NEW YORK, June 21, 2017
by Tiziana Cardini
Conversations with Stella Jean are always interesting, yet you can’t help but get the impression that the world’s weight sits heavily on her shoulders. In the past, she has often charged her fashion message with intense political undertones, as if, in order to be meaningful, it needed to be justified by some higher purpose. This is very tricky territory, especially now, when social and political issues are making us all so concerned and worried; more than ever, they’ve got to be treated by designers with the utmost care and sensitivity.
For Resort, probably aware of the matter, Jean infused a welcome lightness into the collection, not only in meaning but also in style. She kept her strong points at the core—the reworked folk patterns, the vibrant colors, the full circle skirts, the shirtdresses—but she infused her signatures with a playful spirit. Case in point was her choice of a funny print depicting ducks, which ran around a long, tiered dress and a midi pencil skirt paired with a striped tee. It was inspired by a 19th-century Russian painting she found by chance.
Animals hold symbolic power in the Haitian culture that Jean, having family ties, knows so well. She was drawn to the Canadian artist Christopher Griffin’s abstract paintings of monkeys, which she translated as a motif on boxy jackets, graceful tiered dresses, and shorts. Lions, toucans, and fish were mixed with stripes, kente patterns, and masculine checks; shapes were kept simple and wearable. The lineup looked flexible, of the everything-goes-with-everything variety; the vibe was optimistic and fresh.
Cardini, Tiziana. “Resort 2018 Stella Jean.” Vogue.com. New York, 21 June. 2017. Web
In the early 90’s I began my art career in Toronto by hanging my works at cafe’s, pubs & coffee shops. These were temporary exhibits with prices and titles marked on small paper tags beside each work. It is humbling and gratifying that five top Ottawa eateries have committed to purchasing my work on a permanent basis. The Pomeroy House is one of these great restaurants. The challenge here was their long and narrow space. A painting above the seating would have been difficult to view in its entirety and so I proposed a parade of small 3D clay elephants to animate the space. The pattern and repetition harmonize with the seating fabric and the colour provides a natural transition between the seating and the wall.
Planet Coffee is a fantastic coffee shop in the heart of the Market in downtown Ottawa. They were the first to purchase a piece of art from me to hang permanently in their space. In 2010, I had a painting returned to me from a gallery – it was an abstract aerial view of a herd of bison. Not having seen it for 5 years, I immediately realized that there was something missing and I painted a blue Humpback whale overtop of it. I offered to hang it at Planet Coffee temporarily. It fit the space above their seating perfectly. Once a few patrons enquired about the piece, the ladies at Planet Coffee realized that they couldn’t afford to lose it and so they purchased it themselves.
Fauna is also another great restaurant just down the street from my studio in centretown, Ottawa. This white bull painting is very large and because it is vertical, demands a large space to view properly. This was another case of hanging the painting and it immediately finding a permanent home. It fits as if it were custom painted and sized for that exact location.
Whalesbone is also an Ottawa institution and their (4th) space on Elgin Street demanded a large custom made Sperm Whale. The painting is 17′ long and I was unable to stand back and see it in its entirety in my studio. I took the print of the whale from the sidewalk under the Kent Street underpass. Once it was finished, three of us walked it down Gladstone Ave., north on Elgin Street and through the large double windows of the Whalesbone. This is the longest painting I have ever completed.