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Article

Andrew Weiner

(b Beirut, 1925).

Lebanese painter and writer active in the USA. Daughter of a Greek Christian mother and a Syrian Muslim father, Adnan was educated in Lebanon before going on to study philosophy at the Sorbonne, Harvard, and the University of California, Berkeley. For many years she taught aesthetics at Dominican College, San Rafael, CA; she also lectured and taught at many other colleges and universities. During the 1970s Adnan regularly contributed editorials, essays, and cultural criticism to the Beirut-based publications Al-Safa and L’Orient-Le Jour. In 1978 she published the novel Sitt Marie Rose, which won considerable acclaim for its critical portrayal of cultural and social politics during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War. Adnan published numerous books of poetry, originating in her opposition to the American war in Vietnam and proceeding to encompass topics as diverse as the landscape of Northern California and the geopolitics of the Middle East. Her poetry served as the basis for numerous works of theater and contemporary classical music....

Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

Kirsta Willis

(b Newark, NJ, Sept 15, 1943).

African-American fashion designer. Burrows’s trademarks included colour blocking, asymmetry, fluid jersey separates and fluted ‘lettuce’ hems. With a youthful nonchalance and anti-establishment sensibility, Burrows clothes defined the movement and the eclecticism of New York City’s nightlife in the 1970s.

Burrows’s love affair with colour stemmed from his mother, who taught him to draw using the entire box of crayons, while from his seamstress grandmother, he learned how to sew. However, Burrows never contemplated a career in fashion until he attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. After graduating from Newark’s Arts High School, Burrows set out for Philadelphia, intent on becoming an art teacher. However, spurred on by a fashion exhibition he viewed, Burrows left the arts college in his second year, working briefly in the display department of Bamberger’s department store before enrolling in Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1966 and landed his first job with Weber Originals where he spent a particularly boring year designing ladies’ blouses. Burrows took his restless creativity back to New Jersey and began freelancing, mainly making clothing for his friends....

Article

Naomi Beckwith

(b Fulton, MO, Feb 4, 1959).

American sculptor and multimedia artist working in fibre, installation, video, and performance. The youngest of seven sons born into a central Missouri family, Cave demonstrated an early acumen with hand-made objects and throughout his career has created works out of texturally rich materials imbued with cultural meaning. Cave received his BFA (1982) from the Kansas City Art Institute, developing an interest in textiles and, after some graduate-level work at North Texas State University, received his MFA (1989) from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, renowned for their textile, fibre art, and design programmes. While working toward his art degrees, Cave simultaneously studied with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a company known for introducing African American folk traditions into the modern dance vocabulary. Cave moved to Chicago where he became chair of the Department of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute in 1980.

Working across the disciplines of sculpture, textile, dance, and cultural performance, Cave’s oeuvre is based on the human figure; he has produced wearable art as sculptures, arrangements of human and animal figurines as installations, and performance works. Cave’s signature works, the multi-sensory ‘...

Article

Martine Reid

(b Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Nov 4, 1946).

Native American Haida sculptor, metalworker, printmaker and blanket-maker. He was the grandson of the Haida blanket- and basket-maker Florence Davidson (1895–1993), and great-grandson of the Haida wood-carver Charles Edenshaw. He began carving argillite as a teenager in Masset, and in 1966 he met Bill Reid, who offered him workshop space in Vancouver. There Davidson developed new carving skills and learnt the fundamentals of the two-dimensional (‘formline’) designs used by the Haida and other tribes of the northern Northwest Coast (see Native North American art, §III, 2). In 1969 he returned to Masset to carve a 12.2 m-high totem pole, the first heraldic column to be raised on the Queen Charlotte Islands since the end of the 19th century. In 1987 Davidson and his crew produced a set of three totem poles entitled Three Variations on Killer Whale Myths for the Pepsicola Sculptural Garden in Purchase, NY. In these totem poles Davidson worked within the strict conventions of the Haida style, refining it by introducing subtle variations in design but preserving a degree of conservative austerity in which movement and individual expression are sacrificed to overall unity of form. In his early work in silver Davidson used flat patterns influenced by Edenshaw, and he went on to develop these into an innovative style of his own in screenprints, silver and bronze. Davidson’s younger brother, ...

