By Alexander Nagel, Thursday, May 19, 2022

Fig 1 ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION is on the fifth floor of the Gladys Marcus Library at the State University of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology throughout the Spring semester 2022.

This is the first AHMP curated display at the Library of SUNY FIT. The Art History and Museum Professions program developed out of a Visual Arts Certificate program in the early 2000s. Today, AHMP students are curators, archivists, educators, and writers.

Inspired by holdings related to Greece throughout the collections on the campus at FIT, research for ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION began only a few weeks ago in late January 2022. Within a short time, however, it became evident that there are a number of exciting materials and archives related to Greek speaking designers, illustrators and writers on the campus.

Large collections related to Greece are in the FIT Library Image collections, a set of photographs printed on maps and in use in classrooms in past decades before the arrival of internet. Aside from slides collected — the History of Art Department still owns slides from the first decades of the program — images were needed and maps were an easy way to share ideas when books were the only way for many students to learn more about cultures around the world. Collecting fashion for the campus in a more organized way did not began until 1969, so even dresses were rare to see. Photographs and archives matter today more than ever in understanding early ways of education.

ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION includes a scrapbook from the FIT Library used to educate students about designs and other aspects of culture around the world. The displayed page shows an illustration cut out from a magazine In Greece. Quarterly. This photograph of men dancing in traditional Greek costume is by Elli Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari, better known as “Nelly” (1899-1998). Seraidari’s photographs were popular in the 1930s and later, inspiring entire generations. She first arrived in New York City in 1939 for the World Fair in Queens, decorating the Geek pavilion. In New York City, she began photographing the megacity for a project on the “New York Easter Parade,” and stayed in New York City for several years. Many of her photographs are in the Benaki Museum in Athens in Greece. The photograph on display in the scrapbook of the Library of FIT is not uncontroversial as is her her far reaching influence and legacy as a photographer of Greece in inter-war Greece.

Further Reading:

Damaskos, Dimitris and Dimitris Plantzos, eds. A Singular Antiquity: Archeology and Hellenic Identity in Twentieth-Century Greece (Athens, Benaki Museum, 2008), esp. “The Uses of Antiquity in Photographs by Nelly: Imported Modernism and Home-Grown Ancestor Worship in Inter-War Greece,” The full volume is accessible online here.

Markessinis, Andreas. The Greek Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair (Pelekys 2016).

Zacharia, K. “Nelly’s Iconography of Greece,” In P. Carrabott, Y. Hamilakis, E. Papargyriou eds. Camera Graeca: Photographs, Narratives, Materialities. London: Routledge: 233-56.

About the Author:

Alexander Nagel is the current Chair of the Art History and Museum Professions Program (AHMP). He contributed an essay on the Greek legacies at the Smithsonian Institution to the volume Legacies of Ancient Greece in Contemporary Perspectives, ed. by Thomas Gerry (Vernon Press, 2022).

Current Favorite Reading or Art Exhibition:

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay. Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (London: Verso Books, 2019). 

Freedom Within: A Photo Essay by Christopher Huot

This guest blog essay was written by Harlem based photographer Christopher Huot. It was developed under and curated by Joi Berry (AHMP’23) as part of an initiative “Black Futures” sponsored by the FIT Diversity Collective in 2022. These are the words of Chris.

I am grateful for this opportunity. Coming from East Harlem, a place where opportunities feel slim, sometimes people lose sight of the goals they once had. In a setting where materialistic values are glorified, for the most part, it can feel hard to breathe when your dreams are larger than life. In this essay, most of the people photographed come from the same neighborhood as I. They understand the emotions I feel whether it be the joy of going outside on a hot summer day or mourning the loss of a close friend. I selected these photos because of the feelings they exude.

Every photograph in Freedom Within holds emotions that are dear to me. Some make me more emotional than others. Some hold darker, deeper emotions than others. All in all, they are very important to me and what I stand for. I truly believe that freedom is within us. I am a person who is easily swallowed by my emotions, and I tend to be less vulnerable than I could be. I have lost many things. Material and sentimental alike. When I decide to step back and look at my life for what it is, I realize that even though all the things I have gone through I am truly blessed. My journey has not been an easy one. Yet, from a different perspective, it is clear to me that my journey has only begun.

