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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 16, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
If the Art Fits, `Wear It’
Retirement came just in time for Yves Saint Laurent.
How thoughtful of him to announce his departure from haute couture,
leaving the field to the 10 artists behind "Wear It," now
on view at the Extension Gallery. Apprentices and staff members of
the Johnson Atelier share their ideas of "wearable art" in
the gallery show that runs to January 31.
Mind you, "wearable" doesn’t necessarily mean
and it certainly doesn’t mean "movable-in" — or even
wearable. But unique? One-of-a-kind? Memorable? Definitely. Isn’t
that what fashion — and art too — can be all about?
The weekend before the show opened, most of the artists were on site,
still finishing up their pieces and deciding where to position them
in the two-room gallery. Ladders, scissors, plaster busts, pedestals,
and a pizza box (that ubiquitous motivational tool), were scattered
throughout the area, along with wearable art-in-process and seven
women-installers, now decidedly dressed for work, and not for modeling
Why would people so heavily into sculpture choose wearable art as
an exhibition theme? At first, they had joked about "girls"
as a subject, but decided that wasn’t really fair to apprentice Hyung
Jun Yum, the only man involved. Professionally or otherwise, many
participants do work related to wearable art: As the Atelier’s
of pattern development, for example, Diana Archila basically dresses
those in Seward Johnson’s figurative groupings; and Bobbie Liegl,
who works in wax chasing, often makes metal garments for her own body.
So "Wear It" emerged as the group’s theme.
And in sculptural terms, because bodies are so
3-D, the artists’ own frames or those of others can readily serve
as living armatures for wearable art.
"Funky" and "elegant" both describe Diane Archila’s
two "rock and roll ball gowns." Each is a two-piece creation,
with either a red or a green skirt, the gowns are topped with beaded
tee-shirts for "the Police" and "the Pixies" —
groups favored by Archila. The green satin-skirted gown is ruched
from waist to floor, with the red cording that connects its four
serving as a drawstring to achieve the ruching. A green lace petticoat
doesn’t even try to hide — nor should it.
Archila transformed heavy, lined red linen curtains someone had left
behind at the Atelier into an eight-piece skirt with a one-piece
bustle on top. She says her biggest challenge here was making a
look like formal wear. As for how to accessorize a "Police"
ball gown, Archila offered no suggestions.
Apprentice Ann Buckwalter fashioned "Poise," a green taffeta
collar with a black tulle cape that hangs from the ceiling and looks,
somehow, regal. As someone who has researched women’s undergarments
and already made corsets, she knew about forming the chin-high collar
shape on a plaster bust, and using strong duck fabric that also helped
hold the boning in place. Her second piece, also hung from the ceiling
and slowly revolving, is a laced black rubber corset with fringe
the top. It is worn over a ruby-hued garment.
Emily Fleisher, an apprentice, has made an aluminum hat, or, as she
calls it, "Neocryptopatrapossebathingcap."
Resembling a silvery helmet, the cap is purple colored, with sculpted
"hair" that recalls old-time swim caps, although there’s no
chin strap in evidence here. The long, tube-like locks suggest a sea
creature whose tentacles are tipped with suction cups, and the
cap is appropriately "cut" into bangs in front, with longer
curls in back.
Staff member Kitty Hundley fancies masks. "You can cover up and
be someone else," she says, extolling the child-like fun that
masks allow. One mask is bronze with a Greco-Roman look she says
her boyfriend, or vice versa. Diametrically different, her "Fallen
Warrior," in mixed media, includes horns and a headdress, long
horsehair eyebrows, splotchy skin and bad teeth, all suggesting that
this warrior fell a long time ago. As a "sprewer" at the
foundry, Hundley is responsible for building the gates that direct
the flow of molten metal into a cast.
Bobbie Liegl works in the Atelier’s wax chasing area, assuring the
required finish on wax works before they go further in the process.
Her "Father Knits a Sweater" is a unique, though not-too-cozy
cardigan made of steel squares wired together; it could fit right
into "Lord of the Rings." Her "Gown of Thorns" is
a remarkable long-sleeved, full-skirted robe made entirely of branches
"sculpted" into gown shape, with flared red-berry-branch cuffs
and collar. Like a wondrous three-dimensional illustration for a
fairytale, this unarguably is art — but it’s also decidedly
"The Sound of Sight," Liegl’s solo show here last June,
her interest in multi-media squares and multiples, including knitted
wire and sterling silver in sweater shapes. One of the standouts was
a life-size dress made entirely of triangle-shaped pieces of handmade
paper that she had individually wrapped and stitched.
"It’s always metal, metal, metal," one artist said, noting
that she also likes skins and furs. So apprentice Helena Lukasova
enclosed two patterned snake skins in plastic strips, creating a
snake-like form that she hung from the ceiling and topped with a
head and gesturing hands in the same clear plastic. These skins had
done for the snake what clothing does to protect people’s bodies,
she noted, apparently content to preserve the skin, rather than
a handbag with it. In a nod to the snake’s biblical role, she topped
the hanging cylinder with a leafy plastic tree for "Under the
Another Lukasova entry hangs over the gallery entrance: a series of
paper doll dresses made from Chinese paper and resembling kimonos.
Each is arranged on a tiny metal hanger hooked onto the reed pole
that spans the doorway. In the second room, her mixed-media
sports highly non-traditional eyeglasses.
