When my art critic friends received a press release about nun's habits from ace Cynthia Rowley / David Zwirner publicist Michelle Finocchi, they immediately deleted it, but I went to the opening on Friday night at JF & Son fashion boutique on University Place, and it was the event of the year.
Columbia University School of the Arts professor Jon Kessler greeted me at the door, for the artist-in-residence at Jesse Finkelstein's hot space is none other than Columbia MFA Julia Sherman, a Dalton alumna who first made her bones by designing erotically ambiguous wigs for Orthodox Jewish women under the supervision of her thesis adviser, dealer and curator Mary Goldman, who was also at the opening.
This unusual fusion of the cutting edge at Columbia and the deeply theological led to an Episcopal convent in Virginia commissioning a most sensuous ensemble of religious frocks from Sherman. Like a true Columbia grad, she did her research, interviewing, among others, Sister Dolores Hart, once an actress who locked lips with Elvis Presley in one of his films.
"People forget, Charlie," Julia told me, "that nuns were at the forefront of liberation theology in the 1960s and that their radical action is central not just to Occupy Wall Street, but to far riskier liberation movements across the world." Julia's esthetic answer, recently featured in W magazine for you fashionistas out there (and priced between $300 and $700), is to aerate the habit as a functional art statement.
Granted, it's all covered up in a wool surplice, for outdoors, that has the luxury feel of a jogging suit, but the soft gray lounge wear and intimate, arm-flesh bearing pajamas for compline (that's the name for "cocktail hour" at the convent) thrilled these old bones at JF's opening more than a dozen Playboy centerfolds!
If you feel deficient in the holiday spirit, I invite you to go to JF & Son at 56 University Place, on 10th Street, to experience this latest and best of Jesse Finkelstein's fashion collaborations with hot young artists. . . and, of course, Julia Sherman is the very hottest. If you don't believe me, ask Jon Kessler.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).