SEX… in a fashion

The DMA’s exhibit on the fashions of Jean Paul Gaultier exudes sex appeal with a big dose of flamboyance

Fashion-1

DRESSED TO KILL IT | Gay fashion pioneer Jean Paul Gaultier oversees his own exhibit (Below) as an Animatronic mannequin, a fascinating technology that only accentuates the brilliance of the designs. (Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

 

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

For a man best known for creating the Valkyrie-like conical breastplate that shot Madonna into the pop culture stratosphere, Jean Paul Gaultier is a surprisingly humble person. While he’s clearly delighted to have his fashions on display — as they are at the Dallas Museum of Art in the traveling exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which runs through February — he makes one thing plain: He does not consider fashion “art.”

“My work is not art,” he says flatly. “My job is to make clothes that have to be worn. My role is not to create in the abstract but to be inspired by the needs and desires of the people. So I am in service to that. Art is art — it is a personal vision of the artist.” He pauses, then adds with a smile, “My collections are my babies, though.”

While the designer himself may not consider his work product “art” in an academic sense, there are probably few who would agree with him. More so than most fashion designers, Jean Paul Gaultier’s style is instantly recognizable, even without seeing the label.

He almost single-handedly moved the bustier from the boudoir to the arena stage, cladding Madonna in a corset for her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990, immediately making legends of them both.

It’s not just brassieres, but lace bodysuits, silk leotards, men in skirts — Gaultier takes fashion rules and sets them on their heads, turning out wearable art (there, we said it) that is both old-fashioned, even classical, and futuristic — but always oozing sex.

“My love for fashion belongs to the fact I saw a movie from the 1940s when I was 12,” he says. “In the movie, they did a beautiful description of couture.” (Now, when he works with a film director — as he did recently with Pedro Almodovar on The Skin I Live In, or Luc Besson on several films — “it is like I return to that [moment]”.)

But really, the germ of his style was started by what a pre-teen Jean Paul found in his grandmother’s wardrobe.

“I was fascinated by the whole world of my grandmother’s closet — it was beautiful and different,” he says. “It was underwear that could be worn as outerwear. I stole my ideas from her.”

Though not just her. Gaultier was inspired by television, by old movies, by showgirls — anything that offered a view of beauty he could re-imagine on the runway.

“My definition of beauty — there’s not one type. Beauty is beauty — you can find it in different places,” he says.

It’s a keystone not only of his design style, but of the DMA’s astonishingly exciting exhibit. (Anyone who doesn’t think a Gaultier gown deserves formal museum treatment obviously hasn’t seen the show.) In just a handful of rooms, we move from camp to punk — with many, many visits to edgy haute couture.

In the first gallery, visitors are introduced to Gaultier himself, talking about his fashions via a quasi-Animatronic mannequin that captures his actual face and voice, projected with unnerving authenticity. That happens with a lot of the mannequins, some of whom seem to look back, even judge you. (One Mohawk’d man in tights and a codpiece seemed to be flirting with me; I bet he does that with all the boys.) Lanky sailor boys in striped Apaché T-shirts look as if they leaped from a Tom of Finland drawing; that cone bra is also unmistakable.

Walk further, and the second room oozes the dark romance of a bordello, approximating (with its window-like display cases) the red-light district of Amsterdam. “I think when you exit this room, they should give you a cigarette,” I told another patron. She didn’t disagree.

Another room shows the movement of the pieces, sort of, with a moving catwalk that is like a time machine of Gaultier runway fashions, including representative designs from his famous Men in Skirts that took MOMA by storm some years ago. That’s only the most obvious example of the genderbending that is a Gaultier hallmark — and a central theme of the sexual forthrightness of the DMA’s exhibit.

“Androgyny is part of the thing that interests me,” he says, “that moment when the young can pass to adolescence [and] their beauty is between feminine and masculine at the same time. I use it to show in reality how [both sexes] can assume [the identity of the other sex]. In Scotland, you will see me in kilts and they are very masculine — it’s not feminine to wear a skirt [in that context].”

That, Gaultier says, is the essence of freedom, showing that “men can cry just as well as women can fight.”

And this exhibit shows that a designer can be an artist with a bold sense of sex — even if he doesn’t think so.

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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Visit DallasVoice. com/ category/ Photos to see more of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Movie Monday: Almodovar’s ‘The Skin I Live In’

Almodovar’s psycho-sexual sci-fi comes off without a Hitch(cock)

At his best, Pedro Almodovar is a master of outrageous antics like Fellini and the tense, driving, investigative thrills of Hitchcock, though seldom in the same movie; at his worst, he allows mawkish sentimentality to be his undoing.

