In 1973 a gallery opened in New York which signalled the emergence of a new type of clothing in America – clothes made by artists.
The opening of Julie – Artisans Gallery in Madison Avenue established the new genre of Art to Wear and was born out of the cultural revolution of that time in America.. Julie Schafler Dale’s commitment to the movement continues and the gallery remained open for 40 years.
It was the first outlet for Carole Waller’s painted clothes.
Other pivotal galleries such as Gayle Willson in Southampton on Long Island, Obiko in San Francisco, and Santa Fe Weaving Gallery in Arizona – provided a platform to show and sell artworks as clothing throughout the 1980’s until today.
Subject matter exists in these clothes recognised by Julie – defining them in a new way to either ‘costume’ associated with theatre and dance – or ‘fashion’ as defined in its desire to flatter the wearer in an increasingly materialistic consumer led society. Significant is the use of high quality handwork and craftsmanship which are almost in reaction to the increasingly technological society of that time.
Self expression has always been an integral aspect of choosing what to wear – clothing has always made both personal , social and political statements – and has often been dominated by a sense of ‘appropriateness’ for given occasions. During the 1960’s and 70’s the idea of what was appropriate became determined by a more personal concept of the expressive possibility of clothing. Key figures, for Carole, of the first generation of Art to wear include Tim Harding, Jean Williams Cacicedo, Robert Kushner, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Judith Content and Julia Hill.
Clothing became a vehicle and primary mode of expression which has developed and thrived into the 21st century – expanding our acceptance and enjoyment of a huge variety of clothing styles and genres. Avoidance of categorisation , mixing of media and multiplicity of technique have characterised the sophisticated output of artists clothing which was in part initiated at this pivotal period in the 70s with the emergence of the Contemporary Craft revival of that time.
The genre came in the wake of the collaboration between Surrealism and fashion in the 1930’s when Salvador Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli collaborated for the wonderful ‘Lobster dress ‘ The collaboration has never waned. The history of fashion is full of designers who refer to the surreal idea contained in Man Ray’s statement ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’. They believed that ‘beauty comes by chance because of the innately superior conditions of the subconscious to those that are controlled and regulated by reason’ Richard Martin “Fashion and Surrealism’
The history of art is full of examples of textiles and clothes designed by artists. Matisse, Sonia Delaunay and Paolozzi, are just three.
It was Mariano Fortuny in Venice as early as 1906 who symbolically and literally liberated the female form in the by draping pleating dyed and painted fabrics to reveal the natural sculptural lines of the body.
Sonia Delaunay created garments which she called ‘living paintings’
Yves St Laurent , Issey Miyake , Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, Zandra Rhodes, Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen, Vivian Westwood, Victor and Rolf, Hussein Chalayan all connect to that tradition of emotion, life and ideas being central to the conceptual inspiration of their clothing. Currently a host of designers are working with digital print in their collections – such as Jonathan Saunders, Peter Pilotti and Mary Katrantzou , bringing narrative and visual referencing back into mainstream fashion.
Many contemporary artists and fashion designers work with ideas about clothes including Nick Cave, Marian Schoettle, Freddie Robins, Lucy Orta, Caroline Broadhead, Susie Freeman, Helen Storey .
At their best these inspirational clothes are intelligent, full of wit, and a knowledge of the history of art and clothing.
All of the above have been an influence on the work of Carole Waller – as well as painters such as Robert Rauschenberg with his combines and screenprints, and Giotto for the monumentality, serenity and grace of images embedded in frescoes.