To Judith Clark, a fashion curator trained in architecture, there is little difference between dressing a body and dressing a space.
Clark spoke to a group of 20 fashion, art history and architecture enthusiasts Thursday evening about her work creating exhibitions in Britain that showcase the space that clothing and mannequins can occupy. In a Loria Center seminar room, the group ate pizza and drank wine as Clark spelled out the methods to her art.
“It’s not about looking at a garment and deriving stories from it but using dress as a prop in a slightly less defined idea or narrative,” she said.
Clark’s latest exhibition finished a two-week stint in the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion Feb. 16. The exhibition told the Roman myth of the Judgment of Paris — one that she said has been endlessly represented — through mannequin representations of Juno, Minerva, and Venus, the three goddesses involved. In it, she attempts to capture the idea of dress without actually using any garments.
To create the display, Clark employed various lighting and design techniques.
“In creating exhibition, everything has equal value with the garments themselves,” she said.
The exhibition opened 10 years after the first exhibit Clark opened in a small gallery she operated in Notting Hill, England. It was in Notting Hill that she began her foray into exhibiting dress, attempting to use all aspects of fashion to tell a story — from the garments to the mannequin to their positions in the exhibition space, she said.
In her work, she said she tries to create movement without any moving parts by carefully arranging the mannequins.
“It’s the building that really grips me,” she said. “It’s creating patterns in a space that really tell a story.”
Clark, who is on the faculty at the London College of Fashion, said that living and working in London has allowed her to follow and develop the work that she has done over the past 10 years.
But she is not a Briton — a native Australian, Clark joked that her children’s British passports gave her the authority to conduct this seminar.
Students and New Haven residents alike said they were fascinated by Clark’s approach to fashion curation. One art history student, Sylvia Houghteling GRD ’14, said the talk was inspiring.
“It affected a sea change in how I think about curation of dresses,” she said.
Another student, Anna Arabindan-Kesson GRD ’13, agreed with Houghteling and said Clark’s talk fundamentally changed the way she viewed space.
But it was not just Yale art history students that appreciated Clark’s unique approach to exhibition. Estelle Davis, an 89-year-old New Haven resident, said she was “totally fascinated” by the talk.
“She thinks about things differently because she’s an architect,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not young though, it’s too tough! Now you have to know a lot!”
Clark is currently working on designing a museum dedicated to handbags in South Korea.