Music and Film

Dir En Grey 2019 Tour: Music And The Power Of Vulnerability

I recently had the opportunity to get out of town and see one of my favorite bands, Dir En Grey, live in concert. I do not possess any musical talent or skill myself, but am a huge music appreciator. What I look for in bands is the ability to be diverse and work in a variety of styles while still staying true to their own unique creative expression, and Dir En Grey is one of the best examples of this I can think of. Each of their albums has its own distinct sound and story, and they can move between beautiful, melodic, and soothing and intense, hard, and aggressive seamlessly within the same song. I went into this experience with no expectations, just excited to hear a band I have enjoyed since late high school live. I never dreamed I would be so emotionally moved by an experimental metal band, or that I would leave with such a much-needed refill of artistic inspiration, a spark lit that caused me to reflect on my own life as both an artist and as simply a human being. The key to this connection was vulnerability.

The name of the tour was “This Way To Self Destruction“, and throughout the performance singer Kyo was playing a character that you could see slowly self destructing until their brand new, epic 10 minute song “World of Mercy” played at the end. The movements and miming, dance, and entrancing images played on the screen behind the band were so emotive that though the lyrics were in Japanese I could still understand exactly what each song was conveying.

Many of the band’s lyrics deal with depression, suicidal ideation, isolation, hopelessness, and anxiety, their art revolving around a lot of darker themes and imagery. However, the approach they use doesn’t glorify or romanticize negative emotions, but instead lays bare the things we all experience to some degree and asks us why there is so much greed, hatred, struggle, betrayal, and immorality in our society. Why is our world so hard to survive in? This raw honesty and straightforward, no-bullshit communication through their music is what makes them stand out, especially coming from a culture like that of their home country of Japan where transparency and public displays of emotion and opinion are more repressed and often considered inappropriate.

My friend Joannah, whom I attended with and who actually is a musician herself, posted this favorite quote of hers from 2007 before the show. For context, Kyo was asked in an interview ‘Is the purpose of Dir en Grey to disturb and unsettle your audience rather than simply to entertain?’

Maybe neither. I hate entertainment, but I’m not trying to disturb either: what I’m trying to do onstage is express the pain and frustration we all feel in life but also to look beyond it at a different world without that. If you’ve always lived in the light, then you won’t know what darkness is, and if you’ve only experienced happiness, then you can’t recognize real sorrow. You have to experience all of life to be truly alive.”

Just as their music moves back and forth from intense screams to melodic vocals and instrumentals, their ruminations on the burden of life are not without hope.

As a creator myself, I believe vulnerability is an inseparable entity from the creative process. Connecting with your viewers, watchers, or listeners requires honesty. One of my favorite TED Speakers, PHD Research Professor and Author Brene Brown, talks a lot about the power of vulnerability. I’d encourage you to take some time to watch her talk; it’s life changing.

I will leave you with another quote from Kyo,

“I think everyone has bad experiences and things they don’t want to say and I think there is meaning in letting it out.”

I’m definitely going to do a painting based on one of these photos. Any recommendations readers???

 

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know: Fashion Is Danger.

I am an odd mix of being that very low maintenance person (I wake up 30 minutes before I have to be out the door in the morning, 15 for looking pretty 15 for eating breakfast) who is super into fashion and style. I’ve mentioned before, I seriously considered going into fashion design earlier in life, before I discovered that sewing machines were not my friend. In 4th grade, I even started a fashion club amongst a group of friends. We all hated sports, and would stay indoors at recess to work on our magazine featuring all original hand drawn designs. Any group correspondence would be typed in Wingdings font in the computer lab to avoid trade secrets escaping before the next volume of our zine was published.

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Not to be confused with this coexisting 1990s era fashion club. ❤ Daria

Though I’m an artsy person, people are generally surprised when they find out how interested in fashion I actually am. I went in blind for a roommate freshman year of college, and got assigned to a girl who actually tevoed America’s Next Top Model and saved it to watch incognito the weekends I went home so I wouldn’t know, because she, I quote, was afraid I would judge her. Until I found out, that is, and was like nah, I watch that show too. Then viewings became a roomie ritual. I’ve honestly never understood why fashion gets downgraded into the position of being a shallower art form. Fashion turns people into living, breathing, sculptures. Yes, aesthetically inspiring clothes aren’t a necessity to life, but is the newest smartphone really either? Plenty of things people create aren’t nessecary, but why live like cavemen or puritans? If something brings joy or interest or the ability for self expression to another’s life, then that’s reason enough for its creation.

