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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Fashion and Theater Inspire New Exhibit at Barry Art Museum

By Amber Kennedy

Beginning Sept. 9, the Barry Art Museum will celebrate the intersection of fashion and theater in its new exhibition, "Karen LaMonte: Théâtre de la Mode."

LaMonte is known for her finely detailed sculptures inspired by fashion, often depicting sumptuously draped fabrics without human figures. The acclaimed American sculptor, living and working in Prague, is known for pioneering complex casting methods to create large-scale sculptures in glass, iron and bronze. LaMonte's sculptures have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., Kampa Museum in Prague, Toyama Glass Art Museum in Japan and Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, among others.

The Barry Art Museum will set the stage for LaMonte's work with a new exhibition inspired by "Théâtre de la Mode(Theatre of Fashion)," the 1940s exhibit of miniature wire mannequins wearing French fashion that toured the world on traveling theater sets. The touring mannequins were intended to raise funds for war survivors and herald the revival of the French fashion industry.

LaMonte was deeply influenced by the French mannequins, saying, "The small scale of ('Théâtre de la Mode') with its large intention and effect ... was a declaration of the importance of beauty and culture particularly during difficult and confusing times."

The works that emerged from LaMonte's fascination are the "Études," which are the small-scale companions to her full-size "Nocturnes" sculptures. Examples from both series will be presented on sets created by the Theater Department at ODU. A selection of the original French mannequins, on loan from Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, Washington, will be on view to offer a richer historical context.

The Barry Art Museum offers free museum admission and free public programs, including a monthly lecture series and exhibition opening receptions. Programming will include:

  • The monthly lecture series occurs on the first Thursday of each month. At 6 p.m. on Sept. 2, Steven L. Grafe, Curator of Art at Maryhill Museum of Art will introduce the history and artwork of Théâtre de la Mode. Register for this free Zoom event here.
  • Museum members are invited to virtually preview the exhibition at 6 p.m. Sept. 9 via Zoom, with LaMonte, the curators and set designers for a first look at the exhibition and a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the exhibition development process. Museum members will receive an evite to RSVP.
  • From 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 10, the public is invited to the exhibition opening reception with designs and costuming from Canvas by Phil Odango, and a performance by Core Theatre Ensemble. RSVPs are encouraged, but not required.

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