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Michele Oka Doner, Sculptor

"I know what looks correct."

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What are you doing today?
I came uptown to visit Steuben to see my collection in the window. The work is my first in glass. I mixed it with bronze, and the result was very exciting. Especially the fishbowl that sits on a brown coral reef and makes me smile.

Where do you live?
Soho. I’ve had a loft there for the past 25 years—it’s a great live-work thing.

Does the gentrification of Soho bother you?
No. The performance artists and poets didn’t have the capital to save all the rotting buildings. Everything evolves, nothing stays still.

What’s your sculpting style like?
Organic. My figurative sculpture has an oceanic aspect or a botanic theme. I’m up in the tree if I’m not under the ocean.

And how about your personal style?
Simple. My physical presence I keep curated—always the same—and I just stay strong and healthy.

Tell me about your outfit.
I guess you could say it’s a uniform. I have lots of these dresses. Twenty years ago I backed into a store called Chelsea Designer in Soho during a rainstorm and saw this dress in burgundy. Now the store is closed and the designer lives upstate, but I have them made: white for the summer and for Miami, where I also have an apartment, and then a few grays for the gray days. I have a few dark blues and velvet for fall, cashmere for winter.

So how many of these dresses do you have?
At least twenty. And I always wear Hanro underpinnings beneath—leggings and camisoles, even in the summer, because of air-conditioning. I used to go to Switzerland to get them, but now I buy them on Madison Avenue at Peress.

And your coat?
It’s from Hermès. About three years ago they had a very interesting designer, Martin Margiela. This coat is alpaca, which is so nice and warm in the fall.

Do you ever buy other dresses?
If I ever deviate, like when I go out to something black-tie, the designer of Morgane Le Fay, Liliana Casabal, will make me something. It’s usually a variation on this shape.

You’re very consistent!
I’ve combed my hair the same way for 40 years now, and I’ve always believed in a red mouth. I know what looks correct.


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