Flush With Fashion 

Local boutiques look to expand the definition'and the market'for fine art.

Moving fabric between their fingers, feeling seams and admiring shape, art enthusiasts get a tactile experience they’re probably not used to at Salt Lake City’s monthly gallery stroll. They admire the work in ways not involving a “Don’t Touch!” label or a price tag steeper than their income. They fall in love with a shirt with a print of a negative-space rose ripped from its roots or a tiny handmade finger puppet, hand the artist a 20 and walk out with artwork dropped in a plastic bag.

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Some art enthusiasts might not consider clothing and crafts as art, especially not in a local art community where more traditional'perhaps stuffier'galleries dominate. Enter Frosty Darling and Redemption Department, two new art boutiques on the Broadway (300 South) strip. They’re trying to start something the Salt Lake City art scene hasn’t seen yet'something Camilla Taylor calls a “boutique craft movement.nn

“It’s more accessible to people who don’t have a lot of money,” Taylor said. “A boutique is like the cheaper alternative that still lets you sample that person’s work.” The movement includes clothing as well; a T-shirt with an artist’s work printed on it is an increasingly viable alternative purchase to, let’s say, a painting from that artist.

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Frosty Darling is a kind of kitsch wonderland. Owned and designed by Gentry Blackburn, the floor is checkered with shades of sea-foam green and the walls accented with candy striping. It creates an arresting atmosphere for customers, enhanced by vintage candies in dime-store jars and handmade crafts and clothing made by various local talents. Blackburn also displays her own paintings in the space, the proverbial cherry atop what some consider to be an art instillation in and of itself'a walk-in diorama of Blackburn’s aesthetic.

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“I would like to think everything I sell in my store is artful,” Blackburn said. “You don’t need everything in the store, but it’s all artful and displayed in such a way that I’m giving every object a chance to shine.nn

“I love this art,” gallery stroller Kim Love said as she perused Blackburn’s displays. “I’d consider this store a display of art because it’s all handmade. Really, the whole space is art.” She seemed intent on purchasing one of Frosty Darling’s goodies because she said she usually can’t afford what’s in traditional galleries.

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Down the street is Frosty Darling’s fashion counterpart, the Redemption Department clothing revolt started by Jeff Martin. The store carries his own Redemption Department line of vintage finds altered with Gothic-inspired prints, as well as famed poster artist and printmaker Leia Bell’s first line of shirts. “I view the piece of clothing as a canvas,” Martin explained. “My work is a kind of vandalism, taking thrift store clothing and altering it with screen prints and tailoring. It’s a dramatic process to a piece of harmless clothing.”

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Most upstart designers have to follow trends closely to keep the retail side of business in the black, and pure fashion-as-art is just an ideal. Martin, however, is trying a different approach. “Of course I have some designs for mass appeal'my skull and crossbones aren’t so artistic,” he admitted. “But I want to satisfy people who are critical, who will look at their shirt as art. I’m looking for an artistic reaction; that’s why [my designs] can be intense at times. Then again, that’s my gamble.nn

Admittedly, some customers said the boutique felt more like a clothing store than an art space, but Redemption Department’s plan actually might inspire traditional gallery owners. Fed up with how his patrons are more often browsers than buyers, Kayo Gallery director Kenny Riches is establishing a boutique-style artists’ collective. He’ll ask local artists for designs, screen-print those designs onto various pieces of clothing, then sell them in Kayo. He said he’s been in “a whirlwind of remodeling,” but by July 13, the front of the gallery will be transformed into something close to a clothing store. The first featured artist is Camilla Taylor, a Salt Lake City native now living in Phoenix. Taylor is excited to see if her Salt Lake City sales, which are usually disappointingly low, will get a boost through the boutique craft movement.

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July 13 is also, not coincidentally, the date for the first ever Fashion Stroll, a local boutique event on Broadway devised by Riches and Matt Monson from the Model.Citizen clothing store. Highlights include local designer fashion shows and goods to see and buy, sidewalk-sale style'all in the spirit of creating a permanent place for fashion in the art community. Organizers hope to continue the event every season as a Salt Lake Fashion Week with training wheels.

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Blackburn is excited for the boutique future of Frosty Darling but doesn’t know how well it will be received. “Sometimes the gallery boutique thing can be a little tacky'trying to make a buck while you make art,” she admitted. “But I wouldn’t really be interested in just having a gallery. It would be boring.nn

FASHION STROLL
n300 South Between 200 East and 300 East
nFriday, July 13
n6-10 p.m.
n671-4304

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Chris Adamson

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