Don’t get that oil paint on my new pants!

“Out of Uniform” shows this month at Gallery Nil. 328 N.W. Broadway #114, (503) 221-3182. PS What? is located at 1966-1968 S.W. Fifth Ave.

During a recent visit to New York, my friend and I had a conversation in which we came to the tired conclusion that Warhol had killed art.

I will not go into the details concerning modernism, postmodernism, etc., rather, our discussion turned on one major point: the connection, apparent more than ever since Warhol, between art and fashion.

The claim is that Warhol was more about fame and style than he was about art in the modernist tradition, but a visit to the Museum of Modern Art’s design museum made it apparent that Warhol was not the first artist whose ideas made it to the runway stage. A retrospective of the life and work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright came accompanied by knickknacks (Post-it pads) and accessories (scarves) inspired by his building designs.

This and a visit to SoHo, where the models seem to outnumber the artists four-to-one, led us to believe that art and fashion are intrinsically mixed. But where is the divide felt, and to what extent do art and fashion vie for one’s attention? How do they work together? How do they compliment each other, and how do they shape who we are?

Two art exhibits/fashion shows took place here in Portland this past weekend, and while they veered in different directions, they left us assured that art and fashion are linked, and that fashion, just like some smart guy said about beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Out of Uniform
Gallery Nil, at 328 N.W. Broadway #114, (503) 221-3182, opened the “Out of Uniform” art/fashion show on Thursday. Designers Muriel Bartol and Daniel McCall claim proudly the influences of art, architecture and public life as influences on their fashion design. The pair presented garments of simple, plain, muslin fabric. The natural-toned constructions are simple: some are adorned by pleats, others are marked by one clean fold of cloth at the torso, the doubling over lending amplification to the natural human form.

One garment is adorned with text, “My doing and my history,” it reads, “my guess and my closet my light and my time.” We are told that a closet is adorned just as is the human body, and it is by adorning these things that we adorn the world ���� not unlike the physical adornment of the world that is architecture itself. Bartol and McCall want us to realize that are closets are temporal-lights we shine for a fixed and transient time.

Further, guests were not subject to a traditional runway fashion show, the models instead wandered the gallery space, mingling among the viewers whose attention was focused primarily on the garments on the walls.

The viewers were also invited to wear the garments themselves, thus bringing the full experience of the item of clothing (work) to the wearer (viewer). “Out of Uniform” runs through July 28.

But is it art?
Two days later we found ourselves at the PS What? day-long “Y’art Sale” and fashion show. Located at 1966-1968 S.W. Fifth Ave., PS What? Has brought us many events, but maybe none so inspiring as Saturday’s.

Highlighted by a five-plus hour set of killer drum & bass from DJ Baby Jesus, the “Y’art Sale” featured piles of mid-century throwaways and hipster clothing finds. The coolest thing we saw was a DeKooning jigsaw puzzle ���� talk about pop art!

The house’s l Room Gallery featured “cheap art” for sale. This included many works by PS What? impresario and 2001 PSU grad Ahren Lutz’ series of “named paintings.” Each work is named by the image depicted therein: a landscape is stenciled over with the word “LANDSCAPE,” a still life with “STILL LIFE,” etc. Lutz’ most courageous and successful work on display in his home is the “Man on Toilet,” a stark yet somehow comforting mixed-media painting that seems to contain the illustrative simplicity of California artist Raymond Pettibone, the easy figure work of comix hero Dan Clowes and the expressive lines of Egon Scheile within its borders.

On the heels of the “Y’art Sale,” the fashion show got underway. In front of Lutz’ special slide show entitled “The History of Clothing,” and with extra illumination provided by the headlights of a Ford Ranger pickup, the models moved across a runway set up on PS What?’s gravel parking lot.

G. Doll Designs, a local label run by Gwineth Penelope, premiered its “Evening Wear and Go Go” line. Typical evening dresses in most cases. Highlights were the strapless and low-cut vinyl bodices complimented by flowing chiffon and plunging, heart-shaped necklines (available at area boutiques).

Following the formal wear came some special treats like Sarah Thompson’s tin foil suits (not for sale) and Ms. Tondy’s body-painted models, with text reading “food”, “life” and “waste” accompanied by corresponding arrows pointing to the source of each on their figures.

Still to come were the designs of Lutz himself. These included a fine-looking astro-turf vest and short pants ensemble (not for sale), plus his take on the upper-crusty ritual-like eating of sushi off of naked women ���� but in this case the fare was unheated Stouffer’s Frozen Food Product.

It is what you make it
The next day over a Hamm’s beer, Lutz was cordial and forthcoming with his take on fashion and its relation to art.

Sporting his own duct tape-covered cowboy hat (three dollars), Lutz said that art and fashion is all about “proprietorship … what is found, sold or owned.”

“The price is right on the painting” he said, referring to his own work, “$5” (2001, mixed media).

Lutz says that it is all about what you do with what you have. Fashion for him is as simple as hemming, mending or otherwise manipulating whatever you have in a way that makes it your own. He pointed to his plaid cut-off trousers, which he had cut in zigzag fashion. He pointed to his T-shirt. It read simply, “FIVE BUCKS?,” and had a little clear pouched attached with Velcro. The pouch had initially held a Polaroid photograph, but Lutz had removed this and replaced with a five-dollar bill. He had manipulated it, made it his own not 24 hours after acquiring it (five dollars from a kid named Jason).

It’s all the same, or is it?
What we can take from all this is that fashion and art are intertwined on all levels ���� from the high concept “Out of Uniform” show at Gallery Nil to the latest from G. Doll designs, art is fashion and fashion is art.

While the spirit of high modernism drives “Out of Uniform” and the pop art movement informs just about everything that happens at PS What?, both shows were essentially about the same thing: fashion is what you make it ���� you give to it just as it gives to you.

Or you can shop at Abercrombie and Fitch.