Monday, July 31, 2017

In the Artist's Studio fundraiser at Mad Cow Theater.

Mad Cow Theater's In the Artist's Studio fundraiser featured Merline Labissière, Lifetime’s “Project Runway” season 14 contestant as the guest artist for the Downtown Arts District's visiting artist program. The program was moderated by television and radio personality, Marc McEwen, who is best known for his role on CBS This Morning and as an anchor for WKMG-TV, Local 6 News.

A VIP meet-and-greet began at 6 pm. Labissière, a Miami-based designer, uses architecturally inspired design to create distinctive apparel for professional women. A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Labissière is a frequent lecturer and advocate for teaching fashion design to inner-city youth. She sat next to me as I sketched the stage prior to her being interviewed. Being an artist herself she loved what I do.

Merline's family came from Haiti in a very small makeshift boat. She remembers the very real thought that were the boat to sink, a decision would have to be made about who goes overboard. Her mom is illiterate and she always wanted a better life for her daughter. Merline was shy when she arrived, partly because she was just learning to speak English.

At Savannah College of Art and Design, she studied architecture. She took some art classes and remembers finding out that the opposite of orange is blue, "Say what?" Architecture is the mother of all art, and it offers the foundation on which other art forms are built, but she decided that fashion was her calling. To create her garments, she needed to focus on sketching. At first, her mom was less than thrilled with her desire to go into fashion.

She found out about auditions for Project Runway, a reality TV show about fashion, in Miami. She made it through the first audition, but on the callback, she needed to work on her craft. She needed a week to sulk. After her private pity party, she decided that she couldn't wait for opportunity and instead she would create her own fashion collection. It seems that anytime something amazing happens in her life, it comes after everything has fallen apart. At her first fashion runway show she had butterflies to the third power, she totally understands why celebrities do drugs. Her fashion designs are edgy using architectural straight lines to break up forms. Dresses on display resembled jigsaw puzzles with intricate cut out designs.

At another audition for Project Runway, she was cast on the show. She pointed out that all the contestants were on the show because they were broke. Although not the final winner, the show made her a celebrity and her work seen by millions. Everyone wants people to see their work and say, "I get you." The trouble with being an artist is that so much of your identity is wrapped up in what you create. If someone doesn't like it, that can be devastating. She turned to Christ and her identity is held strong in her faith. When Merline's mom saw her daughter's success, she came around and fully supported her career choice.

Merline now teaches middle school and high school kids to get out of the studio for inspiration. She has shifted her focus to enterprise, business plans, and branding. Someone showed her how to crochet and she finds that a relaxing hobby. She is now planning to return to architecture. Life has different seasons and there is always room to grow. She specifically schedules one day off a week to rejuvenate and after hearing her speak , I decided to do the same. She loves going on walks, writing, drawing, going to museums, and galleries. She specifically schedules time for fun and, darn it, that is a great idea as well. God, there isn't enough time in each day to do everything if you stay curious and inspired.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: