By Sandra Schulman
The wildly exotic mashup of his “walking canvases” are conjured up by artist Daniel Chimowitz from his international background.
Born in London to a mother from the Tlingit tribe of the Pacific Northwest, he was raised in the DIY punk-liberal atmosphere of San Francisco, where he also absorbed his Jewish heritage. He spent summers in Europe, mostly in Spain, where the colorful drama and costumes of the matadors and tango dancers filled his head.
He currently has his first one-man museum show in Miami, running at the Jewish Museum of Florida through Feb. 3, featuring large framed artworks on canvas and more than a dozen mannequins that wear his canvases come to 3-D life as dresses, tailcoats, kimonos, jackets and headdresses. There are films screening above a stage in the museum of the Paris and New York fashion shows he has done in collaboration with Emmy Award-winning designer Pat Field and her stable of Art Fashion artists. Opening night in October found a DJ spinning classic rock and punk and dance tracks as his graffiti-charged costumes, worn by most of the museum staff and several attendees, filled the dance floor.
“I went to so many pow-wows with my mother when I was young, and the images from our Raven Clan and salmon fishing traditions and the Inuit have stayed with me,” Chimowitz says on a tour of his show, himself a vision with his tattered fringed waistcoat, painted sneakers, black Mohawk hair and blue painted-fingernails. “We traveled to New Mexico, too, where I picked up on Aztec and Mayan influences. I delved into all of it further through illustrated history books and zeroed in on Mayan leopard gods – I use them a lot in my silkscreens. I also use Torahs, Aztec masks, Native warriors, African images, a lot of power symbols.”
After multi-layering his images on painted canvas, he combines them with reflective safety gear tape that police and firemen use, ribbons, colorful thread, skull-shaped studs and metal spikes to create clothing that draws heavily on Art Deco-influenced shapes – gowns with trains, jackets with dramatic stand-up collars, kimonos with different panels of fabric. The fabric becomes a story in itself, with tales of cross-cultural pollination.
He weaves and sews and pleats and folds the textiles into miraculous shapes with capes and vests and stoles and hybrid garments that there are not even names for. A startling hidden effect is his use of fluorescent paint that turns the garments into a striking black and white that reveal hidden painted messages when hit with a flashlight.
“I started out as a photographer,” he says in one of the installation lounges, “but didn’t see a way to make a living from it so I turned to fashion design, silk screening and printmaking that I studied in London and San Francisco for 10 years. I took clothing and recycled it at the same time I was doing street art in decaying buildings in the Bay area. Through all that I decided I could just use those techniques to do what I want through art and design.
“Pow-wow imagery, Asian influences, I gravitate to ‘lost culture’ elements. The jackets and Kimonos are unisex – those kind of pieces are always fashionable. Forget resort wear; I call it imperial leisure wear,” he says with a laugh.
His designs have been shown on the runways and galleries of Paris, London, Beijing, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and now Miami.
He was recently in Poland, where he spent time researching the history of his last name from the Jewish half of his heritage, and then went to Paris after this current museum opening for more exhibits. Chimowitz is a member of Pat Field’s ArtFashion family and was featured in Field’s 2017 Art Basel Miami Beach exhibition. He will be in a show this week as well along with other ArtFashion artist friends.
“The element of individuality is palpable when wearing Daniel’s garments,” Field says by phone. “Daniel’s work is ever-evolving in a wonderful direction.”
Daniel Chimowitz will be the guest speaker for the Jewish Museum’s annual Art Basel Lox and Cream Cheese Brunch from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, and will present an exclusive fashion show. Walking Canvases runs through Feb. 3 at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU in Miami Beach. Admission: $12. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 305-672-5044 or visit jmof.fiu.edu. More information about the artist can be found at www.danielchimowitz.com.