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Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Racine Art Museum Asks What 'To Wear'

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The clothes people wear project individual identities and personalities, as well as larger cultural expressions. The Racine Art Museum's current exhibition "To Wear or Not to Wear" features five artists examining the balance between art and craft, fashion and ornament, and functional and nonfunctional garments.

In this first-floor exhibit, Rebecca Siemering displays two pieces of clothing constructed from found lottery tickets, dental floss, canvas, velvet and cardboard. Siemering's Captain America (2010) shows a superhero costume with a jet pack for defying gravity. The common materials of this sculpture could speak to consumerism, fantastical desires and untold wishes that the lottery might bring to the lucky person holding the winning ticket. Or does the piece recall the large number of dreams thrown on the ground and stepped upon in 21st-century America?

Marjorie Schick fashions capes and bracelets out of painted canvas, thread and wood. She designs works in color palettes that reflect famous artists, as with the garment titled Van Gogh's Circles. Button-like circles painted in sunflower gold and sunshine yellow overlap, similar to feathers or scales—but could or would a person actually wear the cape?

John Petrey welds life-size dresses from copper and tin. They sometimes appear to stand by themselves, thanks to fiberglass or wood under-structures. The dresses juxtapose soft, feminine form with industrial, masculine materials. In Petrey's sculpture Elizabeth, silver nail heads stud the bodice of a 16th-century-style dress. One can imagine the British queen defeating the Spanish Armada in this costume—a tribute to her longevity and strength.

This exhibit delves into the riveting question of how art and fashion collide. Deciding if a certain garment or accessory is appropriate, functional, a social statement or a combination of all three adds to that timeless concern. Curator Lena Vigna's fascinating, provocative exhibit provides answers from imaginative, masterful artists.

"To Wear or Not to Wear" continues through Feb. 19, 2012.