Since first opening in the summer of 2011, the Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space has transformed from a group of scrappy upstarts to something of an area institution – all without losing a combined sense of fun and exploration along with a self-evident belief in the intrinsic value of local, independently produced art. On Friday, Dec. 2, the group presented “FASHion Bash,” the 18th Pharmacy exhibition and easily its most ambitious yet.
As usual, diverse, thematically related work– this time all on the general subject of fashion – lined the walls, courtesy the group’s member artists. However, the focal point of Friday’s opening event included an elaborate runway show, complete with local celebrity hosts introducing a succession of models decked out in a variety of quirky creations strutting down the center of the gallery space, which had been temporarily transformed into a glamorous, chair-lined catwalk.
“Once a year, our member artists come together to discuss themes for the upcoming year,” said Pharmacy president Janet Sgro. “I’ve seen museums do fashion shows in a gallery-type setting before and I liked the idea of us having totally artsy-type clothing being shown on a runway. Why not?”
The fashion on the runway was designed by Wendy Allen, Delinda Chapman, Shelley LaMantia, Quaye Meadow, Rayna Kintz and Sgro and modeled by Margo, Charlotte, Ella, Cinzia, Katie and Tracey (along with Chapman, LaMantia, Allen and Kintz who flaunted their own work on the catwalk), with hair and makeup for the models provided by the Willow and Birch salon. The “wearable art” being modeled included one-of-a-kind, hand-painted pieces, a vintage dress which had been in the designer’s family for generations, modified tunics and functioning, reversible skirts, all presented in a whimsical but mostly deadpan visual tone, accompanied by appropriately effervescent but unobtrusive electronic music by Timothy Russell. Nearly everything was available for purchase and there was also a pop-up store on the Pharmacy premises with vintage and designer items on sale throughout the evening. Interestingly, the participating designers and models were all female.
The well-attended event seemed more crowded than past Pharmacy exhibits, perhaps a result of space limitations necessitated by allocations for the runway and seating. In addition, the spectacle of the show risked relegating the work hanging on the walls – generally the focus of attention – to background status. If so, this was unfortunate, as the fashion theme brought out the best in many of the member artists – from Williams’ Peter Max-like paintings of shoes to tastefully rendered nudes by William Crook to colorful portraits of ’60s icons such as Twiggy by Patricia Myers to Felicia Olin’s characteristically dark and gothic take on style – to name only a few examples.
Williams and Peebles hosted the show from a balcony on the building’s second floor and therefore had a bird’s-eye view of the proceedings, which also gave Williams a unique perspective on the show, in the most literal sense. “While I was up there, I had a chance to just look around the gallery and I realized that every artist made exceptional art for this show,” he said. “Putting aside the whole runway part, just the artwork that everyone produced was all great stuff.”
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The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space is located at 711 S. Fifth St. in Springfield. Regular gallery hours are 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays except on days coinciding with new art openings, on which the gallery is open 6 p.m. – 9 p.m..