Article

Sandra Sider

Folk art, or vernacular art (specific to a group or place), developed in Colonial America out of necessity when individual households produced most of the utilitarian objects required for daily life. Using traditional tools and techniques, many of these makers created pieces in which aesthetics came to play a substantial role, through form, ornamentation, or both. In some groups, notably the Shakers, function was emphasized, with pure form evoking an aesthetic and spiritual response. Religious beliefs have informed American folk art, such as the saints and other figures (Santos) carved and painted by Catholic settlers in the Southwest as early as 1700. Although the majority of folk art is now anonymous, the oeuvre of numerous individual artists can be determined by their distinctive styles or marks. Folk art is often considered within the field of ‘material culture’, with an emphasis on the object’s context rather than its creator. Most American folk art falls within three categories: painting and cut paper, textiles and fibre, and three-dimensional work such as furniture, carvings, metalwork, ceramics, and outdoor installations....

Article

Rebecca Arnold

[née Pacanins y Nino, Maria Carolina Josefina]

(b Caracas, Jan 8, 1939).

Venezuelan fashion designer, active also in the USA (see fig.). While Herrera’s designs always contain elements of current fashion, her work is more about the cultivation of a sleek international style that is classically feminine. Her upbringing among the élite, leisured classes of South America encouraged her to view clothing as a visual expression of good taste and ease. Rather than following trends, her designs tend to favor clean lines, with a focus on detail.

Herrera was brought up in an environment where clothes were bought from Parisian couturiers, such as Cristobal Balenciaga, or made by skilled local dressmakers. In each case, craftsmanship and structure were important, combined with a desire to acknowledge wealthy women’s lifestyles within the design of each garment. Herrera therefore developed an appreciation for refined design skills and good fit early in her life, which was to prove crucial to her own evolution as a designer. Combined with this awareness of fashion’s central role in the life of wealthy women was her cosmopolitan outlook. This was nurtured by regular trips to Europe and North America, which provided inspiration through visits to galleries and museums, and gave her an understanding of the international lifestyle of many women of her class. The need of these women to be dressed stylishly and appropriately for diverse events from tennis matches to cocktail parties or office work in a city shaped Herrera’s outlook, as much as her appreciation of art and culture....

Article

Amy Widmayer

(b New York, April 9, 1963).

American fashion and accessories designer. He is often regarded as the most talented and influential American designer of his generation, due in part to his uncanny understanding of how the perception of fashion’s past and the definition of beauty and glamour change with the passage of time (see fig.). Jacobs has garnered an almost cult-like following designing clothes that mirror major moments in modern pop culture—glamorizing grunge, pairing fashion with anime and drawing inspiration from imperfect and less-than-glamorous tabloid celebrities.

His father, a talent agent at the William Morris Agency, died when Jacobs was seven and his mother remarried several times, uprooting her son with each new relationship. As a result, he was eventually raised by his paternal grandmother—whom he calls his biggest influence—on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, in an apartment at 72nd Street and Central Park West. Jacobs attended the High School of Art and Design and worked as a stock boy at the trendy Charivari boutique, where he was introduced to designer ...

Article

Melissa Marra

(b Wethersfield, CT, Aug 10, 1942).

American fashion designer. Known for her exuberant, colourful designs, in the 1960s Johnson emerged as the most prominent designer in New York City’s pop scene—her use of unorthodox material was kindred to the Pop art mentality. Her designs project a sense of unabashed levity and humour that has endured.

Johnson fostered childhood aspirations of becoming a dancer, which produced an enthusiasm for costume and inspired her creativity in fashion. After one year of study at New York’s Pratt Institute, Johnson transferred to Syracuse University where, as an art major and drama minor, she took classes in fabric design. After graduating in 1964, she won Mademoiselle’s Guest College Editor contest, which garnered her an internship as assistant to the magazine’s fabric editor. During this time, she was introduced to the unconventional materials she would later use in her own designs, such as vinyl, foils, and even the industrial insulation used for space vehicles. The internship led to a position as an illustrator in ...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b New York, June 27, 1945).

American fashion designer. Few designers have managed to be as influential as Norma Kamali without extensive press coverage. Specializing in ready-to-wear garments, Kamali introduced the world to the concepts of high-heeled sneakers and mix-and-match bikinis, originated the ‘sleeping bag’ coat and was the first designer to see the wide sartorial possibilities of both sweatshirt jersey and parachute silk (see fig.).

Kamali received her training at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, graduating in 1964 with a degree in fashion illustration. Kamali then worked as an airline employee, a job that introduced her to the pleasures of transatlantic shopping. In 1968, inspired by the fashions she saw in ‘swinging’ London, Kamali opened a boutique on 53rd Street in Manhattan. Mixed in with her British finds were her original designs, featuring appliqués of lizard, leather and snakeskin and rhinestone-studded t-shirts. When she moved to Madison Avenue in 1973, a ...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b Forest Hills, New York, Oct 2, 1948).

