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Art Conversation: The dreamers among us

By Al Jennings

Karl Lagerfeld died  February 19. He was 85. He was famous for being the person behind Chanel, in which he took control in 1983 and saved it from bankruptcy making the company worth $2.7 billion at his time of death. He also ran Fendi, Chole and his own label, Karl Lagerfeld.

Karl Lagerfeld

His most famous quote was, “Sweat pants are a sign of defeat.”

Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg,Germany in 1933, during a chaotic time and prior toWorld War II. He had a dream to make a better life for himself, which took him to Paris.

In 1954, at 21, Lagerfeld won the International Wool Secretariat in the coat category, sharing the stage with a man who would become his rival in fashion, Yves Saint Laurent, who won for his dress design. The recognition landed Lagerfeld a job with the couturier Pierre Balmain. The rest was history and his dream became a reality. His dream to become a designer also restored Paris, once again, as the international center for fashion design.

Pablo Picasso

Dreams of 20th century artist. The dream for change and success is with in many of us. The dream to join the circus and see the world. It was at its strongest in the art world in the 20th century. During a difficult time in Europe prior to WWI many artists fled their own countries to find their dream and to be able to express themselves.

Paris was their first destination. Artist such a Spanish Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali from Spain, Amedeo Modigliani from Italy and Tamara Lempicka from Poland where among them. Americans were also attracted to Paris too. Thomas Hart Benton, Gertrude stein, Josephine Baker and Ernest Hemingway were drawn to Paris for its glamour and excitement. Paris was the place for great thinkers and artists.

Tamara Lempicka

During WWII not even Paris was safe, and many visual artist, architects and writers fled Europe to the United states. We had seen some artist migration earlies in the century, including Mark Rothko from Russia and Arshile Gorky from Armenia. However, WWII brought many artists seeking the American dream. The United States would make a noticeable shift in art and design due to their contributions. Mies Van Der Rohe, from Germany, would continue to make Chicago the city of sky scrapers, but with new technology, he made them taller.

Other artist such as Hans Hofmann from Germany and Willem De kooning, from Holland, would teach and encourage American artist and would be a big influence for a new generation of American home-grown artist.

Jackson Pollock

This is the beginning of a new American dream when the New York school and American Abstract Expressionism appears. Jackson Pollock, probably the most famous among these artists, had a strong connection to Thomas Hart Benton. The two met in 1930 when Pollock, 18, enrolled in Benton’s Art Students League class in New York City. Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline and many others where in this group as well.

Included were a new generation of women artist such a Lee Krasner, (Jackson Pollock’s wife who only became famous after his death), Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell. All becoming famous within their lifetimes. A new dream that artist had not seen much of before.

Artist continued to thrive by influences of American culture like Andy Warhol, who idealized the pop culture of a post war society, and Keith Haring influenced by the streets of New York City.

Dreamers in Ecuador. I have met many dreamers here in Cuenca who have accomplished many things in their lives and are continuing to pursue their dreams. Their dreams affect many in a positive way making Ecuador a better place for expats and Ecuadorians as well. If you are reading this, you are a part of this dream.

I have met artists, restaurateurs, business entrepreneurs, nonprofit charities and many others who are making important contributions to the community. Those who are not afraid to dream are the present and future of the world. Never be afraid to dream.
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Al Jennings is from New York City and currently lives in Cuenca.