From a few feet away, it's an elegant, high-collared dress that might have been worn by Elizabethan nobility, full of deep, rich colors, delicate details and expensive-looking jewelry.
Get a little closer and you see it's an assemblage of used X-ray film, candy and pieces of a teenager's orthodontic retainer.
It's part of a new exhibition titled "Art of the Costume 'Reinvented.' " It's set to open Sept. 6 at the SCF Gallery of Fine Arts at the State College of Florida in Bradenton.
The exhibit is a collaboration between SCF and 10 local theater companies that have designed costumes specifically for the exhibition.
"It's the first time all the theater companies in our area have cooperated in one place, for one purpose," said Ken Erickson, the theater program manger at SCF and one of the prime movers behind the exhibit.
Erickson said he and gallery manager Joseph Loccisano wanted to create an event that would publicize the opening oftheater season -- which for most companies begins in September or October -- and to draw attention to the often unappreciated art of costumes design.
But they also wanted to make the exhibit fun, for both the audience and for the designers, so they added a twist.
"The companies could submit any costume," Erickson said, "but it had to be constructed of recycled, recovered materials and trash. Nothing you would usually use to make a costume. No fabric."
Erickson designed two costumes for the show, one Elizabethan and one Victorian. The Victorian costume is fashioned from plastic dry-cleaning bags and old postage stamps. The Elizabethan costume, besides its X-ray film, gummy bears and retainer, has an outer dress of red biohazard disposal bags donated by the SCF natural science department and a skirt made from bingo sheets.
Most of the professional and community theaters in
the in the area were eager to participate. A few opted out because their staffs were working too hard on upcoming shows.
The companies that are represented in the exhibition are SCF Studio 84 Productions, Asolo Conservatory, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Island Players, The Sarasota Ballet, The Glenridge Performing Arts Center, The Players of Sarasota, Theatre Odyssey and Venice Theatre.
"All of the companies that were able to participate did so enthusiastically," Loccisano said. "It's an exciting exhibition that really focuses on the talent that we have in our local theater community. It's about costumes as art."
Like Erickson, all the other designers in the exhibition have created costumes that feature a bit of optical illusion. From a distance, they look as though they're made from fabric and could actually be worn. Up close, it's obvious that they're impractical as apparel, because they're literally garbage.
Venice Theatre submitted a colorful costume made from jigsaw puzzle pieces and pages torn out of a children's book.
Designers at Florida Studio Theatre created a costume for the Lady of the Lake, a character in "Spamalot." It's made from used fishnets and cans of Spam.
"We just got different stuff from here and there," said Susan Angermann, FST's costume shop manager. "We just used bits of stuff that was lying around. We didn't spend any money at all."
Florida Studio Theatre will stage "Spamalot" in November. Sarah Bertolozzi, the costume designer for "Spamalot," designed the exhibition costume with Angermann and an FST intern and props person.
The exhibition is mostly meant to be fun, Erickson and Loccisano said, but the idea of bringing the performing and visual arts together is one they both take seriously. They also liked the idea of local theater groups joining together to help promote each other's upcoming seasons and to raise awareness of the quality of local theater. Each participating theater company will have posters outside the exhibition with information about upcoming shows.
Because the designers didn't have to construct costumes that could actually be used in a performance, they had more freedom to express themselves, and gallery visitors can focus on the art of costume design, instead of watching actors and listening to dialogue.
And, of course, the mandated use of reused and recycled materials for the costumes is a lighthearted way to send a message about sustainability, Erickson said.
One great way to experience the exhibition will be at the opening reception, set for 6-8 p.m. Sept. 6, at the Fine Art Gallery.
Besides the exhibition itself, the reception will feature music by the Garbage-Men, a Sarasota-area band that plays instruments made from recycled trash, along with musicians from the SCF faculty and student body.
The exhibition runs through Oct. 16. The reception and the exhibition are free and open to the public.
The gallery, on the SCF Bradenton campus at 5840 26th St. W., is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Call 941-752-522 or go to www.scf.edu for information.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.