Sunday, January 30, 2011

My TV Interview by Artsync

I remember love II by Ingrid Mida 2010

I was a bit nervous as I sat down to watch Artsync TV on Friday night wondering how my interview from last weekend's opening of my show All is Vanity at Loop Gallery would turn out.  I was pleased with the outcome, but even better was the reaction of my teenage boys who told me they were impressed. As anyone who is the mother of teenagers would know, that is not an easy feat!

Thanks to the Artsync production team for making me look good!  If you would like to see the tv interview clip, click on the link here or

All is Vanity continues its run at Loop Gallery until Sunday, February 13, 2011. The gallery is located at 1273 Dundas Street West in Toronto, just east of Dovercourt. To read excerpts of my Question and Answer session at the gallery, click over to the loop gallery blog here or

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review: How Proust can Change Your Life

There are some authors who can take complex ideas and create new depths of understanding with their analysis. And when they can do that while making me laugh, even better. Alain de Botton is the witty and talented author of numerous books including my new all-time favourite How Proust can Change Your Life which was first published in 1997.

Cover of How Proust can Change Your Life

This combination literary analysis and self-help book made me chuckle more than once. Alain de Botton dips into Marcel Proust's life, letters, conversations and books to create a self-help book that is actually life-changing and hilarious. The chapters are divided as follows:
1. How to love life today
2. How to read for yourself
3. How to take your time
4. How to suffer successfully
5. How to express your emotions
6. How to be a good friend
7. How to open your eyes
8. How to be happy in love
9. How to put books down

I'd picked up this book recently, not because of the title but because I recognized the author's name. I had very much enjoyed one of his more recent books  The Architecture of Happiness which was beautifully written. With the recent stresses I've been shouldering of late, there have been days when I just want to crawl under the covers and not come out! On the one day that I was able to actually do that, I took this book with me and it wasn't very long before I was in full belly laugh mode.

Before I read this book, I was under the impression that Proust was a literary giant from the get go. In fact, he was anything but. He was fired from his non-paying post at the Mazarine library after repeatedly failing to report for work. His own family considered him a failure (his father and brother were doctors) and he had to self publish his first book. And even though he was often ill with asthma, he lived life in a grand style, entertaining his friends lavishly. There is much to be learned from Marcel Proust and you don't have to read his books, journals and letters to become wise in a Proustian fashion because the author of How Proust can Change Your Life does it for you in the span of 197 pages.

One of the most hilarious parts is the chapter How to be a Good Friend. The author reveals that while Proust had a great many friends, including several who wrote books about their friendship with Proust (Maurice Duplay, Fernand Gregh and Marie Nordlinger), Proust actually had a more pragmatic and sometimes caustic view of friendship.

There is one incident in particular with his "friend" Fernand Gregh that reveals much. The two were old school chums and Gregh had an "influential position" with the literary paper La Revue de Paris. After Proust published his first collection of stories, Gregh did not review Proust's writing in La Revue. Instead Gregh wrote about "the illustrations, the preface, and the piano pieces that had come with the book and that Proust had had nothing to do with, and then added sarcastic jibes about the connections Proust had used in order to get his work published." And then only a few weeks later, Gregh sent Proust his own book The House of Childhood, "a collection of poems in the light of which Anna de Noailles's work could truly have been compared to Baudelaire's." Instead of taking his revenge, Proust actually wrote Gregh a generous letter of congratulations. "'What I have read struck me as really beautiful, ' Proust told Fernand. 'I know you were hard on my book. But that no doubt was because you thought it bad. For the same reason, finding yours good, I am glad to tell you so and to tell others.' " (pg.129).  The punch line of the story is that among the papers found after Proust's death was a note that Proust had written to Gregh before the one he actually sent. "It contained a far nastier, far less acceptable, but far truer message." (pg.129). The lesson of this story is that the truth about our friends is better suited to a private journal or unsent letter than sharing it with those that inspired such writing!

If you don't have the time, inclination or patience to read Proust's greatest works, or just want an intellectual laugh, spend an afternoon with Alain de Botton and you will be wiser for having done so (and probably have a few more friends to show for it)!

