Art and fashion are like air-kissing cousins, so it was not surprising when the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art launched its "Fashionistas Fight Back" exhibit last month.
What is surprising is how well the two really complement each other to create something entirely new. For a last-chance look at the exhibit, visit before it closes on Nov. 14. Details are at occca.org.
In combining art and fashion, the "Fashionistas" show is more than the sum of its parts. Describing the event, art writer Robert Mintz called out the power of the combination.
"Fashion is a seductive powerhouse in contemporary culture, worthy of celebration and critique," he wrote. "Fashion is a weapon — against boredom, the prosaic and the humdrum."
The Santa Ana art venue is known for its risk-taking exhibits that carefully weave multiple forms of art, from uncensored performances to dance to orchestral arrangements.
"I think OCCCA has definitely gotten some attention through the different exhibits, and one of the things I do like that they're doing is a multi-platform engagement," said gallery artist Jane Szabo, who also volunteers on the publicity committee.
Szabo is based in Los Angeles but fell in love with the gallery and its mission, so she drives out to support various activities.
"I was so impressed with just that space and the quality and the caliber of the exhibitions I was seeing that I wanted to get involved," she said. "So I joined as a member maybe a year and a half ago. And it is a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor. We're all volunteer run. It's a nice group of people."
Exhibiting artist Lucia Ferreira-Litowtschenko is featuring her surreal photography for the first time at the gallery. Originally from Uruguay, she also said she likes the feel of the gallery.
"I was surprised. Santa Ana in general has a very vibrant art community. They are creating a conversation," she said. "I saw the gallery and I just love the space because I found that what they were showing really spoke to me. And the way they were displaying the art was a little different from other galleries."
The "Fashionistas" exhibit was juried by Shana Nys Dambrot, an art critic, curator and author in L.A. The exhibit demonstrates a provocative, eclectic range of talented artists.
"Shana Nys Dambrot is a pretty renowned Los Angeles area writer," Szabo said. "Her credibility helped bring in a broader pool of artists."
For Ferreira-Litowtschenko, there was an immediate fit with the fashion theme. One of her magical realism photographs, called "The Keeper of Spring," features a forlorn woman in a dress made from leaves and flowers.
"Fashion can also express other things, like who you are," she said. "It's not only about the fashion but your personality. There are so many different dialogues that fall into the fashion umbrella."
For more on her art, visit lulight.com.
Szabo's work at the exhibit involves creating actual dresses made out of odd objects — coffee filters, for example — and then photographing them. For details visit janeszabophotography.com.
"It's recontextualizing the word fashion," she said. "It's opening it up to a different genre. It breaks some stereotypes. Fashion is something that a broader public can understand, and it can get them into the gallery. Then they can see different ways the art is made. It's taking a convention and turning it on its head a little bit."
What she most likes about OCCCA is its role in helping new audiences find art.
"They get huge crowds at these openings, and they're young people and mixed ethnic groups and mixed ages," she said. "And I think that's kind of a unique experience, because I go to a lot of art openings. I watch them, and they come in and they look at the work. And if you get that to happen, then I think we've done our job."
Other artists include Isabella Kelly-Ramirez, Leslie Magdaleno, Trevor Messersmith, Kurt Weston and many others.
Next up at the gallery will be "Generations: 40 Hues Between Black & White," which will run from Dec. 5 to 19. It will examine the exodus of over 1 million Vietnamese people during the Vietnam conflict and the tremendous changes that resulted, including loss, displacement, sense of identity and new beginnings.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.