Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art | Exhibiting Culture Through Fashion

The power of fashion lies in its ability to transform identity and culture.

GraySpace Gallery presents Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art fashion exhibit.  As creator of this exhibition, it uniquely spotlights the process and output of selected work of fashion designers Tingyue Jiang, Alena Kalana, Susan Tancer and Hera Zhou who blur the distinction between art and fashion.

Global fashion is a multi trillion dollar industry, where conflicting ideas of aesthetics, ethics, appropriateness, and desirability are debated within each society.  This dynamic is played out through fashion events; high profile, celebrity, political and religious influences; utilitarian needs; and propelled by the global spread of capitalism.

The worlds of art and fashion design are overlapping, signifying blurred boundaries.  There’s a paradigm shift in the way we understand the cultural contribution of fashion.  Fashion exhibitions at art museums and galleries are a global phenomenon, with record breaking attendance. The exhibitions of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty; Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology; and China: Through the Looking Glass are in the top 10 of all exhibitions visited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art [Met], New York, with over 2.2 million visitors1.  The Met is just one example, across the globe, where a sophisticated audience seek this captivating experience.

“Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art” installation in progress.

Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art showcases fashion as an art.  Thus this show makes a strong claim that fashion is an artistic expression and is as valid as sculpture and painting.  Fashion is an artifact of our culture and can be seen through the lens of social anthropology.  It can identify a cultural trend and articulate it in a certain way, or it can be cross-culturally inspired, while addressing societal rhythms.  It can define the spirit or mood of an era.

Designers, Jiang, Kalana, Tancer, and Zhou manifest artistry, imagination, and an out-of-the-box mindset in their body of work. They give us bold designs that are relevant, innovative, with the rigor of nonconformity.  These designers call themselves artists and do not see their designs as part of the mass produced off-the-rack garment industry.  Jiang, Kalana, Tancer, and Zhou are disruptors working against the industry trend of ‘more is more’. They give fashion a cultural face, purpose, and environmental consciousness.  With their dedication to an artistic practice – as sculptor in cloth – they are not restricted with commercial limitations. The art of the hand is distinctly human and cannot be replaced or matched by a machine.  As we view their collections, we can experience “the hand” through the depth, complexity, and emotion in the construction, materials, shape, and ornamentation.

Traditionally there’s been a separation of fine and applied art.  Art fundamentally creates culture.  In an age of identity politics and multiculturalism, fashion’s power lies in its ability to transform identity and culture.

Fashion, like any other art, serves as a platform to express, evoke emotion, and make a statement. Artists are motivated to create an object or image that is timeless – work that transcends time.  Fashion designers have this same desire, but are up against creating seasonal work, to fuel the speed and disposability of today’s fashion environment.  Fashion has never been more accessible to the masses than today, which, arguably, can hinder the artistic value of fashion.  To counter this, a new generation of fashion designers emphasize new principles of design, such as line, shape, form, space, texture, and color to transcend ‘fashion as an art’.

EDGE champions the idea of making the art of fashion more accessible by exposing designers through the public venue of an art gallery or museum.  It broadens the horizons of the viewer, forces them to look at fashion from a different point of view.  To experience contemporary fashion, like contemporary art, is to engage and interact.  It is a catalyst for dialogue and exchange of ideas and values.

My hope is that the viewer will enjoy looking at fashion through a cultural lens, embrace the unexpected and that the exhibit inspires new inquiry of ‘fashion as an art’.

Click designer name for more on each designer – read their story:

Tingyue Jiang

Erik ReeL, painter | Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art, Tingyue Jiang, designer | GraySpace Gallery, ©
Erik ReeL, painter | Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art, Tingyue Jiang, designer

Alena Kalana

Blurred Boundaries Fashion as an Art, Alena Kalana, designer, ©
Alena Kalana

Susan Tancer

Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art, Susan Tancer, designer | GraySpace Gallery, ©
Susan Tancer

Hera Zhou

Blurred Boundaries Fashion as an Art, Hera Zhou, designer, ©
Hera Zhou | The Wave


Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art

Opening Reception | 21 September 2018 | 5:00-8:00 p.m 
On View 21 September – 11 November, 2018
GraySpace Gallery
219 Gray Avenue, Funk Zone
Santa Barbara, California

1Art News – A Look at the Met’s Top Ten Most Visited Exhibitions of All Times, BY Alex Greenberger POSTED 09/12/15;

EDGE Cosmo for more fashion exhibitions.

Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor