Female confessions swathed in secrecy

Sarah James

Garments hide inner thoughts

Noel Palomo-Lovinski’s exhibit “Confessions and the Sense of Self,” currently at Kent State’s Higbee Gallery, includes garments with words swirling through the fabric. These words were from powerful passages found on women’s confessional blogs in to indic

Credit: DKS Editors

The words on the walls and fabric aren’t the kind usually found at a fashion museum exhibit:

“You would get laid a lot more if I weren’t so disgusted by picking up all of your dirty dishes, stinky socks and shoes all over the living room.”

“I know my fiancé sleeps around behind my back, but I really want to get married so I ignore it.”

Now, through January 2010, these words can be seen swirling through the fabric and lining the walls of the Higbee Gallery at the Kent State University Museum in Noel Palomo-Lovinski’s exhibit, “Confessions and the Sense of Self.”

Palomo-Lovinski cultivated powerful passages from women’s confessional blogs and developed garments based on the unified theme of confession. Palomo-Lovinski then plugged the phrases into Adobe Illustrator and experimented with the color, print and arrangement of the text.

Using the Mimaki Digital Fabric Printer in Rockwell Hall, Palomo-Lovinksi was able to print out large quantities of printed fabric to work with. A former colleague, Christine Titas, constructed the pieces based on Palomo-Lovinski’s sketches. In many cases, Palomo-Lovinski draped the garments herself.

Palomo-Lovinski became interested in the subject of confession six years ago while watching talk shows.

“I was fascinated by the idea that people would go on national television and share incredibly intimate pieces about themselves for essentially 15 minutes of fame,” she said.

One garment, titled “Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety,” features embroidery by Palomo-Lovinski.

“I didn’t want to use the embroidery machine; the whole point was the idea of anxiety and over-stimulated kind of obsessive behavior,” she said.

The exhibit explores the chasm between what a woman chooses to share with the world and what she chooses to confess anonymously. In many cases, the confessions are used to contradict the garment they create.

Kent State University

Museum’s hours of operation

Monday and Tuesday: closed.

Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Thursday: 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Sunday: noon to 4:45 p.m.

“The exhibit has garnered more thought-provoking letters and reflection on the heart of museum visitors than many of the exhibitions because it is quite a profound issue,” said museum director Jean Druesdow. “It is a complex concept that she (Palomo-Lovinski) is working with. It says a lot about contemporary life.”

Many of the pieces were constructed out of white chiffon, a fabric often associated with femininity. In many instances, the words are illegible. These garments were not constructed to be wearable and exist in a sculptural sense.

“The concept is about suppressing hidden feelings or ideas,” Palomo-Lovinski said. “I wanted to obscure the writing to suggest the expectations of what someone should talk about or feel or express. And that in fact it runs counter to what you’re actually thinking.

“Obscuring the writing would help to reinforce the idea of suppression.”

Often, the mannequins are shown without arms, bound and muzzled in some way.

“She (Palomo-Lovinski) is indicating the intensity of the emotion that we feel,” Druesdow said. “Something that inhibits them from fully expressing themselves.”

Palomo-Lovinski said she thinks confession has replaced religion in the lives of many modern women.

“Religion is no longer as important in our lives for many people,” she said. “People still need to be able to express themselves or talk about it.”

Cassie Pegg-Kirby, a member of the Women’s Resource Center advisory board, was surprised with how much she related to the exhibit.

“It was frighteningly accessible. You could look at it and say, ‘I’ve felt that before,’ or ‘I couldn’t imagine being in that place,” she said.

Although the exhibit seems to cater to women, Palomo-Lovinski said she believes men walk away with similar ideas on the nature of confession.

“This wasn’t really supposed to be a feminist piece.It is not supposed to be just about women,” she said. “There are plenty of men that have the same sort of problem. They can’t always necessarily say what they’d like to.”

While walking through the exhibit, Palomo-Lovinski wants viewers to be aware of how the work affects them.

“I essentially want them to think about how they express themselves,” Palomo-Lovinski said. “How open they feel, whether or not that is a good thing or a bad thing.”

Contact fashion reporter Sarah James at [email protected].