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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hat Girls

For lots of art students, the creative process seems to begin at the level of their own skin. Some, especially the fashion and interior design types, try to pull it together and look spiffy.

The painters and illustrators and maybe the sculptors (I don't know many sculptors) work it differently. The goal isn't always self-flattery, it's almost about creating a character. I'm thinking right now of this skinny young man with a head full of piercing shrapnel, eye makeup and dreadlocks that seem like something off a creature from Middle Earth.

The other day I was sitting through an illustration-class critique and noticed that three of my more costume-leaning classmates were wearing knit hats. It was 50 degrees outside, probably 70 degrees in the room where we sat picking apart each other's work.

I stared at them and thought about how long it would take me to become overheated if I were wearing a knit hat indoors. Five minutes? Three?

Deep inside, I still think the ideal look is a crisp button-down shirt and Hollywood trousers. You might not know it from looking at me, but my fashion default is always set to self-flattery. This is a mainstream attitude, not an art-school attitude. These art-school kids are so used to being different that they now wear it like a second skin. It's as if they figured themselves out earlier than most of us. They knew their place, and it wasn't necessarily in a button-down world.

So, no, for any number of reasons, I can't do what my dyed-in-the-handspun-wool-from-the-second-hand-store classmates do. I wish I could. Their self-designing approach is a visual wake-up call in an otherwise blandalicious world.

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