Fine art isn’t just for viewing

Don’t know what to buy for the holidays?Here’s a tip: 24 of the Bay Area’s most gifted artisans are showing and selling one-of-a-kind wearable art from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at six San Francisco galleries at 49 Geary St. and 77 Geary St. in an event called “ARTWEAR in the Galleries.” 

What falls into the category of wearable art? Fine, original pieces, including jewelry, handbags and textiles (scarves, jackets, coats, dresses)created by “serious artisans at the top of their field,” founder Marna Clark says. “It’s basically their trunk show–in art galleries. Galleries are opening their doors on a day when they’re usually closed.”

Clark, whose mother is art dealer Ruth Braunstein, of Braunstein/Quay Galleries in San Francisco, says she hopes wearable art is treated with the same respect people give fine art. “I think of it as contemporary art. We were looking for a way to present luxurious, high-end, art-to-wear pieces the way you would see them in art galleries.”

Amber Marie Bently, a jewelry designer whose opulent, avant-garde pieces are featured in the show, thinks of her work as couture jewelry. She says, “I love fine gems—and working with gold. It’s amazing. Shaping it. Creating new forms.”

Four artisans are featured in each gallery in ARTWEAR, which is in its second year.

“It brings the best of all art together,” Clark says.”While people are looking at wearable art they also can view gallery art. In essence, there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two. It becomes the soul of what’s happening. I find people who admire art also want to look good. And they want something fine. Not something off the rack.”

Some ARTWEAR’ artists have been featured at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, including Ana Lisa Hedstrom, a MacArthur fellow who designs scarves and jackets, and Jean Cacicedo, who is proficient in “felting” — taking wool, wetting it, stretching it and reconstructing it into clothing.

A new addition is Cathy Kata, from Papua New Guinea, who is the November artist-in-residence at the de Young. She has created pieces out an ancient knotting technique called bilum, and made modern pieces out of them, even adding contemporary colors. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Textile Department of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Prices in the shows range from $50 to $5000, but, Clark says, “Price isn’t the issue. Artistic quality and originality are.”

IF YOU GO

ARTWEAR

Where: Steven Wirtz Gallery, Art Exchange Gallery and Gregory Lind Gallery at 49 Geary St.; Rena Bransten Gallery, Togonon Gallery and Patricia Sweetow Gallery at 77 Geary St., San Francisco

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

Contact: www.artwearinthegalleries.com

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