Museum Piece III

by Alden Cole on May 12, 2014 · 2 comments

RISDfashion2&3WPRemember the posting from Thursday April 10 that featured this dress on Amy van Gilder — Museum Piece I — then Museum Piece II, it’s successor posting on Sunday April 13? Those two postings were stories about the creation of the only piece of AldenArt housed in a museum, at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I went to school. As of Friday May 2, that dress resides instead in a museum of my own making — Conscious World Art — here at 717 Federal Street in South Philadelphia. Just listen to this tale of serendipity and synchronicity. On Monday April 14, the day after my second posting, I received an email from RISD Apparel Design. When I first saw the origin of the email I thought “oh cool, somebody sent them my blog from yesterday about my dress in the museum, and now they want to interview me” but then reality hit when I read the subject line: Engage with RISD Apparel on Social Media. Although I have no strong interest in adapting to the world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I decided to respond to Elaine Hetu, the Apparel Design Department Administrator who had originated the email. I sent her the link to my website, mentioning how serendipitous was the timing of her email and my blog. The point of my response, since I was not interested in the social media aspect, was to see if Elaine could connect me to the curator of the RISD museum, as I was curious about whether the dress was still in the museum, and if so, what condition it was in, as it had been stored there for going on 50 years. Elaine kindly responded the same day with the name of Kate Irvin, RISD museum costume curator, whom I contacted the next day, including links to the blog for visual reference, and inquiring about the whereabouts and condition of the work that was my only museum piece. Kate responded with the following: “It was such a lovely surprise to receive your email and to see the photograph of your 1966 thesis collection dress! Your dress is indeed still preserved but not, I’m afraid, in the collections of the RISD Museum. Over the several decades that have passed since the museum acquired your dress, the collecting policy changed rather significantly, and in 1996 my curatorial predecessors made the decision to transfer several of the student designs to Brown’s Theater department, including your dress. When we make such decisions to transfer objects out of our collections, our normal practice is to contact the donor or maker but it seems that the curators in 1996 were not able to locate you. It is therefore fortuitous indeed that you decided to write to us about the dress! I’ve been in conversation with Fran Romasco in Brown’s Theater Costume Shop, and she has located your dress. She is even willing to send the dress back to you if you would like to have it in your collections.” I was thrilled, immediately contacted Fran Romasco at Brown, and the dress was soon on its way from there to here, arriving Friday May 2. Thank you Elaine Hetu, Kate Irvin, and Fran Romasco!

AC&BlueEyesWPNow the question, how did the dress get on that dummy with the Dune-blue eyes? Casting about for a means of displaying the dress once it arrived, my eyes alighted on this painted mannequin down in the basement, acquired years ago and serving little function recently. I located a lamp base to give it the proper height and shimmied the dress down over the mannequin’s form – good thing it has no arms. I then found the perfect display spot in the living room, et Voilà. And how did I wind up in this picture looking ridiculous? Friends Kate Mellina and Dave Christopher were here last week taking pictures of my Night Lights for an upcoming October show at their gallery, so for a few photographs Kate cajoled me into donning the costume I had worn to the Dumpster Divers Annual Awards Banquet last January. I obviously didn’t bother to check myself out in a mirror before being photographed, so I’m looking pretty scruffulous! Kate forwarded the photo to me thinking I would get a good chuckle out of my “Stick with me kid, and we’ll see the world!” expression. I did! Thanks Kate. Cheers!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

susie Q May 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm

what a great story and a fabulous pic! i AM going to give you facebook lessons! get yerself ready! 😉


ellen May 13, 2014 at 6:26 pm

soooooo cool!


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