A jacket made with a technique created by a Moore alumna is among wearable art pieces in a major exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The garment by Diane Prekup ’79, titled Stained Glass Opera Coat, is in the catalogue of Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, which opened November 10. The exhibition features more than 130 one-of-a-kind works by more than 60 artists. Prekup’s coat, a promised gift of Julie Schafler Dale, a leader in the wearable art movement, will be part of the museum's permanent collection.
“I knew that Julie Schafler Dale was putting together an exhibition … on the history of wearable art, but never in my wildest dreams did I think a piece of mine would be included,” Prekup said.
Prekup said the multicolor opera coat, made with silk dupioni with yarn drizzled on top that looks like the black leading of stained glass, is about 10 years old. Dale purchased it before she closed her gallery on Madison Avenue.
“I guess she’s kept it and worn it and then decided to put it in the show,” Prekup said.
Dale carried Prekup’s wearable art over the years. “We just had a great relationship, and she was terrific and very helpful and enthusiastic.”
Prekup has been working in fiber arts and wearable art following a career as an art director and designer. She also had a successful business making wind chimes and picture frames with fused glass.
“For about a year, I played with painting on fabric,” she said. “There are very good painters on fabric—I was not one of them.”
She went to a sewing expo and found an embroidery product stabilizer. She experimented with it and found she could create a type of fabric by putting layers of yarn and fabric together with the stabilizer and sewing them, then wetting the stabilizer to dissolve it away. She began making what she called “art dolls.” They were 8 inches tall, and Prekup made the clothing using her new technique.
“Someone said, ‘I would love it if I could get a jacket like the one on that doll,’ and I went, ‘Really?’” she recalled. “I said to my husband, ‘I’ve got to do this bigger.’” She started putting the stabilizer in a quilting frame to create the fabric.
“I stretch it out as you would a canvas,” Prekup said. “It has worked out perfectly ever since.”
Prekup uses nylon thread to hold the layers together, and one can see the grid pattern she uses when looking up-close at the opera coat.
“Once I have it all sewn together, I cut out the pattern and sew it together like a regular pattern,” she said. “Then I wash it, soak it about three times. As it’s dissolving it reminds you of wheat paste. It starts to get gooey then dissolves away. Then I wash it and dry it and iron it and I have a piece of fabric.”
Even though she didn’t learn about glass or fabric at Moore, Prekup said the what she studied has stayed with her.
“Moore gave me such a basis of encouragement and design influence and color,” she said, noting the expertise of her beloved teacher Louise Stahl. “My customers say my sense of color is so amazing. I totally give that to my classes there.”
Prekup traveled to Philadelphia from her home in Florida for the opening of Off the Wall.
“I’m so excited, and my mom, who grew up in Philly, would be so proud.”
Off the Wall runs through May 17, 2020. See more of Prekup's work here.