A First Look at Tschabalala Self’s Painterly New Ugg Collaboration

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Made up of colorful twists on Ugg’s boots, slippers, outerwear, and accessories, the edit easily combines form, function, and Self’s exuberant creative vision. “It was kind of a natural fit,” she says. “Ugg is a brand that deals a lot with materiality and texture, and I deal with that stuff in my painting as well.”

Still, in other ways the process had her step slightly outside of her usual vernacular—figuration, namely. It proved a refreshing change. “With this project, I feel like I’m using a lot of the same aesthetic tropes and types of patterning and design and geometry that I would generally use in my practice, but the figure is not present,” she notes. “I was able to indulge purely in what feels and looks good, as opposed to linking those things directly to a much larger social and political narrative.” Her motifs in the capsule include the black and white checks seen in paintings like KLK and Chopped Cheese, both from 2017, and an irresistibly pretty blue-green wash. “I wanted to have one piece that felt very painterly,” Self explains. 

Photo: Courtesy of UGG
Photo: Courtesy of UGG

Elsewhere in the collection, she riffs on the seam that runs down the back, sides, and across the front of most classic Ugg boots. “One of the designs repeats the seam throughout the entire shoe,” Self says. “In my paintings stitch has a utilitarian purpose, because I don’t really use any glue for all the assemblage and collage, but I also use stitch to draw and to decorate the figures. So, I was able to do something similar with those shoes.” Three heeled boots, two of them artfully color-blocked, offer up additional examples of Self’s out-of-the-box thinking. 

Photo: Courtesy of UGG
Photo: Courtesy of UGG

For the artist, the experiences of creating Sounding Board and working on the capsule were similar in their emphases on collaborative thinking. Even before the pandemic’s enforced isolation, Self often operated on her own. “I’ve never worked that collaboratively before, in terms of working with so many different people to actualize ideas in my practice,” she says. “With the kind of art that I make, and running a painting studio, it’s generally a very solitary experience. So it was great to have that kind of connectivity.”

In the end, both processes had the effect of deepening Self’s own ideas about her work. “The experience strengthened what I already believed to be true in regards to the repetition and the reiteration of things,” she says. “Like, realizing that if you have an idea and then someone else is asked to interpret it, they are bringing their own creativity and artistic energy to that interpretation—and the idea itself becomes elevated in this really organic way.”



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