Take Me As I  Dress

Living a layered life is my modus operandi, M.O. By layering everything, as it occurs I let the thread reveal itself.  And it always will if I stay true to myself, my ideas. I embrace the mantra "go with the flow." As ideas arise, I layer them onto my many canvases; my work, my art, my writing. I allow them to be part of each composition. I trust the process. Amy Krause Rosenthal says, "Pay attention to what you pay attention to." (1) I listen to my body and pay attention. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this flow in an interview with Wired magazine as, ". . . being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." (2)

I made the decision to flow when I first discovered the art world. I didn't come from an artsy family. My father was a sergeant in the Air Force, drove a cab at night. My mother was a stay-at-home mom raising seven children.

Looking back, I see that my parents did have an eye for harmony and balance. A sense of personal style. I can see it in the the way my mother, Grace Laverne Tilson, set the table for Sunday dinner. Or in the dresses she sewed. Looking at her smile I can see that she was proud.

The photographs my father, Ray Zabielski, captured revealed his aesthetic intentions and his values; Japanese children posed in front of their home in an abandoned bomb shelter, Tachikawa Air Force Base housing in the background, Dad's shadow in the field.

My first exposure to visual art occurred right after I started writing poetry. I met a woman who was a painter. Recently divorced, she lived on a limited budget. She had a bohemian style, wearing flowing woolen skirts and long sweaters she had knit.  In her old two story house she kept the thermostat set at 65 degrees. It was chilly as I sat for the portrait she drew. It was different than a photograph. It captured a softness, a tenderness I had never seen in a photograph. It wasn't the reflection I would see in the mirror. I liked it. Her passion and expertise inspired me. 

portrait by Judith Kuehne

portrait by Judith Kuehne

"It takes time," she said, "a lot of time to be an artist."

I became discouraged. Time, I did not have, not with kids and a hair design business. Yet, I also had a"don’t tell me what to do" M.O. I would find a way. Writing was my art form. No matter what, I would write. Even if it meant I could only write short poems in ten minute spurts, waiting for water to boil. I had stories to tell. I was on a mission having read "Of Woman Born" by Adrianne Rich. Her edict was for women to write the truth about their experiences, no matter how painful. Through our words people will know the truth about women. Margaret Atwood call this "the literature of witness." (3)


My great grandfather

converted over 500 Indians

to Christianity,

my mother said.

My great grandmother

birthed seven children

in eleven years.

My mother didn’t know that.

(c) 1989

Flow was clear when I opened Om Hair Designs in an old English Tudor building near downtown. Every view was a work of art. The leaded windows. Archways leading from room to room. We chose a color palette for the decor and for the designers. They made intentional, artistic statements in what they wore. Black, white, burgundy and silver. Our hair design team was cohesive. We studied hair cutting and styling techniques that produced effortless designs. Our clients left confident, our way of saying sexy, sensuous, unapologetically feminine. A look women want but won't admit.

My work was my life, my art. I dressed for the day. I was, as Viola Davis said at this years Oscars, "Take me as I am." I wore the same ensemble to work, to dinner, to meetings, to a party. There was no time for “freshening up.” Take me as I am was my M.O. I wore lots of black and layered it with a palette of colors that worked for me. They enhanced my stance. A stance made manifest in the way you walk, the way you set your eyes on the road ahead, your gaze, accompanied by a smile. A confident smile that says, "Hi." A tender smile that says, "Underneath, I know we're the same. Our hearts beat. Our heart peeks out." It was the same tenderness I saw in my mother's face after she put lipstick on right before my dad came home from work. 


It was the lipstick floating on toilet paper

that gave my mother away.

When she put that red across her lips,

it not only changed her face,

it changed her stance

when she stood at the stove and stirred.

(c) 1989

Even shoes became part of my art form. It didn't take long for comfort to drive every decision. Standing up all day was painful.

First came wedged heels followed by color coordinated tennis shoes. Next came custom cowboy boots, handmade in Matador, a small west Texas town. They were black and matched all my outfits. "Anything goes" became my fashion statement M.O. When I dressed for the day, I chose what to wear from the shoes up. Since I had already defined my color palette, it didn't take long for "anything goes" to always work.

Black polyester jump suit with a rhinestone zipper tucked into cowboy boots worked.

Burgundy red mini skirt, white peasant blouse, and straw hat with cowboy boots worked.

Tight jeans, black chiffon tunic and silver choker with cowboy boots worked.

When asked why he like New York City, German illustrator, Christoph Neimann said, ". . . there is only one city in your life you go to by yourself and you own that place. There was no uncle, no parents that paved the way. It was like my place." (4)

That was my secret ingredient for creating the world that I owned. I had moved to a city where nobody knew my name. I could be anyone. I never had to explain myself to someone from my past. That little voice from my childhood that asked, "Who do you think you are?" Was replaced with, "I know who I am. I am Laverne Zabielski, poet, writer, hair designer."

I embraced the concept: I own this place. Not as in I own the whole city. I owned my identity that inhabited this place. Take me as I dress. In winter I rode my bike with a baby seat on the back to work. I wore a down coat that covered my artsy haircutting fashion. During the summer I rode my bike to the farmer's market wearing a flowing white, gauze skirt. I dressed for the day.

Form followed function. 

Once, I went to a Halloween party after work. Someone said, "You're supposed to come in costume." 

I said, "I am in costume."

Take me as I dress. 

Take me as I am. 

(1) https://mobile.twitter.com/missamykr/status/312564535242395648

(2) Geirland, John, "Go With The Flow," interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. WIRED, 4.09. September, 1996.

(3) Atwood, Margaret. "on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump." New York Times, March 10, 2017.

(4) "The Art of Design." Christoph Niemann, Illustrator. season 1, episode 1. Netflix, www.https://www.netflix.com/watch/80093803?trackId=14170286&tctx=1%2C0%2C1451ee72-97c2-4f5c-b96e-fdc6e771d0d5-5264249