Case Closed by Karen Schauber

Tiptoeing

Marcia takes care not to step on the cracks when she walks down the sidewalk. The marmots are abundant along the riverside of MacArthur Island, in Kamloops…..and they’re not too shy! Walking quietly and carefully with one’s heels raised and one’s weight on the balls of the feet is the least one should do.

Whispering

Marcia carefully avoids discussing difficult or sensitive subjects. Elephants have good hearing, detecting sounds as low as 14 to 16 Hz (human low range: 20 Hz) and as high as 12,000 Hz (human high range: 20,000). Whispering a message through broken telephone is the polite thing to do

Hiding

Marcia does not turn on the lights in her apartment at night. Ants are social insects, so when one ant enters your home, others follow. Marcia hears the footsteps of armies marching. She buys plush carpet.

Blending

Marcia likes to wear high-contrast and bright coloured clothing. The bat faced toad found among the leaves of Amacayacu National Park in Colombia is masterful at blending into its surroundings. Marcia has a playful side and is not trying to make life difficult.

….

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.

 

About the author:

Karen Schauber is a seasoned Family Therapist practising in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her earlier writing is non-fiction and details three decades of psychosocial and analytical cases. Flash Fiction is a new and welcome adventure for her. Fictional short stories are much more fun to read and write! As an emerging artist, Karen hones her craft at home and at the dog beach on the Pacific coast (when it’s not pouring out).

Karen’s flash fiction can be read at Rebel Shorts, SpillWords, AdHoc Fiction, Down in the Dirt, Blood Puddles: An Anthology, CafeLit, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Yellow Mama, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Wilderness House Literary Review, Postcard Shorts, and forthcoming at CarpeArte, Stereo Stories, and Ariel Chart. The upcoming Group of Seven Flash Fiction Anthology celebrating the Canadian Modernist Landscape Painters is her first editorial/curatorial flash venture.

Eva’s Comments:

Surrealism is an art movement which was influenced by psychoanalysis and grew out of the Dada Movement. Dadaists like Giorgio de Chirico aimed to perturb the conservative middle-classes through artworks that have bizarre, naive (or primitive) and fantastical imagery and themes. Surrealist artists believed that the unconscious can be unlocked allowing the free flow of the imagination and imagination is seldom realistic, more often twisted, whimsical and inventive. They held a strong belief that the mind when repressed blocked the flow of the imagination which then impeded the unconscious from revealing innate and authentic emotions. 

Karl Marx was an influential figure in this movement as artists sought to let their psyches aid in spurring on revolutions; Surrealism was as much a response to the horror of the First World War as it is a voice speaking out against tyranny. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was also influential. Freud’s book, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1899) provided a theoretical framework for Surrealism. These artists did away with rationalism and literal realism in favour of mysticism, mythology and a form of primitivism that harks back to an idyllic past evoking a sense of nostalgia. [I tend to think that Surrealists are looking for a past that is far from innocent but one that is strewn with anarchy based on the belief that repression is a result of the process of the civilisation of society.] There is a dream-like quality in Surrealist art and imagery plays a big part in the recurring motifs found in such works. For example, birds, ants and butterflies are often found and can be symbolic of many things, if one were to apply a symbolic reading of the art. 

Surrealism was not confined to art, as in paintings, alone. The movement extended to film, theatre, photography and writing. André Breton, a Franco-Amerian writer poet and philosopher, focused on the idea that one’s verbal expression in the form of the written word is an automatic process which stemmed from one’s unconscious. Verbal expression is a function of thought, according to Breton. Verbal expression can be expressed through the written word and Breton believed that writers (and artists) have to let go of conscious, rational thought to give way to what he calls automatic writing in order to express themselves authentically. 

About the Artist

Christian Schloe is an artist from Austria, famous for his surreal digital artwork. Schloe’s artwork which prompted Karen Schauber’s Flash piece is a good example of Surrealist art. Here, the recurring motif of the butterfly acts as both mask and metaphor in this pseudo-Victorian image. There is that dream-like element mentioned above which this piece of work exudes; the image is both dark and ephemeral while evoking a sense of nostalgia for an idyllic past and landscape. It is difficult to place one’s finger on the time period in which this digital image is set. Judging from the dress of the “sitter”, one knows that the time period is not a contemporaneous one yet, there is a certain modernity about the piece which contradicts the suggested old-worldliness of this particular art piece. Isn’t this the stuff of dreams? 

