Adriana Carvalho’s solo exhibition at ArtCenter/South Florida, “101 Dresses,” marks the end of her nine-year residency. During this time, she’s occupied five studios and made far more than 101 dress sculptures.
“I do not have 101,” the Brazilian-born artist says, laughing. “I have a 1,001.”
Carvalho didn’t realize just how many dress sculptures she had made until she began sorting through boxes in storage.
In 2003, for example, Carvalho made steel-wool dresses inspired by a particular flatworm she had researched. When sliced, the worm grows another head, tail or both. “When I opened the box,” she says, “I didn’t have one or two [of the sculptures]. I had six or seven.”
Another fun find: a Patrón bottle. Carvalho loved its shape, so she made a metal dress for it. She’d forgotten she still had the dressed-up bottle.
“So many things, it all comes back to you,” she says. “Things that you didn’t remember.”
After nine years at ArtCenter, Carvalho is pursuing a bigger, more-industrial-type workspace. She plans to remain in South Florida but isn’t in a hurry to decide her next move. Working with metal has taught her patience, determination and humor.
“101 Dresses,” which contains works dating back to 2003, holds some of those memories and evidence of the artist’s accomplishments. Carvalho’s pieces, which involve welding, assembling, crushing and sewing, have been exhibited in galleries, museums, libraries and fairs such as Art Miami, where her seven-dress sculptural installation “Calumny” was named 2006 Directors Choice.
“I produced those in three months, the whole installation,” she recalls.
“Calumny” will be in “101 Dresses,” as will “Frida,” her 6-foot-tall homage to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The sculpture depicts a veil and dress embroidered with words Mexican artist Frida Kahlo wrote in her journal just days before she died: “I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return.”
The show includes more than 200 dresses, 177 of which are in “Faith,” the downsized version of a 365-work installation Carvalho created for a 2009 show in Dallas. The installation contains tiny dresses made from a round aluminum tea-light-candle container. From a distance, they look the same, but closer inspection reveals otherwise.
“They’re like little insects, one of a kind,” Carvalho says.
Through the years, she’s turned Fancy Feast cat food cans, crushed bottle caps, can lids and rusty hangers into metal dresses. She’s also rescued stuffed animals from the trash and recruited them as models for her metal dresses.
“I wash them and put them in a little dress,” Carvalho says. “They make me laugh. They make me feel good.”
She named “101 Dresses” for the number of points the NBA’s Miami Heat scored against the Boston Celtics to advance to the finals in June. The “dresses” part of the title also has a story.
For years, Carvalho has been correcting people who walk into her studio and say, “Oh, what a beautiful dress.” She consistently explains, to no avail, that it's a sculpture, not a dress. Now, at least for this show, she’s giving in.
“After years of saying, 'It’s not a dress, it’s a sculpture,' it’s so fun to just say, 'OK, it’s 101 Dresses,” she says.
Colleen Dougher operates the South Florida arts blog Arterpillar.
When: Through Nov. 11; noon-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Where: ArtCenter/South Florida’s Richard Shack Gallery, 800 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Contact: 305-674-8278 or Artcentersf.org
More on artist: Amcarvalho.com