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Karen LaMonte, Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery (2009)

Karen LaMonte, Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, 2009, glass, 19 x 61 x 22½ in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the James Renwick Alliance and Colleen and John Kotelly


Click here to watch Karen LaMonte's Artist Talk recorded on February 2nd, 2010.

Click here to watch an Interview with Karen LaMonte about Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery.

A 1999 Fulbright scholarship allowed leading contemporary glass artist Karen LaMonte (b. 1967) to transform her work. She pursued her interest in large-scale glass casting with Zdeněk Lhotský at the renowned Studio Pelechov, north of Prague. During the past decade, LaMonte has used this experience to develop a remarkable series of life-size cast glass dresses—works so technically complex that they can only be crafted at Lhotský’s studio, one of the world’s largest and most advanced centers for glass casting.

Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery has roots in the feminist art of the 1960s and 1970s and its critique of fashion, though the focus on gender in this work is almost playful. The frilly straps and a firm hip exaggerate the femininity of a woman conspicuously absent. It is easy to imagine that LaMonte has created a response to the industrial forms crafted by this country’s other great cast glass artist, Howard Ben Tré.

Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery shows the technical virtuosity and sensitivity to material expected in contemporary craft, augmented by LaMonte’s natural ease with history. This piece is part of her glass dress series, which she began in 2000. It is the strongest piece from this series, with its bold drapery and delicate treatment of the female figure. No other work demonstrates with such clarity LaMonte’s grasp of classical style and composition.