Title: How Proust can Change Your Life
Author: Alain de Botton
Publisher: Vintage International Vintage Books, a division of Random House, 1998. USA
Category: Non-fiction; Marcel Proust, Humour, Literary, Self-help
Number of Pages: 197
Price: US $14, Canada $17.99 paperback

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chanel and Pre-revolutionary Fashion

If my fantasy calendar for 2011 had come true, I would be in Paris this week for the Spring 2011 couture collections. Alas I think my invitations must have been lost in the mail. But I didn't have to be there to drink in the elegance and simplicity of Chanel's spring couture collection.

Chanel Couture, Spring 2011

The Chanel spring 2011 collection by Karl Lagerfeld is mostly devoid of colour, with only a few outfits in subdued pastel colours of liliac, soft pink and light blue. The monochromatic silhouette is clean and sculptural with the typical Chanel flourishes and breath-taking beadwork. There are a multitude of daywear looks many including narrow legging-like trousers worn with skirted suits or tunics, a definite nod to the younger couture client. The shoes are refreshingly flat, many with a black cap.

Chanel Couture, Spring 2011
What I found to be most surprising about this fashion-forward collection is the allusion to pre-revolutionary fashion with the black ribbons worn around the neck by all the models. Every model on the runway wore this black ribbon although it was more prominent on the models with longer, swan-like necks.

Chanel Couture, Spring 2011

Chanel Couture, Spring 2011

Photo credits: Monica Feudi/Go Runway (sourced from Vogue's

This black ribbon harkens back to pre-revolutionary fashion in France and evidence of that is seen in this 1785 sketch of Marie Antoinette which was sent by Count Axel Fersen to his sister Sophie in Sweden.

Drawing of Marie Antoinette about 1785, ink and color on paper
I wonder if Lagerfeld's ribbon necklace is a prediction of a fashion revolution to come.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Opening: All is Vanity

All is Vanity Installation Shot
It was a bit of a blur but I'm happy to report that there was a great turnout at the opening of my show at Loop Gallery yesterday afternoon. The tv crew from Artsync arrived a little before 2 pm to film a short interview. I wish I could remember what I said and am hoping that I sounded reasonably coherent. I had no idea whether to look at the tv camera or the interviewer and fear that I might have looked a little shifty eyed!

JJ Lee and Ingrid Mida at Loop Gallery
I had a fantastic response to my work. People seemed to be quite taken with the mysterious, haunting and fairy-tale quality of the photographs. But more important to me than the many compliments I received was knowing that my work evoked a response in those who had previously lost someone they loved. With each photograph in the series representing a step in the cycle of grief, several people either teared up as I spoke or told me that they had been on this journey. This meant that my work had emotional power, a significant marker in my development as an artist.

The show continues at Loop Gallery until February 13, 2011. I will be at the gallery on Saturday, January 29th at 3 pm for a Question and Answer session moderated by installation artist, teacher and friend Lyla Rye.

Ingrid Mida and Lyla Rye at Loop Gallery

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All is Vanity

Oft shall death and sorrow reign (Versailles) by Ingrid Mida Digital C-print 2010, 16x20 framed
All is Vanity is the translation of the latin Vanitus Vanitum, a biblical reference to the transitory nature of life. This theme conveys the vanity of pursing earthly pleasures and accomplishments in the face of certain death and is the underlying premise for my upcoming show at Loop Gallery which opens on Saturday, January 22, 2011.

In this photographic series suggesting the haunted gardens of Versailles, I attempt to convey the journey and emotions of grief. Inspired by the work of Cindy Sherman, Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville, I have used soft focus, movement and filters to evoke a terrible kind of beauty. This series of ten black and white photographs pose the question of whether beauty and death are facets of the same experience.

The image above, entitled Oft shall death and sorrow reign, was taken in the gardens of Versailles,  a place which represents the pinnacle of vanity and excess. This photo is symbolic of an apocolyptic moment when life changes in a heart beat.  Catapulted into a journey of grief, you become a member of a club that you never wanted to join.

My familiarity with loss and death has given me a deep appreciation for the fragile and temporal nature of life. And creating beauty is a means by which I have cheated death. In the past, some of my work has been criticized for being too pretty and too impersonal. This work is anything but, and represents a big leap in my growth as an artist. Dark and haunting with me as the subject of many of them, it is about me, but not about me. The journey of loss and grief is a universal experience. 

