Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Far Out Designs

Contemporary Japanese Fashion: the Mary Baskett Collection and Nuno Studio fabrics, at the Textile Museum (2320 S St. NW, Washington, D.C.). The exhibit runs through April 11, 2010, and the Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 – 5 p.m. Admission is free, though they would appreciate a $5 donation if possible. For more details, call 202-667-0441 or visit artbeat1

Far Out Designs

Contemporary Japanese Fashion: the Mary Baskett Collection and Nuno Studio fabrics, at the Textile Museum (2320 S St. NW, Washington, D.C.). The exhibit runs through April 11, 2010, and the Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 – 5 p.m. Admission is free, though they would appreciate a $5 donation if possible. For more details, call 202-667-0441 or visit


Miyake’s Red Dress

The three Japanese designers featured in this show are some of the most creative, bar none. While the creativity mantra of “think outside the box” is standard operating procedure in the art and design world, this trio is so innovative they seem to ask, what box?

Perhaps integral to that is the fact that none of the three came to fashion design directly. Issey Miyake graduated with a graphic design degree, Rei Kawakubo (founder of Comme des Garcons) studied fine arts and literature, and Yohji Yamamoto got his first degree in – wait for it – law. All of which supports a concept I’ve long espoused, that broad spectrum knowledge and cross-pollination between artistic disciplines can fuel creativity and innovative output like nothing else.

It’s important to recognize that the 41 ensembles seen here were culled from the closet of one woman: Mary Baskett of Cincinnati, Ohio. She has extensive experience with Far Eastern art, and along the way, she has picked up a wonderfully wicked addiction to cutting-edge Japanese fashion design. Her 100-plus outfits are her daily wardrobe.

Fashion is an interaction between flesh and fabric, and how that affects the wearer, as well as how that influences our perception of the wearer. A static display of this sort is akin to a silent static display of race cars in a museum, or wild animals in a zoo. We’re missing a big piece of the pie here, but this is about as good as it’s going to get in button-down D.C. – Miyake and company are not found in the wild here.

Almost every outfit here is worthy of some discussion, but one of the center pieces to this collection would have to be the horizontally and vertically pleated red Miyake dress. Made of polyester, his garments are usually made three to eight times their final finish size; they’re hand pleated, then heated to shrink the fabric and to give the pleating a permanent set that will last the life of the fabric.

Miyake is well-known for his pleated garments that sometimes resemble the inner layer of corrugated cardboard in shape and scale. It’s a highly textural effect that you can almost feel by just looking at it.

The double-pleated red dress in question has off-set horizontal concentric circle pleats that visually appear to spiral up the dress like a mountain road. In fact, the circles never touch, but the effect holds up no matter what your viewing angle. It’s a dress that has little if any regard for the classic hourglass form, yet one imagines would be quite active as the wearer moves about. The dress resembles a giant paper lantern that was packed flat, and not quite pulled apart to it’s full extension.

Another near-perfect melding of East-meets-West design influences is found in Miyake’s Cloud Series Jacket. The Western-style jacket has a lower section that closes with what appear to be two obi, as a kimono would.

Miyake’s Flying Dress may be one of the most transformative garments around. It looks like a blanket hung flat on the wall, yet it billows when worn.

Another highly innovative design is the A-POC circle. Miyake designed a knit fabric that will not unravel when cut, then went on to design a perforated circle of fabric that the customer can cut out to make a matching skirt, belt, bag, gloves and socks – all of which can be modified at will by the consumer. The final product seems more of an answer to a designer’s challenge than useful in the real world. Yet it’s quite innovative, with wide open possibilities for the future.

In general, most of the pieces here are highly textural and edgy in conceptual and sometimes technological ways, as well. Viewers are given access to booklets titled “Exhibition Labels.” Those who read along as they view will be rewarded with many historical and technical details that you’ll likely miss out on otherwise.

The sister exhibit here showcases 18 innovative fabrics from Nuno Studio. Designed by Reiko Sudo, these fabrics are a combination of technological advancements and handmade craftsmanship. Simply stated, there are some jaw-dropping examples here. Stainless Cloth is 60-percent stainless steel, and 40-percent cotton. And no, it doesn’t look like your screen door. Mercury, made of aluminum foil spots steamed onto 100-percent silk, looks like metal raindrops on the ground. Some fabrics here reference traditional handmade rice papers and the like. In a room full of innovations, Stained Glass may be the best of all: This two-layered fabric is made of a multicolored polyester bottom layer and a black cotton top layer. The top cotton layer is burned away with acid to reveal the colored bottom layer in a window pattern. If you’re fascinated by the offerings at G-Street fabrics, you’ll be mesmerized by this lot.

Metallic Cobbler


Part of Zipperer’s exhibition.

Joyce Zipperer and Rania Hassan, at the Neptune Gallery (5001 Wilson Lane, Bethesda). The exhibition runs  through Nov. 14, and the Gallery is open Friday and Saturday, noon – 5 p.m., or by appointment. For more details, call 301-718-0809 or visit

Zipperer is most known for her fabulous handwoven metal wire sculptures of women’s lingerie. In this show, she uses off-the-rack perforated metal sheets and other metal fabrications to make up a collection of women’s shoes. The best of the 26 shoe sculptures here are the more illogically whimsical pieces. The copper footprint flip-flop, with metal outdoor faucet handle as toehold, is a prime example. Hassan continues her series of drop stitch knitting connection hand paintings, representing generational connections, and the way habits and features can be passed down a family lineage.

Pop Enlightenment

Dark Rococo paintings by Ruth Bolduan, and four former VCU students, at the Athenaeum (201 Prince St., Alexandria). The exhibit runs through Nov. 15, and the gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Sunday, noon – 4 p.m., and Saturday, 1 – 4 p.m. For more details, call 703-548-0035 or visit

Note: There is a gallery talk on Sunday, Nov. 1 at 3 p.m.


One of Bolduan’s works on display.

Richmond painter and Virginia Commonwealth University art professor Ruth Bolduan shows 13 of her paintings of 18th century women’s fashions combined with modern notions of beauty. Often monochromatic portraits, the paintings have a decidedly modern, almost pop feel to them, despite their centuries-old subject matter.

The Ripple Effect show cases the work of four former students of Bolduan. Jonathan Weston is the clear standout. His painting “Nester” is a whimsically witty portrait of a woman with birds nesting in her hairdo. Weston’s first-rate painting technique pushes it near photo-realistic levels.

Halloween Exhibits

Ofrenda – Art for the Dead, Halloween Special Art Show and Activities, at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St., Alexandria). The event runs from Saturday, Oct. 31 – Tuesday, Nov. 2. For a complete listing of activities and times, call 703-838-4565 or visit

The Torpedo Factory hosts a special Halloween costume party and art show. There is no admission fee, and there will also be a cash bar, masked ball, a parade and various performances on Saturday, Oct. 31, 3 p.m. – midnight. The art exhibition runs throughout the event’s dates