Due to my sewing machine phobia, my one stint in the fashion world was at a discount bridal shop. I didn’t know the difference between an empire and an a-line, I had the audacity to suggest a full figured client try a mermaid dress, I don’t get mushy about weddings, and I’m fairly certain my manager had a voodoo doll of me hiding somewhere in her desk. So, I’ve stuck to being an appreciator, and my own personal stylist. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorites out there in the fashion world, true artists all.

That is, after this short Flight of the Conchords video from which I ripped the stunning title of this post.

 

Mana – Moi-même-Moitié

I went through an intense period of obsession with Japanese visual Kei bands. For those of you unaware of what that is, you are not alone, and never fear! I am here to educate you. Visual Kei has been a pretty big subculture in Japan since the 80s, and bands have a personal aesthetic and performance style characterized by heavy makeup, elaborate hairstyles and costumes, and androgynous aesthetics – all good things in my book. The most famous is Mana of bands Malice Mizer and Moi Dix Mois. In addition to being quite the guitarist, he is also a fashion designer. His brand, Moi-même-Moitié, was a major force in popularizing the gothic lolita clothing style in Japan. He is famous for modeling his own designs and not speaking in public, like at all. I have to say, I admire his self awareness – Guess what, I want to get to wear all the cool stuff I make, so I’m going to model it. Other times I’ll just wear a suit, depends on my mood. You know what else? Talking to most people is a complete bore, so guess what? Not gonna do it. If you look at all into the history of fashion, many things that are now considered women’s styles started out as men’s styles and vice versa. For all those who get their panties in a bunch over that sort of thing, it’s all just long term fads that then create social norms, and it will change again.

Alexander McQueen

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McQueen is so well known and revered in the fashion world that to have him on this list seems too obvious, but I couldn’t help myself. The surrealism! The whimsy! The kaleidoscope reptile printed fabric!

New York Couture

All of this handmade apparel by New York Couture on etsy looks like it was designed by a 6 year old, then skillfully handcrafted and I love it. Sadly, it’s a bit out of my price range but were I a rich woman, I would rock that owl dress at every occasion.

Madeline Stuart

This inspirational model is 18 years old and wants to change the world. As a professional model with down syndrome, she wants to change the conversation around disability and beauty, and help people to realize that “down syndrome is a blessing, something to be celebrated”. This awesome lady is certainly without limitation, and has already accomplished so much at her young age. She has walked in New York Fashion week, and is the face of cosmetics company Glossigirl. I’m digging the Ariel themed dress.

Role Models Not Runway Models

Carrie Hammer began her Role Models Not Runway Models campaign to highlight women who shake up the traditional images of beauty we are used to seeing on runways, and who are known for more than just being gorgeous (which of course, they all are). They are activists, disability advocates, doctors … In most runway shows, the women are supposed to recede into the background and let the clothes speak. Carrie Hammer was brave enough to let women with stories model her clothing, knowing that their voices would enhance, not detract from her creations. You can visit the above link to meet all of her amazing models.

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“Fashion is so close in revealing a person’s inner feelings and everybody seems to hate to lay claim to vanity so people tend to push it away. It’s really too close to the quick of the soul.” – Stella Blum

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” – Virginia Woolf

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” – Bill Cunningham

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New Work

New WIP, and Building An Army

I started a new conceptual portrait, this time involving stars and space imagery which I haven’t used a lot in the past – time to retire the flowers and forests for a bit. I am also going to be adding touches of art nouveau, one of my absolute favorite design periods. I’m not certain what main accent colors I will be using with the black and white as of yet, but I’m leaning towards navy and gold, we shall see. The tilted downward angle of the face is certainly more challenging then the classical head and shoulders portrait, but after much erasing, success! Even practiced artists are in love with erasers.

