Monday, November 3, 2014

Vintage Fashion

Acrylic on gessoed birch panel, 12 x 12"
Painting # 223, 2014

The image for this painting has evolve around a series of serendipitous events. In retrospect, when I started to connect the dots, the process informed me that it was just meant to be.

During the summer of 2013, I was browsing on eBay when I just happen to stumble on this vintage Barbie Sewing Pattern featuring six outfits. I was instantly seduced by the visuals of the illustration. It just screamed "Pop Art", almost à la Andy Warhol. This pattern dating back to 1961, appeared during the same period as Pop Art was emerging. The term was officially introduced in December 1962 on the occasion of a "Symposium on Pop Art" organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. By this time, American advertising had adopted various aspects reflected in modern art, and this sewing pattern was a prime example.  

This past spring, my wife and I visited the southern part of Georgia and South Carolina. This trip had been on my bucket list for close to a decade. Two years ago, I discovered my genealogy on the Richard side, dating back to 1652. I also learned that during "Le grand dérangement" in 1755, my sixth great grandfather, Michel Richard had been deported by the British army from Fort Beauséjour, NB  and sent to Charleston, SC, where he later died. My reasons to visit this region now seemed to carry more weight. After flying to Atlanta, we rented a car and went on a 10-day road trip that included Savannah, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Augusta and Atlanta. 

This whole trip was amazing. The people are most courteous and good old Southern Hospitality is still alive and well in these parts. When we visited Charleston, first on our list was the Gibbes Museum of Art . One of their featured exhibitions was a solo show by John Westmark.  Westmark creates dramatic images of faceless human figures that become lyrical by adding contemporary text. His primary material is store bought paper sewing patterns that are meticulously mounted on large canvases. The collages are brought to life with acrylic paint as his medium.  He creates "a narrative based on crisis, conflict and resolution in relation to feminist and gender-related issues". This collection certainly ignited a spark in my decision to use a sewing pattern for the above painting, although mine took a much different approach.

 John Westmark in his studio. 

On my list of commercial galleries to visit in Charleston was the Robert Lange Studios. The roster of artists they represent is among the most gifted realists in America. The two level space and artists studios is located in a historical building that has been modernized while retaining loads of it's original character. I only briefly said a few words and saluted Robert and his wife Megan whom were expecting their first child in a week or so. Upon exiting the gallery, we walked about 100 meters towards the waterfront when my eye caught a glimpse of a Robert Lange painting hanging in a grand lobby space. After inquiring about the work, a lady told me that Lange was collaborating with them. We then made our way to the water taxi and took a cruise in the harbour. 

During my visit to the Robert Lange Studios, 2 Queen Street, May 2014

During the month of July, I received an e-mail from the Robert Lange Studios. An invitation to submit my resumé for a juried exhibition they were organizing to be held at the Vendue, a historical Inn that recently underwent major renovations and transformed into Charleston First Art Hotel. Upon reading this, I immediately made the connection with the Robert Lange painting I had spotted two months earlier that was exhibited in this same space.

I submitted the required documents pretty close to the deadline. The following month, I received news that from the 500+ submissions received, mine was retained among the 40 selected artists for the show. The exhibition is entitled, "I see a Pattern", a theme that can be broadly explored as it was suggested. This opened a window of opportunity to use the Barbie sewing pattern and explore the theme in a very singular way. 

I'll spare you the details about the choice of fabrics used for my composition, but the dotted print material has several anecdotes that happened before and after it was purchased.

The Barbie Doll was introduced by Mattel in March of 1959.  A full clothing line that even included a wedding dress and accessories were launched at the same time.  This Advance Sewing Pattern was introduced two years later for the novice seamstress and designers who wanted to make their own fashion statements by experimenting with fabrics and prints. During the fall of 2009, in conjunction with Barbie's 50th birthday, New York Fashion Week hosted a haute-couture runway show featuring 50 fashion designers that included Diane von Fürstenberg, Vera Wang, Calvin KleinBob Mackie, and Christian Louboutin. Click HERE for a pics featuring live models. 

New York Fashion Week, Barbie runway show, 2009.

I am honoured to be taking part in such a exclusive exhibition, featuring a great diversity of established and emerging artists. The show is set to open on November 21, 2014 and will run until May 30, 2015. Please click HERE for a preview and opening reception information.
The Vendue is located at 19 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC 29401, U.S.A.  


Here is a list of the participating artists:
Tony ChimentoTripp Smith, Victor Grasso .

December 3, 2014 -Update- A friend and fellow participating artist, David Parker attended the opening reception and generously sent me a few pics to share.




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Painting was also exhibited in 
''The Still Life'' Invitational Group Show" 
at the Elliott Fouts Gallery, in Sacramento, CA.
 Sept. 5 - Oct. 1, 2015.

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To inquire or acquire this painting, please contact the artist.