as well as the summer 2017 collection, but when I saw the shipping cost my heart dropped.  I thought the prices were mistakenly listed in Mexican pesos, but no, they were clearly U.S. dollars.  I was going to do a screenshot of the cost, but in prepping the photos for this post it seems PaiPai's check out isn't working (I keep getting an "internal server error" message) so I can't show you.  I do remember the cost though: I had 3 lipsticks in my cart for $66 and shipping was $184.  I have no idea why shipping to the U.S. from Mexico is so steep.  I order from sellers all over the world and have never seen anything like this!  But I simply can't justify more than double the price of the lipsticks themselves.  It's not the total amount that's an issue - I've spent $200-$300 in one go before - but it's a waste to pay that much for shipping alone.  It's very sad for me and a little for the company, as they could have gained quite a loyal customer.  If shipping wasn't ridiculous I'd probably snatch up every collection in full.  As a last-ditch effort, I repeatedly called the one salon in the U.S. that carries Pai Pai and never had anyone pick up, and also DM'ed them on Instagram with no reply.  Hmmph.  Unless Pai Pai comes to their senses and reduces their shipping to a reasonably affordable price, or starts carrying the line in more locations within the U.S., I'm afraid I won't be acquiring any for the Museum.  :(

I don't want to leave on a negative note, as it's both Friday and Cinco de Mayo, so I will say that I think Cu's interpretation of Kahlo is both more inspired and uplifting than Republic Nails.  The illustrations are lighter and speak to the less tortured side of the artist - the objects chosen by Cu were ones that I imagine brought Kahlo happiness, fleeting though it was.  The idea of telling her story through her personal items and other things that had meaning for her, especially when combined with the emphasis on her fashion sense, is a unique way to represent Kahlo.  By consciously choosing not to focus solely on Kahlo's art, Cu gives us a fuller impression of her personality with these illustrations.

What do you think?  And are you doing anything for Cinco de Mayo?

 

1Normally with these sorts of collabs I'd show more of the artist's work but I think these lipsticks really encapsulate Cu's style...plus I had no idea how to work it in with all of the Kahlo stuff!

2The full quote is as follows: “Por mi antecedente en el campo de la moda, me interesé en Frida Kahlo no solo por su trabajo como artista, sino por la personalidad que lograba capturar en su vestuario, y su estilo icónico...Quería darle una perspectiva distinta y no necesariamente enfocarme en su arte. Principalmente, tomé inspiración de las fotografías que Ishiuchi Miyako tomó de los objetos de Frida Kahlo, y a la par retomé también ciertas figuras icónicas en su obra (la sandía, los monos, la frase "viva la vida") todo para crear este pequeño universo que la construye como personaje. Los colores por supuesto, tenían que representar esa alegría en su vestuario.”

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Poland meets Japan meets France

I spotted this Japan-exclusive Guerlain compact on Instagram and was afraid I wouldn't be able to snag it, but fortunately one of my trusty international sellers got it in stock.  The beautiful floral pattern is the work of Polish-born, Tokyo-based artist Przemek Sobocki.  I find the navy blue outline to perfectly complement the mix of spring green, pale lavender and an array of pinks, especially set against that pristine white background.  The delicate lines within the leaves lend a realistic, vivid touch. 

Przemek Sobocki for Guerlain

Przemek Sobocki for Guerlain

I really wish I had more information about how the collaboration with Guerlain came to be, but in lieu of that I thought I'd take a look at some of the artist's other work.  Sobocki specializes in whimsical, colorful fashion illustrations in a range of areas, from print (magazine features, ads, etc.) and animated shorts and to store displays and packaging.  Of his sources for inspiration and overall style, he says, "Mostly, I am inspired by cinema and books, and I really like 'reality' with a twist – basically 'magical realism' – I think our lives are not only about what we can see or hear or touch or taste, etc., they are also about the reality 'between the lines.' I am very interested in that part of life and of telling stories in this way; to evoke the feeling of suspense.” 

