Angela Ellsworth – Seer Bonnets

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Upon entering the Lisa Sette Gallery booth at Art Miami, one felt the sense of a hush.  The strings of bonnets trailed to the floor.  Beads of while pearls on the outside and the teeth of silver,  gleaming pins on the inside.  Floating more than five feet in the air, the white bonnets bore thousands of pins, like tiny swords, poised to pierce the wearer.  For artist Angela Ellsworth, this is symbolic of the esoteric price of becoming a plural wife. Ellsworth channeled the history of her ancestors, pioneer Mormon plural wives, and created her Seer Bonnets out of corsage pins.  The pins display the outward, spoken accolades and the inner psychological and emotional toll.  Decorated with pristine, white pearls, they are objects made to pierce and to bind.  Done so beautifully, the outside result makes one forget that the object is capable of creating a wound.

While my immediate interpretation was what I have described above, Ellsworth also meant for the seer bonnets to translate as representing the inner resilience and strength of women who needed to have an inner world to survive.  In this instance, the pins speak to the pain that grew the need for an inner world.  Ellsworth re-imagines the power of these women hidden in the underside of the bonnet to show the qualities of their secret lives: the pain as well has hidden power and strength.

See more work from Ellsworth’s Sister Wives series here: aellsworth.com

Image Source here

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Regina Jacobson

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“Wearing My Sundae Best”

After working in the fashion industry for thirty-three years, Regina Jacobson brought her insight into the culture of beauty onto the canvas.  While pursuing her MFA in fine art at Laguna College of Art and Design in 2013, Jacobson had an epiphany.  She “discovered a provocative message which is a syntheses of my background in fine art, fashion and religion – a spiritually and philosophically charged commentary on human frailty, the vulnerability of our delicate self-worth when based [on] appearances, our need as humans for love and our quest for approval from others.”  Jacobson goes deeper than the search to reach an unrealistic standard of beauty, and into the spiritual destruction of misplaced self-worth.  “My work is filled with Judaeo-Christian signifiers that point…away from the rituals and events set forth in the Bible; crucifixion, prayer, marriage, original sin, betrayal, worship, sanctification, etc., are applied to the idolatry of unattainable physical perfection.”

Jacobson’s surreal approach on the canvas has whimsical and playful elements used to communicate the worship of beauty.  Each image is met with a poignant darkness.  In “Clipped Wings” the bird in the cage under the enlarged eye in the magnifying glass is shrinking under the mockery of her own poor perception of her physical being.  The woman is both the caged creature and the human being perpetuating cultural messages of what should be attained.  One of the most fantastic and deeply troubling images is “Wearing My Sundae Best.”  A woman’s face atop an ice cream cone is covered by a black funereal veil and piled high with elaborate, bright hats.  Underneath the layers is a despondent veiled face, resigned to believing that she is meant to be enjoyed, even if she doesn’t enjoy it.  These fantastic elements, executed in a clean, realistic style, communicate multi-layered messages.  “The ice cream scoop on the expansive checkered board floor and the topiaries of the rabbit and the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland serve to undergird the idea of the bizarre and curious being accepted as normal,” says Jacobson.

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“My god, my god”

In Jacobson’s series “Cult of Beauty” the secret ritualism within the life of someone who seeks approval from an illegitimate source is uncovered by the usage of religious elements.  “While the arrows that I shoot are aimed at the heart of idolatry, they originate from the truth of the Bible – the idea being that the origin of the thought, therefore, insinuates meaning onto the target.”  In “Witness” mannequins stand in the place of ministers, symbolized by long panels on their clothing that are similar to the details on preacher’s robes.  The panels of Jacobson’s “Alterpiece” triad harken to stained glass images, each holding their own story that supports a whole when placed side by side.  To the left, a figure is trussed in ropes, yet their casual demeanor makes them seem unaware that they are indeed bound.  To the right, the upper half of a woman’s body is support by the lower half of a mannequin.  The central image strikes a blatant Biblical chord, titled “My god, my god.”  A woman is suspended by a rope hung on meat hook.  Her toes hover over the ground while she pulls the strings of her corset so tight that her outstretched arms mimic images of Christ on the cross.  Her body is reduced to an object that can be strung and moved about at the whim of what she worships.  Behind her, soft candles glow on the alter where she sacrifices herself.

