Art to Wear…If You Dare

San Jose's Museum of Quilts & Textiles focuses on wearable art rooted in the '60s
Wearable Art
(photos: courtesy San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles)

To some people they might have looked like hippies engaged in innocent fun. But Levis Strauss & Co., which looked on while young women in San Francisco embellished Levi jeans and jackets with embroidery, appliqué, buttons, and paints, thought it was something else.

Levi Strauss thought it was art, organized a competition, and put on an exhibit. The 1973 show helped put the 'Art-to-Wear Movement' on the map. The movement returns to center stage this month with the opening of 'Metamorphosis: Clothing & Identity,' an exhibit that charts the development of the movement and brings it up to the present day.

The exhibit runs through April 27 at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. On Sunday, March 30, several founders of the movement, including Janet Lipkin of El Cerrito, will discuss the invention of what today is often called 'artwear.'

"People were embellishing their clothing," says curator Deborah Corsini, "using clothing as a canvas for their fiber work."

Also on display will be work by younger artists, many of whom produce clothing that is easy to wear, including Angelina DeAntonis, whose work features, among other things, garments for the 'sun-sea' and the 'Tibetan plateau.'

You may hesitate, though, before going out in one of Laura Raboff's gowns of knitted copper. "Absolutely not wearable," Corsini says. "But it's the idea of using clothing as a metaphor for other things."

For more on the 'Metamorphosis: Clothing & Identity' exhibit, click here. Here's some of the work of the artists discussed above: Laura Raboff - Janet Lipkin - Angelina DeAntonis.