Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joui Turandot

This week, Arteaser takes a slightly different turn, looking at the art-inspired clothing of Joui Turandot. Each of Turandot's collections of one-of-a-kind apparel take inspiration from a different fellow artist.

If creativity were genetic, Joui Turandot's chromosomes would probably have the relevant combination. A native of Sacramento, Turandot's grandfather, Jean Varda, was a collage artist in Sausalito, while her grandmother had a degree in fashion design and became an abstract painter and art therapist:

"[My grandmother] had always lots of paints around because that was her job. She'd always set me up with an easel and I'd just be painting away or drawing or whatever. She was very encouraging of my artistic expression"

Turandot's creative instincts did not stop with painting and drawing. With the support of her family, Turandot was involved in a range of arts and crafts as a child, including theater, singing, music, and sewing:

"Puffy paints came into my world and so I started puffy painting on my shirts and things. Then a couple years later it seemed like maybe I was deft enough to be able to handle a sewing machine [...] Other kids were doing sports and I was in sewing class"

Designing and making clothes captured Turandot's imagination and she was deeply involved at an early age:

"In high school I was making all my own clothes practically and I was sure I was going to be a fashion designer, but [...] it seemed like such an awful world to be in [...] it just had this community that I wasn't excited about."

Opting for balance, Turandot attended Mills College, getting a degree in Media Studies and Spanish. Meanwhile, she stopped designing apparel, finding some creative release in collage, but struggling with her instincts to create clothes:

"It was always kind of sad for me. I'd see other people [sewing and think,] 'Oh, I should be doing that', but I felt like I couldn't because there was this huge mental block for me [...] There's kind of a snobbery towards people doing clothing in the art world [...] It has this reputation for being really artificial. "

After college, Turandot worked in video media and documentary film, but lacked the enthusiasm to go above and beyond. Then, a friend producing a film asked her to work as a stylist:

"It woke something up in me. I was working with a woman who was creating some of the costumes and I [...] just started getting that hunger again"

The film project led to stylist work for commercials and photo shoots, but Turandot still felt unfulfilled:

"It was not very satisfactory because there's no artistic expression - you essentially just have to do what they say"

After some soul searching, Turandot arrived at creating clothing from recycled things, which resolved some of the conflict Turandot felt about the wastefulness of the clothing industry. A visit to an exhibit in New York further inspired her sense of depth in clothing art:

"This woman had done a colonial outfit [...] but all the fabrics were african print [...] That made an impression on me [...] I would like to do more work in that sense [...] because clothing is such a political thing both historically and even now."

Turandot then created the clothing-line Vagadu and created collections based on art by Jean Varda, Rex Flodstrom, and Kara Maria. Going forward, she hopes to collaborate more closely with artists and their works in process:

"I'm always just interested to push it [...] I'm interested too see how much more expressive we can be and make up some interchange with the artist"

Meanwhile, Turandot plans events to show her work either worn by models or "performed" by dancers. Displaying her work with dancers adds a tertiary level of creativity:

"I love collaborating with different artist and I love what they bring with it. Having dancers and having them pretty much freely choose how they go about interpreting [...] it's great because there's my vision, there's their vision, and there's the art itself"

Some could view the functional nature of clothing as limiting, but Turandot embraces it as a medium both for what the wearer can add to the piece and the balance between material and form:

"To have them on the body [...] it really tells much more of the story and it becomes alive. This static piece becomes a living thing [... W]hat's kind of great about clothing [is] you can go crazy with the fabric, but then the form itself has to be kind of defined"

The Arteaser Calendar will keep you posted on any upcoming events featuring Joui Turandot's art. In the meantime, you can follow her on her blog.

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