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Opening Exhibition Lecture: Fashioning America
September 9, 2022 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Join us for an opening discussion celebrating our temporary exhibition Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour.
Featuring Fashion and Design Curator Michelle Tolini Finamore, PhD; bionic pop artist, entrepreneur, and creative director Viktoria Modesta; and artist Virgil Ortiz, you’ll get an expert look into the themes of the exhibition, how this unique collection of works came together, and learn how American fashion and its contributions reflect the American spirit of ingenuity on the national and world stages.
About the Speakers
Michelle Tolini Finamore is a Salem, Massachusetts-based curator and museum consultant who is passionate about the cultural intersection of design, fashion, and film. Michelle grew up in the Boston area and her interest in fashion was sparked at a young age; her mother owned a local dress boutique and her great aunt was a skilled embroiderer at Bianchi of Boston. Her love of art history gradually coalesced with her fashion interests and she received her Ph.D. from the Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design and Culture and her M.A. from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was the Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for eight years where she curated exhibitions including the groundbreaking Gender Bending Fashion, #techstyle, Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen and Think Pink.
Exhibitions at other institutions include Cocktail Culture at the Norton Museum of Art and research for Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While in New York City, she was also a fashion specialist at Sotheby’s where she helped organize themed sales of vintage fashion.
Michelle has written numerous books and articles for both the scholarly and popular press on topics as varied as fashion in silent film, menswear, contemporary fashion, sustainability, studio jewelry, and food history. Hollywood Before Glamour was the first book to explore fashion in American silent film. She has lectured at venues in Europe and America and has taught courses on fashion/design/film history at the Rhode Island School of Design, Northeastern University, Massachusetts College of Art, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Michelle has interviewed fashion luminaries such as Hamish Bowles, Fern Mallis, Isaac Mizrahi, Liz Goldwyn, Hussein Chalayan, Diane Pernet, and Rodarte on stage and has led exciting fashion trips to London, Italy, Spain, New York City, and Miami. Michelle has multiple generations of French-trained chefs in her family and has always loved to cook, and now has one of the largest fashion cookbook collections in the world.
Viktoria Modesta is a bionic pop artist, entrepreneur, and creative director. Currently living in Los Angeles, she has established herself as a Sci-Fi in real life artist and creative leader, connector, and innovator in the post-disability community, bridging pop culture and art with academia, medicine, and brands in hyper collaborative multimedia productions.
Viktoria first stepped onto the global stage with her perennially viral music/art video Prototype. Tallying hundreds of million of views across the internet and television, her arresting post-disability design and sound introduced Viktoria as the world’s first Bionic Pop Artist. She is most known for her hyper-stylized performances across the globe, such as the closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics, Super Bowl 2022, Miami Art Basel, or her sold-out residency at the iconic Crazy Horse Paris cabaret, constantly pushing art and inclusivity forward in entertainment.
Her work with brands spans from an ambassadorship to fully involved art direction, team curation, strategy, and production executed via a co-founded creative studio Modestar, specializing in the acceleration of future-focused narrative for heritage brands, adaptive design, and tech innovation sector while bringing a post disability perspective. Some of her key past clients include Rolls Royce, GM, Intel, Snap, Veuve Clicquot, Autodesk, and Pangaia.
An MIT Media Lab Fellow of six years and a member of the Young European Leaders program, Viktoria continuously explores the impact of technology and inclusive design on the future of human lifestyle and culture. Her life story has been recognized around the world as a testament of human strength and a transformative approach to modern identity: Barack Obama chose Viktoria to profile for his guest-edited WIRED magazine issue, and she has recently been selected as an ambassador and space trainee the first-ever inclusive space program ‘Mission Astro Access’.
She has become a household name amongst the digital renaissance of futurist artists—working across crypto art, digital fashion, and virtual identity. Her genesis drop of the legendary ‘Spike Dance’ was collected as the first NFT by 3FMusic, followed by a mix of Sci-fi IRL photography and 3D artworks with artists such as Ninosence, Pandagunda, Katie McIntyre, Auroboros, and DressX. Viktoria featured in two TIMEPieces NFT drops, debuting her avatar, and has recently released an experimental day-to-night changing NFT on Cardano, blurring the lines between digital fashion, body architecture, and fantasy identity.
Virgil Ortiz is one of the most avant-garde artists of his time. With a career spanning four decades, Ortiz’s artistry extends across various media and boundaries—challenging societal expectations and breaking taboos. His vision fuses his Pueblo culture with sci-fi, fantasy, and apocalyptic themes, yielding provocative and futuristic imagery. Ortiz’s works are exhibited in museum collections around the world: Stedelijk Museum- Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands; Paris’s Fondation Cartier pour I’art Contemporain; the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian; the Virginia Museum of Fine Art; the Denver Art Museum; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; and the Peabody Essex Museum.
The youngest of six children, Ortiz grew up in a creative environment where storytelling, collecting clay, gathering wild plants, and producing figurative pottery was part of everyday life. His grandmother Laurencita Herrera and his mother, Seferina Ortiz, were renowned Pueblo potters and an ongoing matrilineal heritage. “I didn’t even know this it was art was being created while I was growing up,” he remembers. Ortiz keeps Cochiti pottery traditions alive but transforms them into a contemporary vision that embraces his Pueblo history and culture and merges it with ominous themes, futurism, and storytelling.
Historic events like the 1680 Pueblo Revolt may not immediately spring to mind when you think of science fiction, but blending the two has occupied Ortiz for some time—think Star Wars. In May 2015, Denver Art Museum curated Ortiz’s solo exhibit. Set against Ortiz’s powerful graphic murals, the exhibition featured 31 clay figures and invited visitors to immerse themselves in a storyline that Ortiz has been working on for two decades. The storyline transports the viewer back more than three hundred years to the historical events of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. It then hurtles forward through time to the year 2180, introducing a cast of characters from Ortiz’s screenplay Revolt 1680/2180 and how they shape the fantastical world he’s creating with clay and multi-media art. In October 2018, Colorado Springs Fine Art Center opened Revolution—Rise Against the Invasion, a continuance of Ortiz’s epic story arc, Revolt 1680/2180—a mash-up of Puebloan history interpreted with sci-fi fantasy iconography. Its theme is one of justice, of reversing the oppression of the Puebloan world by the Spanish invasion. The events of the Pueblo Revolt are little known among most Americans today; however, it remains a pivotal era of New Mexico’s history.
Recently named the recipient of the 2022 Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s Living Treasure Award, Ortiz collaborated on a newly released book, Virgil Ortiz: ReVOlution, a mid-career monograph retrospective that presents a view into Ortiz’s transformative pottery and art to illuminate his creative and artistic expressions. Ortiz’s ingenuity as a contemporary artist, provocateur, activist, futurist, and preservationist extends to his creativity adapted from traditional Cochiti pottery designs from one art form to the next.
“It’s important to tell people about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. I want to give a voice to all the pottery destroyed at that time. I have made it my mission to retell this story in a way that speaks to the generations and, in turn, to educate the world.”
Ortiz’s mission continues to create global awareness that Pueblo communities are very much alive and have a level of vitality that speaks to generations of strength, persistence, brilliance, and thriving energy.
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