Sole salvation: McLeod retreads the paper trail
Sometime after Imelda Marcos’ closet opened but before Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw made Manolo Blahnik a household name, I discovered the power of positive footwear. Wearing beautiful shoes means, no matter how dull my day, I can always look down for a little visual pick-me-up. In fact, my love of shoes runs close on the heels of my passion for art.
So Judy McLeod’s exhibition, “In Her Shoes,” immediately tripped my wire the moment I stepped into the McGuffey Art Center’s downstairs hall gallery. (Note how I’ve resisted the temptation to write, “She had me at heel-o.”) McLeod presents six pairs of salvaged soles, ranging from peep-toes to loafers, that she has remade to celebrate fancy over function.
McLeod is best known for her mixed-media collages combining ornately patterned papers and mica-flecked paint, examples of which are on view in a second McLeod show, “Playlist,” that hangs on the walls surrounding “In Her Shoes.” Although the floral “Playlist” pieces are pretty and the exhibition’s concept is charming (each work corresponds to a song), the shoes are the dazzlers in the gallery, enabling McLeod to express her aesthetic in fresh and whimsical ways.
The title of each work, which features a box in addition to the footwear, is a play on shoe-related words or lore. “Stampers,” for instance, features lace-up oxfords covered inside and out with international postage stamps. In contrast to the colorful shoes, the accompanying box is plain brown cardboard stamped in black ink with advisories like “Received,” “Return to Sender,” and “Artwork do not Bend.”
McLeod often incorporates the fine Asian papers familiar from her two-dimensional works and adds a bit of sparkle. Her “Hookers,” far from being sexy stilettos, are mid-heeled gold slip-ons lined with shimmering paisley paper on the inside and studded with fishhooks flashing feathers and baubles on the outside. The papered-over accompanying box swims with orange and black koi.
One of the most interesting works, “Glass Slippers,” offers a more treacherous version of the famous fairy-tale prop. Lined with cabbage rose coral paper, white floral pumps are sheathed in glass shards. Broken glass also surrounds the edge of the shoebox lid. Lesson: Don’t mess with Cinderella, stepsister– she will cut you!
With the exception of a pair of ruby-jeweled yellow Crocs (even sparkly Crocs are a shoe lover’s Kryptonite), McLeod takes the fashion-art relationship and strolls with it!
Judy McLeod’s exhibitions, “In Her Shoes” and “Playlist,” are on view at the McGuffey Art Center through April 26. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.