ECO + FASHION, Art in City Hall

Philadelphia, January 6, 2014 – The City of Philadelphia’s Art in City Hall program introduces its latest juried group exhibition, ECO + FASHION, featuring the works of 18 local artists and an installation by local boutique, United by Blue.  The exhibit is located in the Art Gallery at City Hall, Room 116. A reception is scheduled for Wednesday, January 8th, from 5:00 -7:00 pm.

The 18 participating artists are:
 Ellen Benson & Paulette Heilbrun, Lucy Bigham, Katie Coble, Mary DeMarco, Georgina Gozum, Lesley Haas, Melissa Madonni Haims, Donnetta Irvis, Marilyn Lavins, Joanne Litz, Lauren Marsella, Sienna Martz, Maria Nevelson, Bernice Paul, Eva Preston, Katya Roelse, Kendal Wilkins and Natalie Zuk.

Artists and designers today are finding innovative and surprising ways to combine the fields of fashion, environmentalism, ecology, and art. For this exhibition, creatives were invited to submit works that address the issues of sustainability and eco-consciousness in the context of fashion and wearable art. Artists and designers responded by submitting works created from sustainable materials, addressing sustainability as a practice; some challenging our definition of fashion itself, while others presented wearable eco-friendly works.

The exhibit features a number of works created from found objects, including Kendal WilkinsCycle Crinoline, made from bicycle parts, wires and window screen. The piece transforms dozens of bicycle cranks, rims, chain wheels, and streams of chains into an elegant, sculptural evening gown.

Wilkins explains: “I drew my inspiration for Cycle Crinoline from Victorian and modern day fashion, and the desire to transform utilitarian objects into something feminine and elegant.”

Wilkins draws her love of repurposing materials from her fellow artists at Sweet Mable Folk Art & Fine Craft, where they regularly transform tired, unused, and orphaned materials.

Lauren Marsella’s sets of earrings Tarzhay Old Glory and Mastercard Ammo are statements about our contemporary consumer culture. They are made from cut-up credit cards and bullet shells.

“Although the roles these items often play trouble me, it is possible to transform them into something beautiful and functional, to assign new meaning to their power.

An exhibit that welcomes the usage of found objects wouldn’t be complete without representation from Philadelphia’s own Dumpster Divers. Eva Preston reclaims discarded shoes and leather bags, and uses these found materials to elevate her love of comics as in her Ode to Gene Autry. Artist Ellen Benson & Paulette Heilbrun piece together vintage jeans and t-shirts to create Super Girl.

Benson views her wearable art as an extension of herself: “One of the great things about being an artist is that you can dress outrageously, colorfully, outlandishly, crazily—and it’s encouraged or even expected, especially because I am a Dumpster diva/member of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers!”

Some of the wearable eco-friendly pieces in the exhibit can be imagined on a fashion runway, such as Georgina Gozum’s Mod Sack Dress and Pina Strap Dress, made from organic pineapple fiber; Katie Coble’s hand-painted and sewn fabric series: Raindrop, Knit and Gown; Joanne Litz’s Scrap Dress and Vest Poncho, made from repurposed sweaters and cottons as part of the artist’s Steel Pony Project; Katya Roelse’s Long Dress made from silk voile and silk linen blends; Natalie Zuk’s Moss Dress, made from live moss wrapping itself around the body of her African fabric; and Melissa Madonni HaimsPlarn Dress, a product of 40 plastic shopping bags crafted into yarn.

Haims explains the eco-consciousness behind her dress, “I am doing two things: reducing the amount of waste going into landfills and giving something with a semi-finite lifespan another chance.”

The exhibit also includes fashion accessories: a plarn bag designed by Lucy Bigham, co-owner of Tosheka Textiles, a Nigerian company in West Philadelphia; various organic silk scarves hand-dyed by Marilyn Lavins, Donnetta Irvis, Mary DeMarco, and Bernice Paul; shoes made from Paper Artist, Lesley Haas; wooden brooches that can be pinned on or worn on a string by artist Maria Nevelson; and Sienna Martz’s wearable plant-like sculpture, Collar, which is made from silk organza and wool.  

Martz sees her work as a process to form an interaction between the body and non-native recycled materials. “The materials I use are mainly found, recycled, and repurposed.  Using traditional fiber techniques in a contemporary method, the interaction between materials becomes an essential element in the concepts of my work.”

The exhibit extends to the hallway just outside the gallery in one of the large display cases where United by Blue takes eco-conscious fashion to another level.  United By Blue is a sustainable brand of apparel that was started in May of 2010 in Philadelphia. They recently opened a store in Old City where they double as a coffee house.  For each item the brand sells, they remove a pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups.

ECO + FASHION was juried by Joan K. Smith, a local independent curator and member of the Art in City Hall Advisory Committee.  The committee is made of local arts professionals and is currently chaired by Amie Potsic, Executive Director for the Main Line Art Center.

The exhibit runs thru February 28th

Art in City Hall presents exhibitions that showcase contemporary artwork by emerging and professional visual artists from the Philadelphia region. Encompassing a variety of mediums, techniques, and subjects, this municipal program is committed to presenting a diversity of ideas and artistic explorations.  The program strives to link visual artists with the larger community by providing the public with a greater knowledge and appreciation of their artistic achievements.  For more information on Art In City Hall, visit:

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