‘Case Closed’ has certain surrealist elements to it and comes across like the description of a dream; yet, there is a quality of realism/reality to it. There is also a poetic structure to its form; each story segment begins with a title, compartmentalising the story into bite-size portions with Marcia as the pivotal prima ballerina/ primadonna in the story. In just a little over 200 words, Schauber has successfully conveyed the unique quality of what makes us individuals in this vast human world. 

 

Of life – by A P Shells

 

(i)

I have told you too many times

Have told you too many times I cannot

Told you too many times I cannot take it anymore

Too many times I cannot take it anymore I have told you:

the lacerations
red tattoos, curves into a
smile: savoring a covenant
I can’t seem to remember:

(ii)

Of life, I am no placid man – there is screaming

in the house, yet, a severed ear is a deafening one:

– – – – –

my body, a portrait of
sanguine insanity —
where are these brushes,
and whose favorite color is

red.

(iii)

Of catharsis, I understood none –

yet there is brevity in a severed ear,

or the portrait of.

(iv)

him

(v)

it shouldn’t have been

me.

 

Author’s Comments:

The poem is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. It has raised questions on identity, confrontation with situations in life, and catharsis. The poem reflects that.

I am drawn to this picture for its honesty. There is something about this picture that prompts us to think about pain and resolution – why did he mutilate his ear? And why did he create this self-portrait? What did he hope to achieve? Was he hoping to achieve anything at all? I’m not too sure about the answers to those questions. There may not be answers too. As with life, we are very capable. We may live amidst the quandaries, amidst the questions we have no answers to. We do not strictly calculate everything we do. That is fine. Yet to that end, the picture draws me in to ponder.

Eva’s Comments:

When I received this poem, I’d just finished watching the animated film, Loving Vincent. It’s the first film in the world that’s made entirely of oil paintings. Amazing! Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, this animated film has gone on the win many awards.

Vincent Van Gogh needs no introduction. He is the most mythologised artist of the 19th century. Many interpretations of his oeuvre have largely been focused on his mental condition. Art Historians know that Van Gogh was institutionalised, of his own accord, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was during this period that he painted his most famous and popular piece, The Starry Night. This artwork inspired the song, (Vincent) Starry Starry Night by Don Mclean. This song never fails to bring tears. “They would not listen, they did not know how perhaps they’ll listen now.”

Vincent Van Gogh touched everyone he came into contact with; this was portrayed clearly in Loving Vincent. Van Gogh continues to touch our lives today as indicated by A P Shell’s On Life.

Van Gogh is categorised as an Expressionist painter because of his style of painting. Expressionism originated in the early 20th-century in Germany.  It is characterised by subjective perspectives depicted in images or text (poetry). These perspectives are highly emotive due to their distortion of reality. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of their felt experience rather than the physical reality surrounding them. For Vincent, it was Nature that he related to and found catharsis in. Vincent Van Gogh was ahead of his time as an Expressionist painter. A more accurate label to categorise him would be ‘post-Impressionist’, according to British twentieth-century art critic Roger Fry.

It’s good to note that Vincent Van Gogh did not paint for long. His painting career lasted between five to eight years. By the time of his death, in 1890, he had created over 800 paintings, all inspired by the people he’d met, loved and known, and by the natural beauty he saw around him.

 

Image credit:

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm© The Courtauld Gallery, London.

Guo Pei – Couturier Extraordinaire

Welcome to the world of Guo Pei, couturier extraordinaire.  The eponymous brand is based out of Beijing and Paris.  Guo Pei is renowned for dressing Rihanna for the Met Gala, held to inaugurate the 2015 exhibition: ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’.  The exhibition is a retrospective on how Chinese aesthetics influenced Western fashion; Guo’s designs were displayed there.  Dressing Rihanna propelled Guo onto the international stage.  Her first solo exhibition was held the same year at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.  She collaborated successfully with cosmetic giant MAC in a make-up collection that took the world by storm, also in 2015.

Guo Pei has been sewing since the age of two.  She is China’s darling couturier and has been in the Chinese fashion scene for more than 20 years.  Her gowns have dressed celebrities, socialites, royalty, and the political elite; her creations transform already beautiful women into magnificent ethereal creatures.

Combining traditional artisanal savoir-faire with an eye for detail and design, Guo’s pieces are crafted with technical precision.  She was invited into the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture whose members comprise primarily of Haute Couture houses.  This means that the House of Guo Pei is recognisably a protected label and is permitted by the French Ministry of Industry to call itself a Haute Couture brand alongside Dior and Chanel.  This is France’s highest accolade for designers, enabling Guo to take part in the Paris Haute Couture Week in 2016.  She showcased her ‘Courtyard’ Collection in Paris which anchored her firmly in the Parisian fashion world.

