This article was originally published at Haute Macabre on June 26, 2019.

When a friend shared with me a link to the works of Karen LaMonte, I was perfectly fascinated in an instant. Exquisite, uncanny, life-sized silhouettes with “the human body in absentia,” these sculptures depict the lavish drapery and sensual curves of Western evening gowns, as well as recreations of traditional Japanese kimonos which incorporate traditional padding and binding to mask the figure underneath. My initial, offhand observation was “GASP SWOON #invisiblesquadgoals!” (You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve got invisible girls on the brain lately.)

As it happens, the vision and concept behind this artist’s works are much, much more illuminating and relevant than the flights of fancy and frivolity invented by my foolish imagination. Exploring how clothing defines cultural identities and acts as our “social skin”– clothing which we use to obscure and conceal, to protect the individual and project a persona–Karen LaMonte’s work sidesteps traditional portrayals of the nude to reveal the female form through hollow garments created in a variety of materials: bronze, glass, ceramic and rusted iron.

In probing this disparity between our “natural skin” and our “social skin”, she investigates the premise of clothing as a divider between public from private space and ideas of transparency and transience.

Currently, Embodied Beauty, an exhibition bringing together Floating World and Nocturnes, two recent series of Lamonte’s works which examine ideals of beauty in different cultural contexts, can be seen at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, through August 17, 2019. And as my imagination only extends so far, I’m afraid you must attend on my behalf and fill me in on all of the swoony details. In the meantime, however, we can scroll further down the page for additional imagery from these collections.

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