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FARMINGTON — As he suspects a lot of people will, Jeffrey Richardson, the curator for the Farmington Museum system, had some sizable concerns when he first heard about environmental advocate and public artist Nancy Judd’s fashion show featuring items made from trash.

Then he got a look at it.

“I was a little bit, initially, skeptical,” Richardson said last week, recalling his reaction when officials from a museum in Hobbs recommended the “ReDress: Upcycled Fashion by Nancy Judd” show to him. “When you hear ‘recycled fashion,’ you think ‘inferior quality.’ But the reaction I had, which is the same as other people have had, is, you’re taken back. It’s quality stuff. And the message of the individual pieces, while they’re stunning to look at, is whimsical. It’s not hitting you over the head with a message about recycling, it’s just more about how we think about it.”

Richardson was so impressed with what he saw he arranged to bring the exhibition to the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, where it will open a six-month run this weekend. The collection’s eye appeal is reason enough to feature it at the museum, he said, regardless of how you feel about recycling.

“It’s not just what they represent, but how they look,” he said of the fashion items that Judd, a Santa Fe resident, has designed. “Even for people who are not interested in recycling, these are aesthetically pleasing.”

According to her website, recycledrunway.com, Judd began to develop her fashion project while working as the recycling coordinator for the city of Santa Fe and later as the executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition. Over the years, she has created site-specific Recycled Runway pieces such as the “Jellyfish Dress” made of plastic bags that was designed to bring attention to marine conservation issues in the coastal community of Lincoln City, Ore., and the “Tireless Couture” outfit that features bicycle innertubes designed to promote new bike trails in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Both pieces will be featured in the exhibition at the Farmington Museum, as well as a dress made of crime scene tape and a flight attendant’s outfit made of airline discards, including magazines, plane tickets, pretzel wrappers and a blanket.

The exhibition features 18 mannequins outfitted in everything from cocktail dresses to ball gowns. Many of the outfits feature accessories such as purses or hats.

Richardson acknowledged the show is the not the usual fare one might expect to see at the Farmington Museum, even though some of Judd’s pieces are so highly regarded they are part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

“It’s atypical in many ways, not just for the museum,” he said.

Richardson said the show has to be seen to be truly understood, and potential visitors shouldn’t be put off by the idea that it features trash.

“(Judd) views trash not as waste, but as wasted material,” he said. “She’s saying, ‘How can I take all this material and repurpose it?’ She really wanted to show that recycled materials, waste material, could be used in a way that was compatible with high fashion.”

Richardson argues that the outfits are so remarkable, the fact that they are made of recycled material is easy to forget.

“If I were to tell you these pieces were created for high-fashion consumers, you wouldn’t think anything about it,” he said. “This puts a recycling spin on a straightforward narrative.”

But it is the outfits’ “wow” factor that make the exhibition special, he said.

“We are certainly trying to focus on the fashion element of it,” Richardson said. “That’s the key to getting people in the door. We don’t want to scare anybody off. The fact that this is made from trash shouldn’t keep anybody from this show.”

Richardson said that while the advantages of recycling are an inescapable part of the exhibition, Judd doesn’t take an in-your-face approach to promoting it.

“This is a show that works on so many different levels,” he said. “It’s a fashion show, but it’s much more than that. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”

In conjunction with the show, the museum will be presenting an exhibition of frontier fashion culled from its permanent collection. The pieces included in that show have been donated by local residents over the years and come from an era ranging from 1880 to 1906.

“We’ll be contrasting the fashion of the 21st century with the fashion of the 19th century,” Richardson said.

The exhibition will feature six mannequins in outfits with related items. One will be a Farmington school teacher’s outfit from 1906 with a small school desk serving as a prop. Each mannequin will be accompanied by an explanation of how the item may have been worn during that era.

Both exhibitions remain on display at the museum through May 6.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Opening of the exhibition “Redress: Upcycled Style by Nancy Judd”

When: Saturday, Nov. 19

Where: The Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St.

Admission: Free, but there is a suggested donation of $3

For more information: 505-599-1174

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