Chicago Looks: Wearing the Identity

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 Gallerist Paul Melvin Hopkin (paul-is-slow.info) was at John Fluevog Shoes attending the Newcity Design 50 reception.

How does your art relate to what you wear?
I am interested in personal histories. I gather things that help me think about my past, my family background. The scarf I was wearing in the photo is a scarf I crocheted myself, and it is made from fabric I had used previously in an art installation. In its first life it was a shower curtain—the image was my translation of that moment in the “Wizard of Oz” where Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals the wizard to be a humbug. My version was a cinder-block shower stall. I crochet sometimes to keep me engaged in making processes when I am between other work. I have told many of my friends that the shoes are my version of a bridesmaid dress. I attended a friend’s wedding. Everybody in the wedding party was asked to wear something champagne gold.

What’s your favorite item in this outfit?
Feels like a favorite is hard: I love the necklace made by Laura Prieto-Velasco. I teach art classes, and I use it in a lecture about portraits. I talk about lockets, and wearing the identity of a loved one, and the history of something like hair or nails that used to be a part of the locket tradition. Then on to how the story changes when the person’s identity is revealed through a fingerprint, and the kind of story we assume when there is a severed finger. I also just love the weight of it and where it hits my sternum. The jacket has to be a fave—you don’t get something worn to that degree until it has been with you for a long time.

Is dressing well important to you?
I want to dress in a way where I feel like myself, and I want to do that well. I prefer distinctive choices more than brands or trends. I think fashion is a kind of art that changes the way people think about you, and that can obviously be a pretty powerful thing.

What inspires you to put your best game on?
I grew up Mormon and in a small town. I had very blond hair and looked like a lot of other Mormon kids, but the older I got, the more progressive my beliefs became. I went through a phase in college where I still looked like every other Mormon kid, but was talking about all these ideas—contemporary art, Foucault and all. People didn’t take my ideas seriously because I didn’t look like someone who would have those ideas. I grew a beard, and my mode of dress became more rough because I started practically living in the ceramics studio. The change in presentation drastically changed the way people treated me. I have tried to play with that in a self-conscious way ever since. I hope not in a douche way. I try to choose carefully when I purchase and try to keep editing in my closet so that when I just throw things on I can still have some sense of being put together. I find that some things are more versatile because they are bright or distinctive. I hate it when I see men wearing clothes chosen to help them disappear—you know, too many neutral colors and sized to hide the fact that they have a body. When there is an event, I try to dress appropriately, but with a  dose of me in it. Tends to mean I dress a suit down, and dress jeans up. I have to have a sense of humor about the way I dress. The right attitude makes every outfit better.

—Interview and photo by Isa Giallorenzo

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