7/4/2013 - Between the shoes made from birch tree bark and the paintings of women with confetti-colored hair, the artists showing at the Mill Brook Gallery are certainly making a statement.
The summer show, “Fashion Statement,” will be available for viewing July 5 and offers a whimsical look at what happens when art and fashion collide. Not everything here is wearable; the only wedding dress in the room is actually a collection of lace napkins with famous quotes on the back. Nor is it all practical. (You really shouldn’t wear shoes made from tree bark.)
One thing that is for certain: “It’s going to be a fun show,” said Pam Tarbell, Mill Brook Gallery & Sculpture Garden owner.
The show is comprised of art created by 15 women artists whose work explores and celebrates fashion through the generations, through wearable clothing like dresses, scarves, blouses and hats, and through pencil drawings, books, paintings, multimedia work and raku ceramics.
Tarbell was halfway through setting up the show at the time of the interview last week, when only a handful of treasures were on view. The rest were slowly being removed from boxes and transported in by artists.
Some of the largest, most vibrant pieces on display are Ilene Richard’s paintings. Three of her “Snazzy Gals” pieces will brighten the upstairs gallery space, all of which display beautiful (and rainbow-colored) women in eccentric fashion. Her largest painting, “Just a Walk in the Park,” shows three women in edgy, vibrant dresses. They wear long, white gloves, matching garters, rainbow-colored makeup and sport bored-yet-confident expressions. Two women hold dogs and one wears a fluffy orange boa.
“They’re fun, playful, empowered ladies,” Richard said.
She was dropping off her paintings after an hourlong ride from her Andover, Mass., home at the time of the interview. Richard has been working on the collection for a few years now, and this selection is just a tenth of what her “Snazzy Gals” collection has to offer.
Color harmony is key in how the paintings work, Richard explained; she’ll often repaint a “gal’s” clothes more than once in order to create the vision.
While painting these women, Richard thinks a lot about confidence and empowerment.
“It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin and dressing the way you like,” she said. (Richard didn’t wear clothes as vibrant as these women when she dropped off the paintings, but she did wear bright, orange glasses.)
A successful illustrator, she’s also working on getting her work licensed, she hopes, to be mass-produced in print and commercial items.
Gail Smuda’s art was also unpacked for the show, one of which, a piece called “Bridal Story,” looks like a bridal dress for a doll. The skirt is full and has layers of laced patterns, but, as Tarbell demonstrated, it’s actually composed of embroidered napkins that snap on and off an embellished ribbon.
On each napkin is text, famous quotes by famous people about love.
Smuda, a Concord resident, calls this multimedia piece an artist’s book, one of many she’s made. (You can see more of her work at gailsmuda.com.) She likes that an artist’s book has layers of meaning that people can gain access to a little at a time.
“I like artwork that pulls you in and keeps you there. If it’s something really good, it’s something that you’ll come back to and find something new in each time,” Smuda said in a phone interview.
The other artists who contributed to the show are: Madeline Beaudry, Kathleen Dustin, Leslie Fry, Annie Frye, Betsy Giberson, Camille Gibson, Jeanne Lachance, Madeleine Lord, Ginny Joyner, Christine Merriman, Elizabeth Obelenus, Patricia Palson and Alice Spencer.
“I just want people to come in, be surprised by the art and enjoy themselves,” Tarbell said.