A couple of weeks ago, Daniel Venditti got a strange call. The accented voice at the other end offered him a uniquely bizarre opportunity, the chance to create a door into fashion. The result of that collaboration takes shape this weekend in the Franklin Shops' storefront windows when Venditti creates a Klimt-inspired couture portrait on a door that will be installed in one of three ground floor fitting rooms at the River District art shop and boutique.
Venditti boasts ties to the New York fashion scene. From the mid-'90s until 2006, the figurative painter, printmaker and sculptor held positions as art and creative director at Vanity Fair, Esquire, Newsweek , Gourmet and Men's Health magazines. Since relocating to Naples, Florida, he's stayed close to the genre, serving as art director at Devious Design Studio in Fort Myers, Presstige Printing in Bonita Springs and City Mattress. As one might expect, his work reflects these influences, and even before the Franklin Shops' Cornelia Reinhardt finished describing the project, Venditti knew that he would use a Gustav Klimt femme fatale as inspiration for his fitting room fashion door.
"I discovered [Klimt] in art school," Venditti explained during an interview last night. "He's just so unique. I thought of him for this project because the era in which he painted is so fitting for this venue. The Franklin Shops evokes the same kind of atmosphere."
Venditti may be the latest, but he's by no means the first to draw a link between Klimt and the world of high fashion. One need go no further than L'Wren Scott's Fall 2013 bon vivant line for an example of Klimt-inspired fashion designs. Scott's gilded art-nouveau fall collection contains distinctive aureate swirls, wriggling serpents and 23-karat gold accents unabashedly borrowed from the Austrian painter’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was purchased by Ronald Lauder for his Neue Gallery in New York in 2006 for $135 million (a record that stood for a scant four months). Just as Klimt's paintings often celebrated the female form, Scott's designs feature bold colors and body-hugging silhouettes. But Klimt did more than create paintings that appeal to present day designers and fashionistas.
Klimt collaborated with long-time muse and Viennese couturiere Emilie Floge, suggesting the patterns that she incorporated into her avant-garde designs known as Reformed Dresses that were reminiscent of kimonos and North African tunics. Theirs was one of the first partnerships to bring together art and fashion. Klimt not only painted Floge, he photographed her too, perhaps becoming the world's very first fashion photographer in the process. Eventually, Klimt even tried his own hand in designing dresses and accessories, leaving a legacy of sketches and drawing of his design ideas.
Like Klimt, Venditti has always been fascinated with the human form coupled with an abiding interest in human nature. Both inform his artistic style and reveal much about the artist, his subjects, and his viewers. "But it's important to note that I'm not doing a reproduction," cautions Venditti. "My own style will come through."
That style has garnered Venditti his share of accolades and solo shows over the past few years. In the last half of 2011, his work was juried into two popular shows at daas Gallery, Skin 2011 and Earth: A Cry for Deliverance. In the first half of 2012, he was featured in a solo show titled Paintings & Prints and Incognito, a fundraiser in which 200 local, national and international artists painted 200 original 8 x 10 inch works of art in the Daniels Pavilion at the Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art to benefit Friends of Art, a 1,000-member volunteer support group for the visual arts at Artis Naples.
He followed that with a two-man show in July, 2012 at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, where he teamed with Lyle Bowen for an exhibit called Reflections. In October of 2012, his mixed media work, The Burden, was selected as Best of Show at the Alliance's State of Mind: Politics 2012 show. More recently, he was included in the Davis Art Center's well-attended and critically-acclaimed 5-year retrospective.
Venditti will be painting live in the Franklin Shops window from 2-6 p.m. on both Saturday, February 1 and Sunday, February 2 during ArtFest Fort Myers. The Franklin Shops on First are located at 2200 First Street in the downtown Fort Myers River District. For more information, please telephone 239-333-3130 or visit http://thefranklinshops.com/.