Fashion Forward

There were naked people (sort of) at the opening of "Fashionistas" at Poissant Gallery. Curated by Catherine D. Anspon, the show features works that address fashion through image, material and attitude. The crowd, however, was not deep-thinking about the connections between fashion and art. They were snapping an unnecessary number of photographs of the occasionally scantily clad models sporting designs by polar opposites Vanessa Riley, a designer of hip and refined elegance, and Ché, an artist who creates clothing from found objects and thrift store rejects. Their voyeurism was understandable. The catwalkers wore everything from furry tail/phallus codpieces to place-mat bikinis to five-foot ties with multicolored touch lights. Riley's models affected a runway pout, while Ché's quirky group traversed the red carpet with moves that mimicked methamphetamine addiction mixed with Exotic Dancing 101. Needless to say, it was livelier than your average art opening.

The idea for the exhibition came to Anspon, an arts writer for Paper City, when she wrangled her way into a press preview for "Rock Style" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Suddenly she found herself on a bus headed to a fashion week show with the rest of the attendees. Impressed by the spectacle of the show and interested in how art and fashion converge, she began to think of ways to do a similar show in the art world. In the end, she found several artists with very different takes on the subject.

Sara Nix Ginn's sculptures, created from pattern paper and pins, have always had a fashion connection. With 0104 (2001), Ginn pushes the linkage in an intriguing and satisfying new direction. A column of the tan tissue has been nipped at the waist, with darts added to tailor a bust. The result is a tall, free-standing dress shape that seems inhabited. The skirt is obsessively studded with pins and encrusted with dried rose petals. The piece feels like a relic, the tailoring reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe in Funny Face, or Grace Kelly's in To Catch a Thief. It's as if some elegant being has evaporated, leaving the form behind like the fragile paper husk of a memory.

"Fuzzies, Pearls and Flowers" is a collection of works by Melanie Crader, who draws on fashion and decorative materials to create a subversive take on abstraction. Edge-azalea (2001) is a Barnett Newmanesque stripe created directly on the wall, but the simple stripe is made from pink flocking and glitter and further defamed by a delicately scalloped edge. Crader explores a kind of luxe minimalism with Pearls-pale gold (2001), covering a small surface with rows of luminous pearls. But the material needs a larger expanse to be effective. The Panel with Painted Floral (2001) tote is a riff on hard-edged abstraction via the rectangular shape of the purse and its crisp pattern of flat, stylized flowers.

If Jacques Cousteau opened a theme restaurant, it might look like Dark Water and Stars (2001), a crafty collaborative installation by Scott Burns and Teresa O'Connor. It's as if some demented prom committee has been hard at work creating a "Love Under the Sea" decor of shimmering fabric, Christmas lights and otherworldly objects. A black-draped tent houses a cheesy vintage lightbox with a motorized waterfall scene. The room is filled with the me-chanical water sound and the annoyingly repetitive chirp of a bird. Swirls of netting cover the floor, and organic forms hang from the ceiling. Mysterious galvanized tubs contain murky water with fake coral and an illuminated gelatinous material.

The duo's singularly strange objects hang outside the tent. Burns and O'Connor must make a habit of visiting Michael's in a chemically altered state, then swinging by Value Village on the way home. They certainly seem to have bought out the supply of Sculpy clay for their tiny white ghosts and cartoony sharks. A series of shark heads mounted on the wall are "dressed" in tulle gowns or a cascade of crocheted yarn. A Bridge Too Far (2001) shows two Buddha sculptures perched on gleaming blobs of foam that are ridiculously joined by a tiny wooden bridge. For In the Bucket (2001), a suited shark with really big shoes lies sprawled on a bed of sickeningly perfumed blue bath crystals in the bottom of a metal bucket. Residue on the sides makes it seem like the water has drained away and left him there in tragicomic distress. There is something truly, deeply and wonderfully wrong with these people. They are obviously having too damn much fun making art.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer