Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 51

Sorry to interrupt the mystery story, but there is urgency in this alluring dress — if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area! You’ve got today and two more days to see “The Dresses-Objects Project” at the Z-Space of Theater Artaud. The highly original exhibition of dresses is built upon Stein’s avantgarde masterpiece “Tender Buttons” — an idea developed and launched by artist Katrina Rodabaugh in collaboration with over 30 other women artists.
On Sunday, the closing day, poetry by women will be read in the gallery space that has been turned into a tailor’s atelier where viewers could watch Katrina sewing and sculpting a final dress.
Why Gertrude Stein? “I was surprised to realize how many of my friends and other people were touched by Stein,” the artist told me. “Her words are so simple but the combination of her words is so complex. I love her.” Stein’s irresistible construction of sentences and verses led to the construction of dresses as poetic and dreamlike as the texts.
Katrina had taught book making at Mills College and started her project with the idea of running a letterpress not on paper for once, but on fabric. She chose 4 poems from “Tender Buttons” referring to garments, hats, coats, petticoats (“The Long Dress,” “The Petticoat,” “The Blue Coat,” and “The Handkerchief”) and used a beautiful, pigeon-blue recycled fabric to imprint the text in blocks, add little silhouettes of women in Twenties fashion, and sew and embroider parts of the whole. She invited a number of women to create a dress from her fabric, playing off gender notions and the fashion of the Twenties. She wanted to explore and highlight the artificial (man-made) division between art and crafts that historically excluded women from art and left them the (domestic) crafts. The dress creations had to be wearable, and on opening night five dancers modeled the dresses and proved they could be worn.( They were also for sale, ranging from $ 350.- to 700.-)
Several of the dressmakers had never before held a sewing needle in their hands. A furniture maker and woodworker team made a très chic tight vest and tie combined with a short pleated skirt, adding their own buttons made of wood. A graphic designer invented a geometrical flapper dress but managed to smuggle a little notebook between the folds of the skirt, above the seam: the dream dress for She Writers! A patchwork artist and assistant to a wedding dress designer who had never created a dress before, made an elegant, colorful gown with a gauze train falling like a waterfall of gold-embroidered words. The New York fashion design team “Feral Childe” added blue tulle from one of their wedding dresses and their own logo buttons to their creation. Many different materials — lace, silk, velvet, crochet work — were added; the text sometimes cleverly hidden under lapels or discretely displayed on the back. A costume designer who happened to be pregnant made a dress like a sculpture of many fabrics, stretch fabric bulges for the pregnant belly, a colorful “umbilical cord”, a dramatic “mermaid” train and a big hood that could serve perfectly, later on, for breast-feeding in public…
Inventive humor and playfulness were/are palpable in the whole amazing collection of “wearable poetry.” These very tender buttons would have pleased Gertrude no end.

Tags: Gertrude Stein, Katrina Rodobaugh, Tender Buttons

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One Response to Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 51

  1. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well as the content!

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