Przemek Sobocki illustration for Manish Arora, 2010

Przemek Sobocki illustration for Harper's Bazaar Japan

Przemek Sobocki illustration for Elle magazine, 2013

Some of my favorites include these amazing store displays for Japan's famous Isetan department store.

Przemek Sobocki store display for Isetan

Another favorite of mine is the "candyland" Sobocki created for online high-end clothing retailer Farfetch - reminds me a little of Will Cotton's pieces.

Przemek Sobocki for Farfetch

Przemek Sobocki for Farfetch

One thing I found interesting about Sobocki's work is that it's primarily a Western style with just a touch of Asian flair.  After opening two exhibitions in Japan, Sobocki knew he was ready to take the plunge into living there; however, he's not as influenced stylistically by Japanese culture as by his native European roots.  It's there, but in his words, not "obvious":  "I feel very comfortable here so the cultural differences [weren't] really much of a problem...there is definitely influence from Oriental culture.  But I guess it's not as obvious as [that of other artists] who live in Asia.  I'm still very inspired by European culture but I absolutely love Asian cinema - so the influence is there for sure!"  I feel as though these jellyfish decorating the windows of a Tokyo salon, along with the underwater scene Sobocki created for a child's bedroom, look a little more Asian - they remind me a tiny bit of the scenes you'd find on Japanese wood block prints.

Przemek Sobocki - window mural for Acqua Salon

Przemek Sobocki - window mural for Acqua Salon

Przemek Sobocki - wall mural

Just for fun, I had to include his rendering of the famous Copenhagen mermaid statue for a Farfetch campaign.  ;)

Przemek Sobocki - illustration for Farfetch(images from sobocki.com and instagram)

While his clients are primarily fashion brands, Sobocki is no stranger to beauty-related illustration.  I adore his interpretation of several looks created by the ultra-talented Pat McGrath for Dior.

Przemek Sobocki - editorial illustration
(image from sobocki.com)

Here's the actual makeup.

Pat McGrath makeup for Dior

A few more:

Przemek Sobocki - editorial illustration(images from sobocki.com and papermag.com)

Przemek Sobocki - editorial illustration
(images from sobocki.com and pinterest)

There was also this collaboration for a nail polish set.

Przemek Sobocki - UNT nail polish set(image from sobocki.com)

Despite his extensive portfolio of store displays and advertising campaigns, Sobocki maintains that illustration is his preferred medium because of the artistic freedom it provides. "[Illustrators] can show things differently. They are not bound by the physical limitations of their environment or the models in the same way that a photographer might be.  Instead, an illustration artist can bend the rules a bit and really explore the concept behind the clothes," he explains

Overall, while I would have liked to see more information about how the Guerlain collaboration happened and the inspiration behind the compact's illustration, it's definitely Museum-worthy.  I must remember to include it in next year's spring exhibition, since it arrived too late for inclusion in this year's.

Thoughts?


Friday fun: Julie Verhoeven for Marc Jacobs

If the psychedelic, whimsical illustrations created by British artist Julie Verhoeven for Marc Jacobs Beauty don't seem familiar to you, it's because they are quite a departure from the relatively restrained style she went with for MAC's Illustrated collection in 2012.  Five years after the MAC collaboration, Verhoeven has again made her mark on the makeup world by working with Marc Jacobs on his spring 2017 collection, lending her talents to create 2 makeup sets, both of which I purchased. 

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

The Enamored with a Twist set features a mishmash of motifs, including a clothespin, a disembodied mouth with a row of rainbow colored teeth and couple of goofily grinning faces.  According to the product description, Verhoeven was aiming to create "modern cartoon imagery".  Cartoony it is, but to my eye it has more of a '70s feel.

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

Three glosses in lovely spring shades are included in the makeup bag.

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

Velvet Reality is the name of the other set.  This one is my favorite of the two, as I love that frog's face!

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

The set contains mascara, a cream eyeshadow stick and eyeliner.

