Erin Dixon: What was the catalyst for the trip?
I had been visiting Chadwick Bell’s studio while he was working on his Spring 13 collection. I was inspired by the woman he imagined. I saw her as a romantic ideal of myself - a 2013 Georgia O’Keeffe. A city girl, an artist, escaping into the desert to find clarity and reinvent herself. I hadn’t really left the city for at least six years, and I thought it was perfect timing to become the fantasy woman Chadwick had invented. I thought of the trip as a fashion experiment and a performance. But it turned into something more intimate.
Erin Dixon: How did you decide upon the route?
Chadwick was inspired by the 1920’s photography of the serene vast desert. So I started in Arizona and Utah. From then on my journey was nearly as spontaneous as Kerouac’s On The Road. I traveled the West and East coasts seeking magical yet understated landscapes.
Erin Dixon: How did the contrast of tailored clothing and nature activate your creativity or inform the character?
Fashion industry thrives on characters. It manufactures a plethora of fictional personages that we happily inhabit. We are so seduced and over-stimulated by them that we never think of discovering and creating a character of our own! Having been a model and a photographer in NYC I’d accumulated so many masks that my creativity became diluted. I wanted to strip off those masks and create something new. That is why I am unidentifiable in the photographs. I want anyone be able to invent their own character/story looking while they’re on the website. I don’t want them to see “Elle Muliarchyk in a black wig”.
Erin Dixon: How did the collection influence the shots?
Again, I didn’t want to stand our as a character - I wanted to be an observer blending into the environment. For example in the image with the big cactus I’m wearing a dress with similar vertical ridges. I’m wearing a snow-white jumpsuit next to a snow-white adobe church. Or in the shots standing and crouching on the rock in the middle or a stormy water I feel like the dress I’m wearing is blending with the wind.
Erin Dixon: Did the words come before, after or during the trip?
It happened simultaneously. I had never kept a diary until this trip. Every few days I’d send a new entry to the writer Anne B Kelly. She would then weave it into a single fiction story and send her progress back to me. Her words inspired me for the images to follow.
Erin Dixon: What was the most challenging medium to work with (e.g., words, music, photos)?
It was the layout. I worked with my team to recreate individual elements which evoked my experiences from the trip, but now we needed to put them back together! I guess it’s like synthesizing various scents and combining them artfully into a perfume. It would have never happened without Jacob Wildschiødtz art direction.
Erin Dixon: Is there any part of the experience not featured in the project?
Time! I wish I could make the website FEEL like you’re on a several months’ journey, while keeping the reader captivated. Even Marcel Proust hardly succeeded at it. Our attention span is so short. But that’s the side effect of our age… My hope is that people will linger on the website and actually take time to read the story. Take time for magic in your life!
Erin Dixon: How did the project help you evolve as an artist?
On one hand, I absolutely thrive on collaboration and believe that you can create greater things working together. On another hand, with a collaboration there is always a feedback which taints your creative instincts. Often the final creation is just a sum of compromises. Even when you work alone (let’s say photographing a friend to feature on a blog), you’re always creating a “product” for a particular audience. The “feedback” is always on the back of your mind. However, they say the true “geniuses” are “selfish”. They are ignorant of external opinions and don’t bother to “please” anyone but themselves. For “Escapes” I decided to suspend the approval/feedback-seeking desire and just create images I loved.
In fact, I wasn’t planning to share and publish them until halfway into the journey.
I would recommend this exercise to every creative person. It’s like a reset button. Don’t think of your creation as a “product”. Don’t ask, “What would Jesus do?”, ask “What would I do”. Haha.
I feel like I rediscovered and reinvented myself creatively on this journey. I have more faith in my visual language and message.
Erin Dixon: Did you learn any fundamental truths about humanity or human nature in general? What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself?
I think we’ve become cyborgs. Even when we get together with friends our conversation mirrors the technology - we either “reblog” (recycle old information/gossip) or “instagram” (report the events from our own life tinted with our favorite “filter”). I discovered the magic of fashion for the first time in my life seven years ago when I secretly took self portraits in hundreds of changing rooms. I didn’t try on those expensive garments in order to post the photos on my blog - there were no fashion blogs then! I was captivated by the transformative power of fashion. I discovered that my mission now is to inspire women to discover and experience the magic of fashion on their own terms. Dress for yourself , try to not think whether what you wear would be snapped or snubbed by a street style photographer.
Erin Dixon: What place were you most affected by and why? What is your favorite shot from the trip and why?
Perhaps it was in the middle of the night on the rocky beach on the East Coast. (The shot with white umbrella) There was a tiny harbor with sailboats chiming in the wind. It sounded like a hundred little churches were ringing their bells. It actually happens when the lines lightly bump against the mast. I’d never heard this sound before and it was magical. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTP9Y8bGKaA
Erin Dixon: Where will you go next?
I’m preparing for a similar collaboration with another designer+model I love. I want to continue creating these little ” fashion wormholes” through which you can transport yourself into a fairy tale. Or you can crawl in bed with it as with your favorite book.
Photography by Elle Muliarchyk. Art Direction by Jacob Wildschiødtz. Story by Anne B Kelly. Music bySuperflux. Covers artwork by Tarik Mikou . Website design: Plume.net.