Life-sized kimonos cast in glass, ceramic, bronze, and rusted iron will fill the Rowland Galleries for Karen LaMonte: Floating World at the Chazen Museum of Art, August 11–September 24, 2017.
Throughout her career LaMonte has used clothing as a metaphor and as a way to explore the human body without depicting the human body. In 2007 LaMonte spent seven months in Kyoto on a fellowship through the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. Studying all aspects of kimono production—from weaving to construction, function, rituals, and meaning—the artist then spent six years researching and working in the studio to complete her Floating World project.
A direct result of the time in Japan was her desire to make the sculptures in ceramic. To work life-size and include details of fabric texture, stitching, and complex undercuts, completely new technologies were required. LaMonte achieved this during two extended research and development residencies at the European Ceramics Work Center in Den Bosch, Netherlands. The cast-glass sculptures are fabricated at foundries in the Czech Republic and take one year to complete—two months of which is simply annealing in the kiln. The bronze and rusted iron sculptures are cast in Italy.
LaMonte worked with live models for her previous work depicting Western clothing. For the kimono pieces, she built a mannequin based on biometric data. She selected the measurements for the 50th percentile of 40-year-old Japanese women in the year 2000. LaMonte says the mannequin is the exact average Japanese female; the exact everywoman or no-woman.