In her other incarnations both a photographer and
of human resources at the Atelier, Coleen Marks calls her entry
First of May." Multi-colored flowers and ribbons decorate a basic
black dress that hangs in the second gallery room. Each flower is
a large photograph by Marks, all are laminated and wired together
on the front and back of the garment. Below them, in a maypole-like
arrangement, pastel ribbons stream to the hem, while an oversize
rose fills in for a head. A pity Marks exhibited this dress;
she could have worn it to the opening reception.
"Extreme Reality Belt," facing the rest of the exhibit from
the second room, may be Hyung Jun Yum’s rejoinder to all the feminine
regalia on view around it. The bronze base grows up into an armature
for the wide belt to ride on, and irregular cast-aluminum pieces then
provide anatomical definition and protection.
Remember the "itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini"?
Today’s teeny take on the pop concept is made of red Life Savers —
47 of them altogether: 20 on top and 27 below, divided 21 (front)
and 6 (back). Form-shaped wire affixed to the wall supports the
design, the work of Kitty Hundley and an anonymous Atelier colleague.
Now, wouldn’t the creator of "Le Smoking" be impressed by
these sculptors’ take on fashion? Could it give Saint Laurent cause
to rethink that notion of retirement?
— Pat Summers
Mercerville, 609-890-7777. "Wear It," on view to Thursday,
January 31. Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by
Robert Justin’s solo show "Man at Work," an exhibit of
artwork made of recycled materials. To January 30.
"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the
of Jorge Armenteros who has been studying and collecting Cuban art
since 1996. Works from the fine art world as well as rustic art made
of found materials. "At its best, Cuban folk art is vivid,
sensual, and inspiring. In it, you will find a purity of appreciation
for light, color, and life’s simple pleasures," says Armenteros.
German Photography" features 15 works by such artists as Dieter
Appelt, Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, and Thomas Struth; to March
24. Opening January 29: From Klinger to Kollwitz: German Art in the
Age of Expressionism." Also "Empire of Stone: Roman Sculpture
in the Art Museum" and "Pliny’s Cup: Roman Silver in the Age
of Augustus" continue to January 20. Open Tuesday through
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection
every Saturday at 2 p.m.
609-258-3184. "Not for Myself Alone: A Celebration of
Writers," the debut show for the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection
of Jewish-American Writers that ranges from the early 19th century
to the present day and includes Yiddish-language writers as well as
writers in English. A two-volume catalog accompanies the exhibition.
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 21.
The exhibit includes manuscripts, such as a draft of a poem by Stanley
Kunitz, letters by Hannah Arendt, Nathanael West, Clifford Odets,
Lionel Trilling and Susan Sontag, and photographic portraits of the
In the lobby: "Ukiyo-E: Japanese Woodblock Color Prints,"
showcasing masterworks of the art of Japanese prints by such masters
as Utamaro and Hokusai. The show includes instruction on how Japanese
papermaking, drawing, woodcarving, and printing served this art. To
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Making Paths," paintings by
Ley Breuel, a Princeton artist who comes to painting from a career
in design and illustration, most notably with Walt Disney Design.
Her interest is in representing paths of human life "some replete
with roots, fear, stumbling stones, steep climbs; others alive with
peace, compassion, comfort." Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday,
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. To February 1.
"Giant Exhibit of Miniature Art," annual show featuring more
than 200 works by 25 artists including Florida artist Peggie
Wednesday 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday mornings, and by appointment.
To February 1.
"Afghanistan Before," photographs taken in the late 1960s
by David H. Miller. Also "Floral Interpretations," a show
of black-and-white photographs of flowers by Jay Anderson, to February
3. Open Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. To
Road, 609-921-3272. "A Collection of Festive and Celebratory Art:
A Retrospective Show of Works by David Raymond." In the Upstairs
Gallery: "Seeing Eyes on the Environment," photographs of
the community by students of the Rock Brook School in Skillman, to
January 31. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
Artsbridge to Trenton, an invitational exhibition by members of
a New Hope and Lambertville artists’ organization. Opening reception
is Saturday, January 19, for the show that runs to February 24. Open
Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. Open Tuesday through Sunday,
10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission
is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10
Annual memberships start at $45. To February 24.
609-292-6464. "George Washington and the Battle of Trenton: The
Evolution of an American Image," an exhibition that documents
the historic context of the American Revolution, the "Ten Crucial
Days" of the Trenton campaign that was the turning point, and
the subsequent commemoration of George Washington’s heroic image by
American artists. To February 24.
Also "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen," to April
14. "Art by African-Americans in the Collection," to August
18. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.;
Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.
"Mars-Barr," a shared show featuring Chris Mars’s brooding
figures and Glenn Barr’s voluptuous lounge lizards. Website:
Gallery hours are Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To January
215-340-9800. "Taking Liberties: Photographs of David Graham."
The Bucks County photographer, sometimes called a
has worked for 20 years exploring the nation’s heartland with his
view camera, and lovingly recording the creative and offbeat ways
that Americans mark their territory; to January 27. Open Tuesday to
Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "The Baltics: Nonconformist and Modernist
Art During the Soviet Era," the first major survey of modernist
art produced in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during the post-World
War II Soviet period. The show features 150 works from the Zimmerli’s
Dodge Collection produced in reaction to communist repression. Show
continues to March 17. Also "St. Petersburg, 1921," to March
10. $3 adults; free to students and children.
"The Victor Weeps: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh of Afghan Refugees,
1996-98." To January 20. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday,
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission
$3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open free to the public on the
first Sunday of every month. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and
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