The Many Layers of Anna Telcs

Anna Telcs is a Seattle-based clothing and costume designer, currently showing her work in the context of art. “The Dowsing,” on view at Seattle’s Henry Art Gallery, includes a runway-style presentation on March 22 at Red Square, the University of Wahington’s open plaza laid out entirely with striking red brick. “The goal is to explore silhouette, color, and materiality of objects,” Telcs explained. “Emotional resonance is the leading factor in retention and use of an item, so by placing the garments in the realm of the art object, they can be perceived as worthwhile.”

Telcs presents her work on simple metal armatures that act as racks or models. With 11 armatures on view, some may hold up to five layers of garments, referencing contemporary layers of street fashion, as well as 19th-century undergarment construction. The clothes are minimalist variations of sheaths, tunics, and capes of intricate, old-world construction. The work continues a trajectory started by Telcs last year as an artist in residency at renowned theater director Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center in Southampton, New York.

Inspired by Frank Alvah’s 1924 book by The Psychology of Dress, Telcs has coined a term for a simple tunic she calls “the original garment.” Telcs’ process of building the collection as a whole, as well as the individual forms, begins with this initial piece. Telcs works out of the gallery periodically over the course of the show, putting her process on view, and adding new garments to the displays in real time. The process culminates in the aforementioned runway-style performance, where Telcs physically places of each layer onto her models as they traverse the given space until she has fully dressed each one.

Telcs’s material ranges from plain-weave cotton, silk, and organza, to a more unexpected list including bemberg, monk’s cloth, wool rope, and bamboo batting—the emphasis being on natural materials. Using techniques from rusting, braiding, embroidery, and ruching, to tipping and smocking, she explores the aesthetics of historic practices of garment making, while commenting on the current modes of mass production in the fashion industry.