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs Beauty x Julie Verhoeven

The illustrations are crazy and eye-catching enough as it is, but what I appreciated is that they were different from those from the Marc Jacobs fashion collection.  Although, I wouldn't have minded if they had simply chosen a couple and slapped them on the sets - I still would have bought them hook line and sinker.  They're just so fun!

It was quite an extensive lineup so I'm sharing only a few pieces. 

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven

"With Marc Jacobs I tried not to be too polite with the graphics, sneaking in some phalluses and domestic appliances that sort of have no reason to be there," she says in an interview.  Indeed, with her Instagram hashtags for these pieces like "#phallicmushroom" and the bizarre inclusion of toasters and vacuum cleaners, her description is on the nose.  Of course, as with the makeup bags, the "Pill Popping Amphibian" is my favorite motif - he has the silliest expression.

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven

I love spike details so these shoes were right up my alley.

Marc Jacobs x Julie Verhoeven
(images from marcjacobs.com and saksfifthavenue.com)

Verhoeven is truly multi-talented.  In the time since I last explored her work, she continues her illustration and fashion endeavors, but has also been dabbling in performance art with some pretty captivating shows in 2014 and 2016.  Still, I felt like these trippy, out-there illustrations were quite different from the rest of her work...until I realized she had collaborated before with Marc Jacobs all the way back in 2002 for a line of Louis Vuitton bags.  As it turns out, this groovy style isn't new territory at all for Verhoeven - right down to the frog motif, the designs for Jacobs this time around are very similar to the ones produced during their previous collaboration.

Louis Vuitton x Julie Verhoeven

Louis Vuitton x Julie Verhoeven

Louis Vuitton x Julie Verhoeven
(images from fashionphile.com, therealreal.com and chercoulter.com)

Getting back to makeup, I love the soft pastel shades included in the sets, but I'm more enamored of Verhoeven's own style.  An article in the Guardian describes her bold cosmetic choices: "Verhoeven herself is a jumble of different shades: at 9.30am she is sporting cobalt blue eyeliner, hot pink lips and cheeks and a whitened face, alongside blue tights, coral nail polish and a multicoloured dress. And somehow it all fits together. 'I can’t leave the house without the face on, I’ve got that down to under five minutes,' she says. 'It’s also a layer and a disguise, in a way – I’m aware I’ve got a masculine face, so the makeup is supposed to make me disappear. But really it’s absurd because it does the opposite.'"  She definitely gives me confidence to continue wearing crazy makeup colors as I approach middle age...although I'm not a cool artist so I don't know if I could pull it off.
 
Julie Verhoeven
(image from thekinsky.com)
 
Julie Verhoeven
(image from frieze.com)
 
What do you think of this collab?  Do you prefer Verhoeven's more traditional fashion illustrations of women, such as the ones for MAC, or her more surreal style?

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Fly me to the moon: NARS holiday 2016

I'm cramming in one more holiday collection before 2017 arrives!  While still not as impressive (in my opinion) as 2012's Warhol collection, this year's holiday offering from NARS is a considerable improvement over previous years.  Mr. Nars teamed up with French fashion photographer Sarah Moon to create a collection that combines Moon's signature dreamlike style with Nars' edgy color schemes.

Nars, a longtime fan of Moon's, finally got up the nerve to approach her for a collaboration, and gave her free reign to come up with the collection's concept and imagery.  He explains: "I wanted to work with Sarah because I've been one of her biggest fans over the years. I remember when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, I [had] already noticed her work in all the French magazines in the '70s. She had already worked and done the imagery for Cacharel, which, in the '70s, was quite big in France. She had created these incredible images, which were actually quite close to what we did for Nars. It was my dream to work with her one day, and when we started doing collaborations for Nars, I was lucky enough to say, 'I want to work with Sarah Moon.' And she agreed. The most exciting thing for me was the fact that I told Sarah she could do anything she wants. I was probably the best client she could ever dream of; I said, 'Do not limit yourself. Give me anything you want. Your requests will be orders, and we will get it done.' She decided everything from the styling — the plastic that was done with Patti Wilson, the stylist — everything was done in London, Patti did the research and had the accessories made. All this part was very fun and the fact that by the end, I knew I was going to get a pure 'Sarah Moon' image. I didn't want her to feel like she couldn’t do this or that, so it was very exciting on that part."

