Sam Talbot-Kelly is a multimedia artist with a particular interest in costume and fashion. Her work has appeared locally in Strut, the Burlington fashion show Southern art hops; in pop-ups at Salam clothing store in Montpellier; at the Kent Museum in Calais; and the Brick Box Gallery Installation Window in Rutland, among others.
Today the Montpellier artist has set up a unique show at Axel Gallery and Frame Shop in Waterbury. Fantastic and colorful, the exhibition is an installation of five framed works of art suspended alongside a figurative ensemble that takes up half of the gallery’s floor space. Its title is intriguing: “The Outline of a New Harmony in a Zippered Dress Pocket. ”
The arrangement of the figures in the installation is reminiscent of a parade: three female mannequins and four four-legged creatures the size of small dogs seem to be heading towards the door of the gallery. Led by a perched raven with outstretched wings, the group weaves their way through fallen furniture, geometrically-cut colored plexiglass sheets and small metallic silver cushions.
The installation continues in a display case with patterned paintings of Talbot-Kelly wood panels, adorned with chains and other gilded hardware, arranged on furniture.
For those unfamiliar with women’s fashion, a slip dress is a silky sheath that isn’t much more elaborate than the undergarment for which it is named after; he rarely has pockets. Talbot-Kelly also did not add any to the temporary model outfits she created. (Only one is a dress, a revamp of a 1930s model; the other two are similar to jumpsuits.) Instead, a pastiche of other adornments appears: scarf-shaped panels drape over them. side seams like inactive wings; necks are wrapped in grouped yellow T-shirts; the heads are draped in gold chains.
The “new harmony”, according to an information panel, lies between man and nature. Talbot-Kelly cites poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson as his inspiration. The artist, however, seems much more playful than the Transcendent, who wrote in the 1830s about the spiritual goodness inherent in both humans and nature. Talbot-Kelly’s “draft” is rendered in a UNnatural riot of colors and materials, including plastic mannequins (including a red one), hot pink feathers and white faux fur.
The colors are repeated from the wall to the mannequins through the imagined creatures. The framed paintings on the wall feature 3D geometric shapes floating against white backgrounds. The shapes, some incredibly complicated or overlapping, are outlined in black pen and colored in the same yellows, hot pinks and other hues as the mannequins ‘clothes and the creatures’ skins. An organic form – the silhouette of a hybrid creature – runs through each of the paintings.
Likewise, the large bees applied to the headgear of one mannequin and the felted wool scarf worn by another reappear in the felted wool “skins” of some of the creatures in the assembly, which are adorned with flowers. applied. And the colorful parallelograms and other geometric shapes of the paintings are found in the plexiglass shapes placed in the middle of the broken chair, the elongated stool, and two ladders on the floor. There is a unit in the installation – but for what purpose?
At first glance, the work seems to refer to the marches of women of recent years. A mannequin in a nightie stands with outstretched arms, like a crossing guard stopping traffic, with a message stuck to a raised hand: “Register now”.
The information panel suggests that such thoughts are not entirely out of place. “In a sense, tissue and body are my political weapons for transformation,” Talbot-Kelly reportedly said.
In an email, the artist further explained that his intention was to “create a sense of belonging to something bigger than our ego, [to] create a space that allows identities to be specific while being connected to something bigger. ”
This move towards “something bigger” could explain the diversity of his approach, which encompasses the costumes, the scenography, the painting, the design of wood panels and the objects found in this single show. (Other installations have included robotic elements, such as a work involving the human heart that she showed at the 2013 Florence Biennale.)
The artist’s vast training is apparent here. Talbot-Kelly, 50, grew up in Toronto after her family emigrated from Britain when she was a baby. She studied sculpture and textile arts for her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Concordia University in Montreal. For a master’s degree, completed at the University of Texas at San Antonio, she focused on painting and performance, including installation. Most recently, Talbot-Kelly studied costume design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
“I’ve always been between disciplines,” she said over the phone. Her influences range from contemporary German multimedia installation artist Isa Genzken and fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen to cubism and 1930s sartorial and cultural readings, she added via email.
The artist can clearly juggle several interests at the same time. At some point, however, the work must stand up and communicate some sensitivity or emotion. “Draft of a New Harmony” is confusing in this regard: does its apparent celebration of artificiality undermine its stated intention to establish a new harmony with nature? Does his gesture towards the strength of women contradict his light and funny tone? The success of the work largely depends on the viewer’s response to such a varied view of harmony.