Applied Art

By Laura Cassidy October 11, 2010 Published in the November 2010 issue of Seattle Met

WHEN THE FRYE ART MUSEUM wanted to remake its ultratraditional, 50-year-old institution into a freethinking multidisciplinary exploration, they installed Robin Held as curator. Since 2005, she’s been finessing the task with characteristically singular and nuanced style.

Personal style in three words Dripping, dragging, dark.

Abstract influences My grandmother Beryl, who always wore Chanel sets in which the lining of the jacket matched the sleeveless shell; my mother Arlene, in a pink pouf; the designer Rick Owens—we grew up in the same small California town. We never met, but I still remember the first time I tried on one of his garments.

Choosing clothing vs. choosing art I like clothes that accelerate my imagination, and I would say the same for art, film, and loved ones. I like asymmetry. I like things that are wrong in the right ways. I like garments I don’t immediately know how to wear—like the Ann Demeulemeester fur gilet that inspired me to have this red rabbit one custom made.

New exhibits I like things that can be worn 10 ways—upside down, inside out, backwards. I’m lucky because in contemporary art it’s okay, even expected, to look dramatic. I can walk through the Frye galleries with the train of my skirt trailing behind me.

Master pieces I rely on a few select people whose tastes and personalities are as strong as my own: Betty Lin at Betty Lin; Lorali Downes at Ottica for eyeglasses that make you smarter, taller, thinner, sexier; Candice Young at Salon Voda (curly-haired women: Take note!); William at the Trish McEvoy counter at Nordstrom, who, with the patience of a monk, taught all-thumbs-me to make a cat eye. Next: red eye shadow a la the Korean film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

Off-duty Argentine tango! I wish I had discovered it when I was five so I could’ve had a whole lifetime to explore it. In terms of style, tango makes me pay at least as much attention to my back as my front—the view from outside the tango embrace. And I get to wear all my Marlies Dekkers lingerie that’s not safe for work.


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