Refashioned opens on May 21, 2011 and will feature 20 objects by a trio of artists who employ garments to explore historical narrative. Include are Lauren Gillette, Anne Lemanski, and Angelika Werth. Each is interested in the conventions of outward appearance and how these convey the details of life.

The exhibition will run at The Portland Museum of Art through July 21, 2011.

Full press release and assorted images after the jump.

Inherent in the structure of a garment is the story of its purpose, time, and place. Refashioned, on view May 21 through July 21, 2011 at the Portland Museum of Art, will feature 20 objects by contemporary artists Lauren Gillette, Anne Lemanski, and Angelika Werth. These artists use the configuration of an article of clothing or hairstyle as an armature for historical narratives. Their work begins with the desire to communicate details of a life revealed in the conventions of outward appearance. In sculptural jackets, hairstyles, and dresses, the artists reconstruct identities, reuse materials, and reinvent historical personas. Refashioned is the third in a series of exhibitions called Circa that explores compelling aspects of contemporary art in the state of Maine and beyond.

Lauren Gillette (York, Maine) is a miner of information—researching and gathering information about her subjects, conducting interviews, and poring over source material. Over a period of months and even years, she documents her findings on found leather jackets to assemble a biographical portrait. The lining, cuffs, zippers, collar, buttons, patches, and pockets inside and out, are covered like the pages of a book with accumulated imagery and text. Some of her subjects are famous cultural figures: Patty Hearst or Ayn Rand for example, while others are lesser known individuals or simply people she has known to be influential, to lead passionate lives, or to have been caught up in the tumbler of history for better, and often, for worse. From trench coat to bomber to blazer, the style of each jacket is matched to the person it describes. Like motorcycle jackets that may signal affinity to a particular culture and group of riders, they are at once protective and revealing.

In a series of 12 hand-felted dresses, titled Madeleines, Angelika Werth (British Columbia) has reinvented outfits for famous women throughout history. In a twist of character and deflection of social restrictions, historical dress styles are altered to accommodate the woman’s participation in a particular sporting activity. She tailors boxing outfits for Marie Antoinette and Marilyn Monroe, complete with red boxing gloves. Others designed for fencing are made for Joan of Arc and Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Using a combination of silk and merino fibers with bits of old lace undergarments, Werth deftly crafts the structure of each woman’s costume according to their era. Imagining these women in the game is an act of reinterpreting history, and for Werth, both honoring and confounding the restrictions of dress on expected behavior.

A Century of Hair by Anne Lemanski (North Carolina) chronicles women’s hairstyles of the 20th century, highlighting one iconic look from each decade. Lemanski constructs each piece beginning with a wire armature and filling in the form with a culturally significant material that she stitches to the framework. The 1940s look, titled For the Boys, incorporates World War II ration stamps and vintage pin-ups. The Professional Woman, with men’s red and navy ties, marks the 1980s surge of women into previously male-dominated fields. In each work, Lemanski recounts the challenges and advances for women of the day, from the need for birth control, to the invention of the vacuum cleaner. A Century of Hair is a historical timeline and cultural commentary on women’s identity evidenced in the shape of their hair.

The Museum showcases two Circa exhibitions per year featuring the work of living artists from Maine any beyond, in both group and solo formats.

What To Read Next