All is vanity by Ingrid Mida 2010, Digital C-print,  28x34 framed,
I will be present at Loop Gallery for the opening reception on Saturday, January 22 from 2-5pm. Sometime that afternoon, Artsync TV will be interviewing me for a segment on their show!

I will also speak about my work during a Question & Answer Session at the gallery on Saturday, January 29 at 3pm, moderated by Lyla Rye. The show runs until February 13, 2011. For more information, please check the loop gallery blog or website.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Brides' Project

Wedding Steps by Ingrid Mida (Rome 2007)
What type of wedding gown did you wear? Was it pouffy and princess-like or sleek and elegant? What did you do with it after the big day? Is it boxed up in the back of your closet?

If you'd like to give your wedding gown a second life and help fund cancer research, an organization called The Brides' Project accepts donations of gowns. They prefer the gowns to be less than five years old but also accept some vintage gowns. The gowns are resold and the net proceeds from sales are donated to The Canadian Cancer Society (Relay for Life), The Breast Cancer Foundation and other organizations that help fight cancer and/or support those afflicted. Their motto is Fighting cancer, One dress at a time.

Or if you are a bride to be, you can buy one of these lovely gowns knowing that you are making a socially responsible, environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible choice.

Donors are encouraged to write a note for the next lucky bride, or include their email address so that the buyer to send a thank you note to acknowledge the contribution. Photos of the latest gowns to come in the shop are posted regularly on their website. Brides are asked to call to make an appointment.

There are two locations, one in Toronto, Ontario Canada and one in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But they will accept dresses by mail (their website includes information on how to ship the dress inexpensively).

For further information, call 416-469-6777 in Canada or 734-418-3332 in the USA. Information is also available on their website. .

P.S. I didn't wear a wedding gown. I wore a cream-coloured Thierry Mugler suit with a La Perla corset underneath.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The History of Fashion Photography

Cover Image by Sarah Moon 1973

In the scheme of art history, photography is a relatively new art form, having only been in existence since 1839. And although photographs of fashionable dress have existed since then, the emergence of photographs to sell clothing and accessories took another half century to develop. It wasn't until after the invention and application of the halftone printing process that fashion photography took off.  The purpose of fashion photography is to sell clothes, but today many fashion photographs seem to be about creating a story, evoking a mood or expressing a concept. The lines between art and fashion have been blurred.

The names of the great fashion photographers like Edward Steichen, Richard Avendon, Irving Penn and Helmut Newton are well known but there are others: Horst, Bresson, Blumenfeld, David Bailey, Bert Stern, Hiro, William Klein. But, the ones that I was most influenced by are both women:  Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville.

Unseen Versailles series by Deborah Turbeville circa 1980
These two women were born around the same time and were both involved in fashion before becoming photographers. Sarah Moon is a former model-turned-photographer and Deborah Turbeville is a former fashion-editor-turned-photographer.  Both use colour in a monochromatic way and create personal visions that are like day dreams. And both women create photographs that are exquisitely  beautiful.

Sarah Moon was born in 1941 in France and often captures her subjects in motion. The faces of her models are often blurred or their eyes are closed, rarely making eye contact. She has taken photographs for Cacharel, Chanel, Dior, Lacroix and other designers. Some of her recent series have included Frocks in Fantasy and The Shadows of Style.

In a 2008 interview with the UK Independent, Moon said "For me, photography is pure fiction even if it comes from life. I photograph people, of course, as I do nature – trees, flowers, animals – but I charge it with something other than reality, with feeling, with a certain feeling depending on the day. I compare myself to reportage photographers, who make some sort of statement about life. I don't believe that I am making any defined statement. Instead, I am expressing something, an echo of the world maybe."

Jean Muir and Models by Deborah Turbeville 1973

Deborah Turbeville was born in Massachusetts and grew up in New England. At age 20, she moved to New York City to work with designer Claire McCardell and later became a fashion editor before becoming a photographer. She uses blurring and disintegration to great effect and is somewhat obsessed with decay and dream sequences. Her work has been compared to the Impressionist Edgar Degas. "Even Turbeville's color is close to that of the impressionist master. Her color is rather non-color, or color fields of limpid and palely monchromatic beauty. Her palette is based on white with hints of pastel hues which subtly create, like her choice of poses, affinities with Degas ballet studies." (page 217, The History of Fashion Photography)

Turbeville created the breathtaking photographs in the book called The Unseen Versailles (another rare and beautiful book). Now in her seventies, Turbeville continues to work as a photographer, dividing her time between New York and Mexico.

