The House of Mirth

Art Narratives by Cynthia Korzekwa

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While sewing on this dress, for some unknown reason, I thought about Lily Bart.

Many years ago, I accompanied my daughter to Aix-in-Provence for a language course.  My reading companion was Edith Wharton’s THE HOUSE OF MIRTH.  Published in 1905, the book gets its title from Ecclesiastes 7:4: The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.


The protagonist is Lily Bart, 29 and unmarried. Lily will not marry the man she really loves because he is not rich thus dedicates her time trying to find a wealthy husband.  Unfortunately, Lily sabotages all of her possibilities for marriage as she unwittingly gets involved in a scandal that will eternally ruin her.

I remember quite well the night I finished reading THE HOUSE OF MIRTH because I cried and cried…

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Soda Can Sequins Huipil

Soda Can Sequins Huipil

Why not use old soda cans to make sequins? It’s quite easy to do with a hole puncher but they are then too tiny for me to work with. So I just cut up a can into little squares then rounded the edges with scissors. The aluminum can be pierced easily by a needle when sewing them onto a piece of fabric.

This “huipil” was made from a discarded black top. The ruffles are from a Valentino dress given to me by my friend Franky! And visible stitching (white on black!) was used to hem the edges.

Even clothes have to have names if you want to be friends with them so “soda can sequins” was embroideried on with yellow thread given to me by my mom years ago.

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“Why Not Grow Something?” huipil

"Why Not Grow Something?" huipil & skirt

Marina van Koesveld, (artist, tarot card reader, and magical thinker) is wearing “Why Not Grow Something?”

"Why Not Grow Something" Huipil

Clothing is also about identity thus, as with all Muy Marcottage garments, a personal philosophy is expressed. The primary concern here is that for Earth, the planet we call home. Demographics and greed have put us all in danger as natural resources are being abused. The fashion industry is a major culprit. So why make more clothes when we can re-invent the clothes we already have Bricolage Style?

The top of “Why Not Grow Something?” is a patchwork of white fabric pieces that are assembled in a huipil like form then hand painted. Visible stitching underlines the fact that the fabric is an entity made from parts.

The top part of the skirt is made from a pair of wacked off pants.  The rest of the skirt is made from more fabric pieced together then hand painted with a motif that mimics the print on the pants.

Pears, grapes, pineapples—fruit right out of the Garden of Eden. Fruit that is not only beautiful to the eye but provides nourishment as well. Unfortunately, food resources are becoming more and more of a problem. The demand is surpassing the supply.

It would help a lot if those with the adequate space tried to grow at least 10% of their food. Lettuce grown on balconies, herbs on the windowsill, fruit trees in the backyard would all contribute towards de-stressing our demands. Homegrown also means safer produce, a lower food budget, and the pleasure of growing something. Thus the name of this huipil, “Why Not Grow Something?”

Details.

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“Freshness Is Not Eternal” Huipil

Freshness Is Not Eternal

One morning while sitting in the kitchen searching for meaning in life, I noticed that the oranges in the fruit bowl were getting mushy. The firm plumpness they had when I bought them had disappeared. With this realization, I had an epiphany —life is ephemeral– so I needed to get up and get with the program before it was too late.

This huipil was made from pieces of white cotton stitched together to be used as a canvas for a drawing made with water-resistant markers. Hand-painting, appliqué, and hand-stitching are used to further embellish the huipil. The back is a patchwork of colorful fabric scraps.

The model is also wearing a paper bead necklace and a bracelet made from ballpoint pen caps.

Freshness Is Not Eternal Huipil

On this model, the huipil is oversized so it falls off her shoulder when she dances!

Freshness Is Not Eternal Huipil

Note the necklace made from old T-shirts.

Details.

Freshness Is Not Eternal

Point of departure sketch. The huipil was made c. 2010.

Photographer, Chiara Pilar

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“Feminist” huipil

Here’s my friend, Marina, modelling for me once again. She’s wearing a huipil I made from an old pair of sweat pants and lace remnants my mom gave me. The red stitching running across the front reads “feminist“.

