Danielle Festa’s ‘Who Are You Wearing? An Outdoor Exhibition of Street Fashion Paintings’
By Erica Scharn
Union Square’s own temporary red carpet made a comeback Saturday with Somerville artist Danielle Festa’s “Who Are You Wearing?” exhibition. A rolled-up Red Sox t-shirt protruded from one painting. A cowboy hat jutted out from another.
Festa, a recipient of the 2013 Somerville Arts Council Fellowship Grant, rolled out a red carpet in Union Square last May and asked passersby to pose for photographs. She created mixed media oil paintings based on the photographs, incorporating fabrics similar to the subjects’ outfits to draw attention to the influence of attire. The October 12 event invited the public to walk down the red carpet and view the artwork, which included paintings from Festa’s continuing series exploring fashion and identity. Cantina La Mexicana and Sweet Ginger donated hor d’oeuvres for the exhibition.
“I got a few weird looks, but mostly there were people that were like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll come over,’ and a lot of people had fun with it. At the end of the day, I had between 20 and 30 shots to work from,” said Festa, describing the interactive photo shoot in May. “What I loved was there was a great sampling of the people that you see every day in Somerville. I tried to pick, out of the ones that I did, a good representation of that.”
Somerville resident Carole Koudsi stood in front of the large painting of herself that was hanging from a display resembling a clothing rack. She recalled that after Festa had explained the project to her, “I thought that was an innovative idea.”
In addition to utilizing different fabrics in the paintings to highlight what the choices say about the wearers, Festa captured the red carpet subjects’ own feelings about their outfits by surveying them at the photo shoot. The titles of the red carpet paintings, which included “Just a Bit Hipster,” “Retro,” “Frumpy and Free,” and Koudsi’s “Go B’s Yo,” came from the responses.
One of Festa’s fellow artists at the Washington Street Art Center in Somerville served as the subject in “Colorful, Comfortable,” wearing a yellow and black elephant-patterned dress. “I love the yellow and black one…that’s adorable,” Koudsi said. Stopping in front of “Black Ant Optional,” a painting with columns of pink ruffles framing a man mid-sip, wearing a vest adorned in ants, Koudsi said, “This one is a blast!”
The exhibit drew casual onlookers as well. Chris Stacey and Phil Lefebvre, visiting from Atkinson, New Hampshire, stopped on their way to meet a friend at a Union Square restaurant. “I like the three-dimensional part of it. It’s very nice, very interesting,” said Chris. “And it did look very real, like the people.”
Festa continues to be inspired by her long-standing interest in apparel, perceptions and trends. “There are so many parts – so many moving parts – because fashion is changing all the time, what’s acceptable is changing all the time, what’s expected. I feel like I’ll forever be on this theme…there’s always more,” she said.
More information about Danielle Festa and her artwork can be found at http://www.daniellefesta.com/.