More than a feeling: Felt show has wearable art

In the modest quarters of the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building’s student exhibition spaces, 10 students are staging a liberation of felt.

“Feel; Felt: An Exhibition of Wearable Fiber Art” debuted on Oct. 26 and will occupy Room 111 of the Art and IMM Building until Dec. 7. The exhibit, curated by senior art education major Diana Montano, features the work of Elizabeth Mackie’s Fiber Arts class.

The Great Barrier Reef inspired this Victorian-esque collar. (Photo courtesy of Eva Darron)

“To be in the class and have to reinvent something you’re so familiar with is really refreshing,” Montano said. “I guess it’s about adjusting stereotypes. It’s not just women’s work, not just crafts.”

The 11 pieces displayed in the gallery are anything but simple crafts. Although the student artists worked exclusively with wool, a respect for the textile as an art form seems imprinted on every piece. Here, felt (pressed wool) is more fine art than RoseArt.

At the north end of the gallery, a mannequin models a high Victorian collar embellished with coral, starfish and other deep-sea miscellany made entirely of felt. The piece, called “Barrier,” is by senior graphic design major Brittany Mastrostefano.

“The reason behind its name is twofold,” Montano said. “She was inspired by the Great Barrier Reef, but when you put it on, a lot of your peripheral vision is cut off.”

Across from “Barrier,” a black Spartan helmet tops another mannequin’s head. To its left is an intricately felted green vine, accentuated with felt flowers, by senior international studies major Bianca Brown, worn over the shoulder and down the arm.

Each piece can be worn. That was an important part of Montano’s concept.

“There’s a very big distinction between fashion and wearable art, and that’s something we explored here,” Montano said.

At first glance, some pieces don’t appear to be something someone would sling on every day. Some don’t have any obvious utility as a “wearable” piece.

But they all can be worn, Montano assured as she explained the more abstract pieces.

One was her own: “The Canyon.” Spread on the floor of the north end of the gallery, it looks like a blanket or an irregularly shaped doormat. It’s constructed entirely of wool — a sea of orange peaks and valleys mounted on a dismantled sweater.

“The way you actually wear it is you lie under it,” Montano said. She lay under the piece on the gallery’s opening night. For a video project in which she displays the piece, she plans to lie under it in “her birthday suit.”

Montano was inspired by “the topography of a woman’s body,” she said.

“When you lay under it, you lose your body’s topography, and (the piece) loses its topography,” said senior art education major Allison Tumminia of her classmate’s piece.

Tumminia also has a piece in the gallery: she created tiny stuffed rats out of wool, pillow stuffing and fishing wire. The tiny rats are mounted on the wall of the gallery. But can these also be worn?

Yes, Tumminia said. In fact, she wore them on opening night.

“Basically, the idea behind this was when I was little … my sister would tell me, ‘Your hair looks like a rat’s nest,’” said the curly-haired Tumminia. “I wore two in my hair during the opening.”