Lady Gaga came under heat yesterday after her letter-style contribution to V magazine‘s latest issue, #71, made its way to the public. In the 1445 word defendment (I made up that word) she argues that she’s a librarian, in that her knowledge in fashion and art is deep and wide:
I myself can look at almost any hemline, silhouette, beadwork, or heel architecture and tell you very precisely who designed it first, what French painter they stole it from, how many designers reinvented it after them, and what cultural and musical movement parented the birth, death, and resurrection of that particular trend.
Of course no one is that good, but she’s trying to make the point that the exterior we see is grounded on an understanding, that she took the time to study:
An expertise in the vocabulary of fashion, art, and pop culture requires a tremendous amount of studying. My studio apartment on the LES, quite similar to many of my hotel suites now (knock on wood), was covered in inspiration. Everything from vintage books and magazines I found at the Strand on 12th Street to my dad’s old Bowie posters to metal records from my best friend Lady Starlight to Aunt Merle’s hand-me-down emerald-green designer pumps were sprawled all over the floor about two feet from my bathroom and four inches from my George Foreman Grill.
That’s fine and respected. I think it’s good to have the hunger, passion, and discipline in life. But the letter comes off a bit arrogant:
Any writer, or anyone for that matter, who doesn’t understand the last two sentences of this column should NEVER be writing about or critiquing fashion or artists in publication. As someone who references and annotates her work vigilantly, I am putting all of you on notice. I’ve done my homework, have you? Where are your library cards? Did they expire?
She then jumps into art, and makes a good argument, that I agree with for the most part:
When Yves Saint Laurent designed the “Mondrian” day dress for fashion week Fall/Winter 1965, did he plagiarize or revolutionize? Some people would say he was unoriginal, that he traced an iconic contemporary artwork by Piet Mondrian, and stole it for his own merits. Others may argue that by referencing something so “before its time,” he influenced an entire generation in fashion that transformed the female body with a more linear sensibility, graphics, and painterly shape. We now call it “mod.” Picasso said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” Maybe he only said that because he and Matisse were in a bitchy queen fight for two decades (some called it a boxing match, I call it a conversation in art). But maybe it’s just that the resolution is: art gives birth to new art. There is no chicken or egg. It’s molecular. Cells give birth to cells. To put it more bluntly, the Hussein Chalayan vessel I wore at the Grammys wasn’t inspired by a chicken. It was stolen from an egg. But the transformation, the context, and the approach taken to reinterpret the meaning of birth and rebirth in terms of fame on a fucking red carpet — this is what creates the modernity of the statement. The past undergoes mitosis, becoming the originality of the future.
Somewhere in the middle of her own letter, she quotes her self in it:
“I DON’T WANT TO BE A DRAG, I JUST WANT TO BE A QUEEN.”
She then goes on the defensive again:
I have concurrently shown that I could “read you” in this subject, but I would rather reckon with the fact that many are clinging tightly to cultural divisiveness and leaving home without library cards.
She then continues her argument, with her art metaphor:
Just like sometimes Picasso was Matisse’s Mondrian, and vice versa. Bowie is often my Mondrian, as are Michael Jackson, Prince, Lita Ford, and Madonna. Mugler is my silhouette’s Mondrian, Cindy Crawford is my sexuality’s, Kermit is my whimsy’s, and, in my “Born This Way” video, two of my Mondrians were Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí. In a lot of ways the “idea” of being obsessed with art is my Mondrian. Just like Campbell’s Tomato Soup was Warhol’s Mondrian, and Marilyn Monroe and Maripol were Madonna’s. I am obsessed with all the authors in the library of pop culture.
And then she starts her final paragraph with the following:
I do not define, however, my artistry or historical relevance with one particular fashion or musical statement.
Some words taken from V Magazine Article & FC
You can read the full V letter here.
Lady Gaga photographed by Inez & Vinoodh.