Lyn Shakespeare

Actress, singer, and comedian, Lyn Shakespeare is A One Woman Show! Entertaining, enthusiastic, and full of good vibrations, it’s impossible not to enjoy her company. And when Lyn told me she’d done stand-up comedy in Australia for several years, I was impressed. Because anyone who can make you laugh is magical. And powerful!

micky huipil b

Laughter is good for your health, both mental and physical. Laughter helps release endorphins that transform a bad mood into a good one. Laughter also decreases stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and decreases pain. A comedian is almost like a doctor!

Lyn ShakespeareLyn Shakespeare

 

But whereas laughing can loosen you up, trying to make others laugh can make you tightt. Because making people laugh is not always easy. Which is why Lyn is so amazing.

Petite and impish, Lyn reminds me of a young Judy Garland making me even more curious about her as a comedian. So I bombarded her with questions:

Lyn Shakespeare

Q: When you did stand-up, what were your jokes based on? Did you make fun of yourself  or, like Joan Rivers, make fun of others? How did you come up with your material?

Lyn: I wrote a routine about growing up with the name Shakespeare. And over the years, this became a big part of my routine. I would steal jokes and rewrite them to make them mine.  A lot of my humour definitely belongs in the “gay” arena, which is where I have had my most successful and happiest of gigs. And where I can be totally outrageous .

Lyn Shakespeare

I don’t like cruel comedy e.g. Joan Rivers, although she is as cruel about herself as she is on the public! I do remember a few times in the past “outing” people and thinking later on that I could have done better !!  And not have been sooooooo mean !! ( although they probably deserved it !! )

Observation of life is a great way to come up with comedy.  People that you meet along the way, who definitely need to be sent up !!!

Lyn Shakespeare

 Q: What was the most difficult thing about doing stand-up?

Lyn:   After performing much cabaret and always with piano player,  I realized that stand-up is a lonely beast!!  Although when it was a brilliant night and you and the audience were “one”, it was the best  of nights.  I remember one of my first gigs was when I was dressed as Jessica Rabbit ( god knows why !! ) and it was just the worst gig and as I walked off stage, my microphone was still on and I said to the stage manager “The audience hates me !! “ and then I heard the audience roar with laughter.  They had all heard my comment. Accidental humour !!

Lyn Shakespeare

Q:  Give a brief description of going to the Oscars.

Lyn: My dear friend, Mr. Cha Cha, choreographer for the films Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, and many others, had been asked to choreograph two numbers from the film Enchanted which he had choreographed as well.  He had 2 tickets  for the Oscars so I told him I was going with him!!! And, hoping to use the experience for a future skit, I wrote about our L.A. journey: Getting Ready for the Oscars, Walking the Red Carpet, Watching The Oscars, The Governor’s Ball.  The Mayhem, The Madness, The Glamour, The Scary Faces, The Amazing Night of Nights!

Lyn Shakespeare

Q : Why do you like wearing Muy Marcottage?

Lyn: The easiest of all questions. I love them. They are so theatrical. They are all individual pieces. They  are born from recycled fabrics. They are so much fun. They are created with LOVE.

Lyn Shakespeare

The  photos of Lyn wearing Muy Marcottage dresses were taken on Paros by the photographer Chiara Pilar.

Lyn Shakespeare

 

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

My Greek Retablos

There was this big white space above the stairs leading to the bedroom that used to stare at me.  I couldn’t stand the glare so I decided to stare back by creating a home gallery and had three rows of picture shelves put on it. To enclose the area, I painted it orange.  When it’s finished, I’ll call my little gallery Ikastikos (εικαστικός) which in Greek means “representative” thus a word often related to the visual arts.

Obviously, the shelves need something special so I decided to make Greek retablos.  That is, drawings that express an appreciation and expressed in Greek since we’re on Paros.  Of course, I needed the help of my Greek teacher, Katerina.

