guest authored by Loren Blackwood
Answering the base needs of self-expression and protection from the elements on the human form, the Judith Hendler Cocoon Cloak design competition is inspired by traditional multi-functional garments like the Caftan, Tunic, and Poncho.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The early Greek chitons, simple in construction, used two rectangle pieces of fabric; the top edge was folded away from the body, forming a flap and secured with brooches.
For thousands of years, swayed by culture and climate, societies adopted silk, wool, and cotton versions of the caftan. The sultans of the Ottoman Empire wore silk and cotton caftans embellished with gold and silver thread. The cloth often extended to the wrists, cascading full length to the ankles.
Depicted in ancient Persian art, the kaftan, a popular go-to look becomes an all-encompassing term in fashion for spacious garments. Like the traditional garments of Mexico, huipils or poncho, flowing fabric covers the body, with openings for the head and arms. The kaftan saw a resurgence in the late 1960s – ‘70s with Bohemian chic arrived in London by designer, Thea Porter. Raised in Damascus and surrounded by lavish textiles from North Africa and the Middle East, Ms. Porter created era-defining styles for the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jane Fonda, and Elizabeth Taylor. Her unique aesthetic promoted by Vogue Editor-in-chief, Diana Vreeland through the pages of Vogue magazine.
Mid-century “Fearless Fashion” designer Rudi Gernreich created body-liberating, unisex clothing. Gernreich's designs could be worn interchangeably by men or women. As an early civil rights activist, the designer defied the gender status quo.
IN THE WORLD TODAY
Traditional Senegalese kaftans, also known as Boubou, are made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and silk. They are worn throughout arid Western Africa and similar warm climates.
An over-the-head, draped garment with wide sleeves, bright Boubou textiles are imbued with prints and embroidery having symbolic meaning. Senegalese kaftan fabric is about sixty inches wide and varies in length. The textile is folded in half and marked for an opening for the head. The side seams are stitched about halfway making roomy sleeves.
COCOON CLOAK CALL FOR DESIGNERS
Judith Hendler invites community college Fashion Design students and HBAC members to create the unisex COCOON CLOAK. Use sustainable design techniques and materials to define self-expression and protection as it means to you. The age-old garment design is a blank canvas for your inspiration.
My name is Loren Blackwood, I am passionate about art, fashion design and nature. I have channeled this focus into a bachelor’s degree in Art History from University of California Irvine and the study of Fashion Design and Sustainability in the Apparel Industry from Orange Coast College. Now in my last semester at O.C.C., I have joined the team at the Huntington Beach Arts Center as a student intern. I am thrilled to be a part of this community arts and cultural center serving Huntington Beach and the Southern California region since 1995.
“Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm, come in, she said, I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.” - Bob Dylan “Shelter from the Storm”
Run in the Rain
I remember the first Centered on the Center I participated in. It might have been the first one held by the Huntington Beach Art Center. I submitted a collage made from old scrapbook materials and paint, loosely resembling an anguished face, with a scrap of lace trim that looped a foot below the plexiglass frame. I especially liked the piece, because the dangling piece somehow represented the idea of breaking out of the norm, maybe just feeling free.
I had a lot going on in my personal life at the time and putting my art out there felt a little like a naked run through the park in the rain. Vulnerable and a little ridiculous, yet at the same time daring and exciting. Despite having made art my whole life, I saw myself as just a cog working in corporate America and a mother raising two girls, but not an “artist”. Would my work be judged as ridiculous? Would the experience be embarrassing?
To be honest, I don’t remember the exact feedback – I’m sure it was all kind and included, “I love how you broke out of the frame.” But the act of showing my art to strangers and surviving to tell about it, was the act of courage which has propelled more and more of my art-making and willingness to share my art. I have submitted art to Centered on the Center ever since. This experience has given me the courage to submit to other juried shows – where sometimes I am successful and sometimes, I am not, but the best news is - I survive.
Centered on the Center Newbies
For those who have never participated, the act of displaying work in a show like Centered on the Center, is really an act of self-love, of declaring oneself an artist and of revealing one’s authentic self. It’s a chance to feel the rain against your skin and realize that you won’t melt.
Today I usually submit pieces to Centered on the Center that are different from what I have been doing – just to test the feedback. I have even been known (don’t tell anyone) to lurk several feet away from someone looking at my painting to hear what they are saying. I’m still a cog in the working world but today I am also very comfortable declaring myself an artist. I have sold pieces which is validating, but I have also come to realize that it doesn’t really matter if my work brings in thousands of dollars, or even whether my eavesdropping tells me it is good or bad. My work is my magic. It is me, and sharing that, feels like the dangling scrap of lace - freeing.
Thank You HBAC
Centered on the Center is just one of the fabulous ways the HB Art Center is supporting artists in our community – artists who call themselves artists, and those who soon will! I hope everyone supports the upcoming show. If you are an artist, a wanna-be artist, or lover of art – we also have an Artist Council that meets monthly where you will find friendly faces and kinship. Check it out!
Until then, I encourage everyone to take a run in the rain with whatever your form of expression – it’s your magic.
Welcome to the Art Center Blog, one of the exciting changes for 2021. We love talking to you and have considered many ways to entice you into a deeper dive into the arts. This column will feature different writers throughout the year, introducing our audience to new explorations in art.
As social distancing continues, our classes and exhibitions will be available online. Thursday nights will pop with lectures and demonstrations. Art for Lunch will take on a new flavor.
Opportunities for surf artists and plein air painters will arrive in the summer and fall, accompanied by outdoor workshops, historical lectures and artist talks. An Artist Council Inspired winter exhibit is the encouragement to all artists to be working now and becoming a member of the Artist Council!
This is a year to expand, to experience, to blossom and to grow. We invite you to join us on that journey.