“7th International Exhibition of Wearable Art Review” by Connie Strayer
May 3, 2017
As a first time viewer to the 7th International Exhibition of Wearable Art, I was hoping to find an array of materials, ideas, and techniques being used in exciting ways. With over 259 objects of fiber work, jewelry, and accessories, this exhibition did not disappoint. Each room was brimming with garments in traditional fabrics and techniques, as well as more unusual materials such as wood veneer, stainless steel, rubber, cigarette butts, Tyvek, and porcelain.
Enough time has elapsed since the last exhibit in 2008, to anticipate a trend in new techniques and materials, and indeed, the jurors found a drop in painted silks, and a rise in felted garments. Many of the descriptions included “recycled”, such as Vacide Erda Zimics’ handbag of recycled felt “from the huts we use in Peru in the Andes” and Kitty Munzels’ Back Pedaling Along the Thin Yellow Line made from recycled bicycle inner tubes.
Unexpected materials were abundant, such as Paul Schurch and Wesly Johnsons’ wooden garments, Maplewood Gown 3—which molded to the body and yet flowed gracefully in graduated scales, and Fiona Chongs’ headpiece, Maria—composed of repeating porcelain shells “referencing Roman busts as well as tribal body adornment…in a modern context”.
Works ranged from sheer and ethereal to hard and structural. Justine Limpus Parish’s Tide Pool Dream Coat was a wondrous array of marine colors and soft materials depicting a walk through tide pools while Greg Orloffs’ Conatus Corset conjured up the woman warrior in a beautifully molded corset of stainless steel and leather.
I was especially taken with the jewelry, which one juror suggested be categorized as “body sculpture”. Judging by the large and decorative nature many of these pieces embody, body sculpture seems a more apt description. From organic forms of leather and cork to more architecturally inspired forms, these pieces represented diverse and creative thinking. Many of the smaller works were displayed in cases or along a wall, but some of the larger pieces were assembled with the garments of other artists. This assemblage, to me, was somewhat random, and may not have been in agreement with either artist’s intent. In some cases, it obscured much of one piece or the other, so as not to fully represent the work in its’ totality.
The works that could be described as “theatrical” or “fantasy” were displayed in a separate room, such as Margarete Palzs’ works, Competition Between Precious Diamonds, discovered only by chance while eating in the café. While connected together in theme, they were not physically connected to the exhibit, so they may have been missed by many of the viewers. This is unfortunate and perhaps there were simply too many works to fit into a defined space, something that I hope could be remedied at the 8th International Exhibition of Wearable Art.
Wearable Expressions 7th International Juried Exhibition was on display from February 10–April 15, 2017 at Palos Verdes Art Center. It featured wearable art, garments, and body adornment in all media. The fiber portion of the exhibition was juried by Joris Debo (creative director of Materialise / Managing Director of Revisited), Jo Ann C. Stabb (Senior Lecturer Emeritus, Design Department, University of California), and Beatrijs Sterk (publisher of Textile Forum Blog and former publisher of Textile Forum magazine / Surface Design Journal contributing Author).
Connie Strayer is a practicing Costume Designer for all genres of performance. She specializes in custom dyeing, painting, and related textile techniques, which she utilizes in her work as well as executes for other theatrical and fashion designers.