“Not a word,” I said to the women when my daughter and I walked into the exercise studio. Emma, three-years-old at the time, was dressed in her favorite red boots, a white faux fur sweater, and a net tutu sewn with fairy bells no bigger than her fingernails. Can’t remember if she had the duck mask on that morning. “Not a word,” I repeated, “twenty years from now she will be telling you what to wear.” We have one year to go.
Over the weekend we attended Emma’s art opening at Trinity College — a series of eight paintings comprising the culmination of her senior thesis in Studio Arts. She had a tough time convincing a professor or two that fashion and art had anything to do with one another. The show relegated such opinions to shmatta land.
What a thrill to see Emma’s name high on the whitewashed gallery wall above her artwork. Each letter, black and blocky, was a little gavel of affirmation. This. Talented. Young. Woman. Has. Arrived. The gallery quickly filled with classmates and professors. I heard squeals of,”Oh my gosh!” and “I can’t believe this one!” And “How does she do this?” and “I want a pair of boots like that!”
Emma’s artist’s statement was passed hand to hand explaining to all comers her twin obsessions with fashion and using individual letters as artforms. As plain as I can put it, Emma took the quotes by her favorite fashion designers and manipulated the letters of their words into paintings of their clothing.
Better to show you.
Triumph glowed in her eyes. Someone had taken Emma aside to say, “Your paintings inspire me to want to do something creative.” Emma’s courage in forging her own creative path had awakened in someone else’s heart a yearning for self-expression. Five-five in stocking feet and a tower-above-her mother-five-nine in her orchid patent leather shoes, she stood taller than I’d ever seen her.
“I knew I had it in me,” she said after the show, “but it feels good to have other people see it in me, too.” As she said in the closing of her artist’s statement, “…Using words in my thesis not only made sense but was the only way I wanted to express my love of fashion. The words of these artists and designers inspire my passion and help give me courage to continue down my own path … wearing a fur coat and tutu if need be.”