The History of Fashion Photography is one of those books that is worth looking for. While long out of print, it offers a comprehensive look back at the development of this art form from its infancy up to 1980.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview with Doll Artist Karen Kline

Karen Kline with her fashion dolls 2010
For Karen Kline, making a doll is a creative act that brings much joy to her life. Once a fashion model and then a window dresser in Chicago, her days presently involve much less glamourous duties like assisting her husband in his Florida-based marine business. But, in making a doll, she is transported into another world, one where fairies and fashion rule.

Karen writes the blog Kaerie Fairie where she presents her dolls to the world before putting them for sale in her Etsy shop. Having previously created a line of fairy dolls, she recently was inspired by my blog post about the Coco Chanel dolls to begin a new line of fashion dolls. It was her gift of a doll that inspired me to learn more about this talented doll artist.

Ingrid: To begin with, what shall I call you? Karen, Karey, or Kaerie Faerie?
Karen: I answer to all of them. When I was a teenager, I was called Twigs, because I was so painfully thin. Later when I started modeling, I got the nickname Karey. And several years ago, a good friend started calling me Kaerie Faerie in her e-mails. I loved all my nick-names so I used them all when I started my shop and blog.

Ingrid: Why are you drawn to fairies?
Karen: My love of faeries began when I was a child. My Mother, who had once been a ballerina, told stories of faeries dancing in the garden and hiding in my bedroom.  I started taking ballet at the age of four, and ballet and faeries became my whole world. As a little girl, I was mesmerized by the graceful ballerinas and imagined they had wings.

Ingrid: What is your earliest memory involving dolls? 
Karen: My Mother and Grandmother made dolls. Mother made a collection of Alice in Wonderland dolls, and pocket dolls that fit in my jumper pockets, all the dolls were made from fabric, with hand sewn faces.

Ingrid: When did you begin making dolls?
Karen: As a very young child, my Mother and I would make dolls together, creating dolls and sewing little doll outfits, which gave me all the basics of sewing.

Ingrid: What do you enjoy about the process of doll making?
Karen: I love what I call the treasure hunt, choosing fabrics or dying or painting my own for designing the clothing and all the creative embellishments.

Ingrid: Describe the process of making a doll from conception to completion.   
Karen: Making a doll starts with a idea, usually something I see. I get ideas from everything. Sometimes I draw a cartoon of  what I want to create other times I just draw a pattern of a doll. The clothing concept starts after the doll is made and ready to be dressed, many times the cartoon I've drawn and the doll don't look anything alike. I free-form design on a body and all my patterns for clothing are cut around the dolls body. Just like my Couture Dressmaking skills are all cut on a dress-form.

Ingrid: What is the biggest challenge or obstacle that you encounter in making a doll?
Karen: It is difficult to get the perfect body shape because I try to make a shapely female body without a lot of seams.

Ingrid: What inspired you to make the Chanel inspired doll? 
Karen: It was your blog, and the department store window picture. When I was in my twenties, I worked as a window dresser for Marshall Fields in Chicago. Dolls like those are window props and you would probably never be able to get one. I enjoy copying fashion I see, it is a challenge and these dolls were fun to make and easy. And I thought it would be sweet to share a doll with you, since you wrote that adorable blog post.

Ingrid: Can you describe a memorable incident or person that you met during your career as a model? 
Karen: I modeled in the late 60's and 1970's I worked lots of trade shows and catalog, but many young designers started in the warehouses in Chicago. I worked as a fitting model, in show-rooms, salons, private shows and ladies luncheons.  I met Halston, and several others that went on to become enormous fashion icons. Walking in something new and creative was always so exciting!      

Ingrid: What is the most memorable dress/outfit you ever wore as a model? 
Karen: It was a peach colored silk chiffon crystal studded gown, designed by Zaharoff. It floated like a fairy dress, it was very naked, I wore it on the beach for a shoot.

Ingrid: Who are your favourite fashion designers? 
Karen: Of the French designers Chanel, YSL, and Dior are my favorite. Of the US designers, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors offer beautifully made clothing.  

