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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

"machine-washable,"

and it certainly doesn’t mean "movable-in" — or even

comfortably

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

art.

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

supervisor

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

delightfully

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

panels

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

folded

bustle on top. She says her biggest challenge here was making a

tee-shirt

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

around

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

not-so-light

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

resembles

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

Atelier

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

children’s

fairytale, this unarguably is art — but it’s also decidedly

unwearable.

"The Sound of Sight," Liegl’s solo show here last June,

displayed

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

cylindrical,

snake-like form that she hung from the ceiling and topped with a

hooded

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

covering

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

Tree."

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

"Visionary"

sports highly non-traditional eyeglasses.

In her other incarnations both a photographer and

manager

of human resources at the Atelier, Coleen Marks calls her entry

"The

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

dew-dropped

rose fills in for a head. A pity Marks exhibited this dress;

otherwise,

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

playful

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

Extension Gallery, Johnson Atelier, 60 Sculptors Way,

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

appointment.

Website: www.atelier.org.

Top Of Page
Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street,

609-924-8777.

Robert Justin’s solo show "Man at Work," an exhibit of

whimsical

artwork made of recycled materials. To January 30.

Triumph Brewing Company, 138 Nassau Street, 609-924-7855.

"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the

collection

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,

symbolic,

sensual, and inspiring. In it, you will find a purity of appreciation

for light, color, and life’s simple pleasures," says Armenteros.

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Campus Arts

Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788. "New

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

Saturday,

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection

every Saturday at 2 p.m.

Firestone Library, Milberg Gallery, Princeton University,

609-258-3184. "Not for Myself Alone: A Celebration of

Jewish-American

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

writers.

Princeton University, Firestone Library,

609-258-5049.

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

January 31.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20

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.

Top Of Page
Area Galleries

Firehouse Gallery, 8 Walnut Street, Bordentown,

609-298-3742.

"Giant Exhibit of Miniature Art," annual show featuring more

than 200 works by 25 artists including Florida artist Peggie

Hornbrook.

Wednesday 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday mornings, and by appointment.

To February 1.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511.

"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

February

3.

Montgomery Center for the Arts, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

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.

Top Of Page
Art In Trenton

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park,

609-989-3632.

Artsbridge to Trenton, an invitational exhibition by members of

Artsbridge,

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.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

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

Sunday.

Annual memberships start at $45. To February 24.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton,

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.

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Art by the River

Tin Man Alley, 12 West Mechanic Street, New Hope,

215-862-1110.

"Mars-Barr," a shared show featuring Chris Mars’s brooding

figures and Glenn Barr’s voluptuous lounge lizards. Website:

www.tinmanalley.net.

Gallery hours are Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To January

28.

Top Of Page
Area Museums

Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "Taking Liberties: Photographs of David Graham."

The Bucks County photographer, sometimes called a

"photo-anthropologist,"

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.

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New

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

3 p.m.


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