How many pairs of shoes does it take to make a dress? Art, fashion and sculpture collide in the powerful exhibit FLESH at Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery. Arianne Pollet-Brannen’s display of work stays true to the artist’s creative leanings with plenty of unique shapes, colours and textures in her garment-sculptures. The exhibit features 21 pieces of clothing made from old shoes, discarded fabric and cotton. Many are recent creations within the last couple of years and build upon the artist’s signature look of recycled, feminist art.
“I’m playing around with different things,” says Pollet-Brannen, artist-in-residence at Mount Saint Vincent University. “I was interested the history of shoes related to women. It’s really shocking how women hurt themselves in the past by binding their feet and today with 21st century high heels. I’m using objects that were previously considered garbage and deconstructing shoes.”
The dresses cover a wide range of styles and play off the conventional ideas of haute couture fashion. Hanging on a diverse array of mannequins, the viewer has the opportunity to examine the details of each piece. Many of the works are have symmetrical shapes like Selfportrait (2012-2013), where the distinctive pieces of leather from the shoes are clearly visible. Sneakers and high heels are a perfect match in High Mid Low Tops (2013), a rugged top with clean symmetrical lines. All elements of the shoe are used in Shoeliner, where shoe linings and discarded pieces of fabric are used to create an eclectic garment.
“I let the shoes guide me,” says Pollet-Brannen. “I let them be what they are. I use everything, even the nails from the shoes. By keeping the shoe’s shape, I keep the decisions made by the original creator.”
The beauty of the exhibit is the variety. Where else would you see cute polka dots with a colourful, beautiful mish-mash of leather on top? Pieces like Cincinnati Day Dress (2012) bring together the elements of colour, expression, deconstruction and femininity. The pieces from 2011 NSCAD Wearable Art show, the five-piece ensemble of the 12th century allegory Ordo Vitutum are also part of the exhibit.
Pollet-Brannen will be wrapping up her five-week stint as artist-in-residence at MSVU in early December. She hopes to bring her pieces to life again through a short video showcasing her work.
“I usually have two performers at the opening but I’d like to have all the pieces worn,” says Pollet-Brannen. “It’s hard to see the architecture at a show but a video would allow you to see all the details.”
There are certainly pieces that would be appreciated through performance. Who wouldn’t want to see The Soul (Bustle Dress) come alive?
FLESH runs until December 15 at the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, 166 Bedford Highway.