Designer boxes are refashioned in “Thinking Outside The Box” exhibit

More than 20 repurposed designer boxes from Gucci to Prada and Tiffany are transformed into a mix of fashion, style, and art by Illustration professor Leslie Cober-Gentry.  The canvases were created in several mixed mediums. Uplifting messages within the works heighten the vibes of the original packaging. Her series is now on exhibit at the RPAC Gallery in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

“I instruct my students to pick subjects they are passionate about,” says Cober-Gentry. “The audience most often will respond in kind.”

“Leslie Cober-Gentry’s work has a wonderful energy balanced with a grace and lightness that reflects her spirit and personality,” says fashion illustrator and Illustration professor Bil Donovan who served with Cober-Gentry on the executive board of the Society of Illustrators. “I admire and respect her tireless energy in pursuing the best for her students, working to promote the community at large and making a difference in the world through her art, projects and outreach. That energy is also evident in her work, where she continually pursues the best for herself, pushing the boundaries and specifically with this exhibit, ‘ThinkingOutsideTheBox.'”

Professor Cober-Gentry spoke about several of her box-to-canvas works and the ink drawings, spray painting, glitter highlights and mix of techniques she bestows on them.

“The Gucci box, “Harmony” [above] was painted in white pen. I had been creating orange Monarch butterflies and wanted this to have a calmer demeanor, so I painted the butterfly blue. Using collage for a few of the hearts and limited color, the Gucci brown and Gucci logos stand out. I worked with the color of the font.  Gucci’s admired gold font is iconic. I worked metallic gold paint into the box painting.  It was fitting to have two of my favorite quotes next to the box, one by Bob Marley and the other from the Beatles,” she says.

“The Tiffany blue box is beautiful on its own. The drawing I created is simple but elegant. Again I painted flowers and a yellow Swallowtail butterfly. I adore the creamy yellow against the Tiffany blue background,” she says. The found the black ink worked with the black Tiffany font and used metallic paint as a background with a small amount of hot pink flowers and green leaves.

For a Hermes bag, Cober-Gentry used a handwritten font for a by quote Kanye West, “Fashion is merely an opinion + I’ve got a lot of opinions.” Fashion designer Stephen Sprouse’s designs and typography have also been an inspiration.  “In between the larger quote, I wrote in smaller lettering, “good vibes, fun time, culture, music, art, harmony.” The iconic Hermes orange stands out against the black, metallic gold, and Robins’ egg blue.

A large canvas was used for a culmination of designer names. “I paged through fashion magazines, ripping out pages with designer fashion, names and typography. I wanted the logos to be ripped and raw, but be iconic, recognizable typography in the painting.  I painted a Chanel shopping bag in the center, and attached the Chanel shopping bag and spray painted the frame, creating ink drawings of designer clothes, shoes, boots, and bags from fashion pages as well as pieces from my own collection.” The mixed mediums include, gold and silver metallic paint, gold glitter, gouache, ink, and collage.

On a metallic-silver Prada box [above] Cober-Gentry created a head with the message “Positive Optimism” with flowers, hearts and a bird, emerging from the top. “The red ‘Prada’ typeface is iconic. The silver, glossy textured box was a challenge; I experimented with a new mix of mediums like white and black acrylic pens, gouache, pure white acrylic, spray paint, and gold glitter.” To tie the Prada logo into the painting, she created large, glossy, bright, red lips.

“The fashion house Fendi uses a beautiful yellow box. I wanted the yellow to show through the art so I added several small ink drawings of shoes and boots from current fashion publications and my clothes collection. The lips are in black ink to match the black of the Fendi logo. The eyes evoke current fashion, and flowers represent the beauty of fashion, art and design,” says Cober-Gentry.

This original blue Prada box has a dark blue Prada logo. “It called for metallic gold. One of the first boxes I completed, the art is simple and elegant with black ink line flowers and a monarch butterfly,”says Cober-Gentry.

“The beauty of this Chanel black and white box spoke for itself. I didn’t want to cover it with color. A simple black ink line enhanced the box, with just a small amount of pink. I changed an orange monarch butterfly into a pink butterfly,” says Cober-Gentry. The pink of the small Chanel box called for simple line.  Drawing ink flowers with a micron pen, added a small monarch butterfly and tiny ladybug, both painted in gouache.

A small pink Chanel box is covered in  black ink line flowers, a tiny Monarch butterfly and a mini ladybug.

This Chanel bag painted, became a sculpture, says Cober-Gentry. Named “You Are #1” it is painted in gold metallic spray paint, acrylic and black ink.

“The Prada box [above] had metallic silver type. I painted a metallic silver into the background,” says Cober-Gentry.  The box she covered with inspirational words, “peace” “love” “harmony” and “kindness,” and flowers and patterns with black and white ink. The larger pink heart is a metallic glitter pink collage with gold glitter highlights.

The first in Cober-Gentry’s series, “Butterflies Are Free To Fly,” was “true to the goal of creating positive-minded art filled with happy thoughts like beauty, fashion, music, love, and optimism. I thought this series should be inspirational for my life, and for students, family, friends and viewers,” she says.

“Given the coolness of cigar boxes and cigars as a fashion accessory, says Cober-Gentry, “I painted a Cohiba box with silver metallic spray paint, black acrylic ink line art, and red acrylic.”

Cober-Gentry created “Art Pillows” from several of her personal favorites. “I designed them to look like art in one’s home. The edges are evident on the pillows to look like they were taken from my sketchbook. It’s art made into three dimensional interior home design pieces.”

“The “OutsideTheBox” exhibit is currently at the RPAC Gallery in Ridgefield, CT until the first week of November. For more information go to: RPAC Gallery.

To see more of Prof. Cober-Gentry’s work go to: LeslieCoberGentry.

All photos by Scott Vincent


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