Art We Wear:
Culture & Expression 1960s to Now
June 17 - August 13, 2017
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a moment in history when, despite a decade tormented by assassinations, violent riots and expanding war, tens of thousands of young people from all over the nation flooded into San Francisco to celebrate their shared vision of peace and love as world-guiding values. It became known as the “Summer of Love” and in that year, 1967, the growing counter-culture and its distinct clothing, music, and lifestyle, burst into the American psyche to challenge staid conformity and forever changed the course of history.
The burgeoning new “hippie” culture brought long hair or billowing afros, openly experimental lifestyles, and a demand for political and social integrity fueled by exposure to education, world travel, mind-expanding psychedelics, and a disillusionment with cultural hypocrisy. This youth activated movement, sparked by a can-do spirit, was on fire with new ideas; from politics and environmental consciousness, to new forms of creative expression. They angered mainstream society yet added brilliant and lasting innovations to the fabric of the nation.
Clothing has always been a powerful signal of identity and expression throughout world cultures and the fashions of the counter-culture became symbolic of both a philosophic affiliation and personal style. Untethered from conformity, and eschewing consumerism in the 1960s, the youth turned second–hand jeans into unselfconscious personal expression with flamboyant combinations and colorful embellishments. Patched clothes, once an embarrassment, came to represent the emphasis on sustainability and individuality. Out of this cultural milieu grew an astonishing art-to-wear movement that included artists who emphatically chose functionality over more traditional forms of creative expression. Unlike paintings on walls, art-to-wear envelopes the body and turns the wearer into a kind of living, moving art experience for viewer and wearer alike.
This exhibition presents diverse examples of the art-to-wear movement, from the early years to today, that sprang from the exuberant “hippie” embellished clothing of the 1960s. It features the fine craftsmanship of garment artists and jewelry makers living in or affiliated with the Bay Area including luminaries of the national art-to-wear movement and numerous artists from Bolinas and greater coastal Marin who got their start producing their finely crafted, strikingly original garments in the 1960s and 70s. Textile techniques range from handcrafting the actual fabric by weaving or felting, to the trans-formation of plain silk, wool or cotton with the use of a range of dyeing, surface design, and embellishment techniques.
Most of these artists have had their garments and jewelry exhibited in national galleries and museums, presented in prestigious publications, or worn by diverse dignitaries including stars of film, television, music, and the arts, as well as an appreciative audience of people who choose unique art-to-wear.
In today’s fixated-on-name-brand culture, these highly visible affirmations are important recognitions of the intrinsic value of handmade, one-of-a-kind creations and supporting individual artists. Perhaps this exhibition will surprise and inspire us all to make our own ingenious creations or choose to support and promote the innovative work of others.