The collection is inspired by the 1927 German sci-fi film Metropolis, which you can see in the futurist, robot-like garments the models are wearing.  Moon was also fascinated by the notion of transparency, hence the clear plastic.

Sarah Moon for NARS

Sarah Moon for NARS

Sarah Moon for NARS

In looking at this still from the film, I can definitely see the influence.

Metropolis film(image from reelworldtheology.com)

As for the makeup, Moon wanted something soft but that still made an impact.   "We really collaborated to find this woman that was delicate, yet strong and always very modern,” she said.  In comparing the collection's behind-the-scenes video and more images from Metropolis, you can once again see the resemblance.  The dark eye shadow and lips from the film get a 21st-century update in the NARS campaign.

I have to say just from looking at these stills, Metropolis seems totally bizarre, not to mention terrifying.  I don't think I'll be watching it anytime soon.

Metropolis, 1927

Metropolis, 1927(images from filmconnoisseur.blogspot.com) and retro-vintage-photography.blogspot.com)

I'm a little embarrassed to admit I had never heard of Moon until now, so I'm going to give a brief rundown of her work so we can situate her style within the NARS collection.  Moon's hazy, dreamy images often lead to her being described as an "impressionist" photographer.  They're notable in their own right, but Moon also has the honor of being the first woman to shoot the famous Pirelli calendar, a feat she accomplished in 1972. 

Sarah Moon, Pirelli calendar, 1972

The dark eyeshadow and red lips are similar to those from the Nars collection, no?  Obviously it's been updated - it's less harsh - but it's interesting that Moon maintained her fondness for this particular look for over 40 years.  The nod to Metropolis in the NARS collection is also unsurprising given the artist's infatuation with 1920s style, a passion shared with Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki, for whom Moon photographed campaigns:  "The two women shared a love for silent-era screen stars, like Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, and they played off those references by setting models’ pale complexions against moody backgrounds."

Some more examples:

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon, Cacharel 1975(image from agnautacouture.com)

Sarah Moon - Elle France, 1977(image from featherstonevintage.blogspot.com)

Sarah Moon, Ling, 2001(image from vogue.com)

As for Moon's overall style, I find it slightly eerie but undeniably pretty. It's not quite surreal, but certainly not of this world; the women in her photos seem to occupy another realm.  The closest thing I can think of is that rare state between wakefulness and sleep, like when you're coming out of a dream and you're not sure whether you're awake or still asleep - that's what these images evoke for me.  I also think the women are portrayed as feminine yet strong, and sensual rather than overtly sexy, which is a rarity in fashion photography.

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon

You know I couldn't not include a mermaid, right?

Sarah Moon
(images from facebook.com, pinterest.com, mariemalterre.com)

In looking at Moon's work, I have to say I'm disappointed that Nars lumped her in with the other photographers he's collaborated with over the years.  "I'm always trying to work with people that have a very strong visual sense of beauty. I think Sarah Moon and [previous collaborator] Steven Klein are so extremely different, but they have the same love and same strong, edgy, sharp sense of fashion and beauty. And they love women, which is so important. They love making [women beautiful], elevating them and really beautifying them. Steven [Klein], Guy Bourdin and myself — because I love making women look beautiful when I take pictures for the campaigns — it's really the same approach. We all do it in different ways, but we all love making women look beautiful."  Right, because nothing demonstrates how much you love and respect women like taking photos of them stuffed into trashcans or insensitively portraying them as abused mental patients.  *eyeroll*  I mean, come on!  There is such a huge difference between Moon's approach to photographing women and Klein/Bourdin.  But at least Nars understands that these collections will bring the work of photographers he admires to a wider audience, which, grudgingly, I fully support.  "Doing these collaborations makes us really promote photography and great talent. It's a platform; we're putting them in focus and in the spotlight and maybe making the public discover someone like Sarah Moon, who, in America, might not be as famous as she is in Europe...I love photographers, so it's very nice that through that, I'm having so much fun creating colors and doing the packaging. And at the same time, it's great for photography and artists. The collaborations won't only be with photographers; we're going to have painters, we're going to have sculptors, who knows. We want to work with different people." 

