Not Just For The Eyes

by Wendy Long
16 Oct 2018

Clothes, make-up, and body modification are just starting points in the transformation to a virtual ‘artwork’. One has to cultivate the mind too. After all, artworks are not only for the eyes

Has anyone told you that “You are a work of Art”? That expression, which implies you’re immaculately presented and stand out from the crowd – like a work of Art – fascinates me. It made me think that if we developed ourselves into a ‘works of Art’, what impression will we leave our audience? Will we be able to evoke emotions and capture attention – like a fine work of Art? If we see ourselves as artists of our own lives, and our bodies as the canvas to express our thoughts, style, emotions and personalities, what will our masterpiece look like?

For that reason, I love the concept of fashion as wearable Art, as it allows you to communicate your ideas and style through fashion pieces, running the gamut from high fashion to street wear, vintage and haute couture. The way we put together a ‘look’ is an artistic expression of our taste; we can use fashion to send out subliminal messages confidence (a power suit) or classic elegance (an LBD).

Some of us put more thought into our sartorial choices than others and having been on the receiving end, more often than not, of comments like, “You are all dressed up! Where are you going?”. I like to think of fashion as an accessible art form for anyone who is interested in expressing their own emotions and ideas. We can choose to paint with watercolors or sculpt with bronze or play dress up with fashion. It’s all Art, for art’s sake, to me.

Rei Kawakubo

Fashion on its own can literally be works of art. An obvious name that comes to mind is of course iconic Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, founder of Commes Des Garçons and Dover Street Market. Her exquisite avant-garde works are truly wearable art – an amalgamation of fashion, art and architecture. If ever there was any debate or doubt on whether fashion is Art, one look at Rei’s works and everything is settled, breaking the boundaries between the two.

In fact, she was the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Costume Institute’s Spring 2017 exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Commes Des Garçons: Art of In-between, curated by Mr. Andrew Bolton, head curator of The Met’s Costume Institute.

Rei Kawakubo

It’s only the second time that the costume institute featured a living designer since their exhibition on Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. On why he chose Rei Kawakubo as the second living designer, Mr. Bolton said: “Just look at the clothes; they speak for themselves.” He should know better, having previously explored complex themes in fashion as art like The Costume Institute’s 2016 exhibition, ‘Manus vs Machina’. As Mr. Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Met once said about Bolton: “Curator Andrew Bolton will explore work that often looks like sculpture in an exhibition that will challenge our ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture.”

When I think of creating versions of ourselves as ‘works of Art’, besides fashion, as the obvious armor and canvas, the art of makeup is clearly the next obvious element in our representation of ourselves, as if we are works of art. The tools are similar too! Brushes and colour palettes, anyone? Makeup artists often extol the importance of a clean and clear complexion as it is like a ‘canvas’ for them to paint on. The face is the blank canvas for magical makeup art to happen. It’s transformative, brings out beauty, requires skills, tools and an eye for details, much like any other art forms that allow one to express creativity.  

Make up by Pat McGrath

Acclaimed British makeup artist Ms. Pat McGrath, MBE, said, “From the beginning of my career, I've used makeup as a vehicle to express my vision, my obsessions, inspirations, and addictions. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing young people recreate some of my iconic looks.”

When we work on creating our desired body shape, we are in a way sculpting it like an artist, with or without extra help (from surgeries). I think of it (exercise, diet, cosmetic surgeries) as part of body sculpting, and we all have our own visions of a desired physique that we hope to achieve.

Ever been asked “If you were a sculpture, what would you be?” I already know my answer and it has always been consistent” I would love to be like a Giacometti sculpture, all long, lean and sinewy limbs. We do not just sculpt our body, we sculpt our face too; lifting, cutting, pulling, filling – the way a bronze or marble bust is chiseled to perfection by the artist. Subconsciously, we are working on our face and body like we are a ‘work of Art’.

Sculpture by Alberto Giacometti

Of course being a ‘work of Art’ is more than just the superficial and physical. Like an engaging play, one needs personality, intelligence, wit, humor and confidence to bring an artwork to life. We need to add depth and dimension to our developmental process. The constant hunger for knowledge and self-improvement is what keeps us evolving, like an artist whose works ‘mature’ over time, and project new inspirations and ideas. The goal is not about completing the ‘artwork’ but rather to keep working on being a work of art.


Fashion by Rei Kawakubo, Makeup by Pat McGrath, Artwork by Alberto Giacometti