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“Witness”

“As a Christian, I view life through the lens of my beliefs.  Though my work tends to the darker side of the emotional spectrum, my beliefs seem to saturate the work, dealing with eternal and moral themes” says Jacobson.   She desires for her work, dark, vulnerable, and unafraid of the truth, to cross boundaries.  “Recently I’ve come to feel that, to those outside of Christianity, our message seems archaic, our language drenched in exclusivity, our imagery burdened with puritanical innocence.”  The artist says, “I want my work to resonate with the world in a way which allows them to feel that we can empathize with their pain. We are all suffering, we all hurt, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. I want to open up a conversation about our common weaknesses.”  By viewing her work, and contemplating the larger messages, Jacobson hopes that others will be directed toward spiritual renewal.  By using art to communicate messages of faith to all people, she says, “I want to extend a hand to help them out of their bondage – out of the darkness and into the marvelous light.”

Jacobson is currently at work on an installation.  The large-scale project is a collaborative effort among various visual artists (including set designers) and will grow “Cult of Beauty” into a “fully immersive environment.”  Currently, another exhibition titled “The Ring” is in production and will include performance art.  “My vision grows daily and it’s hard to keep up with.  I hope to receive grants and raise funds to produce an international exhibition: I dream big.”

ReginaJacobson.com

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Carmelita Couture

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Flowing robes left a technicolor trail in the memory of Philadelphia Fashion Week attendees this past September.  The prints on the Carmelita Couture runway were a dance of shapes and forms from the canvas of artist Victor Atkins, a painter who translates his spiritual identity into images. His primitive and brightly colored works maintain the weight and mystery of spiritual passion, painting light over darkness.  The models wore his paintings in various fabrics, some bold and printed onto opaque textiles, while others cast their transparent pattern over the form.  For the first time, Greco included menswear in styles that were as varied and whimsical as the womenswear.  Each look communicated her theme of modern priesthood drawn from Biblical texts, a position offered to all who believe in the gospel.

Greco began her line over 8 years ago.  Her pieces can be seen in magazines around the world and on the red carpet (most recently on Narcos star Cristina Umaña).  Fashion has always been a purposeful pursuit for Greco, extending beyond the balance of color and shape and into the recognition of beauty as a divine quality.   This most recent collection dives deeper into the spiritual, biblical, purpose of adornment.  “My calling is to make priestly garments, to share a priestly identity on the earth through fashion.”

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Mary Jane Miller – Iconographer

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Mary Jane Miller is not Orthodox, or a trained artist, but for the past twenty years she has practiced the tradition of Byzantine style iconography daily.  Her reverence for iconography led her to study the ancient painting techniques in depth. Within the act itself, she sees a reflection of her own beliefs.

The materials used in this sacred art form are a meeting of past and present, the earth and the divine, flesh and spirit.  Combined they expose a sense of awe and eternity.  “The medium is egg tempera, a recipe combining egg yolk which symbolizes the raw potential for life” Miller explains, “ mixed with million-year-old dirt, which is symbolic of eternity.  So, your mixing life with eternity and you create a divine image, images of Jesus, Mary, the apostles, and saints.”  The practice resonates with Miller personally and spiritually.  “I just thought ‘My God, I can push little particles with dirt around in an egg yolk emulsion and create beauty.’  It blended everything that I’m about.  I love nature, I love life, and I love God.”

Despite her articulate and deeply passionate words about iconography, Miller says, “I don’t think I’ve ever been an artist.”  She speaks with a balance of self-awareness and a sense of humor.  The marriage of depth and whit is what displays her humbleness.  Before she painted icons, Miller provided creative services for the purpose of paying the bills – jewelry, furniture design, painting mural.  “I never thought that I would be one of those artists that was driven.”

Read more on the International Fine Art Fund blog.