Not long ago, while discussing animatedly, a male friend of mine called me a feminist as if being a feminist was something bad. But a feminist is simply a woman who tries to protect her rights and the rights of other women. So why do so many men have a problem with this?

We live in a world excessively masculinized were women are treated as inferiors. It was not always this way. Once, when life was considered sacred, women were revered for their major contribution to the life cycle.

The concept of democracy has been around for c 2,500 years but women have been voting only for the past 100. This means that for 2,400 years society has evolved dominated by male and not female values.  And we see where that has taken us!

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Once upon a time, the many cultures of this world were all part of the gynocratic age. Paternity had not yet been discovered, and it was thought … that women bore fruit like trees—when they were ripe. Childbirth was mysterious. It was vital. And it was envied. Women were worshipped because of it, were considered superior because of it…. Men were on the periphery—an interchangeable body of workers for, and worshippers of, the female center, the principle of life.

The discovery of paternity, of sexual cause and childbirth effect, was as cataclysmic for society as, say, the discovery of fire or the shattering of the atom. Gradually, the idea of male ownership of children took hold….

Gynocracy also suffered from the periodic invasions of nomadic tribes…. The conflict between the hunters and the growers was really the conflict between male-dominated and female-dominated cultures.

… women gradually lost their freedom, mystery, and superior position. For five thousand years or more, the gynocratic age had flowered in peace and productivity. Slowly, in varying stages and in different parts of the world, the social order was painfully reversed. Women became the underclass, marked by their visible differences.

from Gloria Steinem’s “Wonder Woman

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Marina Making Ripples

One Drop Makes Many Ripples

Marina van Koesveld is a magical thinker. With her thoughts she’s able to create new realities.  When Marina was younger, she’d dress as Frida (long before the craze) maybe because the two had much in common. Both  are painters.  And both are sensual with long dark hair and eyes that can perforate you like laser beams.

Here she is wearing the huipil dress One Drop Makes Many Ripples.  The dress is made from a second hand cloth that, maybe, was used as a towel.

“Flowing” in and out of the dress is a strand of pieced cloth. The fabric design reminded me of drops of water so I embroidered the phrase One Drop Makes Many Ripples around the collar.

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The motion of everyday life creates ripples—one action produces other actions. Thus ripples connect us one to the other.  That’s why it’s important to be aware that our actions—be they physical or psychological—affect the lives of those around us.

Ripples are everywhere.

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The Quiddity Dress

Quiddity Muy Marcottage Dress

All of the dresses I make have a name. Because they are not anonymous. Because instead of looking at a dress as a thing, I try to create a relationship with it. For example, the Muy Marcottage dress “Quiddity”.

Quiddity, in philosophy, is the whatness of an object, its inherent nature or essence. Otherwise, quiddity refers to a distinct feature or a quirk, an idiosyncrasy.

A dress is a category but my dresses are specifics. They help to define me. They are an extension of my personal quiddity because I interrelate with myself when I chose the clothes I wear.

The body and its clothing live in symbiosis.  At least temporarily.  There is an intimacy we have with our clothes that we have with nothing or no one else. Because our clothes cling to us and touch our skin.  They are there omnipresent and participate in our every move. Our clothes know our secrets. Our clothes are well aware of our quiddity.

                                                  Quiddity Muy Marcottage DressQuiddity Muy Marcottage Dress

The dress “Quiddity” represents, in terms of Muy Marcottage, a union between past and present. The top half was made during my early experimental attempts at remaking secondhand clothes. I was dissecting all the old clothes I could find and sewing parts together almost as if I were making a collage.  Not happy with the results, I cut the top off from whatever it was attached to at the time and abandoned it.  Then this summer my friend Lyn gave me a dress made from a stretchy ethnic looking fabric and, anxious to play, I got out my chopped up fabric stash and came across the abandoned top. Seemingly incongruent, the two mated perfectly.

Melding is magic.

 

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