The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk in Dallas

Jean Paul Gaultier has always had an open-minded view of society; exploring and investigating ideas with a grand sense of humor.

Gaultier started his career in 1970 at age 18 as an assistant to Pierre Cardin, and more recently he has been the creative director of Hermès from 2003 to 2010. Gaultier is known for using unconventional models for his exhibitions like full-figured, older women, and tattooed models as well as conventional models. This is partly why he’s so recognizable and popular as a designer. He has said, “In life, I like the blemishes, scars, emotions of the skin, of the flesh, of movement—everything that is human.” I think he has a special eye to view the beauty of life. He has also said, “Women become beautiful once they become forty.”
Walking slowly through the Dallas Museum of Art I could hear the soundtrack of Gaultier’s life playing through his six themed rooms: “The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier,” “Boudoir,” “Skindeep,” “Punk Cancan,” “Urban Jungle,” and “Metropolis.” These six rooms feature approximately 130 ensembles from his couture collections.

I imagine his playlist might include some Boy George, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Amy Winehouse, the soundtrack to Nine and some Cole Porter Anything Goes.

Porter’s lyrics to Anything Goes couldn’t be more parfait for Gaultier!

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes.

Entering the energetic atmosphere there are thirty life-like mannequins to great you in first room “The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier” including a mannequin of the “bad boy sailor” Gaultier himself speaking, “Hello, welcome, I am Jean Paul Gaultier. I am very happy to receive you here in the Dallas Museum of Art. Enjoy the show.

I love his choice of real everyday looking women with unusual faces for his cutting edge talking mannequins. He wants for people to see everyone’s beauty. He thinks of fashion as a game and does not call his work “art.” He says, “My job is to make clothes that have to be worn.” I think Gaultier is being humble to not call his couture creations “art”…oui, bien sûr it’s art!

It is such a pleasant treat that more and more museums are welcoming fashion. Dallas has been in the lime light twice now. It was just a few years ago that SMU welcomed Spanish designer Balenciaga. In 2008, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted the Chanel exhibition and more recently the MET also featured Alexander McQueen’s designs.

Although Gaultier says he doesn’t think about a certain time period for his inspiration, he can make you feel like you just stepped back in time or into the future like he did in  The Fifth Element movie.

Museum visitors feels like they could be in the Belle Époque period about to run into Toulouse Lautrec painting Jane Avril doing the cancan. Then he takes the audience to Amsterdam’s red light district in the “Boudoir” room. A cigarette seemed an appropriate thing to have after being in the “Boudoir” and “Skindeep” rooms… et voila, many of the mannequins were holding cigarettes in the next room smoking for the audience on a moving runway oval platform. It’s as if he wanted us to feel the experience and I can just imagine him saying in his French accent, you just had some naughty fun in Amsterdam and now I’m bringing you the 80s London punk scene and then onward to the "Urban Jungle."

My Ukrainian friend found herself drawn to a dress that was a Tribute to Ukraine. The stunning dress took 242 hours to create.
After seeing The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  it is certain that Gaultier speaks to all kinds of women. His attitude is that fashion is for everyone. He is playful, whimsical, provocative and imaginative.

What I love about Jean Paul Gaultier is that, like a Picasso, he is easily distinguishable . His style is unapologetic, has good humor, and combines couture with culture.

His artsy, chic, and fashion forward grandmère was his first muse. He played in her closet and was fascinated with the discovery of the corset and wearing underwear as outerwear. He would watch his eclectic grandmother sip vinegar to make herself gasp and contract her stomach muscles and then cinch her corset tighter.

He has been inspired by the streets of London punk music scene, Paris, Folies Beregere, but it was the 40s movie Falbalas that made him want to become a designer. Old movies and showgirls also evoked his passion for fashion.

My mom sent me his first corset bottle perfume when I was in college in 1993 at the University of Alabama. My sorority sisters in the Bible belt couldn’t believe I had such a naughty bottle in my room. The bottle oozed sex! That’s what I mean about Gaultier being unapologetic; his style is “in your face” unique with a side of sex.

He’s had many a famous muse throughout his career: Catherine Deneuve, Helen Mirren, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Madonna, Charlotte Rampling…to name a few.

Madonna’s costumes for the 1990 “Blond Ambition" tour was one of the highlights of the exhibition.

