Shoes shine in ArtsNational talk

ArtsNational committee member Jeff Swain with guest speaker Claudia Chan Shaw.

STEPPING in with their fanciest feet forward, the audience for Claudia Chan Shaw’s ArtsNational Coffs Coast lecture donned distinctive footwear for the occasion.

Attending a presentation called ‘Well-Heeled: Shoes Through Time’, many audience members participated in the spirit of the evening by wearing special, handcrafted, exotic, memorable, or just outright beautiful shoes to the event.

Claudia had a difficult time picking a ‘prize winner’ from amongst the attendees.

A media presenter, writer, fashion designer and collector, Claudia Chan Shaw presented a dynamic and sometimes theatrical history of shoes – from high fashion to the humble flip flop.

She spoke of shoes as symbols of power and status; luxury and wealth; shoes as political statements and acts of rebellion against the status quo; and shoes for their utilitarian purpose of comfort and practicality.

Claudia also covered the phenomenon of old becoming new once more.

Doc Martens, Birkenstock or the sneaker, once everyday practical wear, are now seen as desirable and often quite fashionable.

Yet, as Claudia revealed, one of the earliest shoes discovered in a mummified male body is strikingly similar to the ubiquitous sneaker.

High heels go back a long way too, worn by both women and men to elevate height and therefore emanate a sense of power.

Humphrey Bogart wore elevated shoes in Casablanca, partly because his co-star, Ingrid Bergman, was so tall.
The thong or flip flop has been worn for centuries too.

Caludia explained how shoes have always been a useful metaphor in myths and stories.

Cinderella’s shoes must be returned before her prince can marry her; ruby slippers play a prominent role in the Wizard of Oz; fairytales like Puss in Boots and Red Shoes attest to the magical storytelling prowess of shoes.

Shoes can also be instruments of oppression, as Claudia skillfully explained when illustrating the history of foot binding in China.

Although banned in 1912, so aligned as it was with female notions of perfection and beauty, it persisted until 1949.

Designers Christian Louboutin, Vivienne Westwood and Manolo Blahnik demonstrate that shoes can also be innovative and things of beauty while simultaneously being out of reach and impossibly uncomfortable for many people.

Ultimately, shoes are essential and most of us wear them.

But shoes are not neutral, they are loaded with meaning, Claudia explained.

They make a statement; influencing the way we walk, sometimes synonymous with suffering, inviting us to conform or rebel.

The well attended evening was hailed by audience members as entertaining, informative, surprising and fun.

ArtsNational spokesperson Annie Talve told News Of The Area, “Claudia Chan Shaw’s lecture encapsulates everything we are aiming to do in our ArtsNational Coffs Coast program – eclectic, informative, inclusive and entertaining talks with excellent speakers.

“Our talks also stimulate lively conversations, as demonstrated by the buzz of voices during our post talk supper.”

Arts National Coffs Coast welcomes Antiques Roadshow presenter and author Andy McConnell to their next talk on May 20 at the John Paul College Theatre on Hogbin Drive, Coffs Harbour.

“His topic: ‘Scandinavian Glass: From Orrefors to IKEA’.

“Scandinavian glass in particular, and design in general, has an enduring presence in our homes and hearts,” Annie said.

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