Old Costumes: Jane Tardo at Good Children Gallery

Ashley L. Voss visits Jane Tardo’s show at Good Children Gallery, where the artist presented sculptures made from childhood dance costumes.

Jane Tardo, Red and Gold, 2018. Apoxie and found dance costume. Courtesy the artist.

Jane Tardo’s debut exhibition at Good Children Gallery titled “Recital” displayed a series of five sculptures with corresponding prints, all of which consider the transformation of objects and their histories. While settling her late father’s affairs, Tardo found a box of her former dance costumes in the attic. Confronted with emotion, the artist disassembled the costumes thread by thread reflecting on childhood trauma—only to reconfigure the clothes into abstract sculptures that she felt were complete once each costume was fully incorporated into a work.

To create these hodgepodge forms, Tardo formed grey modeling clay—combined with individual threads and sequins—into organic structures with numerous cavities and limb-like elements before affixing a patchwork of Lycra, lace, and tulle. Small enough to cradle, these misfit sculptures suggest naïve and vulnerable children begging to be coddled and unconditionally loved. By reclaiming the personal memories associated with her costumes, Tardo empowers the viewer to reconsider the lasting effects of the early sexualization of children through activities like dance recitals and beauty pageants.

An exposed cotton gusset greets viewers in Red and Gold, 2018, created from a costume worn by the artist at the age of eight years. Curiosity is provoked by the wink of a sequin and the allure of bright tassels adorning every sculptural crevasse. Chocolate and blood stains scar the surface of the tights. A clothing tag labeled “SC” for “small child” is visible. Rearranged, Tardo’s costumes are a declaration of agency for the toddlers and young girls who are subjected to the beauty standards and high expectations of pageants and dance competitions.

To provide context for the accompanying sculptures, Tardo also depicted each costume in a literal fashion with a reduction relief print, where each layer of ink is printed from new carvings on the same linoleum block. As additional impressions are made on the grey-tinted paper during the printing process, the overall image becomes less distinct. Illustrated as if being displayed from a hanger, these costume representations are a remaining clue of a haunting past now reimagined.

Editor's Note

Jane Tardo’s “Recital” was on view April 14–May 6, 2018, at Good Children Gallery (4037 St. Claude Avenue) in New Orleans.