Gaultier has always had a thing for sailor stripes; the stripes portray his bad boy “enfant terrible” image perfectly. A name he earned in the 70s for his first fashion show because of his tendency in challenging the then common views of fashion by reworking them exhaling into them the breath of his own ideas.

He’s inspired by movement and does a lot of design for ballet. Most recently he designed costumes for Angelin Preljocaj’s Snow White ballet and his motivation from the movie The Black Swan can be identified in his pieces in the Fall 2011 couture collection.

Dallas has much to be proud of and we have been extremely lucky to debut Gaultier’s show as one of only two U.S. A. stops. After the show ends in Dallas (February 12th), it will travel to San Francisco.  

Jean Paul Gaultier has definitely made his mark on what fashion is today. The Dallas Museum of Art honors him with a tribute to life. C'est Magnifique!     

Bei mir bist du schön: means ‘American Ballet Theatre’ is grand

One of the most beautiful sights you can see in a theatre is the American Ballet Theatre in a live performance. ABT is the country’s oldest surviving ballet company, but the word ‘old’ doesn’t suit ABT. This past weekend the company displayed an exciting mix of traditional and avant-garde in Dallas’ performance.  It was a HUGE honor for Dallas to be graced with their appearance at the Winspear Opera House. After all, it was thirty years ago that they last visited us; so this was an event not to be missed.
We were so lucky to watch the ABT greats of the last several decades including Julie Kent, Paloma Herrera, Misty Copeland, and Jared Matthews. American Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie (former Principal Dancer) keeps the company current with an inspired variation of contemporary and classic pieces.
I must admit, I’m a little obsessed with Julie Kent. I think she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world and knowing that she’s the mother of two and forty-three is enough to make me want to bow down and raise my arms up and down.  
I think most people hear ABT and think Swan Lake, Giselle, and Sleeping Beauty but ABT does progressive contemporary ballets oh so well. It feels fresh and right to see a classical ballet company dancing modern. Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Martha Clarke, Merce Cunningham are just some of the modern choreographers that have worked with ABT. 
Company B has the zippy feel of the 1940s with the swinging lindy and fast-paced polka. Listening to the Andrew Sisters brings back the spirit and hopefulness that Americans had during World War II. ABT danced to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Tico-Tico, Bei Mir Bist Du Schön … Paul Taylor originally created Company B for Houston Ballet in 1991. The audience was swaying along with the dancers as they moved to the Andrew Sisters, even singing along…
I could say bella, bella, even say wunderbar
Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are
I've tried to explain, bei mir bist du schoen
So kiss me, and say you understand
Also on the ABT bill was another modern pioneer, Merce Cunningham who choreographed a set of charming Duets for six couples back in 1980. Duets mesmerized the audience with their abstract but balletic and playful movements. The bold colors of the costumes and movements had a clarity and preciseness that kept the delighted audience thoroughly engaged during the John Cage electronic drumming music.
In Duets, each couple related to one another in a gentle but exacting manner. Watching their bodies, I felt like they had on point shoes because their lines were long and their length kept building with the percussion of the music. The music made me imagine South Africa but the dance style reminded me of Ireland because the arms laid low and the focus was on the power of the lower half. I loved the end when all six duets returned to the stage in a fiery rush of controlled chaos.
I’ve always been fascinated that Merce Cunningham worked without music first. True to Cunningham’s form, the piece Duets was rehearsed without music and to keep the ABT dancers on their ‘modern’ toes, the music was mixed into eight variations so they wouldn’t get in the habit of predicting the music. Merce Cunningham only recently passed away in 2009 so it was a lovely tribute to him and helps keep his dance alive.
Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas is what most people imagine contemporary ballet to be…free, flowey, and fresh. The pure white costumes matched the emotion of the piece. I found myself leaning into the stage and moving toward the dancers. The pianist, Barbara Bilach, was on stage with the dancers and only increased the mood. You can’t beat live music.
Alexei Ratmansky (artist in residence) choreographed this beautiful piece that made the audience gasp with delight. It was delicate and flirtatious. Julie Kent played the perfect coquet as she teased Alexandre Hammoudi then abandoned him on stage. He kept looking back to see if she was watching him dance. When she reappeared, she pointed to him and he shook his head yes. The art of flirtatious gesturing made Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas my favorite performance of the night.
Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux from the 1960s was breathtaking with the lovely Paloma Herrera. She is faster that a jackrabbit. Tchaikovsky’s music was originally meant for Swan Lake and this Pas de Deux is a little treasure that almost never happened due to a cast away Tchaikovsky piece.
With ballet, everything is up, light, and effortless; modern dance is the opposite, with everything being grounded into the Earth. To have ballet dancers dance modern was a pleasure for the eyes as well as the soul. As with everything, you must go down to go up. Classical modern is my favorite style, it’s just beautiful! I really admire the ABT dancers in this performance because it is exceedingly challenging to switch from ballet to modern in the same show.
As the audience retired, the Andrew Sisters song, “I Can Dream, Can’t I” happily stuck in our heads…For dreams are just like wine, and I am drunk with mine. Thank you ABT, for the pleasure of leaving the Winspear intoxicated by the champagne of ballet. Please don’t wait another thirty years to return. Bei mir bist du schön!

