Say yes to the dress...

by - Friday, April 21, 2017

Dresses are iconic. They sum up an era, reflect cultural attitude, become a signature. There is an invisible thread connecting creator and wearer, a soulful exchange, an understanding. Color, cut and components communicate what is unspoken.

Flanking either side of the entrance to a second floor gallery of the Montclair Art Museum, enclaves showcase vivid dresses in collages of paper, threading and grommets floating in a backdrop of bright Matisse Red. The patterns are in blue, reminiscent of West African plant-based indigo dyes. They appear layered, pattern upon pattern, weaving complexity of character and culture.

This is the ingenuity of mixed media artist Janet Taylor Pickett. And I am excited to broaden my fascination with paper dolls!

Dressing in Context 2, 2015

Matisse and American Art was my sole agenda on this visit to MAM, a first-time enlightened look at his profound influence on American artist works. Sixty pieces are on view, many aligned side by side including Max Weber, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Faith Ringgold, all echoing saturated unmixed color and bold simplification. It was a wonder to see the varied influences throughout, thoughtfully amassed, but discovery of this contemporary artist caught my undivided attention.

Janet Taylor Pickett, 2015 by Douglas C. Bloom 

Pickett's collection began as Indigo Remnants, later changed to The Matisse Series, thus a perfect insertion for the concurrent show. This solo exhibit is the second time the artist has been featured at MAM. In 1997, More than One Way Home was Pickett's 25-year conspectus. Her work has been shown all over the world, and found permanent homes privately and in the public eye at the Newark Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, and Schomburg Center in New York. She has clearly established her status as painter, mixed media, and collage artist. as well as professor. Her resume is impressive. Janet Taylor Pickett's signature dress template fashions a reflection of life's ongoing incarnations.

Me and Matisse handmade book close-up, 2002

Me and Matisse handmade book, 2002

The Blue Door, 2015
Within the flat-pattern stencil of her striking painted color and cut images, a creative genius perspective is broadcast, a complex weaving of multiple cultures, archetype, symbolism and emotional expression. Elements of Matisse's classic works commingle, as if channeled to certify a uniting of present with the past, his influence prominent.

Matisse Vessel Dress as Altar, 2013
I am driven by a love and profound respect for nature, things made from the hand and an ongoing exploration of transformation. My dresses become vessels filled with interwoven layers of personal iconographies that become universal, and that I believe allow us all to connect to our broader collective heritage. ~ Janet Taylor Pickett

Matisse's Hands at Sunset, 2010

Deconstructing Matisse Jacket, 2010

Entering Desire and Creation 1, 2015

Sanctuary of Hope, 2015

Matisse Dress, 2011

Emergence, Me and Matisse, 2015

Emergence, Me and Matisse, artist script detail, 2015

Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey,  2014-15
Featured in The Matisse Series, Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey expands over two adjacent walls, a visual installation of work from 2014 - 2015. Attributing Pickett's age at the time of its creation, each silhouette uniquely conveys her personal biography, one dress at a time.

Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey,  2014-15

Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey,  2014-15

Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey,  2014-15

Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey detail featuring artist as a young girl, 2014-15

Dressing in Context 1, 2015

A semblance of identity, these dresses are deeply personal yet universal. Collages of ancestral and artistic past open a dialog with present viewers spoken in visual language. After all, isn't that the purpose of art? 

Matisse and American Art will be on view until June 18, 2017. Say yes to the dress... xoxo-Sonya

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