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Artist Recreates 15th Century Flemish Style Portraits in an Airplane Lavatory

By Jules Ebe on October 19th 2013


Air travel will never look the same.

Frequent flier Nina Katchadourian found a spark of inspiration when she locked herself in airplane lavatory on a long flight and transformed herself into 15th century-style Flemish portraits with only the items she had at hand.

“While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010″, Katchadourian explains how she “spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over [her] head and took a picture in the mirror using [a] cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture.”

Hence, “Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style” were born and became a part of a larger series called “Seat Assignment,” “which is based on improvising with materials close at hand while in-flight.”

[rewind: Picture to Painting: Real Life Models by Flora Borsi]  

When discussing the perimeters of her larger project, Katchadourian explains, “the rules of engagement are that I only work with what I naturally have with me and what I find on the plane. I’m not allowed to bring complicated props and things that skew the project too much towards something that I may as well have just made in a studio. So it’s important to work within the limitations of the airplane’s space and with materials that are part of that environment. And then, of course, I take stuff in my carry-on bag. I take things to read and snacks to eat and things like that and those are also fair game. But I’m trying to keep myself pretty strictly limited to things I would normally have with me.”

“Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style”








Katchadourian is no rookie when it comes to finding creative inspiration in everyday life. As a Californian-born New York transplant, the contemporary artist works in a wide variety of media, including photography, sculpture, video and sound. Her work has been exhibited domestically and internationally at places such as PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery, Saatchi Gallery, Turner Contemporary, Artists Space, SculptureCenter, and the Palais de Tokyo (just to name a few).

Bathroom Lessons Roundtrip

There are some great takeaways from this project:

  • Have fun. It’s okay to enjoying being playful with your work.
  • Try setting ‘rules of engagement’ when looking for inspiration. Set some guidelines and see how creative you can get within specific parameters.
  • Be sure to think outside your normal environment – you never know where a spark of inspiration will take you. Run with it when it sets aflame.
  • Oh, and the next time to need a little inspiration, look no further then the closest lavatory, but be sure to wash your hands.

To check out more from the “Seat Assignment” series, check out Katchadourian’s website here.

I cannot wait to play with this on my next long flight.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

[via Nina Katchadourian, Bored Panda]

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is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. John Lee

    Finally a selfie that is creative and isn’t solely just about boobs!

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  2. BoredJoe

    I know what I’m doing on my next flight!

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