Monday, December 18, 2017


“I don’t think about it, I just go for it.”
--Ashley Dequilla Black

I shared a class with fellow William & Mary student Ashley Dequilla in 2007.  Under the tutelage of Professor Brian Kreydatus, we holed up together in the Matoaka Art Studio from winter until spring, our hands silver with lead as we toiled away at Life Drawing II.  That semester, the picturesque location on the lake was worth the windy walks from Old Campus, and three-hour studio sessions with live models, accompanied by George Harrison on a cassette player, lead to some of my best student work. Then I graduated.  I lost touch with Ashley, despite our camaraderie through critiques at Matoaka, though I remained wistful of those long afternoons and evenings on the lake. 

In the decade since our shared studio experience, Ashley and I both maintained our respective artistic practices.  Ashley’s art career has included several exhibitions and a significant portfolio of artwork dealing with themes of re-indigenization and exploration of her Filipino heritage.  My own artistic practice lead me to use clothing as my canvas, creating wearable art inspired by modern and contemporary art masterpieces; ultimately establishing my website and clothing line, Artfully Awear.

When we reconnected recently via social media, Ashley and I discovered an affinity to each other’s work, and bonded over the struggles and triumphs of developing and maintaining an art career.  I was intrigued by the issues she explores through her painting, and she was interested in the way that I use clothing to examine and understand the meaning of art.  In a Facebook message, she attached an image of one of her works, a large-scale painting entitled Psyche, and asked if I’d be interested in creating a garment inspired by the work. I immediately noticed something exciting in the piece – the gestural abstraction and color palette caught my eye, and I had so many questions about her process.  We agreed to collaborate, and I began the process of creating a dress inspired by her painting.

Understanding the artists’ processes and inspirations is the most important part of what I do through Artfully Awear. Making my own garment inspired by a work of art is the ultimate learning experience – to put myself into the mind of the artist and figure out how it was made gives me a very deep understanding of his or her challenges and how they were overcome.  In a long conversation with Ashley, we delved into the meaning behind her work, and I began to understand and appreciate it much more deeply.

Black is based just outside of Washington, DC, where she has been expanding her artistic practice over the past several years. Of her work, she says, “I think of painting as an alchemical practice—meditative—mixing ingredients and components which becomes a tangible spiritual practice and release.”  The convergence of many disparate elements is evident in her work, where the palette and subject matter run the gamut, referencing Mexican Renaissance painting, German Abstract Expressionism, and Neoclassical Baroque Renaissance painting. Her work is a hybrid of elements taken from all of her inspirations, with their own underlying themes: complex mythologies, the exploration of archetypes, religion, witchcraft, and the work of Carl Jung.  In the particular work I was studying, Psyche, Black explored the marriage of figurative work and abstraction—striving for inhibition through her process.  Of her vibrant color palette, she says, “Whimsy informs my palette choices.  I don’t think about it, I just go for it.”  You can truly feel this urgency in her work, as she explores themes related to gender and cultural heritage.

I created the dress inspired by Psyche from my own studio in Brooklyn, NY.  While I was working on it, I sent photos to her so she could see the process and provide input.  Her advice: “allow the final mark-making to be entirely random.”  Inhibition isn’t something that I explore as much in my work; fabric is less forgiving, and, similar to watercolor, each mark is permanent. But once I started to get into the rhythm of painting in Ashley’s style, I realized that it was absolutely necessary to release control in order to obtain the essence of her work.  That lesson was the most valuable part of this project for me, useful in life as in art – learning to let go and allow the work to grow, uninhibited.

When the dress was finished, I packed it up and traveled from New York City to Washington, DC, to solidify the reconnection between Ashley and myself and between our work.  Over black coffee, she and I talked through the process and connected over some of our similar struggles.  Then we took some photos of the two pieces together, and of us, recording this collaboration that began a decade ago at Lake Matoaka.  In many ways, it felt like a homecoming – the two of us, nearly a decade after our William & Mary art classes, collaborating once again.  Auspiciously, we’ve learned a few things along the way, such as the value of releasing your inhibitions and letting your creative spark guide you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Happy birthday, Claude Monet!

I teamed up with the Getty Museum and LACMA to highlight two fabulous works by Claude Monet in their respective collections.

Nympheas, ca. 1897-1898

Check out @gettymuseum and @lacma on Instagram to see the creation process in their Instagram Stories!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Happy Halloween!

