Since summer's here, let's go to the annual summer COME IN! series at the Architecture and Design (A + D) Museum in Los Angeles. This year's show is called Les Femmes. A + D asked women designers "to take over the A+D Museum with their inspired installations."
One of the featured artists, Amy Jean Boebel, makes sculpted dresses and garments out of aluminum screening. I think of these pieces as her 'undergarment' series. Even though her work isn't classically 'pretty,' it's really inventive and intriguing, and I had to find out what's behind it. Here's my short interview with Amy.
How did you decide to become an artist?
I think I was born wanting to create things; there is something in me that needs to be expressed externally and my best mode for this has always been through art. So, being an artist is something ingrained and part of my nature.
Early on, I realized that success and making a living as an artist would not be easy, so I always kept being a full time artist as a long term goal. My brief stint in architecture was an attempt to combine my skills in art and math into a viable career.
Although I have worked in many different fields including running a ballet company, trading commodities, consulting with zoos and as executive director of the San Francisco Parks Trust, I have always had a working studio to go to. Now that my children are on their own, I can devote all my time to making art; it is a privilege and a responsibility that I respect and cherish.
What first attracted you to creating wearable fashion art?
My years in New Orleans and my love of costuming led me to making wearable garments. I think of them as constructions and sculptures built on the body to enhance and change how a person looks and feels.
I have experimented with many mediums and types of art, printing, welding, bronze casting, photography, polyurethane, clay, glass and neon. Choosing architecture as a career came from my work as a sculptor. Hardware stores with all the various materials, tools and building supplies tend to seduce me and I get lost in ideas and tangents. When I became a full-time artist and wanted to build a cohesive body of work, I decided to pick one material to work with for a year and see how far I could go with it. It has been 5 years now and I still have many ideas to try.
New Orleans has been the most influential environment on my art. There is a wonderful tolerance about the city; you see it in the music and celebrations and, unfortunately, in the government, too. Growing up there, I felt free to be an individual and not conform. Plus, my parents were very liberal thinking intellectuals that allowed me to take sculpture, dance and photography courses all through my high school years; I even built a little darkroom in our house.
I adored costuming for Mardi Gras and being able to transform into someone else; the city thrives on self-expression. The sensuousness of the lush environment and the enthusiasm of the people there fed my creative juices. Choosing screen as my current medium came directly from my experience as a child in New Orleans.
Growing up in New Orleans, screen was ubiquitous. Every home had a screened-in porch to keep the mosquitos out and, at the same time, the people in. When I looked around for one material to focus on, it seemed appropriate and it's so versatile.
What do you like best about working with aluminum?
The material is both substantial and elusive at the same time; it can be sculpted and formed but is not rigid and unyielding. Screen also has a diaphanous quality that makes it appear transparent at times even though it is solid. Layering and folding can create multi-dimensional images on a wall when light is added. Because of the gossamer look, it can even be seen as fabric or gauze-like. When people experienced "Billow," I encouraged them to touch the structure; most thought the installation was made from fabric.
You've created aluminum panties and bras and undergarments. And in 2011, you created a Katrina Bra out of materials used during the recovery. Please tell me what's behind your focus on women's undergarments?
Bras and panties are usually hidden and secret, something a woman often puts on just to please themselves. Wearing your under ‘ware’ on the outside is liberating to me and because screen is so gauzy and fabric-like, it expresses so much more than solid cloth.
The Katrina Bra (above) is a favorite wearable creation because it expresses the essence of New Orleans and the struggle for recovery. The hurricane was so devastating, yet people could still find humor and express their playfulness amid the tragedy. The bra is made from funnels, blue tarp and caution tape, images and materials we used in the clean up and rebuilding. The orange NOAA hurricane symbols twirl and the small wired king cake babies bounce. I moved back home to New Orleans to participate in the recovery and was inspired by the spirit, resourcefulness and mood of the individuals.
What's next for you?
I would like to work in fabrics, such as silk organza and other "stiff" fabrics and construct/build garments. I also want to go back to the hardware store and continue my exploration of materials to create more experiential installations and sculpture.
I think Amy's work is a fascinating mix of art and architecture. You can see more at Amy Jean Boebel. Also, don't miss seeing Amy's work at the Architecture and Design Museum Los Angeles (July 12 - September 8) and at The Loft at Liz's in Los Angeles (through September 4).