Columbia's Cezanne Window Exhibit Pays Tribute to Artist Through Fashion Design

Columbia-trained designers delve into painter Paul Cezanne’s process and showcase their Cezanne-inspired designs at 618 S. Michigan.

The Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies window exhibit “Cezanne Undone: Another PerRetrospective” showcases the work of three Columbia-trained designers: Anfernee Pettis ’20, Shaquita Reed ’18, and Robert Noia ’18. The Columbia exhibit can be seen through June 21 at 618 S. Michigan Ave. The Fashion Studies Department created it in response to the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition “Cezanne” as a tribute to the French painter Paul Cezanne.  

Rather than creating a more traditional tribute window, Fashion Studies Chair Colbey Reid envisioned something different. “I thought our former students could do something a bit edgier and deconstructive with Cezanne—a bit grittier and more Columbia,” she says. “I asked Virginia Heaven [associate professor in Fashion Studies] for designer recommendations and she said she knew exactly who to invite.” 

The designers delved into elements of Cezanne’s process, not with canvas but with cloth, to bring forward suppressed elements of Cezanne’s work. The pieces shown in the exhibit are preliminary but are rendered life-size 3D “sketches” of could-be collections. 

Pettis—whose characteristic streetwear designs deconstruct preppy, athletic styles using techniques that artificially age them—created his piece by imagining an invisible outsider standing outside of the frame on the cliff that overlooks the Cezanne painting “The Sea at L’Estaque Behind Trees.” More like the cold blue sea than the warm and cozy village below, this imagined viewer is cool, turbulent, and literally “on the edge.”  

Captivated by the stories of Cezanne process with still lifes—a method described as so slow and obsessive that the fruit would rot before a painting’s completion, Reed used a knitting technique that could make the garment rot like fruit and designed the distressed knit in her piece to shed and visibly transform over the period of its exhibition. 

Robert Noia was inspired by Cezanne’s reputation for meticulous craftwork and the characteristic of derangement sometimes associated with artists. Noja juxtaposes a nod to order and an homage to undoing as seen in his piece’s cinched neck and waist and the historical use of the bustle in contrast with the raw edging in his piece’s organza sleeve and the pooling of the skirt at the bottom. 

Columbia welcomes the community to visit the window exhibit to explore these designs and learn more about their creation and connection to Cezanne.  


Cezanne Undone: Another PerRetrospective 

June 3 to June 21 

618 S. Michigan Ave.