by Joe Pagetta | photography by Hunter Armistead
In the guest bedroom of her house, Zoe Schlacter recently constructed an installation made almost entirely of textiles she created. She situated herself in the middle of the room wearing a dress she designed and a hat she created. The canopy of the bed was draped in her fabrics. She took photographs and shot video. “I like the idea of having something where I have made everything that is in it,” the 17-year-old Schlacter says. “I was in this environment entirely created by me.
To be in the presence of Schlacter, recently graduated from Brentwood High School and headed to the Rhode Island School of Design, is to be enveloped by her art and the world she is creating. Even if you’re not sitting with her in the home studio she shares with her mother, Robin, surrounded by a plethora of acrylic and oil paintings, or getting a peek inside her bedroom where her sketches, collages, and handmade flower headbands wrap the environs the way Christo and Jeanne-Claude might drape a building, she is a walking work of art radiating boundless—and fearless—creative energy.
The idea that we can create the world we inhabit is evident in Schlacter’s daily dress: elaborate creations culled from finds at Goodwill and purchases at big-box retailers that are then manipulated and adorned with flowers, rhinestones, or a favorite object, googly eyes. The presentation can be stunning. But what’s happening is deeper than mere style. It is probably best exemplified by the work in her recent AP art class at Brentwood, where she was the president of the art club. The project, conducted under the tutelage of retiring teacher Barbara Bullard, involved revisiting twelve years of yearbook photos, from kindergarten to her senior year.
“It’s about how yearbook photos can freeze a moment in time and make permanent the impermanent,” she says. “My growth and change as a person as I’ve grown up is very impermanent, but when you look at my yearbook photo from every year, it’s just a frozen moment in time that defines who I was at the time.” She scanned all the photos and “started messing with them. Who I was is so much more than that; not just a photo in a yearbook.”
While she claims no artistic heroes, she cites as influences Frida Kahlo (a self-portrait, oil-on-canvas work-in-progress in her studio appears to be a respectful nod to the Mexican artist), Cindy Sherman, and the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. That Schlacter references Kusama’s collaboration with designer Louis Vuitton hints at just one direction her varied interests may take her.
But what Schlacter will focus on when she gets to Rhode Island isn’t clear yet. She’s interested in fashion design, photography, painting, and pattern design. What is clear is that Brentwood, where she was born and raised, can no longer contain her.
“I’ve enjoyed growing up here,” she says. “I went to a good school with a good art program. But I’m ready for new adventures. I’m ready to go away to a new place.”
You can follow Zoe Schlacter at www.girlwiththeflower.com.
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