Mariska Karasz: Fashion designer and artist
When Mariska Karasz immigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1914, she knew she wanted to work in fashion. She soon attended Cooper Union, where she studied fashion design under Ethel Traphagen. In the 1920s, ready-to-wear garments were just starting to become more popular, but custom-made clothing was still a must-have for the upper class. Mariska’s sister, an artist and graphic designer, was very active in the 1920s Greenwich Village social circle of immigrant artists and intellectuals, and Mariska was surely a part of this scene as well. In this atmosphere, Mariska entered the world of custom couture, making clothes first for women and later in the 1930s for children. Her designs are admired for their synthesis of modern lines and more traditional Hungarian embroidery work, which she had learned in her native country. Her love of texture, color, and pattern is evident in all of her work.
Silk appliqué jacket, designed 1927. Via http://lesleyturner.blogspot.com
As ready-to-wear clothing became more widespread, Mariska shifted her work, becoming primarily an embroidery artist. Her earliest embroidery works are more figure based, including the incredible portrait of her daughter below. Again, texture, color, and pattern are the most striking components of the work.
Later, Mariska began to create more abstract compositions. Clearly starting with figurative depiction (see the titles of the works), Mariska was clearly influenced by modern abstract art, from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism.
Ropes on Red
Split Level Ark, 1960
Spring Game (detail), late 1950s
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery, which explores the work of contemporary embroidery artists who use the medium in innovative ways. These artists are indebted to Mariska and other artists like her, if not directly, than at least in concept: Take a traditional craft and adapt it to the current times.