To some it might have been just another teen-age whim. But when Jeff Low's 14-year-old daughter said she couldn't find anything original to wear, he went into production.
Limited production to be sure, because that's the whole idea behind his collection of hand-screened, hand-beaded wearable art. The Arizona artist, at Bullocks Wilshire recently to introduce his work, was dressed in what some might say was an original look for an artist: a business suit and tie.
"I went to a gallery opening like this, and one man mistook me for the new gynecologist in town. I didn't realize it at first, and when he asked me how long I had been practicing I said, 'All my life.' Naturally, he couldn't believe it, so he asked me again, and I said, 'At least since I was 3.' You should have seen the look on his face.
"Even when I went to Syracuse University, I wore a blazer to classes," the 45-year-old Low adds. "I resented the idea you had to dress like an artist to be one. It comes from within."
Low, who gravitated from interior design to fine arts, is presently known for his sculptures and special projects, such as the charity serigraph entitled "Fabric of the Man" on display during his visit to Bullocks Wilshire.
Inspired by a Scottsdale philanthropist, its abstract lines convey the artist's belief "that we are all part of the same tapestry. Some of us are more elaborate threads, some of us are weaker ones."
With his bronze sculptures, which are found in collections nationwide (he also designed this year's official award to outstanding young Arizonans), Low tries to demonstrate "that we only have a short period of time on earth in which to prove ourselves. As an artist, I try to express compassion for nature, for people, for the relationship between the two and to show how fragile it all is."
A Nordic Twist
A transplanted New Yorker, Low has applied his fascination with Arizona to his fleece-back cotton tops. For some, he has taken traditional Indian patterns and given them a Nordic twist. Or he has romanticized the elements, as he does with abstract silver and gold lightning bolts.
"I'd never seen lightning before I came to Scottsdale," he explains. "Now I put on Beethoven and watch the show."
His limited-edition wearable art (priced from $120 to $148 for tops and $72 for the coordinating slim-line skirt) is a one-time-only shot created for holiday and cruise. He has since moved on to unusual T-shirts and sweats.
A mild-mannered man, Low can turn feisty when buyers call him "the next so-and-so. I'm not the next anybody. I'm just me, and I'm not even a fashion designer. I think of the body basically as an architectural study. There are two arms and two legs and usually some problems in between."
Everything he does seems to carry a carefully conceived message. His clear Lucite business card with its white lettering, for example, was no accident:
"It's plastic because everyone tries to judge you by the quality of paper and the printing. Well, I'm me, just as I am. Transparent."