Dare to Wear : Glass Dresses by Diana Dias-Leảo

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Until September 2011.

Diana Dias-Leảo delicately constructed but tough modernistic designs come to life in the ‘Craft and Design Gallery, how things are styled, made and used,’ in the Walker Art Gallery.

The exhibition is in fitting with its surroundings and is set in-between a labyrinth style direction showing a continuous evolution of mans usage of craft designed objects. It has a comical approach which is juxtaposed with the austere, grand building as in-between the pottery and art deco plates is a mobile phone which makes light of what is constituted as art. As when the objects displayed were originally produced they were not seen as art or worthy to be studied, only in retrospect objects become idealised, the mobile phone connotes the futures over analysis of common objects.

Positioned in the middle of the labyrinth are two glass boxes containing Diana Dias-Leảo designs, the way they are exhibited is too show off their beauty and not in an hyperbolic manner to be studied and their significance be over analysed. This is represented by the lack of signage, with only one white label at the base of each glass container stating the number of each garment, name and year they were created. This allows the spectator to not be influenced in their views and be able to form their own judgement on the designs. This is in-fitting with the rest of the exhibition space of being a place of contemplation of the meaning of objects and not an instruction based dialogue between the spectator and the objects explained meaning.

There is an audio-visual accompaniment to the exhibition in which the designer gives an interview about her thought process behind the garments and her aims of the exhibition. It feels personal and in correlation with the structure and layout of the garments, it allows the spectator to consider their attitude towards the designs to their original aim. There is no misjudged representation of another external influence, it allows for a direct communication between the original thought process and the spectators, which makes for an honest consideration of the exhibition.

The corsets made out of broken glass fragments and barbed wire hang from steel chains on white padded coat hangers, which gives a daunting and spooky feel it is as their owners have long been gone and only the hard shell of their garments remains. They represents the theme of isolation as the garments seem lonely and isolated by not being with a mannequin, this is further emphasised by the use of broken glass fragments, as glass as a material is difficult to mould to desired shapes and when broken is hard to repair to its once perfect position so each fragment becomes isolated and frayed.

Diana Dias-Leảo contemplates the notion of the male gaze on the garments as they are made to look sexy by all the dresses being backless, which is a sign of vulnerability of the wearer and by the corsets having the traditional plastic fasteners, which connotes sexiness and is typically to be found as the destination for the male gaze. The connoted sexiness is at first appealing but on closer inspection the garments have a sharp, dangerous twist of being unable to touch and therefore controlled by the male gaze by the materials used. It gives the power and control back to the wearer as they can be seen as desired and sexy but be incomplete control and thus reverses the notion of the male gaze.

The garments also approach the theme of body image and represent a visual form of self harm by the use of barbed wire as the main body structure. The garments act as an extended metaphor of the wearers agonised feelings which normally are concealed, they represent an honest visual approach to many women’s fear surrounding body image in a juxtaposed beautiful fashion.

The cobweb dress is positioned on a white, headless mannequin with a round base, the dress twists and manipulates the fabric to come to a tight peak around the base of the mannequin. This connotes the feel of restrictiveness and self control which is further emphasised in the bodice of the dress, as the fabric does not flow and instead is collected in different size webs around the bodice.  This imagery of restrictiveness plays on the sex appeal of the garment and relates a negative correlation between the desire for one to be seen as sexy and the imposed restrictiveness this causes on the wearer, due to the male gaze.

The long dresses are beautifully designed to look ethereal and have fairytale connotations as they are long, glistening with muted non-offensive colouring such as subtle pink, blue and green. The use of glass fragments in this case reflect the light and look as if the dress is shining from within to reflect the beauty of the wearer. As Diana Dias-Leảo said, ‘even though the image is glittering it is the person inside who is priceless.’

