Tag Archives: Timothy Westbrook

‘Paleontology of a Woman’

Danceworks tag-teams with fashion and fiber artist Timothy Westbrook for an evening of dance and dinosaurs. Paleontology of a Woman explores femininity and power in works danced to the music of Milwaukee composer Allen Russell, performed live by the Tontine Ensemble. Featured are haute couture costumes designed by Westbrook, a Project Runway alum. Fashion inspirations range from Triceratops to Victorian schoolteachers to current runway models.

At Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. Tickets are $20, $25 for reserved seating and $15 for students and seniors. Call 414-277-8480 or visit danceworksmke.org for more information.

Oct. 30–Nov. 1

Westbrook’s new show skates into personal territory

A fashion event that features origami, unicorns and figure skaters gliding across the Pfister Hotel ballroom sounds like a typical Timothy Westbrook event. The Project Runway alum and former Pfister artist-in-residence has made a name both for his commitment to sustainable practices, including his reuse of discarded materials, and also for his out-of-the-box fashion show ideas. For example, Paleontology of a Woman, his dinosaur-themed fashion show at the Milwaukee Public Museum last fall, featured elaborate triceratops headpieces and garments made of plastic bags.

But his March 19 show Legacy is more personal than that.

“This particular show came out of me conceiving what would be my senior thesis — it starts with telling my personal story, and I wanted it to be on ice, ” Westbrook explains.

The skating part of the show requires explanation: Growing up in northern New York State, Westbrook was a budding figure skater with the potential to achieve greatness, he says. But while he made a synchronized figure skating team in high school that could have been a starting point, the costs and his inability to drive put that opportunity out of his reach.

“It’s disappointing to feel that potential in yourself and then not realize it. There I was, basically 14, making a decision that I wouldn’t skate competitively.”

Legacy takes that moment as a starting point for a tale about life’s journey and the decisions we make as we go — though don’t expect the story to get any more concrete than that. Westbrook says the storyline is abstract. It includes religious imagery, folded outfits inspired by paper origami cranes, art scraps from local abstract artists Pamela Anderson and Bass Collective, and homages to family members who’ve guided him along the way.

“There’s a million things going on visually and conceptually,” he says. “I just put concepts in a blender and hit high speed.”

In addition to featuring three figure skaters (who’ll glide across a special type of rubber that audience members will be able to walk on), the show includes 12 models — four over age 30, four under 30, four males and four drag queens.

FIBER ARTIST

Westbrook identifies as a fiber artist first and foremost, a fact he says is often ignored in coverage of his work. His shows are designed to prompt conversations about what should be considered beautiful.

His shows also comment occasionally on the fashion industry — in a searching rather than authoritative way.

The first line of his “artist statement” contends, “I do not pretend to have all of the answers, but I will admit to trying to find them.”

“I’m not saying that ‘This is the only way you can do a show; it has to be a spectacle,’” Westbrook says. “By all means, catwalk is out. I’m just asking questions and also having a really good time.”

Working on Legacy has been an opportunity for Westbrook to reflect on what he learned as a contestant on Bravo’s Project Runway, where he was eliminated from the competition in the third week. He says that his desire to use only what he was given to work with on the show clashed with his goal of creating fashion out of raw, virgin materials.

“The way that I work is that I need a reason to make something, and a story gives me the reason. ‘Make a dress so that we can talk about it and maybe not like it’ is not a good reason,” Westbrook says.

But he walked away from the show with a renewed understanding of his personal aesthetic — especially, he says, after a conversation with Nina Garcia. She asked him why he never used menswear concepts on the show, knowing that he has a penchant for playing with gender in his creations. That’s a question he looks forward to answering in Legacy and in the future. He’s got a great deal to look forward to, including another original show at the Charles Allis Art Museum in August, tentatively titled Unis: The Origin of the Unicorn. He’s also hopes to work some of the pieces from Paleontology into a Danceworks event in 2014 or 2015, and he might collaborate with the Pettit Center’s annual Red, White and Blades show to incorporate elements from Legacy. But it’s Legacy that he considers his moment to reflect and take a leap forward into the future. Triple axels optional but encouraged.

