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Celebrating Sixties Fashion

What unspoken messages do First Ladies send with fashion? And how did the unforgettable Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy break the mold to present her husband’s candidacy and presidency as progressive and modern?

On September 13, 2012 the IMA’s Fashion Arts Society hosted design historian Sandy McLendon, former contributor and senior editor at Modernism Magazine, for a lecture on the influential “Jackie Look.” McLendon took attendees through a visual tour of Jackie’s strategic choices: hiring Hollywood costume designer Oleg Cassini; embracing the slim sheath dress and fuss-free pillbox hat; and selecting—down to the detail—trim, elegant gowns suitable for superpower diplomacy.

FAS members turned out in their fabulous finery for the event, wearing hats, gloves and fur to celebrate mod sixties fashion.

Even if you couldn’t make it to the event, you can still watch it on ArtBabble or YouTube. I won’t judge you if you break out your pillbox hat for viewing, either.

Filed under: New Media, Public Programs, Textile & Fashion, The Toby, Uncategorized


“In Space No One Can Hear You Scream.”

Our guest blogger today is Christopher Lloyd, co-founder of

Sometimes great movies can spring forth from a well of tainted motives.

Alien is a watershed, a lodestone, often called one of the most influential (and copied) films of the last half-century. What it is not, though, is the act of pure cinematic creation that most people consider it to be.

Director Ridley Scott, making just his second feature film, planned to do a period costume drama, perhaps an adaptation of Tristan and Isolde. Then he saw Star Wars and realized that space adventures would be the new big thing. He quickly jumped aboard pop culture’s sci-fi bandwagon.

The other movie genre that was going gangbusters in 1979 was horror films, particularly the slasher variety in which young, comely females are stalked by a seemingly unkillable killer whose gruesome, thrusting slayings have a not-terribly-subtle undertone of sexual penetration.

Scott and screenwriter Dan O’Bannon simply took the two hottest things going in Hollywood and melded them together. (O’Bannon would go on to underscore his horror movie bona fides by penning the zombie flicks Dead & Buried, The Return of the Living Dead and Lifeforce over the next six years.)

As if to leave no doubt, the tagline for the movie’s poster (above) seemed tailor-made to appeal to Star Wars fans who were old enough to buy tickets to an R-rated horror flick.

None of this, however, detracts from the boldness and artistry of what was created.

If Alien is just a slasher film in space, then it’s one executed with flawless craftsmanship. In Scott’s hands, the commercial space barge Nostromo becomes a vast, haunted landscape filled with inky pools of shadow and dilapidated equipment. Despite a lack of character development, each of the actors managed to create a distinct, memorable presence.

Sigourney Weaver, practically a movie novice, calmly embodied the role of the level-headed warrant officer Ripley (we didn’t even learn her first name until the 1986 sequel). Ripley was also one of the first action-movie female leads … though she’s something of a stealth protagonist. Up until the point where Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) perishes at the talons of the alien, most audiences members assumed he was the main guy.

And how can we fail to mention the unforgettable alien — or should we say, trio of aliens: the insectoid “facehugger,” the phallic “chestburster” and the full-grown creature, which (to quote myself) “is so black and spider-like, it seems less like an organism than null space brought to life.”

Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, who created the alien designs, is as much responsible for the success of the Alien franchise as anyone. Though it must be pointed out that the series became more and more mercenary — finally pairing up with the Predator flicks for a profit-pursuing crossover.

And of course, this summer has brought us Prometheus, Scott’s breathlessly awaited prequel to Alien, which has left audiences as baffled as the original left them terrified. (My own take: narratively, Prometheus is a mess, but still a worthy cinematic experience.)

Whatever the highs and lows of its offspring, Alien was truly the mother of invention — or, at least, inspired amalgamation.

Come see Alien at this evening’s screening of Summer Nights.

Filed under: Uncategorized


Back in the Saddle Again: Project IMA

Project IMA: Fashion Unbound, 2010. Winner: Jeremy B. Hunt.

The first IMA organized fashion show, Project IMA, debuted in 2008 on an idea and a shoestring. The idea was simple: engage our community through fashion in order to promote the traveling exhibition, Breaking the Mode: Contemporary Fashion from the Permanent Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It seemed therefore fitting to draw from the community for participants. Having only moved to Indianapolis six months prior, I scoured the web and attended multiple fashion events to quickly discover, much to my delight, a strong assembly of designers, wearable artists and stylists within the city. As a result, we asked 16 designers to participate in the fashion show. They had four months to visit the exhibition, study the accompanying catalogue and devise a plan for one to two ensembles that “featured outrageous, beautiful, irreverent and glamorous designs.”

Not only were the pieces created interesting, varied, and thought-provoking, but the public’s response was overwhelming. So many people attended the show we had to schedule an impromptu second show for all those who couldn’t make it in the first round. There are even rumors that the amount of traffic flowing into the parking lot actually (temporarily) shut down 38th Street. Not bad, eh?

