“Fashion is cannibalistic,” says Alexis Carreño. “In its attempt to capture the essence of the present – a moment in permanent flux – fashion steals images and concepts from a varied range of disciplines: psychoanalysis, cinema, literature, music, mass media, politics – and art.”
This idea was the starting point for the exhibition Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, which Carreño curated in conjunction with the American Folk Art Museum in New York. It will be on display at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens from October 7 through December 31. Thirteen established and emerging fashion designers were asked to find inspiration from a pool of one-hundred works of art in the American Folk Art Museum’s permanent collection. In the end, “an exciting mix of quilts, textiles, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and a photograph, dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries [were selected] for their potential fashionability – that is,
their capacity to instigate and inspire,” says Carreño.
At first glance, the relationship between folk art, largely defined as work made outside of the mainstream global art market, and high fashion would appear to be counter intuitive. Yet, “one of the most compelling aspects of folk art is its directness in conception and execution … perspective and presentation are sometimes freely reimagined, and there is often an emphasis on minute details,” much like fashion, says Carreño. The designers, John Bartlett, Michael Bastian, Chadwick Bell, Fabio Costa, Creatures of the Wind, Gary Graham, Catherine Malandrino, Bibhu Mohapatra, Ronaldus Shamask, Yeohlee Teng,
threeASFOUR, Koos van den Akker, and Jean Yu, were asked to think about both historic and aesthetic qualities of the art work in the American Folk Art Museum and create a visual dialogue. This resulted in a dramatic and surprising assemblage of new pieces. “From visual and emotional to conceptual and cerebral,” Carreño continues, the designers’ responses rendered “the boundaries between the disciplines of art and fashion irrelevant.”
Working between May and September 2013, the designers created ensembles that suggest paradoxes between the new garment and the original works from the Museum’s collection. Displayed side by side, the juxtaposition between the two allows the visitor to enter into the conversation and think about his or her own interpretations of the folk art masterworks. Within the gallery, the works are divided into themes of playfulness, narrative, pattern, and disembodiment (or items that “defy wearability”), which further helps the viewer to make comparisons between the garment and its inspiration.
Article written by Holly Keris