Retablos are small ex-voto paintings (generally painted on tin) made as an offering of gratitude for an answered prayer. It’s all about the  Aesthetics of Appreciaton: If you’re lucky and don’t know it, it’s like not being lucky at all. So to keep luck alive, it must be recognized. And retablos are a means of offering thanks for this luck.

cardboard retablo breeze

Having many things to be grateful for, several years ago I made a series of cardboard retablos. They were so joyful to make. Because expressing gratitude is good for your health.  It makes you more optimistic, keeps you from always rocketing around only yourself, and, if you think about what you have to be thankful for when you go to bed, helps you sleep better.  In other words, gratitude detoxes and fortifies the spirit.

 So, for my Greek retablos, I made a list of 15 things in my life worth appreciating.  One of those was about a dress. More than a dress, it’s a long huipil and so very special because it was one of three El Suavecito brought me from Mexico. On the front of the huipil are two big embroidered birds.  They are quite lovely and not something you would normally see on Paros. So often people stare at me when I wear it. Obviously I am happy to have this magical dress but the real gratitude is directed towards El Sauvecito who loved me enough to give me something he knew would give me much pleasure. Everytime I wear the huipil, I think about him.

pajaros y palomas

Sergio's dress

ευχαριστω για τη μεζικανικη φορεμα γιος μου μου εδωσε στι ο γυναικες κοιταζουν

Sergio's dress

All the Greek retablo drawings are mounted on discarded cardboard.  The frames are made from junk paper rolled into rounds glued together thus ecological as well. Because in my heart there’s constant gratitude for nature that keeps us all alive.

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

Related: Frida Kahlo and Retablos

This post is dedicated to  El Suavecito with love and tenderness.

Balcony Sewing

Balcony Sewing

Here is where I sew in the afternoon, on a balcony facing east so there’s no more need to be fearful of the sun’s aggressiveness. Because the sun is going west to paint the sky.

Sewing is an aesthetic experience. Not only does sewing please who’s sewing but it is also pleases the eye of those watching someone sew.  Otherwise, why would so many artists have used women sewing as a theme for their paintings?

Mary Cassatt Mother Sewing

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt #motherssew

 

Woman Sewing by Renoir

Woman Sewing by Pierre Auguste Renoir #seamstressvoyeur

 

William Kay Blacklock - Sewing by the River

Sewing by the River by William Kay Blacklock #sewinginpublic

 

Borrani Odoardo_Le cucitrici di camicie rosse

Le Cucitrici di Camicie Rosse (1863) by Odoardo Borrani #sewingcircle

 

Lionello Balestrieri Tutt'Art@

Signora che cuce in giardino by Lionello Balestrieri #sewinginthegarden

 

Van Gogh, Woman Sewing

Woman Sewing by Vincent Van Gogh

 

edgar degas, woman embroidering

Woman Embroidering by Edgar Degas #sewingalone

 

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

 

Related: Art of Sewing Board on Pinterest

 

 

 

Louise Bourgeois and the Venus of Lespugue

While sewing the other afternoon on my “My Name is Venus” huipil, I listened to a Marija Giambutas video to keep me in the Mother Goddess mood. Giambutas mentioned that the Venus of Lespugue, c. 25,000 year old steatopygian figurine from France, was one of her favorite Venus statues. I stopped stitching to closely look at the figurine because it reminded me so much of Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures.

 Born in France in 1911, Louise came from a family of tapestry restorers. She, too, worked with the family and learned The Aesthetics of Mending. She also learned how to sew. But her childhood was scarred by her father’s infidelities and the illness, both physical and psychological, it caused for her mother.

Our childhood follows us wherever we go and, during the last 50 years of her life, Louise externalized this childhood more and more. Because it was here she found magic, mystery, and drama.

As a young girl, she would draw the missing parts of damaged tapestry that needed to be rewoven. Louise said that spiders, too, repair.  If you try to destroy a spider’s web, the spider will weave and repair it. So even her metal spider sculptures reflected her childhood and the art of mending.

louise bourgeois spider

Standing outside of the Tate Modern at one point, Louise Bourgeois’ extraordinary sculpture, Maman (Mother), is a 30-foot-tall spider crafted of bronze, marble, and stainless steel.

