By Tom Wachunas
“…Fashion is instant language.” – Miuccia Prada
EXHIBIT: Judi Krew: Hoard Couture, Where Art Meets Fashion / Through October 6, 2021, at Massillon Museum STUDIO M / 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon, Ohio / 330.833.4061
From Judi Krew’s exhibition statement: “…I embrace the mantra of reuse, repurpose, reconsider, and reimagine to guide the overall concept of each piece. What began nine years ago as a small scale sculptural dress serves to explore the idea of why we feel the need to hold onto “things”, this project has grown into an exploration rooted in problem solving…The original intent of Hoard Couture, to reduce an accumulation of things, has evolved over time into a series that sometimes looks back at our past and perhaps also forward to our future…”
Here’s an eye-popping parade of femiquinns bedecked in a bodacious array of unconventional materials. In this context, we can rightly regard Judi Krew’s works as not just “fashion design”, but also as remarkable mixed-media sculptures.
On a purely formal level, she consistently achieves an elegant balance of volume and mass animated with electrifying patterns and textures, and all harmonized by an intoxicating color sensibility.
On a conceptual plane, I think there’s a kind of probity to many of these pieces that brings new meaning to the idiomatic trope of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve. In all of their astonishing intricacy of constructed details, these exquisitely crafted assemblages are more than merely decorative. They’re declarative. I’m confident that you would be well served to read the text placards accompanying each piece, wherein Krew speaks about the history of her materials and their ideological symbolism, as well as processing and resolving the technical challenges in making a given piece actually wearable.
Fashion statements indeed. Here’s just a few examples.
Dress for Sex-cess: Truth or Dare is a stark white denim dress covered with handwritten names or victim numbers of 358 women who filed sexual harassment claims against Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Bill Clinton, and Dr. Larry Nasser. It’s a literally gripping document and, as Krew tells us, “…a walking, wearable record of history to spark conversation and awareness.”
What color is your COVID is a cape comprised of neckties with varying configurations of circles, spots and dots, and attached toetags with numbers written on them. Krew counted every single one of those circles, spots and dots, totaling 44,935. But that number is just a starting point for grasping the symbolism of this ingenious work. Once again, here’s where reading the placard can be especially vital in appreciating the meticulous way Krew breaks down that tally further into a sort of algorithm signifying the staggering and still growing number of COVID victims in the U.S.
We Burned is a beautiful and haunting remembrance of the deadly 2018 California Wildfire season. That billowy bodice is a cluster of 2,000 hand-cut “leaves”, each one burned or charred, and made from such things as greeting cards, photos, wrappers and cartons – stuff easily lost to fire. Krew adds this poetic note: “…Sometimes a leaf will fall off and float away, another lost soul returning to nature.”
In all, the excellent physical installation of this collection exudes an inspiring theatricality. You might easily imagine being backstage at a fashion show, or standing in the wings while gazing at the line of “models” poised to strut and swirl their fantastic finery onto the runway. A palpable sense of imminence. Suddenly those static sculptures seem positioned to become kinetic entities in space - a thrilling and provocative work of performance art.
MEET THE ARTIST at the STUDIO M reception on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
ALSO, MassMu will post a podcast interview with Judi Krew on Tuesday, September 21, at noon.