My costume this year was inspired by Henri Matisse's Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), 1905, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  I've always been fascinated by this painting for its riotous colors, and it was actually one of the first artworks to be classified as "Fauvist".  

It is a portrait of Matisse's wife, Amélie, who was a hat-maker.  What a fun challenge to recreate the gorgeous topper depicted in this painting!  

I used hand-painted paper, which I cramped and attached to a painted hat.  I painted the blouse as well, and the backdrop.  My friend Kathy helped me with the makeup and took the photos.  It was so much fun to bring one of my favorite paintings to life!

Have you worn an art-inspired Halloween costume?  I'd love to see it!

Friday, August 4, 2017

I dreamed a world and called it love

Greetings from Aspen, Colorado!

I'm in town for Art Crush, a yearly benefit for the Aspen Art Museum that draws artists and collectors  alike to the mountain town.  I donated a custom Artfully Awear garment to their benefit collection, and all proceeds go toward funding the museum and its programs.  I can't wait to find out who ends up with one of my pieces!

The dress I'm wearing here is hand-painted using metallic paint on vegan leather, and the inspirational work is Jim Hodges' I dreamed a world and called it love #8 and #9.  I'd only seen photos of this artwork while making the dress, and it was so much more complex in real life.  It is made of glass on canvas, and each piece is cut and fit to the next piece.  It was a tough concept to recreate as something wearable!  Luckily my sparkly shoes capture the reflective nature of the glass.

Thanks to Amy Phelan for inviting me to Wine Crush, and to the Aspen Art Museum for hosting me for their benefit!

Photos by Emily Hoerdemann.

Monday, July 31, 2017

#AArtxFashion: Miljan Suknovic and Artfully Awear

Last week, I celebrated the launch of my first capsule collection of clothing in collaboration with artist Miljan Suknovic.  
Even as I type these words, it seems a bit surreal that Artfully Awear has taken the form of an actual clothing collection!  It's an understatement to say that I'm excited.

Miljan and I have been friends for about a year and a half, during which time I've visited his studio on numerous occasions and always gleaned inspiration.  When Dreams on Air asked him to do an installation of work in their SoHo store, we knew it was the perfect time and venue for us to do something amazing together.  I got to work making a collection of garments inspired by his work.

Ahead of the event, Miljan installed a number of his large-scale pieces throughout the boutique, and created an awesome window display featuring his paintings as well as one of my garments.  On the evening of the event, we hosted over 200 people for champagne and a viewing of the work, including a photo booth (with hand-painted wearables) and a live painting demonstration by yours truly.

We were surrounded by all of our friends and received such an overwhelmingly positive response to our work together.  All of my hand-painted garments sold out!  It was truly one of the best and most memorable nights of my life!

Photos by Peter Sealy Art & Photography and Dezfitmedia
Model: Luiza Farber

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


I met Robert Otto Epstein a few years ago, while he was working on his 8Bitterized paintings and drawings.  I was intrigued by the (as I thought) obvious connection to technology and of course the vibrant color palette, and I got to know him through a few conversations about his work and visits to group shows.  Most recently, I was struck by his portraits at VOLTA in NYC.  When I saw that his work would be included in a two-artist show at Hionas Gallery in Chinatown, I decided to reach out to him about a collaboration.

In chatting about his work, I found out that it references much more than technology.  In his words, "When I was first painting, I randomly came across a knitting pattern magazine on eBay.  So I started out painting sweaters, cardigans, jackets, and skirts.  Over time, I noticed that the knitting instructions take on a grid format.  Each square and each symbol represented a different color and that's how I got into the abstract form of painting and drawing." Basically, Robert was Artfully Awear all along!

When asked about his newest series of portraits, three of which are included in the Hionas Gallery show, he said he started out searching the internet for high-resolution images, and eventually landed on celebrities as subject matter, after exploring gallerists and athletes.  The painting that I chose as inspiration for my jacket is based on a portrait of Olivia Munn.  We both had a laugh when I told him how difficult it was to capture the expression in his painting - and he reminded me that each portrait naturally contains a likeness to its artist, so of course mine would have appeared different than his.

Instinctively, I asked him what's next, and he said he's very interested in pursuing wall-sized paintings.  It took many hours for me to hand-paint the skirt and jacket inspired by his work, so I immediately understood how intensive the process would be to paint a grid on a surface the size of a wall!   He also joked that perhaps a fashion line should be in the works.  I'd wear it!

Robert's work is on view at Hionas Gallery until May 26th.

Photos by Kathy Paciello.