The fashion industry lost one of its icons this week--Yves Saint-Laurent, the French designer best known for creating the Beatnik look, thigh-high boots, Safari jackets, as well as the general democratization of fashion.
Gifted people like Saint-Laurent exude creativity in everything they do--whether designing extraordinary clothing or simply writing a letter to a friend. And while we can't profess to knowing much about the former, we do know a little something about the latter.
Such endeavors are the subject of More Than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. This is a gem of an exhibit, especially in our world of e-this and e-that. Do you really recall a time when people took pen (ink, crayons, and paint, in this case) to paper to communicate with each other? The missives in the show--from artists such as Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, and Yves Saint-Laurent--surely reflect a different time, but they also demonstrate the expressive energy of the authors, people for whom words alone were not enough.
In a 1970 letter to Alexander Liberman, art director at Vogue magazine, Saint-Laurent literally used the language of clothes as his medium, writing affectionately to Liberman on the space of a traditional Islamic cloak worn by women in Marrakesh, Morocco (where Saint-Laurent owned a home). The bold but minimalistic patterns in the background complement the simplicity of the author’s heartfelt message.
If you have just a slight voyeuristic curiosity about this and other personal notes from the exhibition, check out the book (of the same name), very eloquently written by Smithsonian curator--Liza Kirwin.
More Than Words will travel the country until summer 2009. Catch it in a city near you!