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titleAmerican Master: Bill Blass

August 29-October 21, 2022

American fashion designer Bill Blass, one of the most important American fashion designers of the 20th century, is the focus of an exhibition, designed by Professors Jeffrey Mayer and Kirsten Schoonmaker, in the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery Located in the Nancy Cantor Warehouse, School of Design.

Featuring garments from the Sue Ann Genet Costume collection, found in the Fashion Design program within the School of Design, CVPA, these garments highlight two facets of Blass’s design brilliance; his love of glittering Hollywood elegance, and his menswear inspired women’s suiting.

These Bill Blass garments were assembled by, and are now on permanent loan to the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, from the personal collection of curator Jeffrey Mayer.

Blass was born June 22, 1922 in Fort Wayne, Indiana and at the age of 17 moved to NYC where he was already selling his fashion drawings. Once in NYC he gained work as an in-house designer for several fashion houses. After his service in the US Army during WWII, serving as a part of the undercover ‘Ghost Army’, he returned to NYC where he continued to design as a ‘back-room’ designer. By the early 1960s he established himself at Maurice Rentner, the company that he eventually purchased in 1970 and renamed Bill Blass Inc.

Bill Blass was known for his sophisticated ‘American’ style; classic, clean, modern cuts which evoked Hollywood glamour. He attracted an A-list of socially elite women across the United States including Nancy Reagan, who frequently wore his designs as First Lady of the United States, Nancy Kissinger, Pat Buckley, Brooke Astor, Nan Kempner and Lynn Wyatt, as well as Barbara Walter, Liza Minelli and Jessye Norman, to name only a few.

Bill Blass is credited as the first womenswear couturier to also launch a menswear line. His company would eventually hold over fifty licenses for products ranging from automobiles to bed linens and an annual gross income of over $500 million dollars.

In 1982 Blass was introduced to François Lesage (1921-2011), owner of the famed Parisian embroidery firm the House of Lesage (which to this day supplies the most exquisite embroidery and beadwork to all the top French couturiers). From that first meeting with Lesage in 1982, until his final collection, shown in the Fall of 1999 for Spring 2000, Blass included beaded and embellished clothes in all his collections. He used Lesage’s French workrooms for his highest priced couture pieces, but looked to the NYC based Finesse Embroideries, with their ateliers in India, to create sumptuous beadwork and embroidery at more affordable prices for his ready-to-wear collections.

Bill Blass died in 2002, having sold his company in 2000. The company has struggled to regain its importance since losing its namesake. Many credit Mr. Blass’s charm and personality for the success of the company, something very difficult to reproduce.

On view in the gallery are over twenty original designs by Bill Blass dating from 1982 to 1999.


On view through May 15

Traditionally a literary and cinematic technique, retcon is the abbreviation of retroactive continuity and means a new piece of information introduced to a story that alters the interpretation of a previously established narrative. Although it is a word infrequently used, it is omnipresent. Retcon is not just employed in a fictional context, read in a book, or viewed on a screen, but experienced in the world around us. In the current climate, we are absorbing new information constantly (like it or not!), and it is challenging the way we see everything—day to day, hour to hour. Our internal database is developing at record speed. What was recognized as commonplace merely a year ago is being reexamined, and at times, by the entire world in unison.

The artists in this exhibition are evaluating and reframing their personal histories, traditional standards of art-making, and history as a whole. While in everyday life, the constant introduction of so-called facts and opinions appear erratic, the investigations held within the artworks in the exhibition are much more intentional, slower-paced, steady. They are careful and curious assessments removed from the web of media and into meticulously-presented ideas.

Here we have two applications of retcon—one that refers to the daily and ever-changing knowledge that we receive, and one that reflects the new details put forth by these artists through their work that will alter our perceptions. However small, each bit of information sets into motion a new interpretation of our environment, past, present, and future.

About the Artists

Sam Azghandi is an Iranian filmmaker, actor, editor, and sound designer. He is currently pursuing an M.F.A. program in film at the school of Visual Performing Arts in Syracuse. Most of his work explores themes of gender, race, and class in queer and immigrant lives. His projects have thus far been screened in Indianapolis, Palm Spring CA, Australia, Los Angeles, New York State, and Texas.

Aaron Burleson is a photographer born in Hartford, CT and raised in Glastonbury, CT, a suburb outside the state’s capitol. His work deals with preservation, archiving, and evidence. His interest in photography stems from its ability to contain the trace of a person and to act as a form of communication. He has received a bachelor’s in fine arts in photography from Hartford Art School.

