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ManneqART builds a movement with wearable art and outrageous creativity

ManneqART builds a movement with wearable art and outrageous creativity
(Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Two hundred wire pot scrubbers, a metal bustier with strategically placed owl's eyes and a leafy showgirl-style headdress were all part of one outlandish entry.

In a competition where over-the-top can seem mundane, Grant Myers of Laurel looked right at home as he modeled the woodlands-themed ensemble wearing stiletto heels at last weekend's ManneqART Madness at Historic Savage Mill.

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Simulating a fantastical tree and titled "Back to My Roots," the eye-popping outfit was designed by Rhonda Green of Alaska for the fourth annual extravaganza, hosted by North Laurel designer Lee Andersen's nonprofit organization.

If you missed the event, don't worry. There's more zany fun to come, including an exhibit of the wearable art opening in September.

ManneqART — a wordplay on mannequin art and manic energy — was inspired by World of WearableArt, an international event that has been held in Andersen's native New Zealand for 25 years.

The sixth of eight related events spread over the year, the calendar shoot last Sunday permitted the public to observe as artists created extreme hair and makeup design on live models wearing sculptural artworks submitted in March.

All wearable art must be created, in part, with such nontraditional materials as wood, metal, paper and plastic.

The two-week exhibition of submissions will open Sept. 10 in 10 locations around the county, including the Mall in Columbia and the Robinson Nature Center. Winners of $10,000 in prize money, chosen by a panel of five judges, will be announced at a gala Oct. 30.

Myers, who said he first volunteered to model at the inaugural event after showing up to watch, was not the only amateur model to be plucked from the sidelines.

Emma Vanderlinde, a fresh-faced 12-year-old who lives in Columbia, was invited by contest handlers to wear a fairy tale-like painted and butterfly-covered gown called "Papillon Garden" by Elkridge artist Sherry Kirn.

"I've been to this event three times and I've been wanting to do this," Emma said.

Tendrils of Emma's hair were wrapped around a cumulus cloud headpiece. Looking like she could have stepped off the cover of Seventeen magazine, Emma said she hopes to become a model someday.

"I love this competition," said Kirn, a retired lab technician who last year made a dress called "Luck Be a Lady" with a working roulette wheel at the waist. "It's good for your mind. Creating takes you on a mini vacation from life."

Andersen, a partner with Joan Becker in the U.S. 1 firm of Andersen-Becker Inc., estimated that 5,000 photos were taken Sunday of artworks submitted by 50 people from 12 states. That will be winnowed to 200 for a 2017 calendar.

"This competition fires up people's brains," Andersen said. "We think 'creativity' is another word for problem-solving, and that's why participating is so beneficial to students' development."

Ally Wagner, who modeled Emma Bailey's "Curly Cards," would have won the award for best friend at the photo shoot — if there was one. The girls, both 16, are students in Greg English's art class at Reservoir High School.

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Bailey's first-ever entry was inspired by a partnership with ManneqART that brought Andersen to the Fulton high school last year for a workshop, English said.

Al Scolnik, ManneqART executive director and Andersen's husband, said the firm is pleased to finally have a partnership with a Howard County school after working closely with Anne Arundel County's Southern High School since the event's inception.

"Emma Bailey has done an interview and has been photographed with her creation today," he said. "How great is that?"

The rising junior made her entry from 13-plus decks of playing cards. She wrapped each card in the skirt around a pencil to make it curl, then glued the cards together in vertical rows.

Wagner wore a newspaper-stuffed skirt beneath the cards to establish a shapely contour. She also patiently stood still for hours on end as Bailey formed the corset directly on her body.'

Two other Reservoir students who are rising seniors are also participating in the competition, English said.

Amanda O'Shaughnessy designed a paper dress entirely from college recruitment and acceptance letters that also features her class rank and SAT score. Lyta Christian's creation involves a crash test dummy, airbags, hubcaps and a license-plate clutch purse.

Andersen said she wants to start a ManneqART museum and a fashion institute in Howard County. She said she is meeting with state Sen. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat, to discuss the future of ManneqART, which she hopes will include a home for the nonprofit at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods.

"We've been hanging around waiting for Merriweather to be developed, to be honest, because we want to stay and grow in Howard County," she said.

"Ever heard of a B-HAG? That's an industry term for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal," she said. "I have lots of those."

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