Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Third Thursday Preview: An interview with fashion designer Emma Berg

By Juleana Enright

On the November 18th, Third Thursdays will unveil the products of a design challenge poised to pair four local fashion designers with works from Minneapolis Institute of Art's extensive trove. Inspired by the pieces' artistic aesthetic and cultural elements, the designers have created looks that bring their visionary juxtaposition with art and fashion to life via a stylishly eccentric gala runway show. Prior to the event, l'étoile will be featuring a short Q&A section where readers not only get an insider's perspective on the designers' specific art choices but also catch a sneak preview of their wearable works of art collection.

This week, we caught up with founder, local curator and fashion designer, Emma Berg to talk movement, methods of inspiration and – of course – surrealism...


Songye, African Sculpture from the 20th Century

l'étoile: In recent collections, your fashion aesthetic has incorporated architectural elements as well as a whimsical tone, yet this piece seems to evoke a primal tribalism. What drew you to it?

Berg: The works of art that I selected are all interconnected by the impact that movements have on the movement that follow as well as the inspiration that select works have on individual artists. In 1907 Pablo Picasso saw an exhibit of African artifacts at the Palais de Trocadero. It is argued that this experience influenced his completion of the work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, seen by most as the first work of cubism.

In my translation of the Nkisi, I was eager to explore the modern idea of adornments, the use of raw materials and the bottom heavy silhouette.


Salvador Dali, Portrait of Juan de Pareja, the Assistant to Velazquez, 1960

l'étoile: The muted colors in this piece differ quite dramatically from your designs which often embrace vibrant color. Was it the surrealist aspect that motivated this choice, or was a chance to change your palate?

Berg: I saw this piece on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta while viewing the Dali exhibit; it was on loan from the MIA. Seeing the exhibit reminded me of my interest in the (surrealist) movement while I was in college, during which time I visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. To me, Surrealism provides a freedom of thought that juxtaposes imagery in a way that may have never visually or verbally been combined, creating a new thought that is not defined by a prescribed process. This gift in an artist is inspiring to me.

The Salvador Dali piece pulls inspiration for the previously created garments (Nkisi and Picasso) and works to represent the structure and exterior in one – as in the painting – as well as a placement and combination of deconstructed elements that create a new ensemble of a whole.


Pablo Picasso, Woman in an Armchair, 1927

l'étoile: As a curator, when does a work of art go from being a piece that you appreciate or decide to exhibit to a work of art that inspires your own creativity, as in the Picasso painting?

Berg: For me, art and often times the mind and personality of an artist are enviously inspiring. Each work of art that I see and take the time to digest will somehow impact how I come to a conclusion on something else in my life. I truly believe that each I idea I have, each dress I execute, exhibition I curate, the limitations that I might place how I execute a task are all absorbed and influenced through what I experience.

In choosing the Woman in an Armchair piece, I wanted to select a painting/movement that influenced Surrealism in order to show lineage between all of my inspiration pieces.

With the Pablo Picasso piece I was inspired by the flatness which removed dimension, the distorted profiles that are to represent multiple views and the combination of all elements into one whole. My final garment will represent the “armchair,” the “woman” and the room all with equal importance by layering transparent representations of the three into one garment.

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