Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Hi! My name is Michelle Beaulieu! I am attending the Fashion Technology and Design program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I am taking this trip because I love art and because fashion is strongly influenced by art works; I strongly believe that it is just as important to learn about the history of art as it is about the history of fashion. After taking these classes, I think my designs will be much stronger because I will have the influence and knowledge of another form of art and of the world. This trip will benefit my life in only positive ways, and I can’t wait to share what has happened so far!
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about New York so far?
Honestly, when I first arrived in New York City, I thought I would feel like how it is portrayed in the movies, like all my dreams will come true, when really it felt like I was still in Vancouver. It took up until I took the boat tour of the city and the Statue of Liberty to actually feel like, “Wow, I’m actually in New York!” When people say New York people drive like ‘crazy people’ I understand why now… they drive so much faster than they should, and there are lines on the road, but I don’t think they can see them. So far, I love the city: it is dirty, loud, busy, and amazing in so many ways. You can be yourself without any judgment, you can find ANYTHING and the history, buildings, clothing, artwork, and music is exciting and so interesting. I find it interesting how you can fit into a certain area of the city, for myself, I fit into Chelsea. I swear I got two compliments on my faded out hair within 10 minutes of each other.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Museum of Modern Art. Who is the artist? When was this work made? What is the content of this work? In what context and as part of what art movement was it made?
The artwork displayed in the Museum of Modern Art is Marilyn Monroe I and the artist who created this piece is James Rosenquist. He is an American artist known for his involvement in the pop art movement. This piece was created in 1962, just shortly after Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death. This artwork is made with oil and spray enamel on a canvas the size of 7’9” x 6’1/4” (236.2 x 183.3cm). He used the three primary colours of red, blue and yellow. I think he used the three base colours to represent pain, love and happiness; blue for pain because of the struggles she had endured with drugs and they way she passed, red for love because she was such an iconic symbol in the pop/social culture and she was an extreme sex symbol that everyone adored, and yellow because she did have happiness in her life. He also used black and white to bring the vintage of classical vibe out in the portrait.
This portrait of Marilyn Monroe is scrambled, she is cut up and placed back together, there are words on this portrait as well but it is also scrambled which makes in unreadable. I believe this was done on purpose because by the end of her like she was a mess and if she was a book, you wouldn’t be able to read what she is trying to say. Rosenquist used the Marilyn Monroe Coca-Cola ad because by the end of her life she had been consumed by her status. I think Rosenquist chose Marilyn Monroe as his muse because of her death during that same year. I think this piece was either something to show the issue with consumerism, or as a memorial piece of her life. And although it is difficult to see the full picture of her, you know it is Marilyn Monrow because of her iconic look. Even though this image is scrambled, it is still glamorous, just like her life, and I think it was made to celebrate her.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to this assigned work in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
When I was first assigned this work I was a bit shocked I was given a pop art piece, because fashion is so strongly influenced by pop art. Although I guess it makes sense because Marilyn Monroe was not only a sex icon but also a fashion icon. It took me a good week to even think of something to riff off from this piece. I decided to use the context by using Marilyn Monroe as my influence and the technique of scrambling as my content. I painted a portrait of Marilyn Monroe with white skin and black background and blue shadowing using a pop-art form, and then I cut the board into five panels and scrambled them out of order and upside down. I found it difficult to work with this piece because I have never taken a studio art class and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking at when I was looking for something to influence me. I also found it a struggle because I didn’t know what I was capable of until I actually started, especially because I knew this piece is famous and I wanted to make Rosenquist proud if he were to see what I created.
After seeing the piece in person, it felt very exhilarating because I know about it, I studied it and I understand it and how it was made. I knew it was beautiful before, but in person I was amazed how fascinating and marvelous it is. Because it is absolutely stunning, I thought that if I were to redo my studio piece I would have used the same technique of scrambling the boards, and the same context, but instead of a portrait, I would paint CONSUMED across the board and then mix the words all up so you don’t know that it is a word, but the meaning is there. Instead of using the contrast of black and white, I would use a more glamorous colour like gold to riff off of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn paintings. I would use the gold to represent the value and perceived glamour of her life and white to represent how “impure” her actual life was (and also to be ironic in a way, because she is known for her white dress).
After seeing your assigned art work in person (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most, and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?
After seeing Rosenquist’s art work, I noticed how striking the usage of colour was, and how he used simple portraits of people or objects that have a deeper meaning. For example, F-111 has many random images collaged together, like of a little girl, or spaghetti, or a plane, when really the meaning of why they are together can be understood. For example, Rosenquist took the F-111 Fighter plane as his inspiration, the newest, most technologically advanced weapon in development at the time, and positioned it, as he later explained, “flying through the flak of consumer society to question the collusion between the Vietnam death machine, consumerism, the media, and advertising.”
Today’s activity was at the Metropolitan Museum in the Upper East Side neighbourhood. What were your impressions of this part of New York after learning about it first in the pre-departure classes? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Today’s activity was at the Metropolitan Museum and the Upper West Side neighborhood. The Upper West Side is located between Central Park and the Hudson River. Before arriving in NYC, in the pre-departure classes, I thought this neighborhood was an upscale residential area. The upper sides of Manhattan (Upper West Side and Upper East Side) seem to be where most of the pricey real-estate is and where many of the more wealthy-upper class residents of New York live (for instance, Blaire Waldorf, you might recognize her as one of the spoiled and fabulous rich girls who live in NYC from the television show Gossip Girl, who lives in the Upper East Side). During our visit to the MET, I especially loved the special exhibition, “China Through The Looking Glass”. This exhibition perfectly displays how European fashions have been so strongly influenced by Chinese culture. My favourite dress from this exhibition has to be the golden evening gown. It was made for spring/summer 2007 haute couture by Guo Pei. This gown is gold lamé embroidered with gold and silver silk, metal, and sequins. I don’t think I have ever felt so emotional about any fashion before, maybe the occasional butterfly, but every garment in that exhibition was amazing and exhilarating.
So far, the MET has been my favourite museum. I love how there is not only art but historical artifacts as well; other than the special exhibition, I loved the Victorian furniture and room displays, especially the room displays of Marie Antoinette. I also enjoyed experiencing more of the Monet water lilies and the Van Gogh flowers. My most memorable experiences of the day have to be taking pictures sitting on the steps of the MET (reenacting the classic Gossip Girl MET lunch group steps) and retaking my pictures of Central Park (because silly me, I accidentally deleted all of my previous ones), and burning my bum on the mushroom of the Alice in Wonderland sculpture while taking pictures. I think I will always remember seeing dinosaur bones in the American Museum of Natural History. As a child, I loved dinosaurs (Jurassic Park must have been my favourite for ages) so that moment I don’t think I could ever forget.