Killing dresses is just part of how Amy Firestone Rosen is “Rethinking The Party Dress”


Amy Firestone Rosen

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

When you observe the art on display right now in The Foundry Art Centre’s “Rethinking the Party Dress” exhibit, look at the work through the eyes of a child. That is where you will find the evolution of artist Amy Firestone Rosen’s motivation.

“Art has been with me forever,” said Firestone Rosen. “When I was little, I would make my own paper dolls.  So, as an adult, when I got the idea to rethink the classic party dress I would go to clothing stores, it was like working with life-size dolls.”

Amy Firestone Rosen

Firestone Rosen, 63, grew up in the Congregation Temple Israel community and took any art classes she could find. She eventually obtained a BFA in Visual Communications from the University of Kansas and began working as a graphic designer.

“My style kept changing and I like to reuse things. I started painting on old ceiling tiles and even sold a few. One of the women I sold to mentioned something about printmaking, and that sounded like something I needed to look into,” said Firestone Rosen.

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So after 20 years in graphic design, Firestone Rosen’s interest in printmaking led her to further education and eventual studio practice as a printmaker. Soon, she had her new direction artistically combining monoprints, which is a process of making one-off prints, with collage techniques on layered, fibrous surfaces. The result is art featuring lots of patterns and textures that show a range from fully non-objective arrangements of shapes to the representation of figures and apparel. The apparel in this new show is the party dress.

Rethinking The Party Dress

As Firestone Rosen created her new art, her muses kept changing. Like the paper dolls, she made as a child, Firestone Rosen found herself focusing on themes of fantasy of women and fashion.

“After I did a series on paper dolls, I thought I had to stay small. But then I saw party dresses at Goodwill, and I kept going. It’s my new muse,” said Firestone Rosen.

The basis of her work is to create prints from upcycled garments. Hunting for dresses at second-hand stores and thrift shops is an important part of her practice. She searches for intriguing textural patterns found in garments that will translate into strong figurative images. The Party Dresses serve as printing plates, never to be worn.

“I use an old manual cranked printing press. I ink the garment up and position it on the press. Next, I take print-making paper and get it wet it goes on top of the items, put blankets on to protect the press,” said Firestone Rosen.

Allowing fabrics and entire garments to serve as “plates,” she at once reduces these surfaces to their textural imprint and acknowledges the memory and intrigue they hold. The memory is all that is left because the dresses do not survive the printing press.

“I transform the garment. It was one thing in its first life, and now it’s something new. That is what my art is saying. I gave it a second life,’ said Firestone Rosen.

How to see her work

The exhibition, “Rethinking The Party Dress” runs through September 23rd at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles. Here are just a few of the items on display.