In 1999 Karen LaMonte journeyed to the Czech Republic under a Fulbright Fellowship to master the art of glass casting on a large scale. Pursuing a vision she was told couldn’t be realized, Karen introduced lost wax casting to the world of glass and developed the technique and tools necessary.
The result was an intricately draped glass dress, the warp and weft of fabric and stitching perfectly preserved. She was investigating the social construct of clothing, how it defines the body “so that it can be culturally seen and articulates it in a socially meaningful form.” Years of work resulted in a series of exquisite glass gowns. Standing, seated, and reclining, the ghostly transparency of these garments captures not only the fabric, but the form of the absent wearer. Draped in the baroque style, these dresses caress the thigh, suggest the breast, accent the waist and, above all, capture the moment. The Western woman, perfectly preserved, is both fragile and strong.
In 2006, Karen shifted her focus from West to East. She traveled to Japan to study the Kimono, a garment with a storied history. She expanded her pallet, adding vitreous clay, bronze and rusted iron, all the while continuing to capture the richness of detail. This is a codified garment, purposely draped over padding that obscures the human form. The cylindrical form focuses the gaze on the Kimono itself. It is a garment that tells all. The absent wearer is still there, evident in the drape and pose, also evident are the age and gender, status and attitude, even the season of the year. Inherent in cloth itself, in the way it is worn, in the style of the obi and the cut of the sleeves, these are cultural commandments, beautifully realized for all time.
Article by Katherine Dewey