Manya Gadhok is an award-winning filmmaker and storyteller emphasizing on the real-life issues of real people. Currently pursuing graduate degree from Syracuse University, her first short film, Soulmates, has won 8 Awards, 15 Screenings, 2 Certificate 2 Grants and 240+ publications. She is professionally affiliated to Screenwriter’s Association of India, and the Indian Film & Television Directors Association.

Jana Herman is an artist working with image and text, originally from Massachusetts. Her practice considers memory, forgetting and the evolution of understanding through time. She has assisted artists and educators across media and graduated from Oberlin College in 2015.

Xuan Liu is an interdisciplinary artist. She works conceptually through social engagement actions and performances, which offer places for her to examine strategies of dealing with real-life struggles. Her works have been exhibited internationally in New York, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Lebogang Neo Matseke is a South African native filmmaker and screenwriter. She has studied three degrees around the world all of which are connected one way or another to her main love- the sharing of stories through various types of media. She has published a novella titled ‘Queen B.E.E.’ and received accolades for her documentary ‘Dear Whoever, Love Lebo’ and short script ‘The Rain Queen’s Wife’.

Valeria Chikaodile Oha was born to Nigerian parents who made sure she was exposed to their culture throughout her childhood. Currently, Valeria is working with mixed media to showcase the struggles of being a black woman in America. Her current body of work focuses on exploring the idea that society both demonizes and fetishes the black body.

Shuoran Zhou was born in Beijing, China. She makes wearable objects using mainly glass beads to address common stereotypes toward women’s social roles and aims at advocating women’s autonomy. Shuoran’s work has been exhibited internationally in Spain, China, United States as well as various online exhibitions.

Zhu Zhu grew up in a family with artistic tradition where art looked appealing to her when she was a child. She decided to choose art as her undergraduate study major as well as her life career. In 2018, Zhu Zhu came to the U.S and began to learn computer art. During this time, she started to try new ways to show her concept in her work. She makes experimental animation and some sculptures in her MFA degree.

Michael Christopher Zuhorski was born in Detroit, Michigan. In 2015 Michael received a BFA in Photography from the College for Creative Studies, in Detroit. Michael’s practice is concerned with gradual change, sustained attention, and the fragile relation between seeing and knowing.

About the Curator

Laura Dvorkin is the Co-curator of The Bunker Artspace: Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody in West Palm Beach. She has worked with the Collection since 2008, managing large presentations of the Collection at institutions and the exhibitions that DeWoody curates. Dvorkin’s recent exhibitions include In The Absence of Light: Gesture, Humor and Resistance in The Black Aesthetic at the Rebuild Foundation, Chicago and A Very Anxious Feeling: Voices of Unrest in the American Experience at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia.

Dvorkin is the Associate Art Consultant for the Eventi Hotel, New York, Co-curator of 53 West 53, the Residential MoMA Expansion Tower, New York, and consults on acquisitions for private clients. Laura Dvorkin lives and works between New York City and West Palm Beach

Exhibition Venues:

Syracuse University Art Museum
Shaffer Art Building
Exhibition dates: March 31- May 15, 2022
Opening reception: April 7, 5 – 7pm
Curatorial Talk: 7pm

Point of Contact Gallery
The Warehouse
350 West Fayette Street
Exhibition Dates: March 31- May 15, 2022
Opening reception: April 14, 5 – 7pm

Sue and Leon Genet Gallery
The Warehouse
350 West Fayette Street
Exhibition Dates: March 31- May 15, 2022
Opening reception: April 21, 5 – 7pm

titleCaveat Emptor: Etsy in the Art World

Exhibition dates: March 4 through April 3, 2022
Reception: April 11, 5-7 p.m. 

SYRACUSE —  A new exhibit at Sue and Leon Genet Gallery explores the role that the online marketplace Etsy plays (or will play) in the art world through what is considered ‘fine art.’

Caveat Emptor: Etsy in the Art World  aims to present the historical prevalence and popularity of mass-produced objects, as well as how online platforms such as Etsy offer a departure from traditional work made for the masses. Curated by Molly Wight ‘22, a Museum Studies graduate student at Syracuse University, the exhibition is the culmination of independent study and research that showcases several artists including Andy Warhol, Winslow Homer, Japanese woodblock prints and selections from the curator’s personal collection.

