Visual Arts — July 2, 2015 10:13 — 0 Comments

A Day At The Beach: An Evening With The Artists Of RAW

The worst part about the evening’s entertainment was waking up the next morning. I’d been drinking all night and went to bed late, but for some reason woke up early. My body wanted something that didn’t involve sleep. Food? Water? Not even close… More. I wasn’t craving more gin, just more RAW, more from the online organization of artists who’re part of a global community supporting local events. I spent the night before immersed in Splendor, RAW’s June art/fashion show at The Fremont Foundry.

My interest in RAW was almost strictly in the fashion portion of the evening… My friend Natalie was modeling and her friend, Adrianna Veloz, was designing. I’d been invited to Adrianna’s home in Ballard for a pre-show soirée and an introduction to her label: OLDSOULaccess.

Her house was an unassuming structure, lacquered in crumbling grey paint, modest on the outside, but a beehive of fashionista’s and performance artists buzzing within. Adrianna loves the sea and had decorated her home with plastic seahorses, images of the Washington coast and an antique ship in a bottle above the fireplace; I asked Adrianna if her clothing was at all influenced by this interest. Her response was poetry “Imagine tromping through a thick, shadowy wood on a dark and misty day. You burst through the woods. Your first site is of the grey horizon across the ocean. You step onto the sandy beach and smell the salty air as the mist touches your face. That feeling you get when you first burst through the thicket is what my collection is trying to convey-” it was too long to be a haiku, but recalled the same subtle imagery.

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The OLDSOUL collection was being tailored to each of Adrianna’s 7.5 models. Natalie was one of the magnificent seven and while Adrianna worked on her, I went to work on a bottle of gin. Under normal circumstances Natalie is my safety monitor, the Channon Yarrow to my Spider Jerusalem, but in this case she’d been recruited into the OLDSOUL navy and Vice Admiral Veloz was preparing the crew… with Natalie’s attention otherwise occupied, I fell prey to the seductive charms of the New Amsterdam distillery.

Most of the magnificent seven were friends, an eclectic menagerie of beautiful people, but one of the friends had canceled at the last minute, forcing the Vice Admiral to put out an online cattle-call for models and the one who responded introduced herself to me as “Kourtney” making sure I’d spell her name with a “K.”

“Kourtney with a K” was eyeballing my gin and the only way I could distract her was to interview her. She claimed to be a professional, having modeled for Luly Yang and Zulily, but I tried every trick I know to verify her claims and my efforts bore no fruit. I can think of only one, sad explanation…

I suspect that “Kourtney with a K” wasn’t the actual name of the girl I met. Believe it or not, most models begin their career at an audaciously early age, sometimes starting as young as 13 or 12. I think that she was just one of many aspiring starlets willing to do, or say anything in the pursuit of fame. It’s probable that the underweight, cat-eyed Kourtney was in reality an under-aged, inexperienced girl, masquerading as a woman, lying about her name and age in a vile attempt to infiltrate the fast-paced and grownup world of the runway. My first clue should’ve been when she didn’t know the phrase haute couture. The term is Fashion 101, but anyone who claims to work in the industry, while at the same time being ludicrously unaware of its meaning, is an audacious fraud.

It’s no wonder she was ogling my gin, not only was she too young to drink, but probably barely able to give legal consent and prohibited from even holding hands in all but the Southern states.

But the role of journalism is not to judge, maybe “Kourtney with a K” was less villain and more victim, another sacrificial lamb served on the pagan alter of the febrile fashion-beast. She disappeared after the show and I can only imagine where she is now… running in heels through The Garment District, chased by the wendigo-spawn of Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace. I can see the fashion-beast in my mind’s eye. It’s cornered poor Kourtney, in an alleyway behind Neiman Marcus. She’s cowering in its hungry shadow. “Fresh-” slobbers the beast, licking its hairy, collagen-injected lips… “Young!

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And there were seven more lambs for the slaughter.

While the Vice Admiral was preparing the lambs without blemish, the OLDSOUL booth back at The Foundry was unattended. Adrianna’s fiancée, Alison, volunteered to watch the booth and I hitched a ride with her toward Fremont.