ON STAGE

Legacy, a visual fashion event produced by Timothy Westbrook Studio, is at the Pfister Hotel’s Victorian Ballroom on Wed., March 19. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through Westbrook’s Facebook page at facebook.com/TimothyWestbrook. For $25, audience members also receive admission to the Silversärk fashion show Sanctuary at Hot Water Wherehouse at 8 p.m. on Fri., March 21.

Milwaukee Public Museum hosts show by local ‘Project Runway’ contestant

Ever since Heidi Klum told him auf wiedersehen, former “Project Runway” contestant Timothy Westbrook has been in his Milwaukee studio preparing for his comeback fall fashion show. Titled “Paleontology of a Woman,” the show opens Sept. 21 at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Westbrook, whose aesthetic vision draws inspiration from nature, says he considers himself a fiber artist more than a fashion designer – and an environmental artist first and foremost. He’s notorious for using repurposed and untraditional material – some of it might even be considered garbage – in creating his garments. This tendency will be prominently on display in “Paleontology of a Woman,” he says.

In fact, the 24 pieces in his Milwaukee Public Museum exhibit suggest alternative waste-management ideas. For example, some of his work is created from woven plastic bags. Westbrook hopes to demonstrate that plastic bags can be woven into vests and dresses of uniquely beautiful textures rather than tossed out to languish for centuries in landfills or add to the Texas-sized garbage island that’s created a dead zone in the Pacific Ocean. 

Other materials included in the show are bed sheets, vintage wedding gowns, curtains, discarded fabrics and old wire hangers transformed into masks inspired by Broadway’s “The Lion King.” Some of the materials Westbrook uses are re-purposed fabrics from his time on “Project Runway.” 

Westbrook’s fans say he has an uncanny ability to transform such “garbage” into eloquent, whimsical Victorian-styled dresses. Exhibit attendees can expect to see classy gowns, tailcoats and mosaic shoes decorated with aluminum hole-punched cans.

Other participants in “Paleontology of a Woman” are four jewelry designers, a clothing designer, a mask sculptor, and a composer providing dinosaur-themed music from “Fantasia” and “Jurassic Park.” Local drag queen Trixie Mattel acts both as a model and a makeup artist.

In addition to fashion, Westbrook’s exhibit will feature a mix of theater, performance art and environmental information. Guest speakers will talk about sustainability and conservation.

Westbrook says he and fellow “Project Runway” Milwaukee designer Miranda Levy (featured in WiG’s Aug. 22 issue) have put their infamous on-screen drama behind them. Not only have they mended their split seam, he says, but Levy plans to attend the show’s reception at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Westbrook hopes other celebrities, including Barbara Batts from “Fashion Star,” will be there to support him. 

Westbrook moved to Milwaukee when he was invited to become one of the Pfister Hotel’s 2012 artists in-residence after graduating from Syracuse University. At 23, he was the youngest, first out-of-state and non-painting artist to be accepted into the program.

Westbrook says he found Milwaukee a more nurturing place to enter the fashion scene than New York City. Before heading off to season 12 of “Project Runway,” he set up a studio space in the Shops of Grand Avenue.

At “Timothy Westbrook Studio,” the artist takes his eco-friendly ethos so far that he works with the lights off. At the moment, he operates only two appliances that use electrical power – his computer and his iron. He says he’s looking into alternative energy sources to power them.

Westbrook’s primary instruments include old-fashion looms and his inseparable non-electric treadle sewing machine. He and his interns plan to transport his pieces to the museum by bicycle to underscore Wesbrook’s commitment to the show’s low-impact theme. 

Westbrook’s show is meant to coincide with the kick-off event for the Fashion Week MKE Initiative, which starts Sept. 23.

On the Web

Go to www.fashionweekmke.com.