Pat Kurs – From New York to Malta
Your photography has been described as erotic art – as they say there is a fine line between erotica and pornography, so how do you make this distinction?
“Pornography is an insult to the senses, a vulgar, crass and base exhibition to the sensitive and discerning artist/observer… erotica, on the other hand is a keen response to the innate nature of beauty/art/life itself portrayed and displayed by the artist/creator as an homage to the elementary, the essence of the perfect human form as seen through the eyes of an enrapt artist.”
Was it difficult for you to be taken “seriously” as you made the transition from dancer to model to photographer?
“No, actually, as a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, as a “stylist-to-the-stars” and as a vintage photographer my work has received widespread acceptance even in the face of often ground-breaking and radical departures from the classical. Those who served as idols, great photographers such as Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Patrick Demarchelier always lauded my initial endeavours and inspired me to take risks and dig deep within myself to become more and more daring and in essence creative.”
You have always been known for your creativity and artistry – where did you get this flair from? Was there someone in your family who was artistic?
“Initially, from the ballet world followed by leafing through countless copies of fashion magazines and museums and being a friend of Diana Vreeland and Polly Mellon of Vogue. Many top hairdressers and make-up artists, endless fashion shows and mentors and of course lots of travelling to Paris, London and Milan made something or someone stand out and become recognised as special, elite and permanent. No one in my immediate family was artistic. I always retreated to my own private internal world of beauty and colour, of light and textures… a series of carefully constructed and very persona balancing acts with me as ringmaster and director. Karinska, the lead costume designer of the New York City ballet was a true inspiration.
I can still remember being in rapture gazing lovingly on her designs and costumes and the magic they created in my mind’s eye, as was the rare and distinct privilege of viewing the private chateau of Yves Saint Laurent where I first saw his vintage pieces. I guess it is true when they say beauty reveals everything.”
As your photographic career took off, were you surprised by your international success or did you always know you would succeed?
“No, my styling career was immediate, I was actually known as “stylist to the stars”. In my first year I hit the ground running; I was booked almost daily. I became more interested in art than fashion, although I incorporated both. I have always been surrounded by the greatest costume designers like Karinska, with Balanchine New York City ballet and had received an invitation to work with French Vogue as well as YSL and Chanel. Actually I have been shooting photos since 1969 while I was styling and first published in a SX-70 art book by Ralph Bibson with a picture entitled blue moon in l974. It wasn’t until 2005 that I had my first show at the Palais Royale in Paris, and then worked with Danniel Rangel as a collaborator for Brazilian Vogue and Casa Vogue. Not long after, I had three shows in Rio de Janiero at my gallery Tempo.”
You have worked with some of the greatest fashion photographers – what have you learned from them and how have they inspired you?
“I had the great honour of styling fashion shoots with the world renowned Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Patrick Demarchelier and Hiro as well as the top celebrities and models from the 1970s through till today: Lauren Hutton, Rene Russo, Janice Dickinson, Grace Jones, Susan Lucci, Morgan Fairchild… I could easily go on forever! It was like magic working with them, and I learned the importance of having a good eye and a concept.”
Malta could not be further removed from New York – did you know anything about the island before you were approached to put up this exhibition? How did you first come into contact with Lily Agius (editor of Manic magazine), who is organising your Malta exhibition?
“Lily Agius visited New York in October of 2007 and attended my opening called Dollface at the Sous Les Etoiles gallery, curated by Corinne Tapia. I met Lily through my British godchild Sophie Macken who is a legend in her own right and also is a contributor to Manic magazine. She told me at the time that it might be a great idea to bring my theme to Malta for an exhibition. This, now, has become a reality and I am really looking forward to seeing another beautiful island as I spent a lot of time on islands all over the world and Malta is one which I have always wanted to see. Working with Lily Agius has been a dream come true as she is a brilliant entrepreneur.”
Exhibitions featured: From New York To Malta – Pat Kurs