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True Icon; Susan Sontag

Posted: Jul 05 2016

The shock white streak in her coarse black hair reflected her iconoclastic cred; for Susan Sontag culture was controversy, the political personal, and opposition obviously necessary.  Activist, teacher, writer, filmmaker. Susan met constant criticism as she set out to stir and shape the system, her cry to non-arms, “Be serious, be passionate, wake up!”

We remember Sontag best in her essays about the ever-evolving intersection of high and low art and the hushed hum and deep denial of the 80’s AIDS epidemic, but we must too remember her stature in style. She wore what worked for work as she made her way across North Vietnam, Israel, Sarajevo – a long sleeve button-up with the collar wide and her neck exposed, a big black leather jacket sagging and bagging with cool confidence, trousers always the best cut trousers, the long man’s overcoat, a ribbed turtleneck to fit. Styles of radical will.


Stern but smiling, cigarette sparked, the necklace that drips and jangles, suited and scarved. Sontag said the photographer was the limiter of reality, the nullifier of direct experience, yet in front of the lens she was a stunning subject. Aesthetics with equal intensity as action; austerity for posterity. Her vibe was intentionally blank, the lagenlook of calm, that beautiful blend of comfort and neutrality. Anti-sex appeal for epic conviction, alluring because it’s enduring.

“What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women in something masculine.” Perfectly put. Susan thought clothing was camp, can’t you tell? Teaching us that the only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions.

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