Final thoughts:  I can appreciate the beauty of Moon's work and I thought both she and Nars absolutely nailed a modern, unique spin on Metropolis, but honestly, it's not my favorite.  The nearsighted among us might slowly be driven crazy while looking at Moon's photos, wondering if we actually have our glasses on/contacts in or if our prescription needs to be stronger.  And the NARS palettes proved immensely difficult to photograph because I could never tell whether my photos are blurry or if it's just Moon's trademark haziness. 

What do you think? 


A modern update to 1920s style: Clé de Peau holiday 2016

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.

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 collection

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 brush set

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 brush set detail

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."

Ashley Longshore, Her Glow Was Like the Sun, 2016

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 palette

"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."

A Glance of Perfection by Ashley Longshore, 2016

The lip glosses:

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 lip glosses

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 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."

Ashley Longshore - Blossoming Possibilities, 2016

"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."

Ashley Longshore, She Had to Enjoy Each Precious Moment, 2016

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.

Clé de Peau holiday 2016 collection

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."

Ashley Longshore - Emerald, 2016

"As a woman the happiest of days is a day you feel confident, beautiful, elegant and are surrounded by jewels."

Ashley Longshore - Oh Happy Day, 2016

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."

Ashley Longshore, She Was Surrounded by Beauty and Everything Was Perfect, 2016

"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."

Ashley Longshore - Camellia, 2016(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.”

Ashley Longshore, Audrey in the Moonlight with Peacock study

Ashley Longshore, Audrey and Peacock in the Moonlight

Ashley Longshore, Audrey With Art Nouveau Golden Peacock

Ashley Longshore - Audrey with Bedazzled Circle Dress and Damask

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.

Ashley Longshore, Andy Warhol Marilyn Snow Globe Audrey

Ashley Longshore, Matisse Snow Globe Audrey

Ashley Longshore, Octopus Audrey

Ashley Longshore, Jellyfish Audrey

She can make anything look good!

Ashley Longshore, Audrey in Balenciaga Hat with Stormtroopers

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.

Ashley Longshore, Amaze Balls

Ashley Longshore, Bat van

Ashley Longshore, Girl with a Pearl Earring

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.

Ashley Longshore, No Whiskey No Weed No Wildness

Ashley Longshore, In Case You Are Wondering Where I Am

Ashley Longshore, Let Me Drink My Vodka In Peace

Literally LOL at this one.

Ashley Longshore, They Hated the Garden Club

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.

Ashley Longshore, Hustle: While You Worried If the Glass Was Half-Full or Empty I SOLD IT
(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. :)

Ashley Longshore
Just had to share of a picture of the artist - she is too fun not to!

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.

Thoughts?

*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.

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Murakami for Shu Uemura, round 2

I thought I'd get the holiday ball rolling with Shu's latest collection, their second collaboration with world-renowned artist Takashi Murakami.  The video above brings the collection story to life: "One late night in Tokyo, a young woman gazes up at the sky, dreaming of adventure and discovery.  Suddenly the infinite darkness is animated, a myriad of vividly colored flower-stars dance across the sky.  The wide-eyed, beaming flower-stars sweep her away on a cosmic journey, illuminating a new universe of beauty, and a galaxy of hope beyond her imagination."  As charming as the video is, I have to admit that the story, along with the packaging, didn't wow me at first glance.  And to tell the truth I'm still on the fence as to whether I really like this collection.  Let's see why.

I picked up two items, the Cosmicool palette and the cleansing oil.