These photographs feature upcoming Harlem artist and musician Roseboy Siah. Siah, being the young man that he is, consistently comes to me to get commission work done. Starting his rap career at 14, his music has been getting more and more popular over the last five years. His image as an artist is important to him, and as his go-to photographer, his image is important to me as well. Here is why the “Bell Ringer” photograph matters to me. When you come from a neighborhood where word travels fast, the positive things you do get spread quickly by the people around you. The second photograph features Siah in a place he is most happy. The studio has become his sanctuary. “Beginnings” was taken in the middle of the George Washington project houses in East Harlem, the neighborhood Siah built his support group. Siah’s music is loved by many, especially the people from here. Many of our mutual friends were raised in these housing projects. He has made it his mission to become an artist bigger than just a neighborhood star, he wants to become an international star. His community is what fuels him, and it is what he wants to give back to. This is something we both feel deeply about.

“Beyond the View” features models Kash and Josiah. The boat in the background was my main subject for this photo. I feel it tells a story of hope, while the simplicity of the actual atmosphere during the shoot was something I wish to feel every day. Just young people seeing the beauty of the ocean.

“Ootaman” features upcoming Harlem artist Dotty Boom. This is one of the first of many photos I took for my friend Dotty, whom I’ve known since middle school. This was also my first time using a point-and-shoot film camera. I wanted Dotty to be the first person I shot with the camera and this scene ended up being perfect in my eyes. From the outfit to the weather, everything was exactly how I wanted it to be. This photo opened my eyes to the beauty of film photography.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity.

Follow Chris’ work on instagram.

ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION (6): On Galanos

By Katherine Prior, Monday, March 27, 2022

Fig. 1. Galanos, Evening dress, 1970. Silk ribbed chiffon. New York: The Museum at FIT, 86.80.1. Gift of Maurice S. Polkowitz, 1986.

James Galanos (1924–2016) designed this chiffon dress for his spring/summer 1970 collection, where he tapped into his Greek heritage by using fabrics featuring motifs inspired by ancient Greek pottery. This particular garment is reminiscent of red-figure style Greek pottery, which is characterized by drawings of delicate linework on raw terracotta base set against a darkly glazed background. Motifs on this dress include lions, a sculpture resembling David standing over the head of Goliath, and swirling shapes evocative of ionic columns. The chiffon used in this collection was designed by Tzaims Luksus (b. 1932), an American designer and textile artist who was also a guest lecturer and consultant at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Born to Greek parents in Philadelphia in 1924, Galanos began drawing from a young age. He enrolled in the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City at the age of 18 with dreams of becoming a costume designer for film. However, he only stayed at the school for a few months before leaving in search of more hands-on experience. After a few years of working in Paris and New York, Galanos headed west to California, where he created his first fashion collection in 1951. He took the finishing techniques and workmanship he had learned in Paris and applied it skillfully to his own garments, referring to his work as “custom ready-to-wear” rather than couture. His first collection was purchased by Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills and Galanos’s renown grew from there. In 1954, at the age of 29, Galanos became the youngest winner of the Coty Award (considered the “fashion Oscars” of the time) and proceeded to win the award again two years later. In 1984, he became the first recipient of the Coty Lifetime Achievement Award.

This dress from 1970 is notable for the way that it is both distinctly characteristic of Galanos yet also daring for its time in terms of fashion trends. Chiffon was one of Galanos’s design trademarks throughout his career, and this collection showed off the smocked chiffon that he was known for. What made Galanos’s 1970 collection surprising at the time, despite its solid connections to Galanos’s typical design style, was its length. The miniskirt had been the hallmark of the 1960s, and though some designers were cautiously experimenting with longer skirts, none of them went as far as Galanos did as he ushered in the maxi skirt trend of the 1970s. Although his designs for this collection drew from the past, Galanos was designing for the future.

Further Reading:

Boardman, John. The History of Greek Vases (London, Thames & Hudson, 2001).

Coffey-Webb, L., & Rosenbaum, S. L. (2005). James Galanos. Dress, 32(1), 66–74. https://doi.org/10.1179/036121105805253125.

Collins, A. F. (2007, April 14). When Galanos spelled glamour. Vanity Fair, 49(1). www.vanityfair.com/style/2007/04/james-galanos.

Morris, B. (1970, February 10). Galanos abandons short hems—completely. The New York Times, 75. www.nytimes.com/1970/02/10/archives/galanos-abandons-short-hems-completely.html.

About the Author:

Katherine Prior is a senior in the AHMP program and is currently interning at The Museum at FIT. Her research interests are concentrated in film, television, and media studies.

Current Favorite Reading or Art Exhibition:

An exhibition I’m currently looking forward to seeing is Guarding the Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art (March 27, 2022 – July 10, 2022), which features artworks curated by the BMA’s Security department.