Fashion With Super Powers
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
February 14, 2013
Award-winning artist Ellen Durkan poses in the Goodyear Studio, where her work will be shown through Feb. 23.
There's something unsettling about Ellen Durkan's otherworldly sculptures. That is why they are so powerful.
A recipient of a 2011 Delaware Individual Artist Fellowship in Sculpture and the Baltimore Museum of Art's2012 Baker Artist Award, Durkan unveiled her collection during a Feb. 12 opening at the Goodyear Gallery. The show, Accessories for an Iron Maiden, is an amalgamation of psychological, aesthetic and physical contradictions, forged in steel.
Durkan is a master of blacksmithing, an ancient art that finds futuristic expression in her hands. Using hand-cut steel pieces and traditional forging techniques, she creates intricately detailed garments out of metals. Her exhibition also includes larger-than-life, Burtonesque fashion sketches and steel accessories, such as a bracelet that encases the model's entire hand—rendering the hand useless—and platform shoes that raise the wearer by one or two feet, but also make it impossible to walk.
The implications are intriguing: These garments contain and bolster a human frame, but they do not protect it, and their strong steel frames evoke images of both empowerment and enslavement. Tracing the soft lines of the female form, they appear to be delicate and flowing, but they are immobile. They are futuristic but also Medieval-like, functional yet fantastic, delicate yet strong, distancing and also revealing.
Durkan says she'd like to organize a "heavy-metal runway show" that will truly highlight the pleasures and perils of the iron-maiden life, but since the models would be unable to move on their own, that would be a huge undertaking. In the meantime, she does enjoy donning the garments herself.
"I think they are fun and powerful," she explains. "When I wear them, I feel like I have super powers."
Jan. 29-Feb. 23
Accessories for an Iron Maiden
Goodyear Gallery (Cedar St. entrance)
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Friday, 3-5 p.m.; Saturday, 2-5 p.m.