Project IMA: Fashion Unbound, 2010. Designs by Francis Stallings

So, in 2010, we decided to try it again. Only this time, we used our own exhibition, Body Unbound: Contemporary Couture from the IMA’s Permanent Collection, as the stimulus and opened the call for entries internationally. The response was exuberant.  We had over 50 people submit proposals for inclusion. Of those 50, we selected 40 participants who met the guidelines and, just like that, Project IMA: Fashion Unbound was in full swing.  Two back-to-back shows (having learned from experience) took place in The Toby to enthusiastic crowds. The concepts employed and the quality designs, almost 80 in total, were impressive. There were pieces made from paper, plastic bags and rubber bands while others, confronted, amused and referenced history. After much deliberation, the judges selected a piece by Jeremy B. Hunt as the best of show and awarded him the Elizabeth Kraft-Meek fashion design award. Afterwards, guests, designers, models and crew attended the official Behind the Seams after party, hosted by the newly formed affiliate group, FAS. Here audience members viewed garments up close, lined up for photos by Got Shot, and listened to the music of local pop sweethearts, Beta Male.  All in all, the event was a success.

So, here we go, again…

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Filed under: Public Programs, Textile & Fashion, The Toby, Uncategorized


Music for Snapshot

Our guest blogger today is concert pianist Sylvia Maiuri.

I’ve been playing the piano at the IMA for over 30 years in several different capacities. I recently came across some old programs from several chamber music concerts in the 1980s and a solo recital I played there in 1982. Through the years, I’ve played for several openings, including an exhibition of work by Félix Vallotton (an artist currently featured in the exhibition Snapshot), and in the galleries. For 20 years I was the pianist for the Cameo Trio, which gave many concerts at the IMA and became Piano Trio in Residence there a few years before it was disbanded in 2003. In addition, I played the harpsichord for “Christmas at Lilly” for six years.

When Ellen Lee invited me to play for the exhibition Snapshot, she mentioned the name Misia Natanson. This was a great clue for me to follow when selecting music to play for this exhibition. While Misia – a pianist who hosted an artistic salon in Paris – was a muse to visual artists (she’s featured throughout the exhibition in works by Édouard Vuillard, among others), she served as inspiration for composers, as well. Misia’s piano teacher, Gabriel Fauré, introduced her to Maurice Ravel, who was a student of his at the time. Ravel later dedicated a composition, Le Cygne, to Misia and his work Sonatine is dedicated to Misia’s brother and his wife. Also present was Claude Debussy, whose works Misia loved. Ravel and Debussy were friends of Erik Satie, who later dedicated his ballet, Parade, to Misia. I selected music by these composers to play at the opening event and in the galleries, and it was a treat for me to add to the ambience of this wonderful exhibition.  If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating woman, a good resource is the publication Misia by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale.

For more information on performances inspired by Snapshot, visit the IMA’s events page.

Filed under: Exhibitions, Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized


A Peek at Perennial Premiere Plants

It’s finally here!  Perennial Premiere is this weekend, and I can hardly wait.  In the four years since I started working at the IMA, the perennial plant sale has grown into an event for the whole family, and it’s something I always look forward to.  Every year on this Saturday morning as I’m walking out the door for a day of work inundated with exciting plants my husband always reminds me exactly how much is remaining in my plant budget.  Well, I suppose the next best thing to buying plants for your own garden is sharing your knowledge and excitement with someone else who can grow it in theirs!  There will be many tempting plants this weekend, but I get to share just a few with you that I think are worth getting really excited about.

Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) is a great option for getting a little bit of chartreuse into the landscape without going overboard.  It is a grass-like perennial, similar to a Siberian iris, which prefers a bit of moisture, even having the ability to grow in boggy conditions. If you site this in sun to part shade and in consistently moist soil, it will be a fairly low-maintenance perennial that will spread slowly.  The flowers are pretty insignificant, so grow this one for the lovely, tufted, gold-variegated foliage that will reach about a foot tall and provide a fine-textured accent for bold-leafed perennials.  It could also be quite effective as a groundcover for a smaller area, such as next to a water feature, or used as an accent in a container.  In any garden, Acorus ‘Ogon’ is a very graceful, versatile plant.

Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ (in front)

There are many bugelweeds to choose from; all have that great blue flower in the spring and are effective and quick-growing groundcovers.  The one that I’ve been the most impressed with for looking great even after it has finished blooming is Ajuga ’Chocolate Chip,’ and I’m going to be sure to nab a few of these for my own home garden this year!  ‘Chocolate Chip’ is shorter than other bugleweeds at only 2” tall (3-4” with the flower spike), with lovely bronze to deep green foliage that retains its healthy vigor throughout the growing season.  Some of the other Ajugas have flowers that tend to look a bit weedy after blooming, but it has been my observation that ‘Chocolate Chip’ maintains its neat appearance throughout the growing season.  Site this little guy in a sunny or fairly shaded location between stepping stones or as a border edge; it won’t let you down!

Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’, photo courtesy of Classy Groundcovers

Dwarf goat’s beard, Aruncus aethusifolius, is another lovely, compact perennial only reaching about 12” tall.  It has an overall appearance similar to that of Astilbe, but its ferny foliage will not shrivel up and turn crispy brown in the drier spells of summer, allowing the opportunity for a nice yellow-orange leaf color to develop in the fall.  It has white flower plumes in early to mid-summer, and would be a great, underused alternative in shady conditions for those who are looking for a good companion with Hosta, Epimedium or Brunnera.

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Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, Uncategorized


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