A blush with infamy
Carcinogenic cosmetics inspire a passionate new cello piece.
By Doyle Armbrust
SOLID FOUNDATION Katinka Kleijn’s “Oil-Free Blush” was inspired by the toxic chemicals found in her makeup.
Before each of her performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, cellist Katinka Kleijn applies makeup. A good amount, as it is for the stage. In February, the South Loop resident, overwhelmed by the growing number of friends being diagnosed with cancer, began researching cosmetic ingredients on a database from the Environmental Working Group.
“On the EWG website, I found an oil-free blush I had been using for ten years,” Kleijn says. “It was rated a nine out of ten for most hazardous.”
Around that time, Matti Bunzl, newly appointed director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, was taking in a performance by jazz saxophonist Greg Ward. But he was most drawn to the accompanying cello player, Kleijn. He decided on the spot he had to convince the versatile musician to curate a concert for his 2010 fest, which he was organizing under the theme of the body. “I immediately thought of the research I was doing,” the cellist tells us. “About how unhealthy my cosmetic products were—makeup, facial moisturizer, shampoo and soap.” Kleijn was not new to advocacy through music: She’s one half of the Relax Your Ears project, an album themed around tinnitus and steered by suffering guitarist Joel Styzens.