Fashion & Fantasy at Eye Candy

Last night brought me into one of those episodes where I once again realized what a small town Rochester can be, and how very many people we randomly come into contact with are living creative lives that we don’t yet know about. Three folks who’ve been on my periphery for years had a reception for their group art show “Into the Woods, Fierce and Reckless” at Eye Candy Clothing on East, one of FourWalls Gallery’s satellite spaces. Besides the racks of trendy, drapey-femme clothes lining the walls, house decor includes taxidermied heads of sheep and other horned beasts tarted up with ropes of pearls and fabric flowers tucked behind ears.  DJ K-OFF BEAT was spinning, and chic youth swanned around talking and enjoying the art.

I knew of Rome Celli in his role as a local realtor, but was unaware of  his photographic work until Shawn Dunwoody, owner and director of FourWalls, told me about this show. Celli’s work showcases expressive, beautiful people; otherworldly models with far-off gazes, in rural and city settings. Bright colors are often set aflame by contrasting overcast gray skies, just as olden clothing is frequently juxtaposed with the models’ ink and piercings.

The artist’s interest lies unmistakably in  fashion photography, and he works with local designers, models, and stylists, but before starting each shoot he comes up with narratives like “Echoes of Consequence – A Waking Dream,” a series from which a few images in this show hail. “Jackie” is a tattooed and pierced punk pixie, dreamily leaning on a tree in a classy vintage outfit. “Patrick” is her “would-be lover,” as Rome calls him, who broodingly stares skyward in an old military jacket. But my personal favorite is “Kayte,”  in layered tattered leggings and shitstomping boots, walking fiercely toward the camera and looking wolfish as hell.

One of my BFFs works in the studio of Tammy Swales, so I’d heard all about this photographer’s epic awesomeness. Swales gets her bread and butter from her very modern and artistic approach to mostly wedding, portrait, and senior portrait photography,  but she does non-commissioned art as well.

Swales’ emphasis on hunting for ever-more-interesting perspectives which transmit automatic volumes about the subject’s personality is evident in this show: the playful “Homemade” features the artist’s mother with an exuberant expression on her face, seen between her close-to-the-camera colorfully striped-socked feet. The tattooed, pierced, vampy vixen in “Shadow Boxing” stares back at us through the ring’s tight ropes. “On Fire” is a scruffly man exhaling smoke, viewed through the window he leans on, with city buildings superimposed in reflection.  And “Cinders” is a mythy portrait of a gowned beauty fleeing up a set of stone steps in the darkness, the right side fading away to downy-leafy debris. The cut of the dress in the back reveals a toned, capable woman – not your average princess.

I knew local interior designer Blynn Nelson from serving her coffee each morning during my barista years, and I well recall admiring not only her bold, funky baubles, but her nonchalant ability to carry off the look. At the Eye Candy show her jewels are draped on mannequins and tree branches in various spots around the space, looking every bit like the ornaments a faerie queen would wear to a cocktail party: pastels and metallics, oversized paste pearls, ribbons and lacy, vintage-y rhinestone pins repurposed as components of the asymmetrical neckwear.

You might assume these statement pieces would only work with plain clothing, but I glanced over at Nelson, who was rocking some well-spaced ping-pong pearls with a patterned and ruffled corset top and saw how it could be done. They should, however, be worn with a pixie cut like Blynn’s, or with a wispy updo: you won’t want to cover up the art. Playful names abound: “Don’t Cross Me (Joan Crawford)” is a tangle-y mass of gold chain and silver hoops, with a giant ornate cross and crystal drops. “High Society (Grace Kelly)” has the same sort of complexity going on, but with more delicate elements of rows of teensy rhinestones and pearls.

The show, which runs through May 15, and the artists – each enjoying their first exhibition of their work – brought to my attention the blossoming fashion-arts scene in this city, which I was pretty unaware of before. Cheers to Rochester feeling a bit smaller, but even more connected and creative!

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