Jacksonville artist Christina Foard
has been developing a series of paintings, “Dresses”, which explore the connection between what we wear, our personality, our past, present and future. Here, Christina talks candidly about this series and what she sees as the psychology behind our fashion choices.
AF: Hi Christina! Thank you so much for taking the time for this little interview. You know how much I love your work. I am completely enamored with your dress series and am so excited you have been creating some new pieces! How did this series begin and how has it evolved?
C: I’ve been working on dresses since 2008. It began with self-portraits where I am wearing gowns painted with mapped areas or terrain I’ve covered. Mapped gowns was a personification and extension of aerial landscapes that I had begun a year prior. (Ballerina Dance, The Written Legacy, Fluid Gown ( below ), The Courtesan, A Life-changing Conversation, A Single Mom’s Playground, Picnic of Adulthood are some of these.) Since it was more about the journey, decisions and influences, I eventually removed the figure altogether. I began to place myself in and amongst other women, each of us represented symbolically as a dress. In these, I paint the way someone feels to me. It’s more about vitality and energy than their physical presence…a little like painting a pattern of the music they emanate and comparing those rhythmic differences in a series. ( “Pajama Party” ( below ), “Three Sisters”, “Five Friends” ). For example, a 90 year old woman with a saucy, adventuresome personality might end up with the most flamboyant and lively dress, which looks more suitable for a 20 year old.
Recently, in “Polka Dot Party” ( below ) and a few others, my focus area shifted from observing others to a discussion of how I choose to present myself to the world around me each day. Again, choices, decisions and influences.
Liquid Gown, oil on canvas, 60×48
The Pajama Party, oil on canvas, 36×60
AF: Tell me about what you see as the psychology around fashion and the garments we choose to clothe ourselves in.
C: When we are shopping for clothes, we pass up most items available. We reject all the items which don’t fit our perception of ourselves or our perception of our bodies. These rejections are as telling as what we eventually choose to buy. We essentially have to contend with the roles we play in our relationships as well as physical issues that dictate attire: seasons, terrain and climate. Specifically for women whose options vary greatly, our choices can openly display themes of femininity: sexuality, power, accessibility, creativity, compassion, social status, affluence, self-respect. Because our attire speaks so loudly about who we are and who we aren’t, we also deal with influence and who we hope to engage with on a given day. How accessible do I want to make myself today? How much do I want to reveal? How much do I want to conceal? Do I want to lead or do I want to be one of the masses? Do I want to bring attention to myself? These aren’t conscious questions we ask ourselves necessarily; yet they sit below the surface.
Behavior and language is affected by dress. From my personal experience I’ve noticed that I’m more expressive and creative when I wear a long scarf; more formal, precise, and attentive wearing a suit jacket; more nurturing and tactile in a long flowing dress. I notice my energy, tone, and carriage alters depending on the femininity of my fabrics, the structural formality of a garment, the heel height of my shoes, the accessories I’ve chosen. My language and sentence structures change, my accessibility to others is affected. The emotional, physical, and psychological components are intertwined. This, I find fascinating.
Orange Scarf, oil on canvas, 29×42
AF: I’ve noticed a few of your latest works in this series are named after women. Are these “portraits” of specific women?
C: Yes, they are. It is part of a social “inspiration” project that I began in 2009 and will be complete in the next several months. It is comprised of 6 individual paintings around 40″ and one larger 10′ painting. It is entitled Accidental Mentors Project and I’ll be sure to let you know all about it when fully complete.
Cindy: Structural Integrity
AF: I can’t wait to see the completed series! Do you have a favorite article of clothing? What makes it special and what does it say about you, as a woman, as an artist or as a mother?
C: I found this question challenging, if you can believe it. I decided on one long skirt I’ve had for about 6 years. It has a conservative pattern on a somewhat sheer fabric, yet a Latin-inspired construction. Every time I wear it, it makes me feel like dancing and I couldn’t feel more feminine or more perfectly my age in it. Because of how it makes me feel, I’ve also had some great memories attached to it. That adds a sentimental component.
Decisions, mixed media on canvas, 36×60
AF: Finally, just for fun.. What are you wearing? 😉
C: Pink racer-back NIKE T-shirt, navy blue Adidas cropped workout pants and my favorite socks – my running shoes yet to be put on. Plus, a little locket with my kids’ tiny toddler faces inside. The combination seems perfect at this quiet, early morning moment before the sun has arrived.
A huge thank you to Christina for sharing her work and insights. To see more of this talented artist’s work, please visit her website
Featured image is Christina in her downtown Jacksonville studio. All images are courtesy of the artist’s website.