Shu Uemura x Murakami palette, holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami palette, holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami palette, holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami cleansing oil, holiday 2016

These crazily grinning flowers are probably Murakami's most famous motif (they even had the privilege of taking over an entire room at Versailles), so it makes sense that they would end up on the Shu packaging.  Still, their use left me feeling a little underwhelmed.  Off I went in search of some deeper significance for Murakami's flowers in the hopes of finding the Shu collection to be more inspired than it first appears.

According to a 2002 interview, Murakami spent much of his early days drawing flowers: “When I was preparing for the entrance exams for the University of Fine Arts, I spent two years drawing flowers. I drew some every day. And the entrance exam in the Nihon-ga section also involved flower drawing. Afterwards, to earn a living, I spent nine years working in a preparatory school, where I taught the students to draw flowers. Once every two days, I would buy flowers for my lesson and make compositions for the students to work on. At the beginning, to be frank, I didn’t like flowers, but as I continued teaching in the school, my feelings changed: their smell, their shape – it all made me feel almost physically sick, and at the same time I found them very ‘cute’. Each one seems to have its own feelings, its own personality.”  I found that last sentence to be quite intriguing, since all of his flowers seem to have the same personality, yes?  It would seem that they're all happy and smiling, as in these examples.

Takashi Murakami, Such Cute Flowers, 2010

Takashi Murakami, If I Could Reach That Field of Flowers I Would Die Happy, 2010(images from christies.com)


Takashi Murakami, Future Will Be Full of Smile! For Sure! 2013(image from martinlawrence.com)

Takashi Murakami, Flower Ball(image from 1stdibs.com)

However, Murakami's ambivalence towards flowers - simultaneously finding them both "cute" and unappealing - is actually expressed in many of his flower works.  In this article from 2011, Murakami explains how the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a key influence in the formation of his style, along with American and Japanese cartoon characters:  "There is brightness. But my real story has a kind of darkness...I expanded it to include some of the characters that you see in my work...Mickey Mouse and the characters from Japanese games. There is the contrast between the cuteness and the cruelty. And the sadness and the cruelty and the cuteness are symbolized by the characters. So this is how my early work began. As an expression of sadness and cruelty.”  If you look closely at some of the flower paintings, some of them aren't smiling; on the contrary, they're crying.

A weeping flower can be found towards the upper right in this one. 

Takashi Murakami, Flowers in Heaven, 2010

I zoomed in and cropped the image so you can see it a little better.

Flowers in Heaven - detail

And another on the right, it's a small flower with pale pink leaves and a white center.

Takashi Murakami, Field of Smiling Flowers, 2010(images from christies.com)

Murakami's work went especially dark in 2012, when he interspersed skulls with flowers for an exhibition at the Gagosian.  The collection of 28 works for the exhibition continued one of Murakami's "central dichotomies of his art—between joy and terror, his optimistic magnanimity as an artist and his pessimistic perspective on postwar Japan."  But it was also a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  "Natural catastrophes and earthquakes are things caused by nature. Such chaos is natural, but we have to make sense of it somehow, and so we had to invent these stories. That is what I wanted to paint,” he states.

Takashi Murakami, Blue Flowers and Skulls, 2012

More recent works also have the sad flowers, even the ones with seemingly cheerful titles. 

Takashi Murakami - Flowers Blooming in This World and the Land of Nirvana, 2013

Detail (look below the blue flower on the bottom right):

Takashi Murakami, Flowers Blooming in This World and the Land of Nirvana - detail
(images from paddle8.com)

Takashi Murakami, Flowers with Smiley Faces, 2013

Takashi Murakami, Flowers with Smiley Faces, 2013 - detail
(image from jbmirai.com) 

Even though sometimes the flowers aren't as bright and positive as they seem, I was pleased to see at least some explanation of their meaning for Murakami and the deeper ideas he's trying to express through them.  And there aren't any sad flowers in the Shu collection, so I think it was intended to be magical and optimistic, which is more appropriate for the holiday season.  Having said that, I would have liked to see an original flower piece for the Shu collection.  There are so many flower paintings I simply couldn't tell whether these particular flowers were borrowed from another work or if they were something new created just for the Shu collection, but it would have been nice to know.  Even though my cursory investigation yielded some answers, I'm still a little perplexed by the selection of flowers for this collection, especially after seeing the making of the video.

It's so elaborate - hiring dancers to "wrap" the city, a carefully thought-out nod to Murakami's background (he makes a cameo as a taxi driver, which was his father's occupation), and music selection - it seems like more work went into making the collection video than the packaging.  And going back to my previous statement that Murakami's flowers are his best-known motif, they really do appear everywhere, from cushions to key chains to sneakers.   There was even a pop-up cafe in Tokyo devoted to Murakami's flowers last year.

Murakami Cafe

Murakami cafe - food(images from mori.art.museum)

This year Murakami introduced his own line of flower-adorned sake, which will be served in the bar he owns in Tokyo.  

Takashi Murakami - sake

Takashi Murakami - sake(images from spoon-tamago.com)

All of this is to say nothing of his long-time collaboration with Louis Vuitton, which, incidentally, featured a collection with the same name as the Shu palettes!  Cosmic Blossom debuted in 2010; both of this year's Shu palettes are also titled Cosmic Blossom.  My hunch about the packaging being somewhat uninspired seems correct in light of all this.  It seems like the company just decided to slap Murakami's most iconic symbol on there and call it a day, without protest from the artist.

I also can't help but wonder whether I agree with this 2007 take on the artist's business endeavors: "Unfortunately, since around 2001 Murakami has been so set on merging fine art with commercial product that by now all he’s doing is moving merch. The best that can be said about Murakami’s new work is that he’s making pretty money. Or pretty empty money. The main attractions of this exhibition are 50 little happy-faced flower paintings and six large portraits of a haggard-looking Zen patriarch. The flowers are insipid. So are the portraits, although at least with them Murakami is up to his old extreme stylization. But the real content of Murakami’s art is money and marketability. Hence, each of the 50 silly flowers reportedly goes for $90,000; the portraits, about $1.5 mil per unit. Four better larger flower paintings run about $450,000; two boring pictures of severed hands, about $400,000. Needless to say, the gallery reports everything is sold."  Ouch.  While I don't want to appear nearly as harsh, on the one hand, I'm sort of in agreement that Murakami just might be a bit of a sell-out at this point.  Having your key motif on commercial items is fine, but when it appears on so many things, it loses a little something - it just doesn't seem as special.  On the other hand, I admire any artist who also possesses this level of business acumen; in this day and age, it's basically expected that artists will embark on these sorts of partnerships.  I mean, I have an entire category of posts on makeup/artist collaborations!  And while I do think at times it's something of a cash grab, putting one's most recognizable work on merchandise isn't an entirely terrible or tasteless thing, as it ensures accessibility for those who can't afford the original.  I wouldn't mind having those little flower faces smiling at me from an original painting, but since I can't afford those, having them on makeup (or key chain, or whatever you prefer) is the next best thing.  It's the same concept as couture house makeup:  A tweed Chanel jacket is out of my financial reach, but I can buy a Chanel blush with a tweed pattern on it.  It's also a way to introduce one's work to an audience that might not necessarily be familiar with it otherwise. For the vast majority of artist collabs that I've covered, I can't say I've heard of the artist prior to their working with a makeup company and I really enjoy finding out about them this way.

So where does that leave me in terms of the Shu collection?  I guess the bottom line is that I think it's worthy of the Museum's collection since it does incorporate the artist's best-known work, but it's not the most inspired we've seen.  Especially not when compared to the previous Murakami collection, which, though it borrowed one of the artist's animated works, at least had a more original theme.  Perhaps if Murakami had created a unique flower design specifically for Shu I'd be more enthusiastic.

Thoughts?