The exhibition is a beautifully well constructed collection of Diana Dias-Leảo continuous development of work using glass from 2005 to 2010, it highlights many issues surrounding women and their feelings towards body image which is subtly connoted in the use of materials and the way they are designed. The exhibition is small but perfectly balanced with the rest of the Walker Art Gallery, this is further metamorphosed in the gift shop where there is no replica imagery to be bought about the exhibition, such as post cards.  It remains loyal to its original aim of letting the garments speak for themselves and not being commercialised by an exterior force, by allowing the spectator to be that and appreciate the beauty of the designs and not be directed to a pre-deceived thought and imagery path.


In response to my last post about the challenge in selecting a rug for my baby Nina's nursery, reader Kim wrote,
"Overwhelmed! I cope by picking one that is -- don't hate me Rachel -- black and sand (for my deck) and then resolve to use colorful pillows and cushions for pops of color. In my defense, I am not a designer, as you know."
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Here is Kim's rug.

I love the idea of outdoor rooms, so bravo to Kim for exploring this under-used space. But this also got me thinking. Why is it that people are so chroma phobic? I can understand if someone's taste runs towards the understated. Perhaps if they felt saturated hues were garish. But what about those who love bright vibrant hues, but shy away from them anyways?

There's even a book, aptly titled Chromophobia, (I am presently reading), investigating its origins. The author argues that our fear of color  is essentially "a fear of corruption or contamination through color - lurk[ing] within much Western cultural and intellectual thought. This is apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge color, either by making it the property of some "foreign body" - the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological - or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential, or the cosmetic."(source)

So, the question begs, with all the bright colors of outdoor life (flowers, greenery, colorful umbrellas, tableware, etc. why go blah?

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Koko Company has a wild selection of modern, funky outdoor rugs. If you can't go wild outdoors, where can you take risks?

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Dash and Albert has an outdoor line, too.
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Looking for more earthy tones? A more "ethnic" look(for lack of a better term)? Pottery Barn has some nice selections
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As I just happen to know that reader Kim's outdoor area is covered, she could even go with something funky like these trompe l'oeil floor mats from Urban Outfitters. I love the playful turning of "rug" on it's head. Woven polyester, and machine washable to boot.

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or my new favorite rug company, with their indoor, outdoor rugs- so cute!

Here's a company dedicated exclusively to outdoor rugs (thank you Apartment Therapy for the link)
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Looking to really go eco friendly? Mad Mats are made from high-grade recycled polypropylene from sources such as water bottles, plastic milk and soda bottles and and other kinds of packaging.

So, why the fear of using saturated, vibrant color?

The Evolution of Design Blogs

I recently read a rather heated discussion over on the Garden Web forum about the evolution of design blogs. Readers were bemoaning how many bloggers have stopped posting lovely eye-candy and juicy tid-bits about design projects. And yes, you might have heard crickets chirping over here as well. Motherhood, with it's rigorous schedule, has forced me to re-examining how I want to utilize the communication tool that is this blog, Hue.

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Many bloggers have evolved in the direction of money-making posts, or updates about his or her personal life. Discussion forum readers were expressing their displeasure with these recent turn of events. "Why is everything changing?" they want to know. Lately, bloggers seem to be less interested in sharing another fabulous photos of some gorgeous interior, and more interested in sharing their latest endeavors. Many are branching out professionally by teaching seminars, or developing product lines.
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Others are raising families, or blazing new trails, and want to share those milestones with readers.

Personally, I think evolution is healthy, to be encouraged. Without growth, we stagnate. As professionals figuring out the terrain that is online content, we have to push boundaries and try new avenues. Sure, pretty pictures are fun to browse through, but from a development standpoint, doesn't get you very far. Blogs are personal sites, edited and curated by individuals. So naturally, these sites should and will reflect it's owner.

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Newspapers and magazines are struggling to remain in business because competition for free content is stiff. People are no longer interested in paying for subscriptions when they can get the information for free online. But this can't continue forever, and solid, accurate data is a commodity we'll never stop needing. The wild west of online content has got to smooth out eventually, and when publications start charging for content again, my sense is that readership will simply fall in line, accepting that once again, you must pay for credible information.

What are your thoughts? I know several fellow bloggers who have put blogs on hold to re-examine goals. Where do you think the world of blogs is heading?