By the time I got into Alison’s car I’d fully succumbed to the New Amsterdam elixir. I’d transformed, from a mild-mannered reporter into a raging alcoholic: a degenerate with a hard-on for journalism. I asked Alison a few hard-hitting questions, the least embarrassing of which began with, “You strike me as a very practical person, but your fiancée is in a very creative, if not impracticable field. Can you tell me what it’s like being in that kind of relationship?” She replied, “I’ve always been the sidekick. When Adrianna is in the spotlight, I really like being the person who helped put her there… and not necessarily being recognized for it.” I told Alison that I recognized her for it; she smiled and confessed that Adrianna recognized her for it too.

Splendor had already begun and Alison and I were running desperately late. A crowd of people were lined-up to get in and to my amazement Alison wanted to line up with them. “I’m not on the vendor’s list-” she explained (shrugging her shoulders), but there was no time for modesty. “Follow me!” I declared, then charged through the thick gang of Fremont yuppies, brandishing a backpack full of gin in one hand and a razor-sharp press-pass in the other. We were in.

The gin had completely colored my senses. I smuggled in enough of it to drop a rhino and Natalie’s advice was to mix it with grapefruit, giving the grey, concrete walls of The Foundry a pink, sunset-glow.

I was too drunk for short-hand and entirely at the mercy of my digital voice-recorder, yet spoke with unmistakable clarity: “This is not just a fashion show, this is a scene.”

There were a myriad of visual artists, craftsmen and performers, all offering RAW event-goers a taste of Seattle’s most promising talent. DJ Martini played “Let’s Hear It For The Boys,” while Lyrik Allure was preparing a circus-themed striptease. VOXMIRAGE’s band-equipment sat expectantly on the stage (an atomic bombshell of synthpop waiting to go off) and a man in zombie makeup snarled behind me.

His intention was to scare me, but he was unaware that zombies are no more frightening to a drunk than they are interesting to reporter. Someone else was of far greater interest. I made another voice-entry, “Redhead in black polka-dot dress, lime-green belt.”

People make fun of fashion, but the thing about a well made dress is that it accentuates a girl’s natural beauty and the redhead was stunning in her hip-high hemline. 33-24-36… like all girls who wear short skirts, she was constantly pulling it down in an effort to cover up her body, but in a dress like hers, there was no way she could hide a body like that.

Several wild and nonsensical voice-entries followed: “Chiffon is out. Purple is in. Fashion is all about hugs.” The most interesting entries were a stream of ruthless attacks on the art of photography, ironic, since I was about to stumble into an interview with a photographer.

I didn’t know who the man was, I just thought it was interesting to see someone wearing olive-drab in a pitch-black shoal of fashion-focused piranhas. I noticed he’d been drinking, decided he was someone worth talking to, then stumbled to his table and asked about the name on his military-surplus jacket. “Pardon me, but who is Bill West?” Bill was short for Billiam, AKA William H. West of Hourglass Photo Art.

The insane, anti-photography ranting I’d recorded earlier had nothing to do with Bill. As an illustrator I was just intimidated being surrounded by so many shutterbugs. I believe in illustration because it doesn’t have to show strict reality, an illustrated impression can show what reality could be, or should be. Besides, with so many pictures being taken on smartphones, webcams and even public streets, I wonder what a photograph is worth… But Bill was much more than a traffic-cam. “Even though we may have cameras everywhere, it doesn’t necessarily follow that everyone’s going to take a great picture-” he said. “There’s much more to it than pointing a camera at a girl.” We were interrupted by one of Bill’s models picking up her portrait from Bill’s booth. She looked good to my alcohol-addled eyes, but great to Bill’s lens. He’d done more than take the girl’s picture, he’d brought out her best, somehow illuminating her finer features. “For me, the most important aspect is lighting-” he continued. “That’s sort of my signature style. I like to carve models out with light.”

What Bill does with light, I can only try to do with stories and again turned my attention to the redhead in the polka-dot dress. I wanted to know everything about her, but had sense enough not to offend by approaching her while drunk. Natalie was still getting prepped in Ballard, so I enlisted one of Natalie’s friends to ask the redhead about the tattoo on her arm and was given a detailed report. “It’s the flower of life. She made it look like a dream-catcher by adding feathers and it was done by a guy named Travis in Everett.”

I’d been waiting for Natalie all night. I needed her to help soak up some of the excess gin in my backpack, but she arrived in the middle of my debriefing and the timing couldn’t have been worse. She hugged her friend and I knew the two would get hopelessly lost in girl-talk, but I needed to stay on point, so I stood behind the redhead and recorded another, curious observation. “Achilles tendons turning red. Is she suffering for fashion?” The redhead wore suede-leather heels to match her dress and it had become obvious that she was looking for a date who hadn’t shown. The six-inch heels were meant to impress, but they were digging into her delicate skin and I wondered what kind of debased inquisitor would keep her waiting in those sadistic Spanish boots.

Natalie was finishing a conversation about Schrödinger’s cat, when the Vice Admiral ordered her into the dressing-room. I followed, flashing my press-pass on the way in. If the Veloz house was a beehive, then the backstage of RAW was a hornet’s nest on speed. Everything was in motion and the entries made on my voice-recorder were an inebriated attempt to shed light on the chaos. “BDSM harness. Magritte-mirror. Lee press-on knives.” There was too much happening to describe it in complete sentences, only one entry made sense: “In this industry everyone always has something going on. The secret to success is having someone to turn to when you need help.” I thought of Alison, side-kicking at the OLDSOUL booth… Alison had one role and Adrianna had another, the two were a perfect team.

The models were already dressed, their power walk was about to begin and while Vice Admiral Veloz wanted all hands on deck for a final inspection, I wanted one final word with the best dressed of Adrianna’s shipmates: artStar Charlatan.

There was no shortage of male models on the RAW lineup, but artStar was the only one in drag. He wore a white tunic, a jet-black wig and his face was a portrait in metallic-copper paint. I was suffering from a weird combination of dressing-room bedlam, gin and the pervasive tunes of DJ Martini. I was drunk on RAW and artStar could tell.

I asked a few off-topic questions about his sexuality and he would’ve been right to cat-scratch me into oblivion, but the man was a saint and shared everything I wanted to know about being in drag. “It’s not who I am-” he said, “It’s my uniform. If you work at KFC you have to wear their uniform, I work on stage and this is mine.” Unlike Kourtney, I was able to verify artStar’s existence online. He hosts bingo at Chop Suey, he’s a regular feature in the Seattle Pride parade and an accomplished artist. “Drag is the best combination of various art forms-” he continued. “Instead of painting on a canvas I paint myself.”

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DJ Martini’s music came to a dead stop. It was the eerie calm before the fashion-storm. For a moment I seemed to exist both backstage and in the audience, bilocated, in a fashion-miracle. ArtStar was dissolving, being replaced by the runway hovering in front of me, then I heard something… A clap of thunder? Better. Deee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart, roaring from above. Cameras were flashing. The audience was cheering. It was a melee of models and accessories flickering in and out of my drunken reality; girls and boys striking a pose in the strobing flash of paparazzi lightning. Pastel sirens were prancing, in a surreal display of technicolor-makeup by Haley Mariah Tuesday. Zombies were shuffling next to the luxurious designs of Blush Atelier and I was in love with it all. But I caught site of something off stage that broke my heart… the redhead in the polka-dot dress.

She was still alone, with nothing to comfort her but the dreams on her arm. I’d been at the show for hours and so had she, waiting for someone who didn’t care about her polka-dot dress, her lime-green belt, or the six-inch heels she was suffering in. I wanted to console her, I wanted to tell her that I cared and that I’d noticed the effort she’d made, but I knew it would’ve sounded like nothing more than the slurred-sobbing of a randy-reporter. She had only one source of solace: Adrianna’s models, strutting onto the catwalk, each with the same stern look in their eyes.

The bilocated me could hear the models being instructed in the dressing-room, Adrianna had directed her crew to adopt what she called a resting bitch face and at first I thought it was a bad direction. I didn’t understand the connection between looking bitchy and the liberating, flowing garments of the Vice Admiral’s collection, but maybe “resting bitch” was just a bad description. Bitchiness wasn’t the sentiment behind Adrianna’s models and I don’t think “resting bitch” was what she was trying to say. The word she was looking for was “defiant.” Adrianna’s models were daring in the face of fashion, dissonant to the tradition that keeps redheaded girls suffering in high-heels and bound-feet. Her outfits were light and cooling, not unlike the ocean on a misty day. The OLDSOUL line was comfortable, an up-yours to the excruciating whims of the febrile fashion-beast… a day at the beach.


Words and pictures by: Poster Bot.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney