Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Articles of Dress"

by Jennifer Weigel

"Articles of Dress"
Craft Alliance, University City, MO
March 12-May 9, 2010

Susan Freda. Amber Dew. Photograph courtesy of Craft Alliance.

In "Articles of Dress,"currently on view at Craft Alliance, Susan Freda, Brenda Jones and John Petrey comment on the beauty, elegance, fragility, and strength of the human form while exploring fashion and what is worn as a means of covering, concealment, embellishment and identity formation. Like many current fiber artists, they utilize traditional fiber techniques, such as crocheting, lace making, stitching, and embellishment, while incorporating non-traditional materials, such as steel wire, waxed paper and bottle caps. Such works can thus reference past traditions while offering a take off point for reassessment and reconsideration, and this is further reiterated in these artworks’ lack of functionality as wearables, with them instead acting as purely conceptual and decorative forms that allude to non-existent wearers.

Susan Freda. Falling Leaves. Photograph courtesy of Craft Alliance.

Susan Freda’s elaborately crocheted and woven dress forms, including Amber Dew and Falling Leaves, bespeak past use while referencing natural forms: shed skins, crystalline formations and deteriorating fallen leaves. These forms, stretched as though their past inhabitants wriggled and writhed themselves free, appear as remnants that beg the question of who their wearers were and what became of them. Resembling wispy remains or encasings, like outgrown snake skins that were cast off, their laciness bespeaks a sense of fragility that again hearkens to the natural world. Also included in the show are several pairs of resin shoes by Susan Freda, including a pair of clear shoes comprised of resin and glass that allude to Cinderella’s glass slippers. These delicate heels further explore that which has been cast off while evoking a sense of preciousness, fragility and uniqueness.
Brenda Jones. Marriage Dress. Photograph courtesy of Craft Alliance.

Brenda Jones utilizes printmaking, beading and embellishment on waxed papers to create works that conceptually accept, question and redefine traditional roles and cultural values. Directly addressing wedding values of purity and submission, Marriage Dress is composed primarily of used coffee filters and incorporates symbolic imagery and text, with short phrases and choice words stitched on individual coffee filters such as “Choice”, “Chore”, “Complete”, “Crave”, “Fake”, “Mutual” and “Obey.” The Right Tool for the Job: Rolling Pins incorporates a repeated image of the rolling pin as a motif on an apron form. These rolling pins are further embellished with stitching and bead work, imbuing them with a heightened sense of value and importance.

John Petrey. Gwyneth. Photograph courtesy of Craft Alliance.

John Petrey’s works act as a sort of elegant armor while utilizing everyday materials such as bottle caps, shoe tags, copper, aluminum, asphalt roof shingles, plastic cutlery and playing cards. Seemingly fashioned after existing garments and with titles suggestive of celebrity likenesses, these rigid vessels reference the human form while seemingly taking on a vibrant life of their own in celebration of both the everyday and the iconic. Carmen acts as an idealized party dress comprised of aluminum and plastic cutlery, perhaps acting also as a casual reminder of the potential remaining detritus from such an event: plastic forks, knives and spoons, empty soda cans… Gwyneth is reminiscent both of a high fashion evening gown and of armor, comprised of silver bottle caps that elegantly shimmer like gems, beads or sequins while seemingly shielding the perceived wearer.


John Petrey. Carmen. Photograph courtesy of Craft Alliance.

"Articles of Dress" offers visions of clothing that are simultaneously intimate and political, personal and idealized. The non-functional wearables are attention-grabbing and demand notice, as has been evidenced by the many reviews of the show that have already been written, including Three artists' look at clothing as art, by Debra Bass, Fashion Editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and a mention in March is National Women’s History Month by Linda Wiggen Kraft for The Healthy Planet’s ARTful Living Section. Nicki Dwyer blogged about the show as did Belle Style D. Signs.

"Articles of Dress" is a show that truly cannot be missed, especially if you are at all interested in fashion, fabrication, fiber art, or clothing and the influence of the human form therein.
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"Articles of Dress" remains on view through May 9, 2010 at Craft Alliance, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City, MO. 314/725-1177. Gallery hours: T-Th 10 a.m.-5 p.m., F-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
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St. Louis-based multi-media artist Jennifer Weigel is a member of Art Saint Louis and serves on our Exhibitions Committee. Her works are featured in“Life Blood,” an exhibition that she organized. The show will be presented for one night, Friday, April 9, 2010 (free reception 7-10 p.m.), at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, MO 63118. 314/772-3628. The exhibition will be presented again this summer at St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley (dates tba). Jennifer's works are currently on view in two other exhibits, “En Plein Air,” a solo exhibition of paintings at The Art Space at Provisions Market (11615 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur, MO. 314/989-0020), and in St. Charles County Arts Council’s “Women Artists: Diverse Views,” on view through April 24 at Lillian Yahn Gallery (7443 Village Center Dr., Winghaven, O' Fallon, MO).