An exhibition featuring dresses sculpted from repurposed and vintage items by Chattanooga artist John Petrey opens at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art, in Tuscumbia, Ala., from 1-3 p.m., on Sunday, March 24.
Mr. Petrey will host an hour-long gallery talk at 2 p.m. Admission to the opening and the gallery talk is free.
The exhibition, “John Petrey: Captivating Armor,” is open through Friday, May 10. Hours at the museum, 511 N. Water St., Tuscumbia, are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, and 1-3 p.m., on Sundays. Admission to the exhibition is $5 adults, $3 students, free to museum members and free on Sundays.
Working with metal, rubber, plastic and other industrial and everyday items, Mr. Petrey creates dress sculptures that tell stories and connect viewers with childhood memories.
“I’m a child of the Sixties,” he said, “and I had a wonderful childhood. I spent time in my mom’s beauty shop in the afternoons, and then she’d give me money and I’d be off with my friends. I watched a lot of TV, too, like ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ and ‘The Donna Reed Show.’ The nostalgia of that affected me early on.”
Many of his dresses reflect that 1950s-‘60s style. Others reference historical eras or pop culture. All of them are made with materials most people wouldn’t think of as “artistic.”
“I look at items differently,” Mr. Petrey said. “For example, I work a lot with bottle caps. People say. ‘What can you do with bottle caps?’ but I know exactly what to do with them. I see old vintage signs and look at colors and textures and match them up to make beautiful flowing gowns. When people see my work, they want to touch it because it looks like fabric or feathers but they’re surprised to find copper or steel.”
”Captivating Armor” includes four sculptures of women’s dresses that are slightly more than 6 feet tall, three 54-inch tall sculptures representing dresses for teenage girls and four 27-inch tabletop sculptures representing toddler girls. In addition, for this exhibition Mr. Petrey created three dress sculptures to hang from steel hangers flat against a wall.
“This series is very nostalgic and makes people smile,” he said. “What more can you do as an artist than make people look back fondly and have a memory of their childhood? Something about each piece attracts the viewers and helps them tell their own stories. If I’ve made somebody look at the world differently, think differently and have five minutes of remembering their youth, then I have done my job.”
For details, call the Tennessee Valley Art Association at 256 383-0533 or visit the website at tvaa.org.
Genevieve, by John Petrey, red patina copper