Of the most remote island in the world — the Polynesian island, Rapa Nui (known in the English speaking world as Easter Island), situated west of Chile — poet Pablo Neruda wrote, “…this is the face of solitude, because space here has no corners, and the distance has the clarity of a rectangle”.
The first time I visited this island, only a year ago, Neruda’s description of this expanse of earth resonated deeply for me. The finiteness of the land was palpable—at any given point, the end of the earth was visible: the land stopped abruptly, sinking its vertiginous teeth into the meat of the Pacific— and yet somehow the island’s topography espoused a spirit of boundlessness. Despite clusters of tourists that dotted the bucket-list island, I always found a spot where grass, stone and sky (and I by extension) seemed to go on ad infinitum. On Rapa Nui, solitude swaddled me, the wind wrapped its arms around me, I felt hidden in plain sight.
And yet, when I recently arrived on this second sojourn to this drop of land in the ocean, I found myself feeling disquieted, impatient, frenetic even. I had carried the chaos of things awry in New York with me as deep and invisibly inside me as the bodies of some of The Moai — the stone sculptures that are synonymous with Easter Island — are buried in the rolling hills of the island.
The stoney faces of the Moai, monolithic humanoid structures carved by the people of Rapa Nui somewhere between 1250 and 1500 AD, punctuate the undulating green landmass especially around the volcanic cone of Rano Raraku. The enigma surrounding them (Why were they carved? How were they transported in primitive times?) is perhaps the most magnetizing thing about the island.
Of the Moai, Neruda wrote these words:
This piece was made by hands of air, gloves of the sky, the blue turbulence, this piece was made by transparent fingers: a torso, the erection of naked Silence, the secret gaze of stone, the triangular nose of bird or prow, and in the statue, the miracle of a portrait
What is the miracle of portrait, the wonder of the ossification of a moment? Is the miracle of a portrait what it reveals or what it conceals? Is the marvel of the Moai what meets the eye above ground or the literal body of work buried beneath the surface?
There I was on Easter Island, running around in an idyllic reverie, my exterior as placid as stone, yet my insides churning with the chaos of missed flights, malfunctioning cameras, and the myriad matters gone wrong in New York. Somehow, in life, my countenance often belies the pandemonium of my existence, not unlike the thin crust of our earth, enshrouding the bubbling lava at its core. Yet, any concealment of soul-deep bedlam was certainly not deliberate.
Of course, clothes themselves represent this duality: they are, in a practical and deliberate sense, tools of concealment and yet they are also the conduit of revelation; a way to express our ideas, moods and even sometimes our desires. While there’s no groundbreaking wisdom in this hackneyed notion, it did get me thinking about dressing that intentionally toys with concealment and revelation.
So, spurred on by the Maoi (and with much help from the pulchritude of the island, not to mention a manicure from Paintbox Nails whose design is rooted in the unexpected revelation of negative space), we explored this idea of the hidden versus the apparent in five looks. Perhaps what I should keep cached is the fact that my colleague’s camera gave up the ghost and that we were left with no alternative but to shoot most everything on an iPhone. Or perhaps that fact is obvious? In any case, here they are: five looks and a little hide and seek.
1.Patent Plastic, Latent Leopard
I am not sure one can be any more “obvious” than setting foot on an island in sanguine pinpoint heels, clad in obsidian vinyl. But even here, there was room to hide a little something: I’ve often been told I look confident when I travel and while being out in the world does imbue my step with the proverbial extra spring, there’s apparently no telling what baggage I am dragging around inside on any given trip.
2.Who Needs A Shirt When You’ve Got A Hat?
A hat big enough to cover your bosom when you’ve scarcely got a shirt on? It’s so impractical in its mad-hattery, it’s perfect. Mystery and intrigue all woven into one seemingly-brimless brim.
3. A Pleated Rock
Pleats are, in essence, a study in conceal and reveal. At the right tension, as with the sleeve of this Gabriela Hearst blazer, they reveal a certain angular geometry in contrast to the overall softness of the look. And yet, tightly bound in a skirt, the folds are places of concealment, not unlike the pleats in the quarry Rano Raraku in the distance. One cannot help but wonder what stories those creases in the crater could tell.
4. Nouvelle Vague
It is, by now, no secret that I think of handbag designer Benedetta Bruzziches as a poetess of form. Her translucent “Big Wave” bag is all about revelation. Its limpid glory and its movement in stasis led me back to a place of the island that holds much magic for me. Here, the ocean crashes against rock and a tidal symphony is born.
5.The Subtlety of Sequins
A tropical print coat is not one I am sure I’d normally gravitate toward. And yet, the sequins. The sequins which are not apparent at a glance that adorn its shoulders are both quiet and its calling card. For the sequin on the coat of Easter Island is this location: Ara Moai. A hiking trail without a single Moai to see, it’s been completely unpeopled both times I have visited. And both times, regardless of the turning of the gyre inside of me, I have felt completely whole and powerfully small in its vastness.
On leaving Rapa Nui, Neruda wrote:
Goodbye, farewell, secret island, rose
Of purification, navel of gold:
Goodbye, may the great sea keep you
Free from our dried-out brutality!
hide, island, the ancient keys
under the skeletons
who will mock us until they are dust
In their caves of stone
A hundred stone gazes who look within
and forever, out into the horizon
On leaving Rapa Nui, I realized that the hidden island could not quell the tempest inside of me: only I can do that. But if there is anywhere on earth worth going to hide away from one’s self for spell to be reacquainted with obvious truths, it is that “separate rose” of the Pacific that is Rapa Nui.
Photos by Don Nixon.