Can white boxes support color?

Everywhere I look these days, I see examples of white spaces hosting brightly colored furniture and accessories. I know, I know, you probably think this is the beginning of yet another anti-white walls rant. But honestly, I just want to open this topic up for discussion.

Here are some examples. Do you think they work?
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Skype's new office digs in Stockholm. The architecture firm was charged with "expressing the Skype brand’s playful spirit and its mission to connect the world in the working environment." So, how does that compute that the furnishings do not relate to their environment, instead, float within it?

Here's another example from my latest wonderful new find, The Cool Hunter, based out of Australia.  Here, the attention is drawn inward to the brightly colored clothing display cubes. I do like how the angular shapes repeat in the glass block windows and architectural elements within the room.

What do you think about white boxes? Yay or nay?

Upcycling cork colorfully on Earth Day

Okay, okay, so Earth Day was in April. I totally dropped the ball on that one. Somehow, this post sat in my inbox, all scheduled to post, but never launched.  Puzzling. Ah well, it's still fun to take a look back...

I give you,  Anthropologie's fabulous cork installations.

Back in April, I happened to be down at my local shop, and ran into the visual merchandiser who was hard at work, glue gun in hand, gluing cork, after cork, after cork onto these enormous chicken-wire wrapped globes.

I thought it looked so cool, being able to see how the piece was constructed. But evidently, the project was just so huge, they had to be put together in place. I snapped a few shots of the pieces in progress.

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"We’re setting out right from the beginning with a goal: to support cork, to support the environment, and to do it right. In partnering with the CFCA we have been able to strategize a way to borrow, collect, and donate cork while being as environmental as possible...

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The project started with a gift to Anthropologie from the CFCA and Kendall-Jackson of around 2.5 million used corks. In addition, our store teams have been collecting cork stoppers from the staff, the community, and the customers for over a month now. Through the support of so many we have collected between 4-5 million corks."(source)

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I did some poking around online, and discovered that each cork end had to be painted/stained a specific hue to coordinate with each piece. Man, the amount of time this must have take is mind-boggling.

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The cork installations were inspired by sculptor Tara Donovan, who takes massive quantities of everyday items like tape, plastic cups, buttons, etc—and “assembles them in different ways, providing the viewer with a compelling, perceptually transformative experience.”(source)

Colonizing, I'd call it. Just beautiful...

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These were some other stores' creative use of the corks. 

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Aren't the textures and patterns created by the subtle variation in color just gorgeous?  Hats off to the artists in charge of putting these enormous, time consuming, gorgeous pieces together. Way to go Anthro.

A sad farewell to an artist

Last month, on July 5, 2011,  Cy Twombly passed away. He was a great artist and contributed beautiful works of art to our world.

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"In a career that slyly subverted Abstract Expressionism, toyed briefly with Minimalism, seemed barely to acknowledge Pop Art and anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a divisive artist almost from the start."(source)
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'Costume Drama: Fashion from 1790 to 1850.' Sudley House, Liverpool, 07/08/11.

Costume Drama: prints of ladies in costume

Sudley House once belonged to the proud owner of a Mr George Holt, a Liverpool based shipping merchant. He believed it was his families responsibility to 'use their wealth for the good of the community.' Three centuries later and his wish has been granted, Sudley House is now owned by Liverpool City Council and is currently home to the exhibition,'Costume Drama: Fashion from 1790 to 1850.'

Sudley House is lavish in style but reserved in structure and ambiance, set in twenty nine acres of grounds the gardens compliment the extrovert inner details of the house. As you enter through the grand double doored, high arched entrance you are instructed to follow a devised route, starting with the library, then drawing room, dining room and on to the morning room. Each room has a video audio accompaniment to give visitors a detailed look at the life of the Holt's in 1884. The rooms are heavily adorned with original features of an early Victorian cabinet of curiosities style of different sized paintings hung all around the room at various heights, resulting in the rooms being a source of entertainment in themselves by their desired grandeur and the feelings they evoke onto the visitor.

