When visual artist Diana Marta came across a mannequin in the back room of a Baltimore gallery in 2012, she didn't know the seemingly innocuous discovery would lead to an exhibit opening this week at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, studying the societal role of "everywoman."
Marta is the curator of "Ordinary Woman," a show that has as its mission to use the "vintage mannequin named Evelyn Everywoman as the blank canvas of an ordinary woman, [as] the artists employed their respective media and individual styles to craft garments" for the mannequin, according to a news release from the Howard County Arts Council.
"I wondered what an ordinary women's wardrobe would look like through time," said Marta, an Oella resident who is also an art instructor at Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville. "I invited artists that I knew to build a garment for Evelyn Everywoman."
The exhibit will be on display Jan. 10 to Feb. 21. A reception for the artists is scheduled for Jan. 24, with a snow date of Jan. 31.
The exhibit will be a contrast to displays of elegant gowns worn by royalty, such as those of Queen Elizabeth that were on display this past year. Marta's own contribution will be a "lucky dress" made out of failed lottery tickets.
"There is no such thing as an 'ordinary woman.' That is the bottom line," said Marta, who has lived within a few miles of her Ellicott City studio for about 30 years.
She has a bachelor's degree with distinction in art education from Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Fine Arts in studio painting with honors from Towson University, and studied for a doctorate in art education at Penn State. One of her watercolors is in the Forbes Collection in New York, and some of her work has been featured on "Artworks" on Maryland Public Television.
Artist Mary Deacon Opasik, who has lived in Catonsville for about 35 years, went back to her childhood for her contribution to the exhibit. "I used a vintage adjusted dress form mannequin that my maternal grandmother used," said Opasik, who has known Marta for about 25 years.
Another of the artists who will contribute to the exhibit is Sarah Wegner, who teaches sculpture at Prince George's Community College in Largo.
Wegner, who has a degree from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, said she embraced Marta's concept for a show in which "different people took the idea of the female body, the female form, and interpret that into a dress that could be worn or could be pictured as being worn."
Wegner is working with fellow artist Adam Bradley, an instructor at George Mason University in Virginia, after they were invited to take part in the exhibit. Bradley is the only male participating. TWegner and Bradley's dress is made mostly of steel.
"Some of the steel is new and some is fabricated," Wegner said. "Others are pieces that we found. We talked a lot about what this dress means. My feeling is this dress is a cage but also protection. ... You can actually wear it if you want to, but it would take a long time to put on."
Other featured artists include Oletha DeVane, Kelly Martin Broderick, Nicole Buckingham, Deborah Ciccarelli, Lorraine Imwold, Tiffany Jones, Sharon Lee Minor, Ginger Peloquin, Suzanne Herbert-Forton, Susan Stockman and Jessica Marie Walton.
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"Ordinary Women" opens Jan. 10. at Tthe Howard County Center for the Arts gallery, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City. It is open from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more on the exhibit, go to evelynevery.wordpress.com or facebook.com/EVElynEverywoman.