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A wearable art show challenges people to see fashion as art

A bright pink couch faces a mannequin dressed in a lavender and purple dress in the middle of an installation. One wall is purple while the other is pink. The space looks like a teenage girl's bedroom with knick knacks and make up sprawled around the space.
Grace Madigan
"Late Bloom" is a piece from Mary Ann Carter and Michael Welke inspired by their common experiences coming out later in life. In their installation, they felt like they could live out their 13-year-old fantasies they never got to because they grew up in conservative households.

Fashion is at the center of ARTS at King Street Station’s newest art exhibit in downtown Seattle. "Imminent Mode" is an annual exhibition that showcases wearable art. Jordan Christianson, Anouk Rawkson, and Adé A Cônnére started the project after struggling to find opportunities for themselves as artists.

Now in its sixth year, "Imminent Mode" paired up 15 different visual artists and fashion designers to explore the idea of “where we come from” in their installations. Each team had about 150 square feet to fill with their concepts. Christianson explained that "Imminent Mode" is an immersive experience.

“It's this functional thing, but you don't recognize it as art until it is put in front of you as art,” Christianson said.

With a background in garment and costume design, Christianson had always felt frustrated by the lack of places to showcase his work the way he sees it — as art.

The opening night reception at ARTS at King Street Station had over 600 people show up. For Christianson, it was a testament to the exhibition's mission of exposing people to this different way of looking at art. And it’s what drew artists like Mary Ann Carter to the project in the first place.

“Sometimes people separate what they view as fine art or craft by medium. But I think a lot of that is also based on the fact that women and people of color and queer folks have predominantly been the people that make craft,” Carter said.

“I think art is so much more expansive than what we've been fed in art history books for the last couple hundred years.”

Carter, the visual artist in the pairing, worked with Michael Welke for the show. Their 144-square-foot installation is entitled “Late Bloom” and pops with pastel colors. It's almost reminiscent of a Barbie dollhouse. Carter and Welke explained the inspiration came from their shared experience of coming out as queer later in life.

“I think by the end of it, like why it came together so well is we were honestly, like, letting ourselves to be, like, the 13-year-old girls we never let ourselves be…,” Carter said.

Each team's installation features one garment and two additional pieces that were showcased in a fashion show during the opening night reception. In “Late Bloom,” Welke explained that the garment on display represents his life before coming out and life after.

“It just kind of combines the two pieces of me that I've never actually like been comfortable expressing as one unit for a long time,” Welke said.

Other installations interpreted the theme differently. “Sui Generis” imagines another universe. It has an underwater theme with greens and coral-like shapes covering its corner of the exhibit.

Christianson worked with fellow co-curator Anouk Rawkson on a piece directly inspired by their own heritages. Entitled “Chiquitita de la Noche,” this golden dress combines the artists’ Swedish and Mexican cultures.

The exhibit will be on display at ARTS at King Street Station through early January.

Corrected: November 14, 2022 at 11:58 AM PST
Corrected ARTS at King Street Station gallery name.
Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.