Art Dresser

Magiamma with technical assistance from Michael Kaplan

Copyright ©1991 magiamma All rights reserved.

Art Dresser, a work of interactive digital furniture, is the console for six dresses created for the Addressing Images exhibition at the Downtown San Jose Art League Gallery. It is shown with DNA Dress by Kathryn Weinstein at Santa Cruz County Open Studios 1991.

The viewer can interact with Art Dresser and add her image to the piece.  Art Dresser mirrors the viewers’ faces as they are.  Their faces are quite different from the faces we see presented in the conventional mass media.  It’s not Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

The image of women is under constant pressure and exploitation by a $33-billion-a-year diet industry, a $20-billion cosmetics industry, a $300-million cosmetic surgery industry, and a $7-billion pornography industry.

Women spend a proportionally greater part of their annual salary to create the equivalent professional image of a male colleague.  Moreover, this professional image is very narrowly defined.  Generic, thin, young, often white, heavily made up, sculpted faces abound.  To succeed, a woman should not look like an individual.  A woman’s face should not have any character.  Her nose should be straight and not too large.  Her cheek bones should be high.

A woman cannot be fat.  A woman needs to be dangerously thin.  To date, at least 14 women have died from liposuction, the fastest growing of cosmetic surgeries.  Thinness is a disease that is deadly.  Each year, 150,000 American women die of anorexia.  That is at least 15,000 more deaths in the United States alone than the total number of deaths from AIDS tabulated by the World Health Organization in 177 countries and territories up to 1988.

And, a woman should never be old.  A woman should not have any wrinkles on her face.  No tell-tale lines that trace of the joys and trials of her life.  No. In fact, major magazines airbrush women’s faces to make them look younger.  This is like lightening the faces of all non-white people.  Does this not remove the future for women? It seems that when a woman has ripened with wisdom and understanding, she has no place in this society.

Art Dresser transmits the viewer’s face into the media.  The same media that is constantly selling us images of ourselves.  Art Dresser is an interactive piece that allows the viewer to take a picture of her face and then to transfer this image to television monitors positioned on the heads of the dresses, thus incorporating the viewer’s face into each of the dresses.

Art Dresser made its debut at a group show called Addressing Images at the San Jose Art League Downtown Gallery in August of 1991.  It worked in collaboration with dresses created by Jennifer Colby, Jone Moonigan, Nyla Rusnella,Willy Scholten, Marta Thoma and Kathryn Weinstein.  The exhibition was presented by the South Bay Area Chapter of the Woman’s Caucus for Art and included a number of interactive computer and video pieces.  Women’s Caucus for Art was founded in 1972 and presents yearly conferences, including lectures and panels by outstanding women art professionals.