American fashion designer. Karan’s standing as one of the most successful fashion designers in the United States rests upon her understanding of the needs of the modern woman. Karan is known for using sensuoups, soft fabrics in muted colour schemes, especially black, in layered ensembles that are as flattering as they are practical. As both creator and businesswoman Karan is the true heir of American sportswear designers such as Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin and her mentor, Anne Klein (1923–74).

Karan’s mother was a former fitting model and her stepfather was also in the fashion industry. After graduating from secondary school, she attended Parsons School of Design in New York and while still a student was hired by sportswear designer Anne Klein. By 1971 she was Klein’s assistant. Karan presented her first full solo collection in May 1974, just two months after Klein’s death, and less than one month after giving birth to a daughter. The collection featured her concept of layering skirts, trousers and jackets over a ‘bodysuit’ or leotard. In ...

Article

Joan Kee

[Kim Sooja; Kim Soo-ja; Kim Soo Ja]

(b Daegu, April 24, 1957).

Korean mixed-media artist, active also in the USA. Kim studied painting at Hongik University, Seoul, graduating in 1984. That same year she received a scholarship to study art at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. During the mid-1980s Kim became interested in employing commonly used Korean textiles in her work. Distinctively patterned and coloured, the textiles offered different formal possibilities, and early works featured various swathes cut and sewn together to form large, continuous surfaces. In 1992 Kim was awarded a residency as part of the International Studio Program at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. Inspired by the objects collected in her studio, Kim began to use the figure of the bottari, wrapped bundles used in Korea for the easy transport of goods, in installations such as Deductive Object (1994). She also began to experiment with performance and interactive works. In Sewing Into Walking...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(Richard)

(b Bronx, New York, Nov 12, 1942).

American fashion designer. Klein first found success with coats and suits, but his creative repertoire grew to encompass sophisticated American sportswear, evening wear and licensed mass market items such as jeans, fragrance and underwear. Known for using luxurious fabrics in a subdued colour palette, his signature pieces and innovations include the peacoat, day-into-night dressing, t-shirts adapted for evening wear and the slip dress. Klein himself, and many fashion journalists, have described his style as modern, clean, simple and minimalist (see fig.; see fig.). His originality extends to his advertising; campaigns produced for his company have been controversial for their portrayal of sexuality (see also Fashion photography).

Klein attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, leaving in 1962. In December 1967 he and his childhood friend Barry Schwartz founded Calvin Klein, Ltd. to produce ready-to-wear coats, suits and tailored day dresses. In 1968 Mildred Custin, president of the New York department store B. Altman’s, featured his youthful coats and dresses in the store’s fall window displays. Other fashion luminaries encouraged and enabled Klein’s initial accomplishments, including fashion editor Nicky de Gunzburg, who helped Klein attain his first ...

Article

M. B. Whitaker

(Rueben)

(b New York, Oct 14, 1939).

American fashion designer (see fig.). Lauren is the founder of Polo Ralph Lauren, a fashion company with men’s, women’s, children’s and home brand extensions. Lauren’s collections draw inspiration from romantic, vintage Americana and genteel British aristocracy. Conceptual themes that recur in his work include: equestrian and other sports, yachting, prep school style, rugged and utilitarian work clothing, cowboys, safari (see fig.), Native Americans and the Southwest, English haberdashery and vintage cars.

Born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz to an Eastern European Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, he changed his name to Lauren at the age of 16. As a child he enjoyed sports, films and the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Lauren, who would arguably become the most influential tastemaker of American style in the latter 20th century (see fig.), cultivated his image from an early age. While his neighbourhood friends were wearing motorcycle jackets and jeans, he preferred tweed Bermuda shorts and button-down shirts. He worked in a department store throughout high school and spent most of his $50-a-week salary on clothes....

Article

Paula J. Birnbaum

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 30, 1943).

American conceptual artist. Reichek earned a BFA from Yale University and a BA from Brooklyn College, where she studied painting with Ad Reinhardt. Well versed in the traditions of modernist painting, Reichek began critiquing those traditions in the 1970s by making art using the vehicles of embroidery, knitting, and weaving. She then engaged in a range of large-scale installation projects that retool domestic media and formats to analyse the patriarchal and modernist assumptions of American culture. In her series of samplers, including Sampler (Kruger/Holzer) (1998; priv. col.), Reichek placed post-modern media-related art within a long history of alphabetic Samplers, a decorative form of needlework long practised by American and European women to demonstrate skill as well as exercise instructional aphorisms. Reichek’s samplers also strategically reference the rectilinear grid as structuring principle in abstract painting, revealing the artist’s interest in recurring patterns of representation of both image and text....

Article

Kristen E. Stewart

(b Santo Domingo, Jul 22, 1932; d Kent, CT, Oct 20, 2014).