He’s finally hit the sweet spot with The Skin I Live In, a rangy, intoxicatingly compulsive mystery that blends spectacle with sci-fi with the cool suspense of David Cronenberg. Better yet, it explores big emotional themes that are as extreme as the crazed plot but frighteningly relateable.

The film, set one year in the future, reunites Almodovar with the Spanish actor he made a star, Antonio Banderas, for the first time in 21 years. Banderas, at 51, still has smoldering good looks and a dangerousness brooding under a controlled, respectable exterior.

He plays Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon who has pioneered an artificial skin that will revolutionize the treatment of burn victims — a passion, since his own wife was horribly disfigured a decade before. His methods skirt medical ethics, however, so his colleagues don’t know Robert has been experimenting on Vera (Elena Anaya), a prisoner in his house who has been changed, slowly but inevitably, into The Perfect Woman.

4.5 stars. Read the rest of the article here.

DEETS: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya. Rated R. 130 mins. Angelika Mockingbird Station.

—  Rich Lopez

Mysterious ‘Skin’

Almodovar’s psycho-sexual sci-fi comes off without a Hitch(cock)

DR. FEELGOOD | A surgeon (Antonio Banderas) holds a woman (Elena Anaya) captive for inscrutable reasons in a great thriller from Pedro Almodovar.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES 
Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

At his best, Pedro Almodovar is a master of outrageous antics like Fellini and the tense, driving, investigative thrills of Hitchcock, though seldom in the same movie; at his worst, he allows mawkish sentimentality to be his undoing.

He’s finally hit the sweet spot with The Skin I Live In, a rangy, intoxicatingly compulsive mystery that blends spectacle with sci-fi with the cool suspense of David Cronenberg. Better yet, it explores big emotional themes that are as extreme as the crazed plot but frighteningly relateable.

The film, set one year in the future, reunites Almodovar with the Spanish actor he made a star, Antonio Banderas, for the first time in 21 years. Banderas, at 51, still has smoldering good looks and a dangerousness brooding under a controlled, respectable exterior.

He plays Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon who has pioneered an artificial skin that will revolutionize the treatment of burn victims — a passion, since his own wife was horribly disfigured a decade before. His methods skirt medical ethics, however, so his colleagues don’t know Robert has been experimenting on Vera (Elena Anaya), a prisoner in his house who has been changed, slowly but inevitably, into The Perfect Woman.

Is Vera his Frankenstein’s Monster? His reincarnated dead wife? A hapless victim? The plot unfolds (in true Almodovar fashion, non-linearly) with a cool, voyeuristic intensity (accented by the finest mood-enhancing pulsating score, by Alberto Iglesias, in any movie since Atonement). While it leaps around — to topics like home invasion, rape, parent-child relationships and homosexuality — eventually the structure reveals itself, with the creepiness of Vertigo meets The Fly meets Chinatown. Maybe if directed by Kubrick. Or Tom Ford.

If that sounds puzzling, The Skin I Live In is something of a Rubik’s cube, disorienting but with the promise of figuring it out always just around the corner.

Banderas, who has wasted his time with his earthy accent doing voice-overs in recent years, roars back as a compelling leading man. Anaya’s sexually daring performance is matched only by her pristine beauty. As a cat-and-mouse thriller, this is thoughtful and smart; the fact it’s from Almodovar means it’s far more interesting than any other movies out now that you’re likely to see. If you’re debating what to see this week, that’s an easy call: Vote for Pedro.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Spanish fly

We’ve gotten pretty used to gay cinema after all these years, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s this: Gay Spaniards are hot. And while we tip our hat to Pedro Almodovar for starting us down the road of queer Latin loverboys, we appreciate the variety of outlets now available to us. You can’t have too many Hispanic guys getting it on, if you ask me.

Which probably explains my latest Internet obsession, Gayxample. Set in Barcelona’s gayborhood, the Eixample District (called Gayxample by queer locals), the web series launched last week by introducing us to a middle-aged bear couple (Rafael Tejada, Kikko Bomometti, pictured) who are visited by one of the men’s straight nephew who doesn’t know his uncle is gay. The plot rolls out in expected sitcom-y fashion, with lots of campy jokes and awkward confrontations and a sentimental resolution.

If the series owes a lot to the style of gay soaps like Queer as Folk and The L Word, it does so with more than its fair share of nudity and humor as well as a Mediterranean abandon

It also improves as the series progresses (three episodes were available for screening), with even more sexy guys and, reliably, Tejada, who never hesitates to take off his shirt (and pants for that matter).

It’s also an ideal show for Texas: Although mostly in Spanish, you can also watch a version subtitled in English. We like a little bilingualism with our campy queer comedy. Muy caliente!

— Arnold Wayne Jones

New episodes available weekly on Saturday on Gayxample.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright