Wearing it out: Norwalk gallery’s inventory is for the home or body
Published 12:00 am, Saturday, January 7, 2017
Isadora Gacel’s South Norwalk gallery stretches out behind her, with racks of scarves, leggings, dresses, ties and shoes serving as a movable canvas for her art and that of her late brother. At this moment, however, she is thinking about Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
“Can you imagine van Gogh learning that his work is now printed on everything imaginable?” Gacel says. Her claim gains immediate credence with a quick online search. His works, particularly his 1889 paintings, “The Starry Night” and “Sunflowers,” are on umbrellas, T-shirts, tank tops, dresses, hoodies, guitar picks, socks, watches, tote bags — you name it.
Fashion is a medium in and of itself. A designer adjusts the construction, material, accoutrements and design to create a statement. But it also can be a canvas for art. In the 126 years since van Gogh’s death, technological advances in custom printing, media-savvy artists and a buying public that wants to blend in and stand out at the same time is providing a movable canvas for modern-day artists and the masters who came before them.
“Everyone has the same gizmos and gadgets, but everyone wants to add a signature image to separate themselves,” says Gacel, whose Washington Street pop-up gallery also has puzzles, tote bags, flasks, shoes and other accessories. Prices range from about $60 to $300. “People are walking around with their artwork, rather than hiding it in their apartment or home.
“I’m covered in tattoos, and that also has become more acceptable,” she says. “It went from having art on canvas to literally having art all over your skin and anything that touches your skin — from skin to shoes to socks to shirts to dresses.”
Satin, cashmere, organic cotton, silk, leather and vinyl are the canvas for the work in this new space. “Hang-able” art also sits alongside its wearable cousins, since there still is a market for those who like to dress up their walls with the latest “fashion,” too.
Galeria Isadora will occupy the space through May. Gacel also is an art teacher at Horizons, the student enrichment program at New Canaan Country School. A longtime educator, she’s using the shop to introduce her late brother Gacel Machado’s art. “He didn’t recognize the talents that he had,” she says.
Gacel, who is in her late 30s, legally changed her name to include her brother’s first name, to carry on his memory after his suicide in 2015. In the past, she has exhibited under the last name of Lecuona. The clothing largely features the colorful abstract painted works her brother made as a child. They are among her fastest-selling pieces.
“It’s more than just putting an image on clothing,” she says. “There is the issue of printing on different sizes, which will change the image. I like working with my brother’s work more than my own. His work is very free; it just looks so good on everything.”
A self-taught artist, Gacel has long expressed her creativity through her Prismacolor pencils, pens, markers and paints, which become eye-catching portraits, often set within intricate and dense designs on canvas, paper or Plexiglass. It takes a long time to fully take in one of her works, which can be bold, such as her iconic series with Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo. Art has been her passion and pursuit, but she maintains a deep love for fashion and design. As a child, she made clothing out of scraps and wore items made by her mother.
This initiative has been a return to that creative well for Gacel. “I just needed to do a new thing,” she says. “I needed to get out of a rut, and I knew to do that I needed to dive into new things and occupy new places, and, literally, go into a new venture.”
The line’s debut occurred during open studios at the Wilson Avenue Loft Artists in October, where Gacel shares studio space with artist Erin Dolan, whose works are for sale at the gallery, too. “I started with the scarves, because I wanted to see what they would do,” Gacel says. At an instinctual level, she knew the trend toward unique adornments was growing, but she had not personally experienced its effect. She sold out of the scarves.
“I have always been fashion forward, and as an artist, you always have to be aware of the shifts that are happening … because you want to be able to make a living off your work,” she says. “Ideally, if you can extend your work to other things you believe in, it is preferable to people telling you what to do.”
Gacel loves watching customers enter the gallery and leave with wearable pieces, knowing the conversation continues the minute they put them on and hit the town. Art is creative expression, she says, and it becomes a two-way conversation when the artist and the consumer become bonded by the work.
“Say it’s two to three years out and this has all been working out, and one day I go into New York City and I see someone wearing a dress with my brother’s art. They would not know how much this means to me,” Gacel says. “If I was to go up to them and introduce myself, then it becomes a conversation piece. This is how we connect through art.”