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See also art jewelry.

Wearable art, also known as Artwear or "art to wear", refers to individually designed pieces of (usually) hand-made clothing or jewelry created as fine or expressive art. While the making of any article of clothing or other wearable object typically involves aesthetic considerations, the term wearable art implies that the work is intended to be accepted as a serious and unique artistic creation or statement. Pieces may be sold and/or exhibited. The modern idea of wearable art seems to have surfaced more than once in various forms. Marbeth Schon's book on modernist jewelry (see the section on jewelry below) refers to a "wearable art movement" spanning roughly the years 1930 to 1960. A 2003 New York Times review of a book on knitting refers to "the 60s Art to Wear movement". [1]

Most wearable art is made of fibrous materials and constitutes therefore a branch of the wider field of fiber art, which includes both wearable and non-wearable forms of art using fabric and other fiber products. Wearable art as an artistic domain can also of course include jewelry, or clothing made from non-fiber materials such as leather, plastic sheeting, metals, etc.

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Wearable fiber art

Artists creating wearable fiber art may use purchased finished fabrics or other materials, making them into unique garments, or may dye and/or paint virgin fabric. A few artists make their own fabrics, for example on looms.

As with any other art form, the talent and skills of artists in this field vary widely. Since the nature of the medium requires craft skills as well as artistic skills, an advanced artist can be expected to study color theory, chemistry, sewing, clothing design, and computer software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Classes in clothing design and marketing may be learned from such colleges as the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

The New Zealand city of Nelson has gained a worldwide reputation in the field of wearable art, with its World of WearableArt Awards, held annually since 1987. From 2005, the show moved to Wellington. In Australia, the Shearwater Wearable Arts or W.A.V.E. (Wearable Arts Vision In Education) has developed from a High School initiative to become a leading Wearable Arts Event.

Jewelry as wearable art: the mid-twentieth century "wearable art movement"

Some twentieth-century modern artists and architects sought to elevate bodily ornamentation — that is, jewelry — to the level of fine art and original design, rather than mere decoration, craft production of traditional designs, or conventional settings for showing off expensive stones or precious metals. In "Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960: The Wearable Art Movement" (2004), author Marbeth Schon explores unique and innovative wearable art objects created by surrealists, cubists, abstract expressionists, and other modernist artists working in the middle decades of the twentieth century. [2] For the main article on this kind of wearable art, see art jewelry.

Extreme examples of wearable art

Not all garments created as wearable art are made from traditional fibers or fabrics, and not all such artworks are meant for ordinary, practical use. Performance and conceptual artists have sometimes produced examples which are more provocative than useful.

A well known example is the "Electric Dress", a burqa-like costume consisting mostly of variously colored electrified and painted light bulbs, enmeshed in a tangle of wires, created in 1956 by the Japanese Gutai artist Atsuko Tanaka. This extreme garment was something like a stage costume. Not really wearable in an everyday, practical sense, it functioned rather as part of a daring work of performance art (though the "performance" element consisted merely of the artist's wearing the piece while mingling with spectators in a gallery setting). [3]

In Nam June Paik's 1969 performance piece called "TV Bra for Living Sculpture," Charlotte Moorman played the cello while wearing a bra made of two small television sets. [4]

More recently, Canadian artist Andrea Vander Kooij created a group of pieces called "Garments for Forced Intimacy" (2006). According to an essay at Concordia University's Faculty of Fine Arts gallery website, these hand-knit articles of clothing are designed to be worn by two people, and they, "as the name states, compel the wearers into uncharacteristic proximity." [5]

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