Clothes Call

Another painter capturing sensual views of women is New Yorker Eric Blum. Unlike Fudge's piece, though, these lyrical paintings are in no way fetishistic or erotic. Collectively entitled "21 Girl Portraits," these are tiny portraits of women's faces, all done on separate wood panels in oil and beeswax.

Denver artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy is the only abstract painter included in the show. In her mixed-media "Sugar," Murphy assembles a grid of nine paintings. The center panel is adorned with powder puffs--the only connection "Sugar" has to the exhibit's theme.

Though Hughes says "Fashion Show" is not meant to be political, many of the pieces here have clearly expressed political content. A few of the nation's most famous proponents of feminist art--notably Linda Herritt and Rachel Lachowicz, both of whom hail from New York City--set the tone. Herritt's "Battle Panties (set of three)" is a wall-hung installation from 1995 in which large cotton women's panties have been embroidered with maps of battlefields; the illustrated panties are hung in a row low on the wall. Above each is a vinyl label identifying the battle: Waterloo, Yorktown and Normandy. Although "Battle Panties" is funny, Herritt, who's created feminist installations for the last decade, has a more serious point. Using both humor and irony, she's obviously comparing sexual conquest of women with success on the battlefield.

Lachowicz's "One Month Late Installation (one tie)" is less ambitious: A man's tie coated with wax and red lipstick is mounted on a stand. "The tie without the man implies that the body was once there," Hughes says. He makes the same point about Minnesotan Jess Larson's "Flora Bunda," a wall-hung satin girdle with a hidden panel that's embroidered with an anatomical drawing. "People have gotten very excited by this piece," says gallery director Robin Rule, who raises an eyebrow as she lifts the flap to reveal the embroidered anatomy lesson. Rebecca Vaughan, a Denver artist who recently left for Pittsburgh, also looks to garments as a way to convey the otherwise missing body. In three wall-hung sculptures, she creates crocheted "cozies"--decorative covers--for unnamed human glands.

Another feminist artist included here, Mary Yaeger of Boulder, addresses not the body but women's traditional social role. For her 1995 "Hairstyling," Yaeger embroiders three steps in hair grooming on commercial patches. Like Larson, she uses embroidery because it's traditionally associated with women's work; by putting the cartoonish images of a woman doing her hair on patches, Yaeger makes it appear as though hairstyling is worthy of multiple Girl Scout merit badges.

Denver photographer Mark Sink takes an entirely different approach with his "Famous Face Series," done between 1982 and the present. This wall installation consists of scores of Polaroids of the New York fashionable as well as a few people right here in town, propped on rows of wall-mounted moldings. Sink manages to imbue these minimally posed photos with the character of his chosen subjects. For example, Fred Hughes, the famous Warhol promoter, looks elegant if a little self-important; writer Bob Colacello, another Warhol associate (and one of the few subjects whose picture is not autographed), looks haggard and pretty scary. Airport art administrator Mimi Moore, late photographer Wes Kennedy and gallery director Rule are some of the locals honored by Sink's lens.

"Fashion Show" is a strangely compelling exhibit. It isn't haute couture, but the current display at Rule proves Hughes knows how to dress for success.

Fashion Show: Art of and About Fashion, through September 12, Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery, 111 Broadway, 777-9473.

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