Today, Guo’s atelier can be found on rue Saint-Honoré, a prestigious shopping street in Paris.  Her success harks back to a childhood dream of aspiring towards perfection in the contemplation of beauty.  And Guo Pei’s designs are indeed beautiful.

Guo’s Spring/Summer 2017 Collection – ‘Legend’ – features jewel encrusted gowns in hues of muted emerald green and shimmery antique gold.  Skirts are set in frames but with sufficient fabric left over to billow as the model glides on the catwalk; a model strides confidently in a pair of structured trousers that hug her androgynous hips.  This collection reflects Guo’s dedication to detail, three-dimensional embroidery, her trade mark, and meticulous craftsmanship.  The collection is romantic and dreamlike.  The fabrics are canvases for Guo’s artistic expressions much like paintings and embroidery were for Old Masters.

‘Legend’ was inspired by the murals in the dome of Switzerland’s St Gallen Cathedral.  For the collection, Guo collaborated for a year with Jakob Schlaepfer, a haute couture fabric designer, to produce the bespoke fabric which pay homage to the cathedral’s Rococo paintings.

The twenty-one pieces in the collection reflect Guo’s appreciation of the “spirit of handicrafts” and the “spirit of devotion”.  Guo shows her spiritual side in these creations full of motifs of holy saints, heavenly goddesses and medieval warriors.  The spectacle lends a romantic and mysterious ambiance to the catwalk.

Guo is a storyteller.  Inspired and fascinated by the origins of Mankind, creation myths and the mysteries of everlasting life, she sutures these fantastical legends on fabric.

The 2017 Haute Couture Show was held at La Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her execution.  Opening the show was ‘the Revenant’ a luminous dress invoking the queen’s ghost as she wanders the corridors of her castle prison.  The music accompanying the spectre’s entrance onto the catwalk is as hauntingly mesmerising as the dress.  The model wears a crown, tall and ornate, signifier of Marie Antoinette’s position as the Queen of France who will forever be remembered as the legendary queen that the Revolutionists sent to the guillotine.

“Legends have alway been one of my greatest sources of inspiration, unlocking my infinite imagination.”  Guo says.

A legend of the catwalk Carmen Dell’ Orefice, 85 years young, closed Guo’s couture passerelle.  She was the “bride” – the model who traditionally closes Couture Shows – clad in a flaming poppy red gown flanked by two elfin male attendants.  A structured cape opens up behind the model’s head like a flower in full bloom; a sea of red trails behind Dell’ Orefice as she traverses the catwalk path.  Choosing to dress the “bride” in red reflects Guo’s deconstruction of Chinese wedding rituals in which the bride gown is traditionally red.  The auspiciously coloured gown is made from pure silk that has been specially treated.  Interwoven into the thin and airy fabric are wires so fine, they resemble human hair.  This is a manifestation of Guo’s fantasies which are inspired by legends.

Guo Pei is herself a legend; her name will go down the annals of Haute Couture.  Her designs, which often combine Chinese craftsmanship with technical innovation and Western style evoking emotional responses like art does, will ensure that Guo Pei stays a legend amongst legends.

Image credit: Guo Pei

Eva’s Notes

Can fashion be considered art?  Haute Couture is high fashion and not for the faint-hearted when it comes to dress.  Names like Chanel, Dior, Yves St Laurent are familiar brand names most of us would have heard of. They are established fashion houses that have the right to call themselves creators and purveyors of Haute Couture.

Guo Pei is a new comer to this scene. Her designs combine her love for sewing and dress making with Chinese traditional craftsmanship. I was bowled over by the artistic flair of her creations. Her latest designs were inspired by Rococo paintings found in a church. This combination of art and craft marks her as a fashion designer whose work I would call art.

The Art should Speak for Itself

This blog is all about how I interact with art on a regular basis. You’ll be privy to posts of my art musings and reviews of exhibitions, symposiums and art activities around the world.

Who am I?

Published Writer, Former Food Blogger and Emerging Art Historian, Eva Wong Nava combines her love for art with writing personal reviews and anecdotes.  She has led art tours at various institutions and has taught writing using works of art as talking points and inspiration.  Her flash fiction is published in various places, including Jellyfish Review and Flash Fiction Magazine.  Her art writings have appeared in several independent arts magazines.  She is dedicated to making writing about art an accessible activity for future generations.

Eva has a degree in English Literature and Language from the University of Hull, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from the Institute of Education, London, and an Art Writing qualification from Sotheby’s Institute of Art.  She is currently completing her dissertation for a Masters in Art History with the Open University, United Kingdom, on Byzantine art and its relationship with the Italian Renaissance.  She plans to write about the Renaissance later.