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When I need a break from the more technical, detailed work, I’ve been having fun growing my little army of wooden dolls – currently two strong. Who am I kidding, painting those tiny little clothing patterns and facial features on wood with a couple-hairs wide paint brush is still technical and detailed :P. I have always loved the simple cuteness of Japanese kokeshi dolls, and I wanted to try my hand at designing my own take on them. I figured wood would be easiest to paint with acrylics, so I perused the wood crafts aisle at Michaels after teaching a class one day and found 2 bags of shapes, one conveniently labeled “heads”, the other “bodies”. What luck! It doesn’t get much easier than that. Along with glue, I ran a heavy toothpick through the partial hole in the bottom of the head and the top of the body for extra support. This would be a really fun project to do with kids as well. You could even glue on small googly eyes, and some yarn for 3-dimensional hair, cut pieces of fabric or patterned paper to glue over the body, some small buttons down the front … the possibilities are endless. I will post pictures of their friends once I finish some more, promise! I will also keep you updated on the new portrait. Have a great start to the week everyone!

Pretty simple supplies ... it's all in how you decorate them!

Pretty simple supplies … it’s all in how you decorate them!

Two of my non-handmade modern kokeshi dolls

Two of my non-handmade modern kokeshi dolls

Each of them just has to have SOMETHING on her head. Yes, that is a real acorn on the left, brushed gold and sealed. I was on a hike and quite literally exclaimed to my boyfriend, "They look like mini hats!!!" and started frantically collecting as many as possible. I knew they would come to good use one day!

Each of them just has to have SOMETHING on her head. Yes, that is a real acorn on the left, brushed gold and sealed. I was on a hike and quite literally exclaimed to my boyfriend, “They look like mini hats!!!” and started frantically collecting as many as possible. I knew they would come to good use one day!

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Art Discussion

Art Discussion – Legacy

Legacy, 11x14 Prismacolor Pencil

Legacy, 11×14 Prismacolor Pencil

Today, I wanted to unpack a piece from my conceptual portraits series I’ve been working on since beginning of last year, titled “Legacy”.

The script scrolling from her head at the top right reads “I fear being ordinary most of all”. For this piece, I had been thinking a lot about how many decisions we make are rooted in a fear of mortality. We fear that once we are gone it won’t matter… we will have left nothing behind to be remembered by. We long to be KNOWN for something, to be successful at something, for others to know our name. Sometimes we don’t even care if what we are noted for is positive or not, just as long as our existence is eye-catching and out of the ordinary and commands fame and astonishment for good reasons or for terrible. LIke Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. Everything we do, in the relationships we build, the work and pleasure we choose, is leading towards a legacy we hope to build and the perception by which we will be remembered. I used the repeated pattern of the skull and grave markers on her clothing as a motif symbolizing mortality. You will also notice the burning city in the background at the bottom of the composition, which she turns away from smiling, so inwardly focused that she takes no notice of the external destruction.

I have always been interested in masks, mainly because I am interested in almost any form of art that involves faces. Masks can also symbolize so many different things. They can symbolize falseness, pretense, anonymity, invisibility, the concealment of sins. But, they can also symbolize celebration, personal expression, the fact that human beings are flexible and multi-faceted and shades of grey – not black and white, and the power we have over who we want to be in our own story. I am especially drawn to the aesthetic of Japanese Kabuki and Noh masks, two forms of classical Japanese musical drama that involve masks and elaborate costumes to aid in telling the story. In Noh, each mask symbolizes a different type of character. For the background of this piece, I chose to tile the demon character mask (destructive, powerful) alternating with the traditional woman mask (usually symbolizing a character who is beautiful, refined, elegant, and demure). This symbolizes the interplay between a person’s two choices (or more accurately, what we perceive as our only two options). Too often we think that the only way to get ahead, be noticed, be outstanding, is to forgo our ideals and do what is best for ourselves and ourselves only. Those who make history do tend to have an awful lot of skeletons in their closet. But does doing what is right condemn us to having to play the role of the mouse smiling and curtsying in the corner? I’d ask you to also look to history (Think of Martin Luther King Jr., the most well known example!) and see that no, that is certainly not the case.

It is always interesting to hear others’ thoughts. Who are some of your favorite notable figures who broke the societal assumption of power and success being inseparable from selfishness and violence? What kind of legacy do you want your existence to build?

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