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Oldham is New Again World

A few years ago a friend gave me a gift subscription to a magazine about “simple living.” At first I scoffed at the idea that a 130-page monthly periodical stuffed with advertising would simplify anything. But one day as I pulled an issue out of the mailbox, the warm, clean cover image actually seduced me [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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A few years ago a friend gave me a gift subscription to a magazine about “simple living.”

At first I scoffed at the idea that a 130-page monthly periodical stuffed with advertising would simplify anything. But one day as I pulled an issue out of the mailbox, the warm, clean cover image actually seduced me into believing that I might have a better life—maybe even be a better person—if I could just have a tiny stand to hold decorative towels, topped with a bonsai plant, a chunk of coral, and a framed picture. One weekend I went crazy with a can of white textured spray paint, glamming everything from baskets to picture frames to tree branches I found outside. What was happening to me? Had I begun to reach enlightenment, or had I fallen into a trap?

Todd Oldham laughs and reassures me I might be normal after all, or at least abnormal in a good way. (Somewhere between aerosol fumes and enlightenment.)

“The most important thing I think you’ll ask anybody who’s involved in creative efforts is about making stuff. That’s how you know you’re alive,” he says. “It’s not the end result—and I think it’s something that any creative person will agree with.”

I confess I peel the label off my shampoo because it doesn’t match my bathroom. Oldham tells me he cuts the labels out of all his clothes. And we both sigh for a return to the clean aesthetic of the generic aisle of the grocery store where shoppers of the ’70s and ’80s could buy cereal, ice cream, or even beer in simple white containers with square black lettering. (C’mon. We just lived through 2017. We’re allowed to be a little nostalgic.)

Oldham’s design retrospective, “All of Everything,” coming to the Wexner Center for the Arts is an exhilarating look backwards to a decade of runway fashion with more than 65 of his meticulously constructed garments, a sparkling thrift shop of pieces that indeed makes clothing with almost everything imaginable from plaid to pipe cleaners to Swarovski crystals.

“I was really never interested in trying to make something new, but I loved making something new from what was in front of me.” Oldham said, as he recalled a childhood DIY project of busting an old TV and using the cabinet to make a sink cozy. “It’s all the same to me; I think that’s why those clothes look the way they do. They’re built.”

Oldham dominated the runway from 1989 to 1999, becoming one of the first designers to work with then-rising supermodels Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington. Designing for an America trying to rock skate tees, wallet chains, and hair parted straight down the middle, Oldham puts a playful, even absurdist, twist on the colors and textures of childhood with nods to tie-dye, thick knits, and paint-by-number crafts scattered throughout his designs. While the pieces may call back an era where cable TV was the latest thing to hit the media, Oldham frequently receives comments that his collection looks surprisingly contemporary.

“We were always on our own little island in fashion, so to speak,” Oldham explained. “We were in fashion, but kind of off to the side. The clothes weren’t really about following trends or what things were at the moment. So they kind of endure in a different way.”

What is not contemporary is the entirely analog construction of the garments, each reflecting months of work, with beads, sequins, and embroidery attached by hand. The consideration to detail, combined with the diversity of material, brings a delightful balance to the craft of making and the art of design. As technology continues to disrupt the analog, Oldham and his studio have moved on from “old school” crafting by hand, not just to save time and money, but also to cull new creative possibilities.

“We’ve interfaced with these incredible makers in our studio who’ve grown up digitally and here they’re learning to embrace the analog part of it, and what’s coming out of that is extraordinary,” he said.

Oldham, a native Texan who moved frequently and spent four years of his adolescence in Tehran, credits much of his career and creativity to growing up in a family where ripping through pillowcases to build an ensemble, or visiting the botanical gardens, was just another normal day. That engagement has lead to a cross-pollinating career of masterful and eclectic design. After moving on from the fashion world, Oldham expanded his studio projects to furniture design, interior design, photography, filmmaking, and book publishing. But regardless or direction, element, or form, Oldham insists upon the singularity of his work.

“It’s no different from what I was doing when I was 6 and 7—which was just making stuff out of stuff.”

All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion will open February 3, and run through April 15 at Wexner Center for the Arts. For more, visit wexarts.org.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion

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As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”

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Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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