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Unveiling An Uncommon Thread: A Journey of Self-Discovery Through Fashion, Fine Art, and an Exhibit

I felt the positive energy radiating through the air as I watched the expressions of curious onlookers mill about the gallery, carefully inspecting the fine details of each couture piece I created. Smiles were abundant, my children greeted everyone who walked through the gallery by saying “Do you know that my mom did this?” and so many devoted time to studying each piece and taking it all in. They felt something when they looked at my art. The next night was the inaugural People’s Ball at the Banana Factory, a celebration of art and fashion in the Lehigh Valley. The crowd was filled with colors, silhouettes, and styles as attendees explored the gallery, walked the runway, and celebrated art in the Lehigh Valley with my exhibit as the backdrop. “This is it,” I thought, as I realized this is the destination of a three-year journey of fashion, fine art, and self-discovery.

I was thrilled to celebrate the opening of my solo fashion exhibit, “An Uncommon Thread: Fashion as Fine Art” at the Banana Factory during First Friday and again the next evening at the People’s Ball gala. Unveiling this collection has been a pivotal moment in my artistic journey and career as a bridal gown designer, allowing me to rediscover my purpose and delve into the depths of my artistic soul. Afterward, I’ve been left with a profound realization: fashion is not simply a craft, but an expression of fine art with the power to inspire and transform.

In 2021, when the idea of this exhibit was presented, I was at a crossroads— burnt out by the bridal fashion industry and running out of creative energy. Although my bridal business was successful, I felt I needed to dive into the “why” of what I was doing as the dissatisfied voice of my inner artist became louder. As a bridal designer and with my atelier, I had been focused on my clients and salability, two important aspects of a business in this industry. While the designs I had created in the past held elements of artistry, I had not embraced my natural artistic instincts or viewed my creations as works of art. However, through creating this couture collection for the solo exhibit I realized that these two seemingly opposing concepts— salability and fine art— could coexist harmoniously.

Throughout this journey, I began to understand that my purpose as a bridal gown designer is to create art through fashion that inspires individuals to become the best versions of themselves— expressing the innermost feelings through wearable art. When you wear a garment and style yourself, you are not an active participant in art, you become the art through fashion. It made me realize why I was always drawn to bridal fashion because it’s the one moment when an individual feels empowered to be extraordinary.

A wedding dress is probably the most meaningful and elaborate garment a person will wear. Everyone wants to look like the best versions of themselves on their wedding day, knowing the memories captured in photographs will endure for generations long after they are gone. These epiphanies sparked a passion in my work, ideas that led to new professional opportunities, and an excitement to satisfy the duality of my being: an artist, first and foremost, and a bridal business owner.

Aside from a personal creative journey, An Uncommon Thread exemplifies the interplay of anxiety, worry, and optimism I feel toward the world around me with each piece. These gowns were not created all at once but spanning three years of process, initially inspired by my fascination with science fiction. It was the early days of the pandemic when I saw images of an empty, eerily still Times Square and immediately recalled the movie “12 Monkeys.” The dystopian narrative depicted a future ravaged by a plague and humanity took refuge as nature eventually reclaimed the abandoned cityscape. The parallels between science fiction and current events were striking as fiction seemingly became reality. Art often imitates life, but life felt like it was imitating art.

As time progressed, the concept transformed. I began exploring the dichotomy between the natural world and artificial creations such as AI and robotics. I found humanity’s struggle to find balance within these technological advances both fascinating and terrifying. We continue to push boundaries of what is possible through technology while also experiencing genuine fear of an artificial world devoid of natural beauty or complexities that make life worth living. My inherent optimism makes me hopeful of humanity’s ability to find the balance between natural and artificial— my anxieties and worries are expressed in the pieces.

Overall, this journey led to many epiphanies. However, I find the most profound to be what I’ve learned about myself as a human creating art. Do the work first and try to discover the “why” after. The purpose of art is to extract what you need to express, oftentimes not necessarily knowing what that is, and in doing so you may just discover something about yourself.

-xoxo, Barbara

P.S. Check out more snapshots from the opening night of the exhibit and the People’s Ball below! Photos provided by Lisa Boehm Photography and our personal collection.

An Uncommon Thread: Fashion as Fine Art exhibition is on display at the Banana Factory Crayola Gallery from now through August. Visit the link for details and to learn more.


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