As a collage artist, I often use fashion magazines, amongst others, as media for expression, elaboration, and embrace.
Yes, I love fashion. I cherish how colours and patterns in my wardrobe allow me to transform my mood or celebrate features of the world I love; how wearing a lavender-hued blouse can calm me, and dressed in floral fabrics, I walk as if in a garden of my own delight. I clothe myself as much for warmth and comfort, as for beauty, attraction and play.
Both the city and ethnicity I grew up in valued fashion for its aesthetic, social as well as economic benefits. A significant part of the prosperity of the Montreal Jewish community lay in its thriving textile industry, referred to endearingly as the shmata business (literally meaning rags, in Yiddish). When my paternal great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Poland during the first decade of the 20th century, their first home was in Sorel, Quebec where they learned to be trappers for the fur industry. A generation later, my father’s first job was gathering bags of leftover fabric from Montreal wholesalers and selling them to farms for a dollar a bag, sewing patterns included. Fast forward another generation and my teenage wardrobe was being generously augmented through seasonal trips to those wholesale factories owned by family and friends.
But my relationship to fashion is not all rosy. Like most women, I have been unhealthily impacted by the objectified and hypersexualized portrayals of women in fashion magazines, lured by an unattainable standard of beauty; influenced by trends, advertisers and celebrity endorsements and by my community’s blind faith in fashionable appearances. As a young woman, no matter how much I shopped, I could never keep up with the “Schwartz’s”. And despite having recently jumped a decade to 50, I am still learning to accept: I will never be as glamorous as I aspire to be.
Fortunately, the word glamorous has amorous in it, enabling me to admit my passionate and romantic attraction to clothes and their colours, textures, drape, shapes and flow. More auspiciously, according to the Bloomsbury dictionary of Word Origins, glamour is the same word as grammar and was used in the Middle Ages for ‘learning’ while the Scottish English use of glamour for grammar meant ‘enchantment’ or a ‘spell’.
Learning to see myself clearly (and dearly) while exploring the nourishing and restorative potential of enchantment—these are what draw me enthusiastically to collage. Playing with arrangements of colour, pattern, image, text and texture in two dimensional space, I seek to cast a spell, to create a world where narratives emerge and intersect and digress, invoking wondrous dream-states while inventing new mythologies of vision, power and beauty. A world in which time, memory and identities are fluid and shifting. A world where, through intuition and juxtaposition, I am free to make and keep making meanings that honour diversity, discrepancy and imperfection.