Off-the-rack art

A little rubber goes a long way for Carly Champagne, a designer who makes safe sex fashionable by making dresses, purses, belts, corsets and other pieces of clothing out of condoms and other unconventional textiles.

“When I put them on eBay, everything sells,” said Champagne, a self-described “super senior” working to earn her degree in fine arts at USF. “I’ve had a $20 purse go for up to $100, which is nice.”

This week, Champagne’s idea of nearly half a year is coming to fruition. She is the curator of Static Fashion, an exhibit in the William and Nancy Oliver Gallery. The exhibit features the works of more than a dozen local artists who all incorporate some aspect of fashion into their work.

“It was not going to be that big of a show in the beginning,” she said. “Now everyone wants to be involved. Even non-students want to be involved.”

In the small area of the gallery, approximately 40 pieces by nearly a dozen artists combine art and fashion, each in a slightly varying manner. Hanging on the walls are paintings, photographs and T-shirts; suspended from the ceiling are baby dresses painted over; stretched across space are scarves. On Friday, a 20-foot catwalk will be home to a fashion show Champagne is directing. The exhibit is making the gallery anything but static.

Transformation seems to be the theme here. Buttons from bottle caps transform trash, Joey Brockway’s painting “Marilyn” transforms an icon, Jacquelyn Behel’s “McVermeer” transforms baby clothing.

Friday’s closing reception will include a fashion show with works from about 10 artists. So far only one show is scheduled, but Champagne said if the turnout is big enough a second show will follow.

Although she hasn’t seen everything that will be shown on the runway, Champagne is expecting to see printmaking on clothing. One of the artists designing for the runway is Orianna Kurrus, whose work was featured with Champagne’s in Wearable Art, this summer’s art/fashion show at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center.

“Her and I have become relatively large designers in the area,” Champagne said of Kurrus.

The Dunedin show earned the award for Best Fashion Show in the Tampa area in the Weekly Planet’s 2005 Best of the Bay list.

Champagne said she got the idea for Static Fashion last May, and she’s been preparing ever since.

“It’s artists who do work in their mediums but are inspired by fashion,” she said. “They have incorporated fashion into their artwork in some way.”

The exhibit was named Static Fashion, Champagne said, because “most art is not bendable or practical to wear.”

“When I named it I was thinking about my work. These things don’t move; they’re not bendable,” she said.

The show may be up already, but Champagne still gets questions whether it is open for submission.

“So many people are inspired and influenced by fashion, but because we don’t offer it — I don’t want to say they’re stifled, but this is a good opportunity for people to go with it,” she said.

Much of the inspiration also came from the choices Champagne has made in her life.

“Basically, I went to the wrong school. I should have gone to a fashion school, but I came to USF,” she said.

Of the 18 artists featured in Static Fashion, 13 are showing in the gallery and 10 on the runway, with some artists doing both. Only two artists are not USF students, Florence Watson (a fashion school graduate whose work will be shown on the runway) and Amanda Moore, a local high school senior who previously collaborated with Champagne as a model.

And as far as the separation between art and fashion, Champagne said the line is very thin.

“(Static Fashion) is art,” she said. “Well, fashion is art, just another form of it, but we haven’t offered it at USF.”

Static Fashion is being shown at the William and Nancy Oliver Gallery located in the Fine Arts Studio near the Fine Arts Hall. The hours of operation are not specific, but best times to view the exhibit are between noon and 3 p.m. until Friday. The exhibit ends Friday, after the closing reception at 6 p.m. and runway show at 8 p.m. A show at 10 p.m. is possible.