Ingrid: I know that you sometimes make clothes for your dolls from your own wardrobe discards. Do you ever cringe when cutting up an old favourite? 
Karen: No, because I'm giving it new life, and I only cut up what I can't wear anymore.

Ingrid: What is your favourite doll that you have made? Or is the last doll you made, always your favourite?
Karen:  I have two soft faeries I made years ago that I never put them away. They live where I can see them and they are called secrets because they sit whispering to each other.

Ingrid: Are you ever sad to box up a favourite doll for a new owner? 
Karen: No, I love to share. I always say goodbye have a safe trip.

Ingrid: What is the last book you read? 
Karen: I read a lot of vintage fashion books, I just finished Patou, Meredith Etherington-Smith. I'm crazy for the French fashion of 1920's.

Ingrid: How do you define success? 
Karen: It is about the art work.  I have not been bored from making dolls. I feel like I have finally found my artistic niche and selling is just the icing on the cake.

To see more of Karen's dolls, visit her blog Kaerie Faerie or her Etsy shop.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Santa didn't come through but Karen did.....

It was back to work yesterday and as I walked by the Chanel store on my way to the museum, I could not help but notice that their windows still display the oh-so-lovely Coco Chanel dolls. Even though I'd heard that these dolls were not for sale, I thought Santa could do anything...

Luckily my disappointment was short-lived because the very next day, I got an email from the talented doll-maker Karen Kline telling me that she made two of these dolls after seeing my post.

Fashion dolls by Karen Kline 2010
Karen made one for herself and one for me!! Can you believe how lucky I am to have such a talented, thoughtful and generous friend?

A doll for me!

Karen is not selling these particular dolls, but this project has inspired her to begin a line of fashion dolls.

Fashion doll in progress by Karen Kline 2010

I'll be interviewing Karen in an upcoming post. In the meantime, please visit her doll-lightful blog here. Or visit her Etsy shop here.

Photo credits: Karen Kline 2010

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Fantasy Fashion Calendar for 2011

A new year always holds so much promise and potential. This is my fantasy calendar for the first half of 2011.

Fashioning Fashion 
I'd begin my tour in Los Angeles to attend  the fifth R. L. Shep Triennial Symposium on Textiles and Dress entitled On Fashioning a Collection: Vision and Viewpoints at LACMA. This event which will be held on Saturday, January 15 begins at 10:00 am and  will focus on the museum's recently acquired collection of European costumes and textiles. Held in conjunction with the exhibition, Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915, currently on view, this daylong program features international scholars Akiko Fukai (Director and Chief Curator, Kyoto Costume Institute) and Pamela Golbin (Chief Curator, Twentieth Century and Contemporary Collections, Musée de la Mode et du Textile, Les Arts Décoratifs, Musée du Louvre, Paris) as well as Fashioning Fashion co-curator Sharon Takeda and other experts in the field. Rounding out the program will be a conversation between curators and collectors as well as presentations by LACMA experts. The symposium is free but tickets are required. Please call 323 857-6010 to reserve a ticket.

My next stop would be at Loop Gallery in Toronto to see my series of limited edition black and white chromogenic photographs on display in a show I called Vanitus Vanitum: All is Vanity.  These photographs reference the transitory nature of beauty and life and seek to portray a journey of grief and acceptance. My opening reception is on Saturday, January 22 and the show runs until February 13.

Chanel 2010
On Sunday, January 23rd, I'd fly to Paris to attend the Spring Summer 2011 Haute Couture designer runway presentations which run from Monday, January 24th to January 27th. Of course, I'd have front row seats at the Dior show on January 24th at 2 pm and Chanel on January 25th at 11 am.

In March, I'd jet back to Paris for the Fall Winter 2011-2012 Ready to Wear runway presentations which run March 1-9th. Then it would be off to San Francisco to attend the opening on March 26th of the exhibition Balenciaga: Spanish Master at the de Young Museum. This exhibition which originally opened at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York will be expanded to include more garments from the Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga. The show runs until July 11th.

In May, I'd attend the retrospective of Lee Alexander McQueen's work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This exhibition entitled Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opens May 4 and will run until  July 31, 2011 and features approximately 100 garments created during the designers 19 year career. Signature pieces such as the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the origami frock coat will be on display along with a selection of garments from the Alexander McQueen archive, the Givenchy archive, and private collections.

This is my fantasy.... It's a full schedule, but I'd make it work if I had to ;)