The exhibition will be on view at the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery, located on the first floor of the Nancy Cantor Warehouse from March 4th through April 3, 2022. A reception will be held April 11th, at 5-7pm.

‘Caveat Emptor’ examines not only how artists who market their artwork on Etsy interact with the art world, but also the precedent for mass-produced art and how Etsy art shares similarities, but also has differences from types of art like ukiyo-e prints and Alphonse Mucha’s Art Nouveau posters. Artwork that is marketed on Etsy is contemporary art in that it is created by living artists, but it is very different from the kind of contemporary art that most museums collect.

titleI Love Design Research

 A new exhibit at Syracuse University’s Sue and Leon Genet Gallery at the School of Design features SUID Alumni presenting their design research.

The Sue and Leon Genet Gallery in the School of Design is pleased to present the ‘I Love Design Research’ Exhibition, on view from Monday, January 24 through February 20, 2022. A gallery talk and opening reception will take place on Thursday, February 3rd at 7:00 pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Donald Carr states, to engage in Design Research is to open oneself up to a ‘world of factors’ that influence and inspire. Through Design Research, we’re able to view the problem through the lived experience of others and question; how might we think differently?

Design practitioners will tell you it’s not a linear process and there are multiple ways to engage in research-based efforts. Additionally, interpretation and synthesis of data can often reveal ‘conflicting results’ which can be challenging to interpret. However, this often leads to informed insights that point the way to breakthrough ideas. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon the designer to prototype and test to confirm what the data is suggesting.

SUID Alumni are presenting their design research, a collection of projects intended to focus on the research phase and various approaches to the research process.

The assembled work in this exhibition includes a range of products, services, and experiences that have been practiced, prototyped, and perfected to represent solutions to problems identified by the designers through their initial research. 

titlePeter Piening: Abstract Visions in Modernist Graphic Design

‘Peter Piening: Abstract Visions in Modernist Graphic Design’ according to Page, “will highlight Piening’s significant contributions to the field of modernist graphic design from the 1930s-1960s and his role as a teacher and mentor at Syracuse University (1958-1973). The exhibit will bring together for the first time his logo and trademark designs as well as dynamic abstract commercial work created for numerous publications and record albums.”

  1. Peter Piening (1908-1977) was a German American graphic designer and educator.

Born in Grabow, Germany, he studied at the Bauhaus and received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Berlin in 1931. After graduation, Piening began working in publishing in Berlin and was among many European artists of his era who fled the Nazi occupation of Germany. He traveled to Paris and worked for Conde Nast before coming to the United States in 1934.

In New York, Piening began working at Vogue magazine and later worked with numerous New York advertising agencies and publishing houses. He was the Art Editor for Life magazine in 1937, and from 1941-1944 he was the Art Director at Fortune magazine. His editorial expertise led to freelance work for additional publications such as Architectural Record, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan. He also produced creative work for Lincoln, Ford, Shell Oil, and Ballantine Beer.

In addition to his design practice, Piening was also an educator who taught at the Art Students League and New York University before being appointed Professor of Advertising Design at Syracuse University in 1958. He taught at Syracuse University until his retirement in 1973.

‘M. Peter Piening: Abstract Visions in Modernist Graphic Design’ was curated by Meri A. Page, Assistant Professor of Communications Design. The exhibition will be on view at the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery, located on the first floor of the Nancy Cantor Warehouse from October 29 through December 19, 2021. A public reception at the gallery will take place on Thursday, November 11 from 5-7 pm.

This exhibition is supported by a Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts Research Grant.

titleMary McFadden: American Fashion Designer

Mary McFadden: American Fashion Designer

August 30- October 15, 2021

SYRACUSE — A new exhibit at Syracuse University’s Sue and Leon Genet Gallery at the School of Design features distinctive garments that reflect an avid study of ancient and ethnic cultures.

‘Mary McFadden: American Fashion Designer’ showcases the work of a ‘design archeologist’ as she gathers inspiration from diverse cultures and ancient civilizations. From African tribes to the Egyptian pharaohs, ancient Greece and Rome to Byzantium, they all act to inform her collections. McFadden realizes these design elements through the use of hand painting, quilting, beading and embroidery.

