Accidental Icon and Fashion as Communication: Artist Michelle Pred Reminds Us We Have a Choice

Fashion and art share many similarities: both require the material manifestation of an idea, both are the end products of process (as I wrote about last week), both are tools of communication and both have a relation to commerce in ways that impact their conception. Fashion and art also share the ability to spark important conversations about the exercise of power in public and private life depending on the choices made by an artist, a designer and the individual who consumes. Every day the choices we make about what to wear and carry, whether we are aware of them or not, mark us and our cultural affiliations and relationship to power. 

The artist Michelle Pred in her exhibition, Choice, currently showing at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in Chelsea, uses fashion artifacts such as vintage handbags, shoes, a pillbox hat from the 1950's and 60's and saturates them with political and social meaning using electroluminescent wire and thousands of expired birth control pills to inscribe the objects with messages about the pro-choice movement. According to the artist, the purses are meant to be carried and serve as "small-scale political billboards". 

The artist explains her choice of the handbags as canvas, "I chose purses as my way to carry the politically charged messages of the pro-choice movement with representations of women's modern economic power and the possibilities of change that come with it. For me the use of purses from the mid-twentieth century harks back to that critical era, and reminds us how much has changed and more importantly, how much has not."

The entrance of a fashion blogger/academic into the space of an art gallery and the "looking together" at the sculptures themselves, sparked a conversation with Nancy Hoffman, the owner of the gallery, about the capacity of fashion and art to instigate visual forms of communication in ways that can move social movements forward and yet connects us to their vibrant pasts. 

The exhibit also contains a series of other related sculptures by the artist such as a large scale neon piece that reads, "My Body My Business" and a vintage suitcase and boxing gloves with the same text. 

Visit my Details post on Wednesday for more photos of the sculptures, more about the artist and details about what I wore.

Are you aware of the choices you are making about what to wear and what those choices may be communicating about you?