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome...with Children

When I take my children to the museum, I wing it. I think it’s almost better to not have a plan and just have the attitude that you’re going to see what you can see as long as the kids can last. I love to be led by my children and see what artwork they gravitate toward. 
My mom and I recently took my son and daughter to the Kimbell Art Museum’s Caravaggio exhibit. Caravaggio and his followers in Rome was one of those monumental exhibits that was a must see before it ended.  The fifty plus paintings were shown exclusively at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and Fort Worth’s Kimbell. It was only the third exhibit of Caravaggio’s work ever displayed in the United States. It was amazing to see so many of his paintings together since only about seventy-five exist.

Caravaggio (1571-1610) was an Italian artist who created for private collectors in Rome. His paintings have a way of telling a story with everyday people that even children can be curious about. The dramatic funny faces, card games, and dreamy look of his characters draw you in and make you wonder… "are they like me?" He also painted many religious scenes of beheadings and blood that my mom and I quickly viewed then went onward to baby Jesus. Caravaggio’s realistic paintings of interesting facial expressions made my children laugh out loud.
Simon Vouet’s theatrical response to Caravaggio’s Gypsy Fortune Teller  The Fortune Teller, 1620

We saw many children viewing the Caravaggio exhibit with their parents. Not all museums are child friendly. Lucky for us, there are many museums in the United States that are. There is usually a hands-on kid’s area in most museums in America. You really can’t say the same for museums in Europe.  How nice for my family that we have two very child friendly art museums in the North Texas area, the Dallas Museum of Art and Kimbell Art Museum. Both museums have family festival events and encourage young children to come explore art-making activities, see live performances, and simply make the museum a happy place that children will want to visit again and again. The Kimbell has a family fun day event coming up February 18th.
When visiting a museum with young children and there are too many tall adults blocking the art, parents have an unwritten permission to cop-a-squat with their little one in the front and see art from their perspective. I liked asking my children questions to get them to think out loud. I asked them: Is that man grumpy or happy? What game are they playing? Can you find an animal? I notice that children always recognize other children their age. My little boy would point and say, “Look Mommy, there’s a kid like me” and “Mommy, they’re playing cards.”

 Kimbell's own CaravaggioThe Cardsharps, 1595

I have always felt museums to be powerful learning environments that give children opportunities to explore, observe and experience art. Children get to choose what to look at, and they leave with the pictures stored in their heads. The memories they created are filed for future reference. Museum experiences help provide children with knowledge and understanding of the world all while gaining an appreciation for art.
Today we can see many different settings in which there is an attempt to morph into a museum. A real museum experience to me should be in a real museum, not like those efforts you may see in a fair-like setting.
When I visit an exhibit, I’m always amazed that no two paintings are exactly alike. There may be a change of light or seasons… I think of Claude Monet and how he experimented with light. It’s fascinating to me how each of his paintings, similar though they may be, have a different feeling or warmth to them.

The Kimbell houses my favorite Henri Matisse, L'Asie, 1946
Looking for inspiration? Here’s a list of children’s books about art and going to the museum:
Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy at the Museum
Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer
Arlene Boehm’s Jack in Search of Art
Lisa Jobe Carmack’s Philippe in Monet's Garden
Elaine Clayton’s Ella's Trip to the Museum
Don Freeman’s Norman the Doorman
Jacqueline P. Weitzman’s You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum
Cristina Bjork’s Linnea in Monet's Garden

Nina Laden’s When Pigasso Met Mootisse

The Kimbell houses one of my favorite Matisse paintings that I always look forward to revisiting when I’m there. I loved sharing it with my children for the first time. When we left the Kimbell, they yelled out, “Bye Matisse, we’ll see you later!” And…we will!