 

“When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I’ve always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness. It is never aggressive, it’s not a pin.” Louise Bourgeois

When in her 80s, Louise decluttered her closet and used old clothes to make her fabric book “Ode à la bièvre”. She said “You can retell your life and remember your life by the shape, weight, colour and smell of those clothes in your close.”  In other words, clothes are part of our identity.

Foto of Louise by Duane Michaels, 2007 and foto of , Diane of Ephesus

 

Louise also used her old clothes for her “Cell” series as well as for her breast  outfits  obviously inspired by Diana of Ephesus figurines.  These outfits in turn inspired fashion designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan, and Simone Rocha.

louise and rei

Louise Bourgeois and Rei Kawakubo duet

Louise called her  1960s and 1970s sculptures “bodyscapes” because : “The sculptures were a second skin that I wanted to model. Clothes are as much about what  you want  to hide of the body as what you want to expose. This is a form of communication. Body language is very important to me and it is true that there is beauty in distortion.”

 

The Venus of Lespugue and Louise Bourgeois’ Nature Study (2004)

The more I look at Louise’s fabric sculptures, the more I’m convinced that she was in some way inspired by Venus figurines. Such as that of Lespugue which has found a home at the Musee di l’Homme in Paris, dates the Gravettian period and was carved from mammouth ivory. It was discovered in the Rideaux cave of Lespugue (Pyrenees) in 1922, just 11 years after Louise was born.  As with Louise’s sculptures, the female sexual characteristics such as hips and breast are exaggerated.

I had a space on my My Name is Venus huipil  (99 Art Project) and knew it was meant for the Lespugue figurine.

Venus of Lespugue sketch in sketchbook and on huipil

Venus of Lespugue work in progress front and back

 

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

Work in Progress

My Name is Venus” huipil for the 99 Arts Project work-in-progress!

Before and After

This is the back panel of the huipil first with just the drawing then with appliquéd fabric scraps (which I have plenty of) added for the background. This helps me use materials I already have, use less embroidery thread which is expensive and not that easy to find here, as well as makes blocking in the huipil much easier.

Looking at some of the scraps makes me smile—there’s fabric from my man’s old boxers as well as from a shirt his kids came him for his birthday years ago.  There’s also fabric from a dress Kerry gave me as well as from a dress Gayle gave me.  The black is from the lining of a skirt Marina gave me.  It is already a kind of Memory Huipil.

I wish I had saved some of the clothes my son and daughter wore as little kids so that I could cut them up and piece them into a huipil. Or that I had my mother’s favorite red and white  polka dress she used to wear so much. Or even my old doll clothes.  All of these fabrics would have been fantastic for a Memory Huipil where you wear fabric souvenirs of someone important in your life.

My Name is Venus

And this represent a figurine from Naqada.

Here is a before & after of the figurine from Mesopotamia.

Again, the figurine from Mesopotamia.  The first foto is that of the backside. And the second foto shows the yellow threads that unite the white fabric pieced together to act as a canvas for the threads.

My Name is Venus

Mesopotamian Figurine

Unfortunately, sewing becomes addictive and today I must find the discipline to break away from my huipil for household chores!

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa  ©

 

 

Piecing the Huipil

And the 99 Art Project continues!

 

Pictured above is a lovely amuzgo huipil dress my son gave me several years ago.  It fits well so I used its measurements to make a cardboard template for my own huipiles.  Also indicated on the template is where to cut off for a blouse as opposed to a dress length huipil.

 

As I posted HERE, my huipiles begin with other people’s old clothes.  First I cut the clothes up into big pieces then sew them together to get the same proportions as that of my template.

 

To make sure I’m maintaining the right measurements, I use clothes pins to attach the pieced cloth to the template. As you can see from the first foto, I needed to add a long strip of fabric on the right. The other foto shows front and back now completely pieced together.

V Neck

I prefer a V-neck so I cut out the necessary fabric before continuing.

 

Once the front and back are properly pieced together, using my original sketches as a guide, I draw the images onto the fabric with a fabric pen. I’m not afraid of making mistakes but maybe it would be better to use color chalk instead as making corrections is easier that way.