The grandeur continues as you go up the red carpeted spiraling staircase, passing ascending portraits of the Holt family, to three separate rooms displaying the contents of the exhibition.

As you enter the first room there is a large panelled information board on the wall with a gold print border, which gives information about the era and how they dressed as to display their wealth. The board is so concise in its evaluative meaning and what it aims to display, that it only displays one message of extreme wealth and is not a true representative of the Victorian era in which it aims to display.

Opposite and behind a red cord, that I assume was chosen to evoke glamour, pristeness and the specialness of the garments are eleven headless mannequins alligned next to each other. they are not arranged in chronological order and with only one dress given its original owners of being from a farming family at Church Lane, Netherton but no further explanation. The labels in front of the dresses are in similar fashion as the main information board of being concise in style and by not giving the original owners names, occupation and so on, it is up to the visitors to further elaborate on the dresses original aim, usage and what type of family it belonged to.

The room is dark as roller blinds are used over the two large windows, as to make it seem intimate which is also conveyed by the recording of a piano playing over speakers. The room looks staged and not in fitting with the rest of the house, it is as the dresses have just been placed together without the relation between each dress and the distance between them being examined in their layout and position to the rest of the house.

The second room of the exhibition display is the largest with your attention immediately drawn to the four headless mannequins on a raised platform in the centre of the room. The mannequins are mostly wearing high waisted, full bottom dresses, with their arms poised in a elegant fashion by their sides, which represents the Victorian ladies demeanour at the time.

The same style information panel boards are around the exterior of the wall, with the same golder border again informing the visitor with concise facts about the clothing and Victorian sentiments at the time. The information boards do not evoke reflective consideration by the visitor, they just give facts in a stale way as to inform but not to entertain.

The third room is adjoining and seems as an after thought to the exhibition, there are two chairs and a coffee table with Jane Austen novels on, again this seems predictable and distracts from the exhibition dresses and their original use of being one to evoke glamour, envy and show wealth instead they are displayed in too much of a matter of fact way and do not reflect the joy the wearer once had out of the garments.

The exhibition although contains beautiful dresses the way they are arranged reflect Victorian society as strict and educating instead of the original aim of the dress being extravagant to display wealth. The display looks staged through out and is in stark contrast to the rest of the house as it looks natural and in keeping the Victorian era. By the labelling being too large it distracts the visitor from experiencing the beauty and design of the dress and allowing the dresses to speak for themselves.

Male fashion has been disregarded in the exhibition with only two male mannequins in the exhibition showing formal early eighteenth century dress. Make dandy's could have been explored and could have been an entertaining display of how men use to dress to show off and in their pursuit for decadence.

As the exhibition was ran by Liverpool City Council and was free admission, maybe it had to be tailored more to an informative, disciplined display. Instead if the dresses were allowed to be displayed in a more natural habitat such as a ladies boudoir it could have given life to the clothes and let them express the joy and decadence of the clothing. Also if audio visual displays were used of re-enactments of the original owners of the clothing, so the visitor could imagine the type of people who wore the dresses and the significance to them of their clothing, this would have made for an more entertaining visual display intended to discuss rather than inform the visitor of Victorian dress.

Markus Linnenbrink

I originally saw this artist's work featured in an Apartment Therapy post about staying in cool hotels.
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I noticed the drippy striped walls and went hunting for more details. The hotel featuring these uber cool walls is the Arte Luise Kunsthotle in Berlin.  Each of the 48 rooms was designed by an artist, most from Berlin, who has "created scenarios that go beyond their work in the studio and reflect on the time, place, and situation of the traveler. The entire room is taken into consideration, usually including the furniture and other decorations."(source)

Markus's work is in high demand; he is represented across the world from San Francisco to Korea.
His characteristic "oozing and streaked hues of vivid colour"

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His epoxy resin on panels are so whimsical, I just want to reach out and touch them.

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Cartoon colors

I thought this was kinda cute: a color wheel that presents the full spectrum of cartoon character hues.
You can hover your mouse of each character to learn more deets about them on slate.com
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Did they miss anyone?