January 27, 2015

Don’t be shy at making a body of work: Fashion Designer Maria Pinto at 37th CreativeMornings in Chicago

Fashion Designer Maria Pinto (left) spoke at the first 2015 gathering of the Chicago chapter of the CreativeMornings community on January 23. She was interviewed, on stage, by CreativeMornings/Chicago Host Kim Knoll of Knoed Creative.(1)

This date happens to coincide with creative icons born during the week, notably: David Lynch, Paul Cezanne, and Francis Bacon. Selected quotes from each on creativity are interwoven into this write-up.

Body of work

Pinto gave frequent emphasis to art, stemming from her studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. This emphasis also related directly to her reunion with painting. Her connection with art is crucial to her process of conceiving and executing a new fashion collection. I recalled my binge watching of “Project Runway” episodes. In this reality-TV series, the finalists complete a fashion collection—a process that to a fashion designer is like writing a novel to a writer. It is a seamless, compelling narrative, without potholes—or “little bastards” as Pinto labeled—fracturing the aesthetic flow. A fashion collection is a vision realized. Its process is a tightrope. In regards to fashion—the clothes and culture, Pinto evoked the words “instinct,” “reason,” “message,” and “show.” These characterize a body of work, in fashion-design parlance, a collection.

From podcaster James Altucher, in his “Lessons learned after interviewing 80 highly successful people”: “A life is measured in decades.” A corollary could be that a career is measured in bodies of work. This is art pursued as much as possible, as long as possible. It is the pursuit of “some strangeness in the proportion” as the philosopher Francis Bacon (born January 22) claimed: “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” It is the pursuit of “realizing sensations” as the painter Paul Cezanne (born January 19) claimed: “Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing sensations.” Strangeness. Sensations. These factors adhere naturally to Pinto’s points in doing work that one envisions with ease and craves to execute.

In addition to painting, Pinto steered openness to the influence of art in other forms. For one collection, Pinto was influenced by the monumental sculptures of Richard Serra. In another, the films of Sofia Coppola were influential. In her current work, Pinto is inspired by architecture, particularly that of Chicago-based Jeanne Gang, and technology. Art is gleaned from expected—and unexpected—sources. Pioneering fashion designer Coco Chanel believed, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Filmmaker David Lynch (born January 20) corroborated with: “When you’re an artist, you pick up on certain things that are in the air. You just feel it. It’s not like you’re sitting down, thinking, ‘What can I do to really mess things up?’ You’re getting ideas, and then the ideas feed into a story, and the story takes shape. And if you’re honest about it and you’re thinking about characters and what they do, you now see that your ideas are about trouble. You’re feeling more depth, and you’re describing something that is going on in some way.”

Influence of art

Throughout her interview, Pinto expressed a proactive affinity with openness to sources that may unfold in influence to help diversify one’s creativity and bond potentially with one’s sensibility. This combined effect could be beneficial. This coheres exactly with a blog post by designer Josh Clark who wrote about his resolutions for a “pivotal year.” Clark resolved to look at more art, as he put it: “Walking through a museum or art gallery is electrifying to me. I love to see this collected result of hard creative work and thought, especially in a different discipline than my own. I imagine the problem the artist was trying to address, the process they took to solve it, how many different routes they might have attempted in getting there. I arrive at museums with a big goofy grin on my face in museums. I leave wanting to make.”

Art of self

During the question-and-answer portion, Pinto gave a direct if-then statement when asked about assessing a cumulative body of work done over time: “If you don’t like what you do, then no one else will do.” This speaks to like-mindedness. It also instructs one to commit to one’s work, to believe in it, in a manner that only the creator, the fashion designer, the artist… can do—honestly. Good work can be described as honesty unleashed.

At the 35th CreativeMornings/Chicago gathering, humanitarian rap artist Jessica Disu, a.k.a. FM Supreme, spoke to this quality of honesty when one is true to her/himself. She shared what one of her teachers told her. It proved to be a life-shaping directive: “You have to keep moving, no matter what happens. Whatever you are going to do, do it seriously. Because you owe it to yourself.” This echoes Pinto’s push to like your work by liking yourself.

(1) CreativeMornings/Chicago Host Kim Knoll previously interviewed Sign Painter Ches Perry and his son, Alex Perry, on stage at the 32nd CreativeMornings in Chicago. Read my write-up.

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Soundtrack while writing:
“Seven Horses” by Jonathan Rado
“Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem
“Queen” by Perfume Genius
“Wash.” by Bon Iver
“Natural One” by Shearwater
“Wheelgunner (Dub)” by Justin Martin & Ardalan
“Cleopatra” by Weezer
“Magic Bus” by The Who
“Delia” by Bob Dylan
“Stuck Together Pieces” by Atoms For Peace
“Get Well” by Nothing
“Silver Timothy” by Damien Jurado
“I Love It” by Icona Pop
“Bad Vibrations” by The Black Angels
“Live Room” by Tim Hecker

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Big thanks: to Morningstar (Host), BraintreeVitamin T, Green Sheep Water, for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #37; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers—Keith Mandley II, Neftali Morales, Talia Eisenberg, Benjamin Derico, Erick De La Rosa, Chris Gallevo, Kyle Newton, all—for greatly helping to make CreativeMornings happen in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

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