Catherine Latson



Sea urchin shells (collected in coastal Maine), deconstructed Victorian bodice, tulle, wood veneer, whale bone, antique tatting thread, cotton batting

Courtesy of the artist
The corset is the quintessential 19th-century article of female clothing; its confinement simultaneously represented feminine propriety and eroticism. The sculptures in Catherine Latson’s Garment series are made exclusively with organic and repurposed material from the natural world, bridging the space between “properly domesticated” sex and the primal forces of nature.

Birch Corset is a technical marvel that, with its wooden bindings, variously suggests the strength of a tree trunk; the heaviness of stays gouging into flesh; and flagellation with whipping branches. A sinuous female form of wood also recalls the nymph Daphne, who in Greek mythology pleaded to her father to be turned into a tree, just as she was about to be raped by Apollo. Sea Urchin Tutu—a Balanchine ballerina meets the Little Mermaid— and Tapioca Bride—a confection of feathers and lace remnants on view in Glenview Mansion—are both softer, more ethereal takes on traditional femininity, though no less constricting.

As Latson says of her costumes, “the building blocks of the natural world are endlessly interesting. No ocean or forest is bereft of ideas . . . whether it is the grace of a vine’s curve, the architecture of a conch shell, or the brocade surface of a sea urchin, the intrinsic properties of my medium take the creative lead.”