Reimagined Kaleidoscopes: The Art and Fashion of Michelle Gagliano and Kari Bare

Michelle Gagliano and Kari Bare have collaborated on bringing Gagliano's art to the fashion world--Bare transforms the art onto fabric and makes clothes from them. At 3:00 pm, on May 15th, at Victory Hall in Scottsville, Virginia, they will present a fashion show called Reimagined Kaleidoscopes, highlighting these new collaborations.

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Fabric collaborations by Michelle Gagliano and Kari Bare Couture

How did the idea of converting Michelle's art to fabric reveal itself?

Kari: Michelle came to me with a Wall Street Journal article that mentioned art on fabric and said "I've always wanted to do this with my work!" I don't think she expected me to say, "Ok, let's do it!" We immediately started playing with designs and planning our collaboration.

Michelle: I have been approached in the past by collectors about doing this, but the timing was never right. I think seeing articles in the WSJ made me realize that it is perfectly respectable for an artist to showcase their work across mediums.

Besides art on t-shirts, is turning art into clothing a common practice?

Kari: I've seen it on shoes and accessories frequently, but in a much different style. Michelle and I really focus on the pieces being handmade and showcasing the fabric and fit, while larger scale companies seem to slap the art on a pre-made piece of clothing and move along. It is important to us that the painting and the clothing design fit together seamlessly.

Michelle: What I appreciate about Kari's designs is how she fits the clothes to the designs. She is able to work from all the intricacies of the painting and she transposes it beautifully into fabric. This customization is gaining in popularity.

How would you compare what you do to other creative processes...like cooking? I'm a big fan of David Chang--he likes to push the boundaries of fine dining--and it seems to me like you like to push the boundaries of fashion and art. Please comment...

Kari: I think cooking is a great analogy for my work because I use technical details and measurement constantly while trusting my intuition to tweak designs. Sizing and pattern construction are very important but I use them as I would a recipe- a mere guideline for what I am creating.

Michelle: I am relentless in experimenting in the studio, with many mistakes to prove it. It helps move past facing a blank canvas day after day. I really enjoy the collaborative process in the studio, working with another creative helps to push those boundaries as well. (Dante- Ron Smith! That was awesome!)

Who inspires you--in the art world, in the fashion world, in general?

Kari: I look to designers who broke ground in some way, especially for women. Elsa Schiaparelli created the first women's structured jacket or "blazer" at a time when women's rights were nonexistent. Creating custom suits for women allowed us to be taken more seriously as business professionals and has truly changed the world's view of women.

Michelle: I am continually inspired by El Anatsui's tapestry-like transformation of found objects and trash into beauty, and such a calm elegance to the work, mesmerizing. My children constantly inspire me. They are creatives as well, and we constantly bounce ideas off each other.

Are you familiar with Billy Reid? I think he would dig what you do and find some interesting connection.

Kari: I am not familiar but can't wait to do some research. I am always looking for new designers of influence.

Michelle: I just know his designs, they really convey that he is true to self, has a strong aesthetic, has great clarity and vision. Of course, I would love to have a conversation with him!

Are there people in the fashion and art worlds who are noticing what you are doing?

Both: We have received very positive feedback with minimal advertising. Both of us have received additional sales because of this collaboration and are looking forward to our next projects!

When you are not creating art and fashion, what do you like to do?

Kari: I play softball two times a week which really helps me get the personal interactions that I miss when I am behind a sewing machine all day. I also love being around children, which has led me to teach sewing lessons.

Michelle: I like to be inspired by taking long walks, it helps me filter the day. I have a vineyard, and I enjoy learning about all that is involved in the process of turning grapes into wine. Plus, I love the peace of museums, the chaos of live music, and the visual immersion of movies.

How does your life translate into your art? And how does your art translate into your life?

Kari: My art is a representation of what I strive for my life to be: simple, high quality, and empowering.

Michelle: My life has always circled around art, painting, drawing, sculpting, and it is simply how I make a living, so it literally does sustain me. I was in an artist residency a few years ago, and I met this elegant and amazing painter, poet, and musician, who lost all her family in the Second World War, was raised in an orphanage, had seen and experienced so many devastating things in her life, yet lived this positive creative life. She simply said, "Life is Poetry. Life is Art. Just look for it." Wow, that stuck with me.

How do you transfer the art to the fabric? Let's get technical for a minute...

Both: It begins with collaborating to decide what style and colors are inspiring to us. After Michelle completes a painting, we take high resolution photographs of the work. Kari then tiles, mirrors, and stretches the image to translate it into a design that is sent to a fabric manufacturing company.

What can people expect from the fashion show on May 15th?

Both: The show will resemble a pop-up art gallery. We wanted to showcase each of our work individually while still presenting our collaboration. The set up is not like a typical "fashion show" at all and we think that guests will really be excited by the unique presentation.

If you had only one sentence to tell a budding artist...like "The most important thing to remember about being an artist is..." or "Create art because..." or "If you want to be an artist, you have to..." what would you say?

Kari: If you want to be an artist, you have to take calculated risks. I think most artists will agree that this path is not easy but every challenge is worth it to express yourself. Also, if you want to be an artist, you have to market and sell your product. Take some business classes, it is the single most overlooked part of a successful arts career.

Michelle: I think it is important to define what being a successful artist means to you, and to follow that path.

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Dress by Kari Bare Couture, featuring art by Michelle Gagliano