Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 4:14 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


Hancock Unveils ‘Earth Gowns’ Art Exhibition

A unique collaboration of 10 female artists who created handmade gowns inspired by nature will soon be on display at the Ann Foxworthy Gallery on the Allan Hancock College campus. 

“Earth Gowns” will feature art dresses that use a variety of conventional and non-conventional materials, ranging from fabric and paper to recycled and found objects and items collected from nature. 

Designed and created to represent aspects of the natural world, the gowns depict Gaia in her glory: water, plants, creatures, life and death, myth and humanity. 

The dresses will be on display from Wednesday, Aug. 19, through Sep. 24. The public is invited to meet the artists at a gallery reception on Thursday, Aug. 27, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The gallery is located in Room L-102 at the south end of the college library in the Academic Resource Center.

The show is the brainchild of Melinda Forbes, a passionate gardener and clothing creator who is also drawn to non-traditional storytelling. Forbes’ interests came together and sparked the idea for "Earth Gowns."

Her longtime creative collaborator, Julie Frankel, resonated with the vision of creating a series of gowns that combine nature's imagination and the feminine life force. Forbes says that she and Frankel began a year-long process of defining exhibit parameters and selecting artists to create the work.

They deliberately invited eight other artists with different backgrounds to create work using a variety of mediums: Jennifer Blue, Peg Eckert, Meg Johnson, Susan Lara, Marylu Weaver Meagher, Chloe White, Stacy Williams, and Mary Wood.

Some of the women had collaborated on past installations, while others were new to this group process. 
Informally, the artists shared ideas, questions, problems and solutions with each other, and the project took on a life of its own. Over the next 10 months, the artists created unique gowns, each representing differing aspects of life on Earth.

The work is narrative, and the dresses visually tell their stories, each reflecting on a part of the natural world.

According to Frankel, the artists asked the question, “What would Mother Earth wear if she was here among us?” She says that participating artists were given the freedom to select their inspirational subject and create a gown representing that particular aspect, using materials of their choice.

Some artists gravitated towards seed pods, leaves, lichen, bark and woodpecker feathers. Many creations feature recycled fabric, found objects, and repurposed materials. 

Most of the gowns are wearable and were worn in a spontaneous production of theater, dance and music called “Gaia in Motion” at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo.

Gallery director Marti Fast is delighted at the variety and expression in the collection.

“This is the first show of our new academic year, and I’m thrilled that our students and staff have the opportunity to experience this unique and unusual way of telling a story,” said Fast. “The materials are diverse, the dresses are filled with meaning, and the artists’ imaginations speak to me as a viewer. I’m blown away that the dresses can be worn, and were used in a performance. Imagine someone wearing a dress made of lichen and bark! It’s an amazing collaboration.”

Fast says that fine arts students will have the opportunity to talk to the artists during the reception and other informal gallery discussions.

“One of the greatest sources of inspiration for any art student is learning about the creative journey of a working artist,” added Fast. “The willingness of the 'Earth Gowns' artists to share their processes, materials and stories will transform many students’ thinking and perceptions. That kind of dynamic dialogue is at the core of truly meaningful gallery experiences.”

The Ann Foxworthy Gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gallery is located in the Academic Resource Center, Bldg. L-South, on the Santa Maria campus. Parking passes are $2 per vehicle. 

For more information, contact the fine arts department at (805) 922-6966 ext. 3252, or [email protected]

—Gina Herlihy represents Allan Hancock College.


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