McFadden proclaims “I’ve done 60 collections, each based on an ancient civilization, and I went to all those places,”

Born in 1938 into a textile family, McFadden studied in Paris, earned a degree in fashion design from the Traphagen School of Design in NYC and a degree in sociology from Columbia University. She began a freelance design business in 1973 and in 1975 she patented a new process to pleat synthetic charmeuse into irregular pleats reminiscent of those created at the turn of the 19th century by Italian designer Mariano Fortuny. In 1976 she formed Mary McFadden Inc. and continued her business until closing in 2002.

Her patented fabric, called ‘Marii’, is created of synthetic charmeuse woven in Australia, dyed in Japan and machine pleated in NYC. Her concept was to create fabric that ‘falls like liquid gold on the body’.

Mary McFadden first spoke at Syracuse University as part of the Genet Lecture Series in 1992, and then returned in 2010 to the School of Design to again lecture about her as well as to host a fashion show of her original designs.

‘Mary McFadden; American Fashion Designer’ was curated by fashion design professor Jeffrey Mayer and features 17 original designs by McFadden dating from the late 1970s through the 1990s.The exhibition is on view from August 30- October 15, 2021 and is located in the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery which is on the first floor of the Nancy Cantor Warehouse. All garments are from the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection housed within the Fashion Design Program in the School of Design, College of Visual and Performing Arts.

titleMore Than a Toy

More Than A Toy

April 26 – May 22, 2021

More Than A Toy is the first exhibition to highlight designer art toys as a medium for engaging with today’s most difficult conversations. This two-part exhibition places new focus on the innovators working in this cutting-edge art form and the topics they are tackling including mental health, climate change, the drug epidemic, COVID-19, racial injustice, environmental degradation and more.

More Than A Toy offers an overview of the history, design processes and mass market appeal that elevated designer art toys from niche collectibles to a recognized contemporary art form.

Curated by Ethan Clearfield (MUS ’21).

Support for this exhibition from the VPA Graduate Memorial Scholarship and Fellowship. See video profile of exhibit.

titleThe Suffrage Shop
March 5 - 28, 2021

Unchanged: The Sue and Leon Genet Gallery at the School of Design is pleased to present The Suffrage Shop , an exhibition co-curated by Museum Studies graduate students Madeline Nielsen ‘21 and Emma Rathe ‘21.

Unchanged: As white women began to explore their freedom as consumers, suffragists in the United States were campaigning for the right to vote. The Suffrage Movement sought to ratify the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, which legally granted women this right, and did so by copying many of the same campaigning techniques used in the United Kingdom. Beginning in 1910, women in London set up storefronts, known as Suffrage Shops. The shops provided women a space to meet with other suffragists and to help spread educational materials that pushed the messages of the movement.

Unchanged: In an effort to recognize the exclusionary nature of Suffrage Shops, this gallery advocates for the inclusion of a wider range of narratives. The space invites visitors to have conversations surrounding the women’s movement, from its inception to the present day, and how it must change to serve evolving definitions and lived realities as to what it means to be a woman.

titleAction / Reaction: Design responds to our changing world

For every action, it’s essential that design step forward to offer creative and impactful reactions to address our current and future needs. "Action/Reaction" aims to highlight the work of current students and alumni from the School of Design's industrial and interaction design program reacting with innovative ideas in real-time to protect the public. This exhibition is presented both in-person and as a virtual experience (coming soon).

See the virtual exhibit.

titleLET IT SNOW: Keeping Warm at Syracuse University, 1870-2020

On view through February 28, 2020

Opening Reception

Wednesday, January 22, 6 – 8 P.M.
Featuring a 6:30 gallery talk by Kirsten Schoonmaker and Jeffrey Mayer

On Dec. 2, 2019, Syracuse University canceled a full day of classes for the fourth time in its 150-year history. This means that generations of students have trudged through snow, sleet, ice, and wind in order to get to class. How did they keep themselves from shivering as the daytime temperatures plunged as low as -4°F in January of 1982? Students on campus have proved that staying warm doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. Thick fulled wool in fashionable hues has been cut and shaped to follow the silhouettes of the moment, whether it be the 1880s, the 1980s, or today. Collars and cuffs have been trimmed with insulating materials from soft fur to plushy polyester, trapping warm air around exposed skin as icy winds blow. Belts and buttons not only keep coats from flapping, but also add a touch of shape, sparkle, or contrast. Selections from the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection reveal that while faces may change, outerwear has always been a style statement on campus.