CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

November 7, 2002 Dressing up: Ellen exhibit depicts fusion of dress, gender and identity



Above, at right, the curator of The Dress Show, Lynn Beavis, in conversation with chair of Concordia’s board of governors Lillian Vineberg. Lynn was the guest of honour at a cocktail reception held by friends of the Gallery last Tuesday, as she leaves her position as Interim Director.


The Dress Show featured a special performance by Catherine Sylvain (above) on April 29. Her 12-foot paper dress represents the difficulty of social relations.

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Sara Collin

The idea behind The Dress Show, a clothing-based art exhibit currently on display at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, was first sown more than five years ago. Interim director Lynn Beavis became interested in the theme of dress and identity when she met artist and Concordia graduate Barbara Hunt.

“After I saw her work, I knew I wanted to create an exhibit around her dresses. Then I started noticing other people doing work with clothing and dress. Five years later, The Dress Show has made its way to Concordia’s art gallery, in a show running from April 22 to May 31.

In the exhibit, Hunt’s three dresses are made of plasma-arc cut steel, and each measures over six feet in height. She explores so-called masculine and feminine traits through her art.

Hunt said she made the dresses larger than life because she has always been short and has had to look up to men. “I made the dresses so that men would have look up at women.”

Each piece in the exhibit looks at questions of identity and dress, though the materials used by each artist vary greatly, ranging from latex to steel to wool.

At one of The Dress Show events, each artist explained how his or her work related to identity and dress and, often, to questions of gender. Kevin Whitfield told a small audience how his three knitted dresses raise questions of gender and its possible transmutation. He defied the stereotype of knitting as a female tradition, and described his dresses as a possible “second skin.”

One of Whitfield’s pieces, which has two breasts protuding from the wool dress, is called “You should have been a woman.” His other pieces have male and female genitalia knitted into them, offering a vision that suggests the superficiality of gender roles.

Hunt and Whitfield are joined in the exhibit by Concordia graduate Ana Rewakowicz, as well as Laura Vickerson, Barry Ace, and Catherine Sylvain.

The Dress Show is offering other presentations and workshops during the next month. Concordia education professor Sandra Weber will give a talk on gender, identity and dress on May 13. Her presentation will focus on prom dresses and how they can be used to experiment with different identities.

Weber’s presentation is based on the work she has done with McGill professor Claudia Mitchell over two years, soon to be published in a book called Not Just Any Dress: Explorations of Dress, Identity and the Body.

She will screen two videos she has produced and a prom dress made out of condoms. “Dress is a research method we can use to explore so many other things,” she said. “We can use dress as a way of bringing out other issues. We wanted to explore what prom dresses mean to women and girls.”

Other coming events related to the exhibit include a performance by students from the Concordia’s Dance Department and workshops for children. For more information on any of these events, call 848-4750 or check out www.ellengallery.com.