When an artist's clothes are just another canvas


Martha Macks' wardrobe runs the gamut from paint-splattered sweats to designer labels. As an artist and mother of two, she needs clothes that let her race from her studio to her son's cello practice to her Stevenson home.

But when she goes out for the evening, Ms. Macks -- who is co-chair of Maryland Art Place's benefit on Saturday -- likes to dress up.

Being an artist, she says, gives her an edge in selecting clothes.

"I've made a lot of mistakes in life," Ms. Macks, 39, says with a laugh. "Fashion is not one of them."

When it comes to dressing, what matters most?

No. 1, that I'm dressed appropriately. No. 2. that I feel good in what I'm wearing.

Most of the time, I live in sweats. My life is dog walking in the morning, then in the studio by 9. I also have two active boys (Tyler, 8, and Jason, 11). None of this requires couture clothing. But when I'm out, I like to be dressed.

Dressed how?

My style has a lot to do with good design. I have a collection of Moschino jackets. They're great designs in a variety of patterns and colors. I have one that's a takeoff of a Roy Lichtenstein painting. Another is a target. They all have a sense of humor. I do travel to New York one week a month. For that, I wear something simpler, like an Armani suit that I put with a T-shirt during the day and a lace top for evening.

What wouldn't you leave home without?

My Converse Chucks. They're my trademark. They remind me of childhood. I go through a pair every 3 1/2 months. They've become sort of fashionable, unfortunately.

How did you learn to dress the way you do?

I was born with a good eye. I guess it's genetic. Even as a child, I liked putting together my own ensembles. Even then, no one could tell me what I was going to wear.

What effect has your art had on your style?

It's an extension of the way I see color, design, form and proportion. All that influences what I choose to wear.

Do you think people have different expectations about your attire because of your profession? People do look at what I'm wearing. They check out what I have on. And friends will ask opinions of me.

Where do you shop?

I'll buy an occasional pair of shoes in New York. But Ruth Shaw is my favorite store. I don't have a lot of time to shop. I'd rather be in the studio. I also like Saks Fifth Avenue at Owings Mills.

What do you put on when you're in a funk?

If I'm really in a terrible funk, you'd probably find me in my old sweater with dogs on it, looking at the Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Maryland Art Place benefits are known for drawing some wild dressers. What are you wearing?

Something sensual. For evening dress, that's what I like. I'll probably wear a white brocade vest and a long black skirt with a slit by Richard Tyler.

What about accessories?

I never wear scarves or craft jewelry. My shoes and jackets are accessories unto themselves. I don't have time to keep track of accessories. But I do have a room of shoes.

A whole room?

It's definitely bigger than a closet. Red ones are in one aisle, flats are in another. There's something to this idea of a shoe fetish, but we won't get into that.

What wouldn't you dare wear today?

A poet blouse. I've had enough deja vu of the '60s. Blouses are too frumpy for me.

What's new with you for fall?

I did buy a pair of black velvet bell bottoms, which I think are funny. I tried on a pair, and they really made my older jackets look new. I'll probably wear them first in New York when I'm out to dinner with friends.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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