“Irwin and the Retro Girls” is an art show that has been 18 months in the making, and the artists still have no idea what it’s going to look like. But who would expect more — or less — from four of the Creston Valley’s most creative minds?
Alison Masters, Sandy Kunze, Alison Bjorkman and Andrea Revoy, who work in numerous media, have teamed up to amuse, entertain and provoke with vintage fashions collected from Gleaners, where many local artists can be found, sifting through racks, shelves and bins looking for what Masters describes as “weird stuff”.
“Look what I found today,” Revoy said to her partners in grime, pulling out two handwoven rugs in brightly coloured Fortrel from the rear of her SUV. The group had gathered for a photo op and Revoy was diving into what she referred to as her “tickle trunk”.
“Fantastic! What are you going to do with them?” Bjorkman asked.
“Oh, I have no idea,” Revoy answered.
There is a method in their lunacy, though. Their fashion creations will be sprinkled through the Creston Museum to pair with a single-room display based on a story even the fearsome foursome couldn’t make up.
How many residents know that locally born Irwin Crosthwait moved on to become one of the foremost fashion illustrators in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming an internationally recognized artist along the way? Crosthwait was born on a farm near the Columbia Brewery in 1915. He went on to art school in Montreal, joined the Navy in the Second World War as the easiest way of getting to Paris, and soon began sketching clothing for some of the most famous fashion designers in Europe.
A Crosthwait family friend, Irwin Hobden, was looking for a place to show some of Crosthwait’s abstract paintings when he approached Creston Museum and Archives manager Tammy Bradford.
“It’s a fantastic meshing of a lot of things,” Bradford said of the resulting show. “On the one hand, we have a local man who created art for the fashion world. On the other, we have local people taking fashions and turning them into art. Add to that the local history aspect of Irwin Crosthwait’s early life, and the fact that the Retro Girls are using vintage clothing for their work, and you get a show that is perfect for the museum to host.”
The Retro Girls have actually been talking about doing a show with their Gleaners gleanings for 18 months, but decided last year that they couldn’t get it together in time for summer. The occasional trial run, usually fuelled by glasses of wine, has provided inspiration, if not substance, for the show they will be putting together on the spot on Friday.
With an opening date scheduled for the next day, the pressure is on.
“It will all come together,” Kunze said with feigned confidence.
“That’s right,” Bjorkman said. “Either that or it won’t.”
“We thought that another year would give us plenty of time to come up with some really great displays,” Revoy said. “It didn’t.”
But they did start collecting items that amused them.
“I’m getting sick in my house because it’s filled with so many bags of old clothes,” Revoy said.
It all starts on Saturday with a chance to meet the artists. Hobden will be on hand with a collection of Crosthwait’s paintings. The “Art of Style” exhibit which features Crosthwait’s career fills one wall. The Retro Girls have a few surprises planned, and some of the clothing they found — and couldn’t bear to modify — will be on sale.
The meet-the-artists event runs from 1-3 p.m. June 18. The whole exhibit is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily June 18-July 9. Admission is included in regular museum admission.