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Wearable Art: Clothes Come Off the Runway and Into the Gallery

On Thursday, Los Angeles’ first wearable-art gallery, Wittenborn & Hollingsworth, will open its doors with an exhibition by 22 artists, featuring the fashions of Nina Huryn.

Although cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston have had wearable-art galleries for more than a decade, the concept of taking clothing off the fashion runway and into a fine-art setting is something new for Angelenos, according to curator and collector Susie Hollingsworth, who founded the gallery with Paul Wittenborn, a New York resident who has curated wearable-art exhibitions all over the world.

In March, Hollingsworth and Wittenborn curated the first gallery show of wearable art in Los Angeles since 1974. The show, “Art Forms and the Body,” was presented at the Kurland-Summers Gallery in West Hollywood and featured the work of 25 American artists working in textiles.

It was the response to that show that spurred Hollingsworth to open a full-time gallery dedicated to work in fibers, textiles and leather. Hollingsworth says that one of her goals is to make people realize that clothing can be a work of art.

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How does “wearable art” differ from haute couture ?

“Fashion designers work primarily for popular acceptance and appeal, while artists in the wearable art discipline work to satisfy artistic values and drive,” Hollingsworth said.

The first show features eight pieces by Huryn, priced from $3,200 to $7,000, including tooled leather capes and elaborately decorated chaps that can be worn by both women and men.

Huryn is one of 22 artists whose works will be on permanent display at Wittenborn & Hollingsworth. One or two artists--like Huryn--will have their work on special display each month on a rotating basis. In November, the gallery will feature 70 pieces by L.A. textile artist Janet Kaneko Loo. Six of the other artists represented by the gallery are on a world tour sponsored by the American Craft Museum.

With the present emphasis in the art world on collectibility, how much resale value is there in wearable art?

“I don’t think there’s any resale factor,” Hollingsworth said. “People purchase these for love. They fall in love with a certain artist’s work and start collecting.”

An opening reception for the Huryn show will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and will be open to the public. The exhibit will continue through Oct. 25.

Wittenborn & Hollingsworth, 8742-A Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. (213) 659-7098. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

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Collecting and rebuilding:

“A Collector’s Afternoon,” the fourth annual benefit for the Westside Arts Center, will be held this year on Oct. 21 at Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica.

This year’s benefit is crucial, according to director Carlyn Clark. The center’s future has been in jeopardy since mid-August, when an arson fire destroyed the center’s classrooms and offices on Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica. Since then, the center has set up temporary quarters at the Westside Children’s Museum in Santa Monica, teaching classes with a minimum of supplies.

The Westside Arts Center was founded in 1981 in response to cuts in public funding of arts education for children. Since then, the center has concentrated on working with children from all socioeconomic levels, with costs for all classes being no higher than $6, and with outreach programs that go to outlying neighborhoods.

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Asked about the efforts to rebuild, Clark said, “We’re getting close to halfway there.” The center has received donations of $6,000, along with a piano, a refrigerator and stereo equipment. Their most pressing needs, Clark said, are classroom tables and chairs, rhythm band instruments, and a Macintosh computer to replace one that burned.

Among the artists donating original work for the event are Lita Albuquerque, Peter Alexander, Guy Dill and Laddie John Dill. Twenty-one artists in all have donated their efforts to produce an edition of 22-by-30-inch monoprints for a raffle, and the series will be on display at the restaurant until the day of the benefit.

Raffle tickets are available for $10 each, or 15 for $100; $125 buys 15 raffle tickets and a ticket for the Oct. 21 luncheon. For tickets or more information, call the Westside Arts Center at its temporary phone number, (213) 222-0098.


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