What a wonderful world

A university art show sends universal messages through creative fashion

DRESS DOCTOR Dr. Christa Seybold-Haynes models her Afro-Celtic garb.

DRESS DOCTOR Dr. Christa Seybold-Haynes models her Afro-Celtic garb.

Something about the woman’s voice on my answering machine is different.

We have been playing phone tag—an annoying process by anyone’s standards—for a whole week, but her pleasant Austrian accent seems to get friendlier with each message.

Her name is Dr. Christa Seybold-Haynes, and she is a medical doctor, psychotherapist and artist who left behind a promising lecturing career in Europe to move to Chico in 1999 with her husband, local jazz great Charley Haynes. She is calling to promote her first art show in this country, which showcases unique clothes she designed from combinations of various cultures to make a statement close to her heart.

“I’m particularly interested in healing social attitudes of superiority toward peoples of other cultures,” she says. “Throughout my training in medicine, I found that one can learn many things from all cultures: their arts, spiritual practices and healing methods. My clothes reflect my philosophies about life.”

The fashion exhibit is also dedicated to the memory of her husband’s mother, Dr. Maria S. Haynes (1912-1998), professor emeritus at Chico State University who began the Italian program there, spoke five languages and traveled the world throughout her remarkable life as a teacher.

“Christa and I met at my mom’s funeral,” Charley Haynes recalls. “She was singing and I was playing—and I asked her to marry me about three hours later.”

When I meet Seybold-Haynes in person, it doesn’t take long to discover the unique perspective and vision of the artist behind the show.

“I started working with dying people when I was 17,” she explains, “and I’m 42 now, so I have some experience. … I always used to ask them, “What do you think are the most important things in life?” And they always said, ‘health, peace and good relationships.’ So that is why I work.”

During the dying process, respect for the dying person’s spiritual imagery is crucial, Seybold-Haynes says.

She began helping patients create unique art cards using herbs and flowers and assorted found objects while working with terminally ill patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Linz, Austria. Some of her cards will be on display at the university show.

Seybold-Haynes loves intensely colored clothes. Her outfits are usually simple patterns, she says, of found material from all over the world. But there are themes to her work.

When she was growing up, her family in Austria sponsored Third World students, refugees and immigrants, and Seybold-Haynes cultivated an open frame of mind from an early age—always involving herself with other cultures. At the age of 14, she started making clothes for friends and family. The fashions for her current show are creative combinations of wearable art, using sewing patterns and fabrics of different cultures to create what she describes as “elegant simplicity.” She prefers common materials like silk, cotton and rayon, as well as French seams to give the insides a carefully made finish.

She does not sell her fashions or make clothes for other people, hoping instead that her easy-to-sew patterns bearing such humorous names as “Indonesian Eskimo,” “St. Patrick’s Kimono,” “Morocco Maharini” and “Safari Zen” will inspire women to express themselves.

“I want to encourage all women to realize that they don’t have to wear this mass-produced corporate uniformity,” she says. “You should embody your thoughts; that is empowerment. You can create your own individual styles, and this is healthy. Express yourselves!”

Seybold Haynes is Austrian-certified for general practice from Vienna University Medical School, holds diplomas in psychosocial medicine and psychosomatic medicine, and is Austrian certified for Gestalt pedagogy, a holistic teaching method based on the principles of Fritz Perls’ Gestalt theory.

Despite her extensive educational background, Seybold-Haynes cannot practice medicine in this country because of AMA standards on recognizing foreign medical degrees. Instead, she works locally as a holistic-health practitioner, reiki master/teacher, certified massage therapist, reflexologist and licensed pastoral counselor. All of this, and she still makes sure she has time for the joys of sewing and personal fashion.

So go check out her show—and talk with this interesting woman if you get the chance.