- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - When Christiana Byrne began designing a wearable work of art inspired by Jackson Pollock’s epic painting “Mural,” she considered the life of the reclusive artist.

She thought about Pollock’s upbringing in the West and how the topography and the colors influenced his vision of a painting that would change the history of Modern American art. She contemplated the size of “Mural” - it measures 8-by-20 feet - and the artist’s early mentor Thomas Hart Benton and the Regionalist style.

But it was Pollock’s own words that resonated most deeply with Byrne.

It’s a “stampede . (of) every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes,” he told a friend years after making the painting. “Everything is charging across the goddamn surface.”

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports (http://icp-c.com/1mmZQwG ) the theme for this year’s annual University of Iowa Museum of Art’s annual party on April 12 is “Splatter to Sparkle - Join the Journey!” to celebrate the recent completion of a two-year restoration and conservation of UI’s most treasured painting. The painting is owned by UI, insured for $140 million and considered to be one of the most important American paintings of the 20th century.

To mark the occasion, the party will feature a fashion show of 12 wearable works of art inspired by Pollock’s masterpiece. In addition, the models - all local communities members - will be part of a short performance that traces the history of “Mural” from its creation in New York to Iowa City. Party guests will vote, and three prizes will be awarded. After the party, the garments will be displayed for two weeks in downtown Iowa City. After that, the pieces will go back to the artists, who are free to sell them.

Elizabeth Wallace, public relations coordinator for UIMA, said she can field purchase inquiries and direct them to the artists, but university policy prohibits UIMA to be involved in the sale of the artwork in the show.

“The UIMA Members Council, who acted as the jury for the wearable art submissions, was particularly impressed by the variety and creativity of the proposals,” she said. “The selected works range from gowns to jewelry to elaborate costume. Each is completely different, and together, they will make an exciting presentation at the party and in the downtown stores.”

Byrne, 27, a current Master of Fine Arts candidate at UI in jewelry and metal arts, is among 14 artists - three are working together on one piece - selected to create a garment for the show. All of the artists live in Iowa except one who lives in California but received a Master of Arts degree in textiles from UI.

Each artist received a budget of $100 for materials. With her money, Byrne purchased acrylic paint, white primer, bracelet hinges and a bag of plastic toy horses, cattle, antelope, sheep and pigs.

“Jackson Pollock talks about the surface of the ‘Mural’ as a stampede,” she said. “He talks about antelope, buffalo and horses running across the surface. What I wanted to do with this necklace was create a visual stampede of animals running across the wearer.”

By connecting the animals with bracelet hinges, Byrne has created a shawl of stampeding creatures that appear to be racing up the wearer’s back and over her shoulders. As a finishing Pollock-touch, Byrne is splattering the white-washed animals with colorful acrylics.

“Just like you are engulfed by Pollock’s painting because it’s so large, the wearer is engulfed in the stampede by the necklace,” she said.

Wallace said the idea for the wearable art show came from the museum’s council and was later developed by the party committee. Meg Eginton has scripted, directed and choreographed the short performance.

The annual museum party is a fundraising event and will include remarks by UIMA director Sean O’Harrow. Money raised will be used to maintain existing programs and support UIMA events, programs and collection care. The goal is to raise $25,000 for Art Exhibitions for Iowa, $60,000 for art education and outreach, $10,000 for conservation and care, and $5,000 for unrestricted support.

For artist Debra Sutherland of Solon, the chance to create a piece inspired by “Mural” was an opportunity to make a garment using fabric she created from photographic images of her own paintings and photographs.

When she looks at “Mural,” Sutherland said she is reminded of a musical created by the repetition of colors, lines and shapes.

“Each color emerges as if composed of musical notes,” she said.

She approached her design as a musical composition, using two of her own paintings in their original medium and the digital design, which has a vivid lyrical inspiration from “Mural.”

“The fabric of the finished garment will have the same flowing movement as the painting,” Sutherland said.

Dawn Harbor, a glass artist from Iowa City, said she was drawn to the movement of Pollock’s painting.

“You could almost hear it,” she said. “My glasswork is thin and light and has a lovely sound quality itself. In its own way, my work has a movement and a sound, and so does his.”

Harbor created nearly 200 tiny glass pieces sculpted from molten materials and linked with a light-weight framework - a cascading glass collar.

“I have images of Pollock doing his work, almost dancing around the canvases,” Harbor said. “I love that idea of movement, sound and color together.”

Dania De Bortoli, a self-taught artist from Fairfax, has been making jewelry since she was a girl but always has had an interest in fibers. Her work often combines unusual and eclectic materials from a variety of time periods, what she likes to call “Vintage Fusion.”

Her knack for combining different elements landed her a spot on the HGTV show “That’s Clever,” where she demonstrated how to knit, felt and embellish with jewelry on a wool purse.

For this piece, De Bortoli repurposed old wool sweaters, pieced together to create a colorful coat. She is needle felting, a process of interlocking wool fibers by stabbing with a barbed needle, to recreate Pollock’s brush strokes.

“It makes curvier, softer lines,” De Bortoli said. “I’m kind of exploring with this piece, and I’m having a lot of fun.”

Judy Bales of Fairfield has been working as an artist since the 1980s. Her art has evolved and gone in many directions over the years. But she always circles back to wearable art. With an undergraduate degree in painting and a graduate degree in fibers, Bales often approaches her wearable pieces as a painter. So when she saw UIMA’s call for artists, she was thrilled.

“It seemed perfect for what I do,” she said. “I love Pollock’s work and the energy in his work, and that is what I like to express in my art for the body.”

Bales won’t imitate the brush strokes of Pollock’s work but rather try to capture the spirit of his work through a garment that covers the body but has some see-through aspects.

“Here the body is becoming part of the work, especially the way the body moves will reflect the energy of the painting,” she said. “My aim is to express the spirit of his and his experimentation and his freedom and the wild energy through my own way of working.”

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

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