Walking, Dancing, Living Doll – Pat Kurs
Before I arrived in New York I was told by her niece, Sophie Macken, that Pat was one of a kind, but I quickly grasped soon alter meeting her that you can experience Pat in her full glory by spending enough time with her in her own environment — New York, New York.
Apart from her affiliation with Paris, she is a New Yorker through and through, but she knows exactly where to go to spark the Paris inside her — from her favourite antique, vintage and fabric shops to restaurants, bars and florists. From these and other cultured and vibrant locations, we followed, absorbed and delighted in the world of Pat, to the pinnacle moment of seeing her surrounded by those who adore her and her creative endeavours at the opening of her exhibition DollFace at Sous Les Etoiles Gallery on Broadway.
This is one of several exhibitions that she has held (the others were in Paris in 2005 and three in Brazil — two in 2006 and one in 2007) but the New York exhibition stands out as being her most rewarding. “It is the culmination of over 30 years of my work, and has provided me with a strong sense of accomplishment — much like a dream come true. It is very exciting to show at a French gallery in NYC. I initially showed at the Joyce Gallery at the Palais Royal in Paris as well as Paris Photo with Staley-Wise.”
Along the way, Pat has also contributed to fashion campaigns, and styled fashion shoots in the 1 970s with Bert Stern, Bill King, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Patrick Demarchelier. “The work I was fortunate enough to do with both Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon was beyond extraordinary. I knew at the time the significance and timelessness of the opportunily that was unfolding like a tapestry in front of me.”
Her fascination with detail — such as her use of embroidery, lace and sequins — is comparable to that of Ingres; her female subjects possess the grace and eleganceof her admired revolutionary Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya and of Margot Fonteyn and the portraits of beautiful ballet dancers by Degas, while the combination of surrealism and realism recalls the work of Federico Fellini and the expressionistic works of the 1940’s cinema masterpieces by Fritz Lang — all of whom have had a greatimpact on Pat. She confirms to me that these early cinematic creations tap into her own mindset and allow her to run free with
“Without a doubt, the surrealistic backdrops and imaginary mindsets created by these illusionists are very compelling for me. I see in these images a world into which I can retreat and create my own private, personal, and glamorous world of exploration and fantasy, where I can be the improviser and also puppet-master. I love creating a world that I can renew each time I visit. In other words, I love creating an image ¡ust to please myself.”
Pat uses photography as a tool to combine all these aesthetic inspirations within one frame, and in this exhibition her vintage Polaroid shots evoke the mystical and transcend the fantastical while letting out the rawness of her sexuality. “To me, photography means a way of attaining instant gratification and the capturing of beauty fixed in time. My work reflects a longing within myself to make my world as beautiful as possible. . . at first I was afraid of revealing too much of myself — my soul, my heart, my inner self — then I realised that the time was ripe for a reinvigoration of my body of work and
that is how DollFace came about.”
The subects of this exhibition are dolls, but not just any dolls — they have souls and, most of all, a human element that is of an overriding mischievous nature. The subjects are also, I believe, of Pat herself; she can relate to them, but she also mimics art. She glows and also personifies the delicate and fragile world of a
doll. In fact, she says: “My dolls have been like friends since 1969. Their meaning to me is like asking what it means to live and create — they mean everything to me. My observations and images reflect the inner face within me, that nascent burgeoning and spark of creative energy channelled into a format with which I am most familiar — dolls and beautiful faces.” Pat swims within the world, and within the safety net, of these beautiful and fearless “beings”.
We await the next collection of Pat’s work. She has told me that she hopes to take it a creative step further and incorporate even more futuristic backgrounds with more industrial-elementa I formats. Until then, we can be assured that the wonderful Pat Kurs will continue to inspire and be inspired by all that life has to offer: “Every day you wake you receive a present — another day — and I truly believe this to be true. It impacts on me deeply, both in my life and in my work.”
Exhibitions featured: From New York To Malta – Pat Kurs