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The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens presents "Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art"
Seated Jackalope. Alonzo Jiminez (b. 1949) Chupadero, New Mexico, 1983. Paint on cottonwood with antelope antlers, 33 x 11 1/2 x 27”. Collection American Folk Art Museum. Gift of Elizabeth Wecter, 1985.20.24 Photograph by Gavin Ashworth.


JACKSONVILLE, FLA.- The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens announces Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, on view through December 31, 2016. Folk Couture departs from the norm by inspiring 13 designers to create garments based on pieces from the permanent collection at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The designers include Chadwick Bell, Fabio Costa (NotEqual), Gary Graham, Catherine Malandrino, threeASFOUR, Creatures of the Wind, Bibhu Mohapatra, John Bartlett, Ronaldus Shamask, Michael Bastian, Yeohlee Teng, Koos van den Akker, and Jean Yu.

“The Museum is excited to be able to bring an exhibition of this nature to the Jacksonville community,” states Chief Operating Officer & Chief Curator Holly Keris. “We have been looking to host a folk art exhibition for several years now, and being able to pair this style with fashion offers the opportunity to look at the artwork in a completely original way.”

American Folk Art Museum Deputy Director Stacy C. Hollander, worked closely with Guest Curator Alexis Carreño to bring the exhibition to life. The Museum is “more rowdy and idiosyncratic than what you might find in other art museums,” stated Hollander. The pieces that the designers created complement the unconventional style that Hollander describes, with inspiration ranging from decorative patterns on fabrics, narratives told by photographs and tattoos, simplistic drawings, and the shapes and colors of wood and metal sculptures. Although fashion and folk art appear to be polar opposites, “one of the most compelling aspects of folk art is its directness in conception and execution… perspective and presentation are sometimes freely reimagined, and there is often an emphasis on minute details,” much like fashion, stated Carreño. Displaying the garments next to the original works allows visitors to join the conversation and think about their own interpretation of the folk art masterworks.

threeASFOUR designers Gabi Asfour (born 1966, Beirut, Lebanon), Angela Donhauser (born 1971, Dushanbe, Tajikistan), and Adi Gil (born 1974, Tel Aviv, Israel) found inspiration in a 19th-century Quaker quilt featuring a Friendship Star pattern. “We liked the quilt because it has the Star of David, but it was not created by Jewish people; it was done by Quaker women as a sign of friendship in the 1800s,” says Asfour. Their dress, made from three layers of laser-cut patent leather, combines the four-pointed Christian star, the five-pointed Islamic star, and the six-pointed Jewish star to create a whole new pattern. The trio also incorporated other historical details, including sleeves shaped like headdresses during the Elizabethan period and a nod to the mashrabiya, an ornate veil-like screen common in North African homes.

Fabio Costa (born 1983, Brazil), well-known for his appearance on Project Runway, also created a garment inspired by a 1796 quilt from the collection, featuring the Tree of Life pattern. Costa hand quilted and stuffed the pattern onto a silk organza capelet and a split-front skirt, and created a pair of pants quilted with Japanese silk thread. He designed a wide brim hat that echoes the shape and pattern of a woodcarving with the Roman Catholic bleeding heart symbol from 1892. He used the ancient golden ratio throughout to illustrate proportions that are “perfect, beautiful, and harmonic,” he says.

Yeohlee Tang (born 1955, Malaysia) selected four late 20th-century animal woodcarvings and created a garment that celebrated the playful character and hand crafted qualities of the carvings. Tang photographed them from various vantage points and transformed her images into printed tiles that encircle a simple A-line dress made out of hand-cut brown Kraft paper, highlighting the contrast between the delicacy of the garment and the roughness of the wood carvings. Ultimately, Tang wants “[the dress] to appeal to the child inside everyone.”

Bibhu Mohapatra (born 1972, India) personally identified with a book containing images of 35 tattoos. He remembers filling a similar book with sketches of his own while studying economics in Utah. While flipping through the book, Mohapatra found inspiration in a particular drawing called Sailors Dream. From this image, Mohapatra created a garment that resembles the nautical theme from the drawing. He used aquamarine organza for the dress, which resembles waves, over a black fleur-de-lis lace bodysuit that gives reference to the tattoos. The fluidity of the dress makes the garment appear “as if the wearer has tattoos all over her body and this wave of organza is floating over. It is a dream, it is a reality, and it is also a fantasy,” says Mohapatra.

Fashion can gain inspiration from unlikely places. The pieces that the designers created definitely reflect this statement. “Folk Couture demonstrates the way in which powerful expressions in a wide variety of mediums by self-taught artists can invigorate a disparate group of thoughtful, articulate designers to create equally vivid, singular objects of couture,” says Carreño.





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