Wesley Singh / Courtesy of Keariene Muizz
Artist Keariene Muizz poses in the dress she made entirely out of one of her oil paintings.
Talk about wearable art. A California artist astonished herself and others last month when she took a pair of scissors to one of her oil paintings and then sewed it into a dress.
Artist Keariene Muizz said she obsessed quite a bit over her measurements and calculations before she dug into the project because, of course, “when sewing canvas together, you only get one shot.”
“Every cut was final,” said Muizz, 34, of Newport Beach. “I began by outlining my body on my oversized sketch pad since there was no pattern for this type of garment, which has no buttons or zippers. It’s 100 percent canvas.”
Is she happy with the final product? Absolutely.
“This dress is something I would want to be buried in!” she said, laughing. “It’s great because now the painting is not restricted by nails, it doesn’t have to be hung up on a wall, it doesn’t have to be framed. This is art when I’m wearing it.”
What made her do it? Well, there’s a story behind it, and quite a bit of that story involves loss and sadness. Muizz first began the painting, titled “Playing G-d,” in 2006 while struggling to come to terms with the senseless murder of her friend, Jeannette O’Keefe. O’Keefe was brutally killed while traveling in France; Muizz had to help identify her body after it was found in a sleeping bag on the outskirts of Paris on Jan. 2, 2001.
The experience left Muizz feeling traumatized and robbed of her sense of safety in the world. As the years passed and O’Keefe’s murderer remained at large, Muizz grappled with ongoing bouts of fear and anxiety.
Finally, in 2009, DNA evidence helped to identify O’Keefe’s murderer in Paris. He was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 30 years in prison in January 2012.
That moment was so significant for Muizz that she felt compelled, almost immediately, to turn her attention back to the painting she had dedicated to her friend’s memory. She aptly renamed the work “A Mended Life” and spent 70 hours over four days cutting it up and turning it into a dress.
“My proudest moment was signing it,” Muizz said. “At that moment I realized that I’ve just reclaimed my life, and now I’m free.”
While this particular dress holds tremendous personal meaning for Muizz, she thinks she’s stumbled onto something special and unique. She dreams of creating a custom oil-painting dress for the likes of Lady Gaga or Bjork, and she also gushes about how this concept could actually boost the value of Victoria’s Secret’s jewel-encrusted Fantasy Bra.
“How much more amazing would it be to have a bra that’s actually a painting and also has the diamonds and everything else?!” she said.
Laura T. Coffey is a TODAY.com writer, editor and producer who has no idea how to paint or sew and is so impressed with people who do. Read more of Laura's stories at LauraTCoffey.com.