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  • Sieglinde Van Damme

How my Artistic Journey Paved the Way for an Art-to-Wear Line all Along

Updated: May 18, 2019


Over the course of my 17-year career in the arts, two themes consistently weave themselves into my work: Identity and Experience. I didn’t choose these themes, they chose me, and it’s not hard to see why we had to work together ...


Why


In the most general sense, my work deals with the social management of identity. Identity, not in the sense of "who am I", but rather a "who can I be" given the political, social, economical context I live in (experience).



I never gave the idea of “identity” - let alone my own identity – much thought until I migrated from Europe to the US and my most official source of identification became an alien registration number.   Quite sobering, though easy enough to laugh away when put into its due bureaucratic perspective. 






Much more poignant was the fact that I arrived here with a firmly rooted background, including a good sense of who I was and what I stood for—or so I thought. It didn’t take long for me to realize I could not just transplant that person to my new habitat in its full integrity. 


To integrate into this new society I was about to call home, I had to adjust to its (foreign) social structures, values and belief systems; whether they were correlating with the ones I already embraced or not. 




It became an interesting journey in debating which new values to adopt, which old beliefs to shed and which “idea of me” was most authentic.  After 20 years, I realize I have become a tourist in both places, my home country and my new home base alike. 

If I were to define my current identity in social terms I’d call myself an in-between.  If I had to define my identity on a more individual level I’d have to declare it the most conscious “state of me” it has ever been.


I started exploring this process in my art as a dynamic of defining and re-defining.


Photography


Exploring identity in my lens-based work lead me to create a visual language based on layers and veiled imagery to construct ambivalent environments. The message being that we should never lose sight of the gray zones when exploring meaning.

Above: Holga photographs (double-exposure on the right)


I pushed the boundaries of my chosen subject matter to twist perception and present them in a new supposed reality, along with an invitation to define, or redefine ...

Above left: from the series "Thread Drawings."

Above right: from the series "Tape Drawings."


No Photoshop for me but rather in-camera experiments, low-fidelity cameras (Holga), double exposures on film, alternative 19th century printing techniques and other uncommon darkroom processes.

Above left: Holga photograph "Railway in the Snow"

Above right: artificial fog (created with a Canon digital camera) for the series Mental Chaos & Melancholy.


I am fascinated with any process that brings the confirmation of the expected naked eye observation to a screeching halt in exchange for a soft-focused blend of the real and the imagined, the facts and the potential, often presented in a dream-like state.

Above: double-exposure photographs on 120 film

(the negative is scanned and digitized to allow large-format printing)

Video


But I wanted more. I wanted to be more than the creative mind behind an expensive, framed image on the wall. I craved for an even stronger connection with my audience, with you! Less barriers, less formalities, more real.


How else could people experience and enjoy my work?

Room-size video installations became my solution to present work with a more immersive viewing experience. You would walk in, and simply become part of the artwork 😊 Granted, the environment was still fully controlled by me, but I wondered if being enveloped in my work would alter your observations and redefined realities. Hint: it did.


Above: "Upon arrival I will be," an early video piece honored with the Lorenzo di Medici award at the Contemporary Art Biennale in Florence (Italy) in 2009.



The video work is fully digital. But here too, I curate layer upon layer upon layer of footage and manipulate their prioritized visibility to the point where separate scenes become completely indistinguishable and blend into a new constructed reality.



You assumed video equals reality? I beg to differ 😉


But wait, what if people could WEAR my art?


Still not quite satisfied in my quest to explore other avenues for people to become part of my art, rather than act as a distant viewer, gave way to an art-to-wear clothing and accessory line called studiosiegXclusive. Unbelievable, all of a sudden this made SO much sense!


In addition to my traditional 2D prints, a curated selection of my ambiguous, alternative, layered photographs are now also transformed into scarves, dresses, skirts, some shirts, and more to come.



A little more playful, a little more fun, and more accessible than the sometimes intimidating, philosophical or existential angle of my photo or video work. And yet, very much identity and experience - all in one 😎




The way we dress and present ourselves is our personal brand, a reflection of our identity towards the outside world. It is the easiest and simplest way to express who we are on a daily basis and (superficially?) construct the way we want to be perceived.







In a way, your closet holds answers to the questions: Who are you? Who do you want to be? What first impression do you want to make, what personality do you portray? Leaving costumes and dress up behind, take a look inside, what do you find ...?



At the same time is everything in your closet 100% fully your choice?


The (unconscious) truth is that your spouse, employer, friends, society, environment, personal situation, budget, cultural upbringing and other external influences likely limit your freedom of dress to present yourself.


So, as expressed through your apparel, allow me to repeat my question: “who can you be” given the context you live in?


With my art-to-wear initiative I have brought down the social management of identity to its most rudimentary form: your outfit, the first impression you choose to make.

So simple. So obvious. So ubiquitous.


Though it has a more commercial angle, the clothing and accessories are very much part of my art. In it, my search for redefined realities and alternative contexts has come full circle.





When people wear my clothing designs I literally have no control over how or where my work is presented. As you add my pieces to your wardrobe you redefine my art through the way you allow it to serve your own identity. You define the context in which it is worn, you define the image that is most authentic to you … Flip-flops, boots, heels, dressed up, dressed down – it doesn’t matter, and that’s on purpose.


So, mission accomplished? Perhaps, for now … 🤔 But are artistic explorations ever done?


Then again, in the end, as an artist I am most happy when I can create. And if my creations - whether hanging on your wall or making you smile in front of the mirror - if my creations make you feel good ... then, mission accomplished indeed ❤️


Thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support, I appreciate you 🙏🏻



#art #artist #photographer #fashionartist #unique #arttowear #fashion #studiosiegXclusive


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