Isaac Mizrahi, designer, on his new Tomory Dodge painting
GB Tell me why you chose the painting.
IM Part of my artistic psyche, if you will, is a response to colour. It’s the pursuit of colour. One thing about Tomory Dodge is that he addresses the issue in the least banal way possible. Something I respond to in this painting, and in fact I usually respond to in all art, is that it has this almost violent quality but with a silver lining. There’s a balance there. It’s a kind of acknowledgement of the horrible world we live in but with a wink and a smile. It has an optimism about it.
GB Do you like that you can see so much of the artist’s hand in the work?
IM Yes. Absolutely. It’s an abstract painting but in a completely personal way.
GB Have you met him?
IM Yes and it’s very encouraging to meet him. He’s not a degenerate. He’s not terrifying. He’s personable and friendly.
GB What’s the title of this work?
IM It’s ‘Horrid, Torrid World’.
GB Do you think that affects your view of its beauty?
IM Not really, because I had a distinct response to it even before I knew what it was called. When you walk into a room filled with his work you do feel slightly overwhelmed by that bleakness with the silver lining. You feel the bleakness but know that in the end everything is going to be okay.
GB You say you don’t find him terrifying but I can’t imagine you finding anyone terrifying. You cover so much more ground than almost anyone I can think of – from the elitist world of high fashion, to QVC, to designing operas. Do you think that ideals of beauty are different across these different worlds.
IM No I have my idea of beauty that I express everywhere. I’m not the only person to be operating on many levels like this. It seems to be the way things are going. There’s less of a disparity between art and design and applied art. You have your own aesthetic and your own political, sociological balance that is who you are and you bring that to all these different things. I try not to focus on the result. The centre of the universe must be the focus on what you’re actually doing. I can remember reading an article years ago about Peter Sellers, the opera director. It was the stupidest criticism, saying he was doing too many things, spreading himself too thin. But everything he was doing was brilliant. How can you say that about someone so vibrant, trying to bring something to life like that?
GB So you think that the beauty is the same in a piece of fashion and a piece of art?
IM It’s really hard for me to answer that question honestly because there are those who would hate my answer. I don’t think there’s any difference. Maybe that makes me seems stupid and Pollyanna but that’s the world I’m trying to live in. There are critics who think that fashion is an exclusionary thing for skinny women, or art critics who don’t want to allow pop culture in. But it’s changing. That Cindy Sherman show in New York last year was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen. What was that? Take a fashion show by Raf Simons. You look at it and think, “what the hell is that?” Here’s what it is. It’s beautiful.
GB So what makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
IM The first word that pops into my mind is surprise. Something that I didn’t see coming from a mile away. If it’s something I haven’t thought of and I won’t become bored of, that makes it beautiful to me. I watch a lot of dance and if a dancer has the ability to ride the music in a way you’ve never seen before, it’s beautiful because you’ve never seen it before. It’s surprising and original. Those two things make something beautiful to me.
GB Do you think you could ever get bored of your painting?
IM Oh no. But I’ll get bored of the room so I’ll change it. I’ll move it around. The painting’s beauty is eternal, that’s why I bought it.