Dominican-born American fashion designer. De la Renta’s illustrious career spans nearly six decades and is part of the canon of American fashion design (see fig.). Known for flattering, highly wearable designs characterized by sophisticated femininity and romantic details, de la Renta made a name for himself both as a designer and as a man of style at the centre of prominent social circles.

Oscar de la Renta was born the youngest child and only boy in a family of six sisters, to a Dominican mother, Maria Fiallo, and a Puerto Rican father, Oscar Ortiz de la Renta. Raised under the matriarchal rule of his maternal grandmother, de la Renta’s childhood experiences in the lushly tropical community surrounded by grand and proper women in crisply starched ruffles shaped his perception of femininity as strength. The regalia of the Catholic Church and the aristocratic European glamour of an uncle’s Russian mistress supplied his romantic nature with an exotic aesthetic vocabulary....

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

(b Albuquerque, NM, May 25, 1948).

Native American Hopi weaver and painter. The daughter of an Anglo mother and a Hopi father, she is one of the most complicated personalities in contemporary Native American art. She attended Santa Fe School and Verde Valley School but did not enter the world of art until 1982. Her interest in exploring ancient as well as modern techniques has led her into the intricacies of a turkey feather cape and of an Inca shawl. In company with the few other weavers deeply concerned with their craft, she valued the involvement of the preparation of the handspun and dyed yarn as much as the execution of the weaving. She adopted the horizontal loom in order to facilitate her experimental work. She has also taught and lectured on various facets of textile art. A commission to turn the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright into textiles was echoed in her own Wright series, although the two are from totally different generations. Many of her designs combine Modernist elements with traditional motifs, as in ...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b Ohio; Sept 12, 1953, d March 4, 2004, New York).

American fashion and textile designer ( see fig. ). Sprouse was democratic in his design references but esoterically concerned with the quality of his creations. He drew inspiration from many different forms of art and popular culture. He is best remembered for his association with Andy Warhol , his collaborations with Keith Haring and other artists on textile designs, and his translation of rock and roll, particularly punk, to fashion. These interpretive designs bridged the Pop art of the 1960s with the Post-modernism of the 1980s.

Dressed all in black with either a bandanna or knit cap on his head, Sprouse’s appearance belied his middle American upbringing. Born to an insurance salesman father and a stay-at-home mother, Sprouse showed an early talent for drawing and design. At the age of 14 his father arranged a summer internship for him at Bill Blass . After briefly studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, Sprouse began working with leading American fashion designer ...

Article

Kristen E. Stewart

(b Dearborn Heights, MI, c. 1955).

American fashion designer. Sui’s approach exemplifies the Post-modernist spirit of American fashion design that surfaced in the late 20th century. Sui achieved the quirky femininity and kitschy romance associated with her house through an unorthodox appropriation and layering of iconic elements drawn from the history of both fashion and anti-fashion. A connoisseur of cool, Sui and her designs have gained a following among rock stars, models and movie stars with a glamorous but edgy aesthetic.

Sui was the second of three children born to middle-class Chinese immigrant parents. In interviews, she often recalls the moment when she knew that she wanted to design clothes for stars. Playing with her brother’s toy soldiers, Sui dressed them in tissue-paper gowns and staged them in a mock Academy Awards ceremony. Experimenting with her style from a very young age, Sui made her own clothes and appliquéd her accessories with swatches to create the matched sets that would later become a trademark. As a teenager, Sui cut out and saved inspiring images from magazines. Now part of a lifelong archive and dubbed her Genius Files, these images are available on her website as emblems of her aesthetic. Growing up in suburban Detroit, Sui was also enthralled by the thriving local music scene, which was to later influence her designs....

Article

Geraldine Craig

(b Detroit, MI, April 16, 1949).

American sculptor, animation, performance, and installation artist. Wilson was a leading figure among artists who began working in the progressive contemporary craft movement of the 1970s and1980s and gained prominence in the art mainstream by the 1990s. Influenced by the alignment of textiles with feminist art that emerged in the 1970s, Wilson employed the cultural associations of diverse source materials (table linens, bed sheets, human hair, lace, thread, wire, glass) to interrogate how craft and context can define a feminist position in art by subverting the boundaries of middle-class propriety and social values.

An early favoured subject and material for Wilson was human hair. Her internet-based project hairinquiry (1996–9) solicited responses to the questions: ‘How does it feel to lose your hair?’ and ‘What does it mean to cut your hair?’, returned through e-mail, fax, and conventional mail. Her sculptural work Lost (1998) was made by embroidering black human hair onto a used white linen tablecloth that was draped over a chair – the discarded hair treated with transgressive care suggests a powerful residue of memory and life lost. With her installation ...