 

Spaces are left below the images for titles. Finally, the stitching can begin!

The huipiles I make are thus called because they share the same basic pattern as those made in Central America. My huipiles also share the philosophy that clothes and wearer live, at least temporarily, in symbiosis. However, true huipiles are made by indigenous women who are continuing a tradition handed down to them by their ancestors. They have my total respect and admiration. And if it were possible, I would buy them by the tons. Unable to do so, I collect fotos of them that I add to my Pinterest collection.  Unfortunately, many well-known designers have inappropriately appropriated indigenous designs as I’ve written about here: Inspiration or Appropriation?

 

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa ©

Even Clothes Tell Stories

My journey with the 99 Art Project continues:

White Clothes on a Chair

This is my shirt.  It may seem like just a pile of white clothing but it is really a shirt waiting to be made. I rarely buy clothes  preferring, instead, to remake those I already have or those discarded by my friends. There are various reason why I do this.  To begin with, I grew up during a time when it was not  uncommon for women to make clothes for themselves and their family.  My mom, for example, made many of my dresses when I was a child.  She even made the wedding dress for my Aunt Ruby as well as the bridesmaid’s dress and my flower girl dress, a dress that made me feel like a little princess.

she’d made dresses for the wedding

There is also the ecological and ethics factor.  The fashion industry not only consumes an incredible amount of natural resources, it is also one of the major producers of toxic waste. The industry is also guilty of creating immoral sweatshop conditions for many of their workers. Just think of the 1,100 garment workers crushed to death when the factory in Bangladesh were they worked collapsed on them.

the building was falling on them

But  there is also a more romantic and magical reason. Our clothing absorbs the vibrations we emit thus wearing others’ clothing is like wearing their energy as well.

Just as a song or a smell can evoke a personal memory, so can clothes. White polka dots on red always make me think of a dress my mother used to wear.

If clothes could talk, what would they say?

his shirt remembered her dress

And of course there is the pleasure reward  that positive transformation always gives us. Transforming old clothes, as opposed to using ex-novo materials, means working around what’s already there. But restyling takes patience and skills I don’t have so I use an Ockham’s Razor approach—the simplest way is the best.  The simplest way for me has been that of using the huipil as a model.  The huipil, traditional blouse in Central America, is basically a rectangular piece of cloth folded in half with a slit in the center for the neck and side seams that leave an opening for the arms. So for my huipiles, it’s just a matter of piecing together cut up clothes to make a rectangle.

her huipil made her the center of the universe

The  huipil, of Mayan origin, was not considered just a garment but also a representation of personal ideology. The Mayans believed that clothing could transform a person just as a person could transform clothing, the two existing in symbiosis.

Mayans gave their huipiles a cosmic significance. Having the head placed in the very centre of the fabric has specific implications. When a woman places a huipil over her head, she enters a symbolic universe. As she sticks her head through the hole, she emerges into the external world and her body becomes the axis of the universe. She is the centre of the world connecting the earth and the sky.

she united earth and sky

The women participating in the 99 Art Project are not geographically united.  They come from various cultures and various nationalities.  Nevertheless, they are united in their womanhood.

Even though this concept we call democracy was invented over 2,500 years ago, women worldwide have been given the right to vote only within the past 100 years (more or less depending upon the country they’re from).  This means that the societies created in these 2,400 years or more have been based totally and exclusively  upon male mentality and male domination.  This is a crime against nature.

she touched his brain and he touched hers

Just as the brain is divided into two for reasons of efficiency, two sexes were created. They were made not to compete but to complement one another.  Instead, we live in a masculinized society that promotes dominance as opposed to collaboration. To impair this collaboration not only goes against nature but against our future. Because  this lack of balance has created not only a society that limps, but a society that’s on the verge of self-destruction. We need a more maternal attitude towards the world we live in if we want to survive thus the theme I’ve chosen for my 99 Art Project is that of the Great Mother.

Mal Oo

Cynthia Korzekwa ©