Donald Munro

‘Trashique’ offers a brisk and elegant vibe

Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the artistic inspirations for the Fresno Art Museum’s “Trashique.”
Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the artistic inspirations for the Fresno Art Museum’s “Trashique.” Special to The Bee

Thoughts on last weekend’s “Trashique,” the latest installment of the swanky Fresno Art Museum art-meets-fashion-show fundraiser:

The setting: A large tent in the museum’s parking lot was transformed into a fashion runway. Local artists were assigned famous-artist inspirations (Yoko Ono, Henri Matisse, etc.) and asked to create wearable garments out of recycled materials.

The vibe: brisk and elegant (and a little cold), with lots of Fresno-area movers and shakers in the audience. The lighting design, by Jason Lawton, added a slick, produced feel to the show, with lights dancing across the roof of the tent.

Most striking designs: Nancy Youdelman’s “vertical half-suit” – literally, with model Kyle Hailey’s left side from top to bottom clothed and the other half mostly birthday-suit bare – was made from the artist’s canceled bank checks from the 1990s. Claudia Wahlberg used the taut curve of an old tent’s concave pole to make a sweeping gown that looked from afar like something you’d see at the court of Versailles. (Up close, not so much, but that’s what happens when you work with trash.) Cala Carter’s dresses, inspired by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, featured French bread wrappers and used Brie cheese boxes, making them feel like a sight you’d admire while indulging in a cheerful Parisian picnic.

Most memorable hat: Susan Easterling & Jonna Richardson’s Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design featured an entire residence on top of model Trudy Brisendine’s head.

Most fascinating “trash”: Samuel J. Tekunoff’s dress, inspired by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, used window screens and an abundance of old computer circuit boards for a sleek effect.

The styling: Hairstyle coordinator Eric Gomez and makeup coordinator Debra Pinedo Erven, assisted by more than two dozen helpers, helped make the evening shine.

Favorite overall collection: The four Tiffany-inspired garments (by Chris Hays & Steve Norton, Lynann Sterling Johnson, Nancy Melikian and Laura Solis) popped with peacock-proud color and design, but I give the edge to Leslie Batty’s four designs inspired by Georges Seurat. Her creamy pastel water-bottle tops affixed to the dresses, a statement on Seurat’s pointillism style, were gorgeous, and the dreamy cohesiveness of the garments was striking.

Critique No. 1: The “Trashique” concept seems to be moving over the years away from designers using actual “trash” to a broader interpretation of “used.” Some of the materials looked very gently used, indeed. If this trend continues, I think the overall premise could suffer and lose some of its appeal. Or perhaps the whole trash/recycled concept has a definite shelf-life.

Critique No. 2: The actual show was too low-key. Why waste a talent like Joel Abels, the designated master of ceremonies, who made an introduction and then kept quiet after that? Reality TV producers know that narrative is king. We needed to hear the stories of the artists, glimpse their personalities and be in awe of creative trash decisions. Plus, without introductions, it could be hard to keep track of which artist made what garment, another barrier for the audience.

Overall: Despite my quibbles, it was a memorable evening, one speaking to the vitality of the museum and the affection with which artists and patrons feel for it. The creativity was palpable. When art is fun, that’s a good thing.