Thursday, 13 November 2014

Cinderella's Glass Dress

Karen La Monte’s stunningly beautiful glass dress sculptures raise questions about the social and cultural role of clothing, while also introducing a ground-breaking chapter in the history of Sculpture.

Once upon a time, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, imagine that a talented artist with the gifts of a fairy decided to completely revolutionise Cinderella’s gala outfit and dress her in glass. Instead of – or even inspired by – her uncommonly beautiful glass slippers, this contemporary Fairy Godmother improved Perrault’s character’s attire by creating stunning figurative cast glass gowns fit for a queen which go beyond imagination and become literally breath-taking sculptures. And so a completely ground-breaking chapter was open in the history of Sculpture.

In fact, Karen La Monte, a young New York-born artist now living and working in the Czech Republic, has always been particularly attracted by the contrast between our natural skin, which contributes to define people as individuals, and our social skin – the clothes we wear –, which conceals and protects it so as to emphasize and project the persona that dwells inside all of us.

La Monte draws on the concept that clothing defines the body by making it culturally visible and socially meaningful to create her mesmerizing sculptures of cast glass dresses covering an inexistent body. She, therefore, emphasizes the divide between public and private spheres/spaces, while further exploring the idea of transparency and transience.

Karen La Monte’s awesome sculptures become even more surprising if we bear in mind the medium used to produce her delicately diaphanous gowns, which exude the essence of femininity and sensuality: glass. Unlike sculpting stone, wood or metal, this is a material that has to be produced by means of a process that is difficult, time consuming and requires highly skilled workers.  This is even more so the case when large-scale works such as La Monte’s sculptures are to be the final product. She, therefore, moved to the Czech Republic, where she knew she could find the adequate conditions and the necessary expertise to achieve her aim of making life-sized dresses.

Karen La Monte’s joint venture with Czech glass masters as Lhotsky was a tremendous success to the benefit of all those who are lucky enough to come face to face with her remarkable work.  Those extremely beautiful glass dresses flowing down inexistent and only imaginary bodies in cascading drapery, “sensuous folds, delicate wrinkles and fluid pleats invite viewers to touch them” and to follow every curve of their eerie transparency.

Besides offering viewers a gift of unparalleled beauty, Karen La Monte’s talent to create diaphanous awesome artworks from such a hard material posits questions about the social and cultural role of clothing, while also introducing ground-breaking horizons to the history of Sculpture.

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