Works of art inspire beautiful fashions in event at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art
A painting clinging to the wall inspires a dress hanging from a mannequin.
The piece of art comes to life through the fabric.
This style project is part of Art as Fashion, a weekend event April 28 to 30 at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.
This event encompasses everything, says Catena Bergevin, director of advancement for the museum. This is a new twist on the Carnegie Museum of Art's previous Art in Bloom events, where floral arrangements were inspired by pieces of art. This time, it is fashion created to reflect and represent paintings and sculptures.
The event, which is hosted by the Committee for The Westmoreland, opens with a cocktail party and informal modeling of art-inspired fashions by 20 student designers from Seton Hill University. Each student was assigned a piece of art and a time period for inspiration from which to fashion a garment. They had 13 weeks to complete the graded project. Their designs will be displayed in the museum throughout the weekend.
Jessica Lami, a sophomore English literature and theater technology major from Hartford, Conn., was working on the final touches of a dress that was inspired by “Industrial Seen at Night,” by Aaron Harry Gorson from the Directoire and Empire periods.
She chose a chemise undergarment covered by several pieces of fabric draped in layers for this floor-length dress.
“I have a greater appreciation for costume designers who have to create lots of pieces all at once,” Lami says. “I've just had to create one, and I see how much time and effort that takes. It's been challenging.”
Fashion and art are about visual communication, says Sue O'Neill, costume director of Seton Hill's Visual and Performing Arts School. It's similar to how we respond to a painting or music using our senses. That same response can be directed toward fashion.
“The choices they have made for their pieces are really exciting,” O'Neill says. “They have fresh eyes and interesting takes on art. We appreciate the privilege to be a part of it. … It's been a wonderful process to watch the students fear turn into ‘Look what I did?' ”
Senior theater business major Abigail Sarnacki of Detroit created what she calls a dress that's “a feminine shell over a masculine core.” The art she was using is “After the Bath,” by Robert Brackman from the bustle and 1890s period. Using a color palette generator, she was able to incorporate hues that reflect the colors of the piece.
The Romantic Era was all about suits for guys, so Justin Taylor, a junior theater arts major from the Bronx, N.Y., found inspiration from what's called “Self Portrait,” by Mary Regensburg Feist for his outfit which includes painted designs on a shirt, a pair of khaki pants, a long black jacket with fake fur, a bow and a bowler hat which he is excited to wear.
Adam Sarp, a junior theater performance major from Latrobe, was creating a costume for a character inspired by “The Dentist,” by David Gilmour Blythe from the Middle Ages. Sarp fashioned a long tunic, with faux fur trim in embroidered velvet and a liripipe hood.
“My character is inspired by the dentist who is a shyster, and who steals coins, and gives out fake jewelry, so I will be handing out fake jewelry at the museum event,” Sarp says. “He is a guy who is out for himself.”
Smog and fire came across as major details in the painting “Steel Valley Pittsburgh” by Otto August Kuhler, in the crinoline time period of fashion, which was assigned to Trenae Waller, a junior theater technology and design major from central Maryland. So she incorporated lots of reds into a dress made of cotton.
“I don't have a sewing background, but once you see the piece taking shape it makes you feel that you've accomplished something,” Waller says.
Lauren Grasser, junior theater performance major from Johnstown, decided to not to be too literal in her interpretation of “Still Life with Fruit” by Severin Roesen from the Edwardian and World War I time period.
“I took a lot of liberties,” Grasser says. “I went with a high collar, lace trim and silk. They put so much lace on their undergarments in the Edwardian era. It's all about decorations and details. I did, however, want to include grapevines, which you see so vividly in this piece of art.”
Elaine Montgomery, a junior graphic design major with a minor in theater technology, was inspired by the “Parade To Baptism” sculpture by Pittsburgh artist Vanessa German.
“I wanted to make my gown look regal, but kind of falling apart,” says Montgomery, who plans to glue on knick knacks spray painted in gold and miniature baby doll parts. “It might be a little creepy, but that's the look I am going for.”
Katie Adler, a junior studio art major from Springdale, is inspired by the “Decorated Blanket Chest,” of the ‘20s, ‘30s, and World War II time period. The chest is created by a bride's father and given on her wedding day.
Maureen Kailhofer, a junior theater design and technology major from Milwaukee, Wisc., was inspired by the 17th century “Carnival at the Country Fair” by Dorothy Lauer Davids. Kailhofer's dress is made of chemise, and the hat she's designing will have big feathers.
Freshman students were assigned to make vests and hats, so Leah Prestogeorge, a musical theater major from Wilkins, used “The Thomas Lynch Tiffany Window” as inspiration. She made and then sewed on flower details on the peplum vest and plans to add leaves made of fabric diagonally across the piece that imitates the lines in the artwork.
Noah Zaken, a theater business major from Pleasant Hills was inspired by “Point Marion,” by Raymond L. DeFazio for his vest and hat. The piece of art shows a yellow house surrounded by greenery.
Halle Polechko, a musical theater major was focused on a piece of art of freshly picked peaches called “Just Picked Peaches” for her vest and hat, but went a different route and layered fabrics of chiffon and cotton, inspired by the girl in the photo's skin tone and clothing. Polechko is making a foam hat.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the museum's exhibition and education programs. The museum plans a “Fashion in Art” exhibit, opening Aug. 1, that will be inspired by the Art as Fashion fundraiser. The exhibit will look at fashion-focused works in the museum's collection.
Trying something new keeps it fresh, says Sally Loughran, co-chair of the event with Michel Franklin, and a member of the committee.
“Sometimes you need to bring change to keep things from getting stale,” says Loughran, who adds the fashion-inspired event is timely. The Frick Art Museum in Point Breeze recently hosted “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe” exhibit and has the upcoming “Undressed: A History of Fashion in Underwear,” Oct. 21 to Jan. 7, 2018. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland currently has “Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion,” through May 1.
“We hope this will appeal to everyone,” Loughran says.
In addition to the Seton Hill University student's designs, the April 28 event also will include pop-up vendors, such as Carabella, Crossroads Boutique, Emy Mack Shoes, The Jewel Thief, Katerina Musetti Designs Jewelry, Katwalk Clothing & Gifts, Lapels, A Fine Mens Clothier, Larrimor's, LHM Designs Jewelry, Locally Raised Little Ones and Sandra Cadavid Luxury Handbag & Jewelry Design.
Fashion trucks include Magnolia on Main, Style Truck by Jackee Ging and The Vintage Valet. Music will be provided by the Joshua Ben Quartet and light bites from Sun Dawg Café.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Lisa McChesney, it's jewelry.
For Lana Neumeyer, it's clothing.
For Emily Mack Jamison, it's footwear.
For the three of them, it's an art form – one that doesn't have to hang on a wall, but is meant to be worn.
The trio will be part of an Art + Fashion Talk April 30 at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg. Each will address guests for 20 minutes and then be part of a question and answer session.
McChesney, owner of LHM Designs in Ligonier, began designing necklaces in 1990. “I believe that fashion is an interesting way to introduce art,” McChesney says. “If you consider the body as a blank canvas you can use various mediums and color to create art. As with many paintings in a museum, the outfits represent so many cultures and periods in life. “
Jamison, owner and designer of Emy Mack Shoes in Shadyside, says designing shoes involves an extensive and creative process. “It starts with a sketch that is then executed by Italian artisans,” she says. “I am excited to explore the history of shoes as art and my personal experience in the creative and artistic process to create and bring shoes to the customer. And then, how the customer wears pieces to express themselves which is yet another form of art.”
Neumeyer, who designs in her studio in O'Hara and is a native of Brazil, says her fashion is different because she doesn't sell her pieces — some aren't even meant to be worn. Neumeyer uses materials such as burlap and other eco-friendly fabrics. Her collections exude bright and bold colors and exotic prints and patterns.
“Fashion doesn't always have to be wearable,” Neumeyer says. “It can be sculptural. It is about creativity and making something that appeals to you. There are no rules. I love unconventional fabrics, and I love color in my designs. I love to think outside the box.”