Sunday, May 22, 2011

Essay: Married Names

Women gain something and lose something when they change their names. When I married Gary in 1980, I was thrilled to exchange my original name for my new name. A new identity. I was no longer the prissy-sounding Susan Harriss, I was Susan Cox. Just like that.

It wasn't until several years later that I realized how many Susan Coxes there were. At my local library branch there were six of my name. I became a professional artist as Susan Cox. I was Susan Cox for a long time. Then I needed something more. It was Gary's suggestion (he is my muse, after all) to use my middle name to make my name more unique while I was building an artist site. Susan Linnet Cox. I became Susan Linnet Cox and now the simpler name seems far too plain. I don't even recognize it. I have written a book, and become an educator, as Susan Linnet Cox. That is who I am. Named after a European songbird that feeds on flax.

I was thinking about married names when wondering about women artists I have known - people who I would like to find again on Facebook. Polly Holt. She was a fantastic artist when I knew her in Florida in the 80s. But I know that she and Paul Holt split up and she moved to Baltimore. How can I find her? Who is she now?

There was a time in previous decades when it was easier to disappear. You could leave your old life and begin a new life. New town, new phone number, even a married name. You could vanish if you felt like it just by moving and not calling your old friends. It's different now.

A "professional name" for a woman is a good idea. It is a name that stays with you through your career. And now that people are "finding each other" in Web media it is a convenience. I decided to add "Harriss" (in parentheses) to my name on LinkedIn so that I am findable - to selected people from the past. But that is not who I am. I am Susan Linnet Cox.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Mannequin Project

Alexandra Domont, my student in Apparel Construction has been telling me about an art project she's participating in, The Mannequin Project. Her piece is featured at the San Diego International Airport and I love how she's incorporated text with the human body and garments in this piece.

She says, "What inspired me first throughout this mannequin process was my health and my heart, I had some health issues in the beginning and wanted to use them to my advantage creatively. I thought about myself and other women going through what I was going through, and wanted to express myself in a poetic way... 
"I love typography, and I've been writing poetry for many, many years and love to be able to put the two together. Fashion has always been a love of mine and finding a way for art to meet fashion was inspiring in itself. My main focus was creating art from the heart.

"The poems are all inspirational poems about loving yourself and being strong about who you are. To me this means finding strength in your own way, not in ways that other perceive you 'should' be strong; but being strong for you.

"My mannequin holds a heart behind her back with open hands, being open with caution, continually self reflecting."

Alexandra has her own line of clothing with text, Lyriclothing. See more at her Website,

From The Mannequin Project site: "The Mannequin Project consists of 14 established local artists. Each has created a work of art from an existing recycled mannequin form or produced one from scratch with their own unique approach, technique and mediums. The result is a varied and exciting interpretation of the humanoid form." Read more about The Mannequin Project, which is a part of the Art Meets Fashion annual events.

Art Meets Fashion is a collaborative event sponsored by San Diego Visual Artists Network and FOCUS (Fashion Opportunities Connect US) with pieces displayed throughout San Diego.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fabric-Free Fashion Photo Shoot

I recently attended - and since I was there, I styled - a fashion shoot in preparation for the Fabric-Free Fashion exhibition. Three garments were being photographed for the post card - later all the pieces in the show were documented in the studio. The first we shot was Osbaldo Ahumada's plastic forks fashion. Here are some behind-the-scenes images I took at the shoot. From makeup (by Jeanette Crutchfield) through the fun disco lighting courtesy of photographer Dave King of dk3 Studios.

The second was gorgeously crocheted of video tape by Shaun Muscolo. We played Frank Sinatra's songs to get in the mood.

And the third was my own Map Dress. Nice to see it on a person, especially a model like Ivy. When we pulled out the vintage suitcase the look was complete!

(But first I had a few final stitches to complete, right on the dressing room door!)

And this is the result, the show post card:

Fabric-Free Fashion, curated by Susan Lazear, is on view through July 24, 2011 at Visions Art Museum in San Diego. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Map Dress Progress and Photo Shoot

The dress is finished, photographed and delivered to the Gallery but I am quite behind on documenting its progress. So let me catch up...

I did take in the skirt, tapering away about 4" on each side at the bottom. It looks a bit more svelte while still pretty sweet. This worked out as I am no longer afraid to turn it inside it. In fact, the crumpling of the maps makes the garment softer.

The next thing that needed to be done was a casing at the bottom of the Bo-Peep sleeves. I added a strip of New York subway maps the create the casings and ran elastic through them, handstitching it at the ends. This took place at the very last minute (after all my earliness!) at the photo studio where it was among three garments being photographed. The dress was conveniently hanging on the Dressing Room door while the model and makeup artist were nearby finishing up.

Exhibition curator, Susan Lazear had arranged for a photo shoot of a few garments for the show's announcement. Lucky for me, I was free to attend - and style it! I haven't been doing much styling, just teaching, so it was a pleasure to be back in the studio. Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of my map dress being photographed. (I'll write a separate entry later about the whole shoot and keep you posted about the exhibition which opens May 6, 2011 at Visions Art Museum.)

More to come...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Art Installation/Gift Shop

The map dress is done and ready to be delivered to the museum. And the rest of its story will be posted. (I was disappointed to start this posting last weekend but went out in the middle of writing - a lesson to compose a post in Word and copy it to the blog! Did I learn? No, I am again typing this story here...)

But first I'm going to make a little side trip to San Franscisco where we saw a fascinating phenomonen at the Museum of Modern Art. On the fifth floor, in a large room near some sculpture there arose a gift shop. It didn't look quite real to me. I paused for a half second, wondering why this shop was here but (I'm proud to say) immediately recognized that this was an art piece, full of real shoppers who saw a gift shop and immediately started shopping.

It felt to me as though there was an invisible line keeping me out, much like the instinct that keeps you a distance away from a famous sculpture, or keeps your hands folded behind your back at an auto show.

I watched this shopping process and walked the perimeter. Meanwhile my husband approached a security guard to ask if it was an installation, and yes indeed, it was. He said it's been up a few months and will be down soon but that the participating artists are selling their own work (looked like notebooks, T-shirts, other small items from my vantage point) and have been making a bundle as MOMA is not charging a commission.

One area that gave it away to Gary and me was this storage area at one side. The screenprinted signs are way too simple: "Worst Business Venture Ever!," "Lost Our Lease," and so on. They were placed deliberately askew on the tabletop (I saw one viewer straighten one) and a little too neatly messy.
This was one of the most intriguing installations I've seen in a long time, going back to my Kent State art department days when this was what we did, messing with the viewer's mind, or at least trying to.