fashion no-no

installation view

foreground: works by Joanna Berzowska

foreeground: works by Linda Imai

works by Annie Thompson
work by Sara Dorkenwald and Ruth Spitzer

work by Hilly Yeung

work by Andrea Ling

I was guest curator for the 2011 craft biennial exhibition at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. In the spirit of the biennial, I mashed art, design and craft in an attempt to put into dialogue work by and about women. Fashion designer Annie Thompson (untitled), industrial/interior designers Ruth Spitzer & Sara Dorkenwald (Traveler's Tale), crafter Linda Imai (Purses), artist Hilly Yeung (Objects To Die For), media artist Joanna Berzowska (The Leech Dress), and architect Andrea Ling (The Girl in the Wood Frock) presented their views about identity and performance and the complex relationships between material, display and author. In all these works, the act of presentation moved away from the body as the frame or skeletal structure, toward the material characteristic of the crafted object: the environment, the photograph, the purse, the shoe, the dress. This exhibition was preceded by an essay about art and fashion that i wrote called Jellyfish, Zebra and other Animals: a tale of art, fashion and Canadian identity that looked at contemporary works by Camille Turner (Ms. Canadiana), Sara Diamond (Code Zebra), Bill Burns (Safety Gear for Small Animals), Jeremy Laing (Bed of Nails), Sarah Dorkenwald and Ruth Spitzer (The Tallest Man, Pinfurniture), Hitoko Okada (jellyfish dress) and Annie Thomson's 2007 spring/summer collection. This essay was published in Italy for a book entitled La moda in Canada, Patrimonio etnico e identita' nazionale edited by Giovanna Franci and Rosella Mangaroni (Emil - Roma / University of Bologna, 2008).

Harbourfront's invitation to curate an exhibition that explored the intersection of art and craft had provided a great new sense of urgency in my practice. In a sense, it allowed me to bring in design to act as a mediator between art and craft - but to also liberate a fairly rigid definition of what design is (one that i had constrained myself to for the past few years, and that i was no longer comfortable with).  I was able to focus on the idea of fashion and bring in artists with different backgrounds, interests and skills, and in some small measure, reconnect my matriarchal family history in the apparel industry in Italy to the early craft guild experiences of women in Canada.