• By: Myka Burke

Fashion and Art Collide at Gallery 200

Gallery 200’s current group exhibition Wear Your Art on Your Sleeve is on until January 17th, 2017. This is why you should take in the fun and fantastical exhibit before it closes:

The free exhibit features 12 impressive artists from Ottawa-Gatineau who have explored the idea of wearable art from a variety of perspectives. It features garb inspired by fantastical myths and legends to music fashion and beyond. The gallery is inside the Ottawa School of Dance at 200 Crichton Street and Artress3 (an artist collective with members Virginia Dupuis, Danielle Beaulieu and Maureen Rooney Mitchell) celebrates the venue with their music fashion piece “Presence en Pointe” that also incorporates a nod to dance. These three artists are well-known for their oil and watercolour paintings but as Artress3 they have made it a point of their collective to seek out new creative opportunities like this where they flex different creative muscles. In addition to their collective piece, they each have individual pieces in the show. These pieces share palette and subject matter with their already established realms of expertise. Virginia Dupuis’ rich colourful large-scale berries playfully pop off the crop-cape fabric in “Crop Top at Dusk”, literally. Danielle Beaulieu’s cherry blossom top and Maureen Rooney Mitchell’s felted landscape purse (in the vitrine in the main hall) could easily be timeless fashion pieces.

Glass artist Charlynne Lafontaine has a collection of fantastical eye glasses in the exhibition. It is a fun situation when that which one would normally be using to see with becomes a work of art to gaze upon. The already colourful and sculptural glass frames, dating from 1902 to this decade, are enhanced by the artist with whimsical and colourful glass lens and frame add-ons like green petals, blue ganglia, and llama-length eye lashes. Her other two pieces in the exhibit, “Mind Full of Beauty” is a belt of curved copper pipes with blown glass bulbs at each end and “Harriet’s In Her Elf Cups Again” is a helmet with glass spikes; the pieces are uniquely folkloric and mythological. Charlynne Lafontaine founded the Loretta Studios and Gallery, a glass-focused artist collective located on Loretta Street in Ottawa.

Marie-France Nitski’s cape piece “La cape aux corbeaux” features crows in flight and a mask with feathers for more drama. Zoë Lianga’s felt and couture series of felted heads on banners above fine blouses contrasts “the working class origins of felt with the esthetic origins of bespoke haute couture fashion.” The thrift store rayon curtain used for the fine blouses cost around five dollars, voiding the material of an expected extravagant heritage and the felting process for the heads, in this case, included people known to the artist. The intention was to contrast the loneliness experienced by the artist as a couturier with the more social felting experience.

Fibre artist Maggie Glossop, inspired by the Canadian landscape, felted “An Outfit for Flora” with a reference to Flora as Warrior Princess Zena’s younger sister. In both the television series and Roman mythology, Flora is a gentle soul with a deep connection to nature. In this case, Maggie Glossop is using her medium of choice, felting, to clothe a goddess where she might normally create a felt-painting. Susan Rennick Joliffe’s pieces are necklaces created from the cultural “roadkill” and notable pieces such as vintage earrings. She finds her materials discarded on the side of the road. There is no resemblance to this past in the lovely creations that she hung over heirloom lace.

Frances Taylor, a well-known fibre artist, created fashionable coats with reclaimed materials for the exhibit to create exquisite garments one hopes would be available in various sizes. Mixed media artist Suzanne Caron-Richter repurposed fibres into an apron, bags and a jacket. Sandy Goldsmith created special occasion dresses that visually reflect special moments through symbolically placed embroidery. Multidisciplinary artist Diane Lemire created her dreamy dress and caps from felt and reclaimed materials, a medium for which she is also very well-known.

The talented professional artists in this show have prioritized the beauty of art within the framework of fashion. They have drawn from the fantastical and found to create a wardrobe for unwritten and fun folk tales. A visit to the exhibit is a visit to another time and place. Who can’t use an artistic escape every now and then?

Wear Your Art on Your Sleeve is on until January 17, 2017. Gallery 200 is located at 200 Crichton Street inside The School of Dance. Admission is free.