The Montecito Journal




By Judy Foreman

Fashion divas and artists alike jammed into Frameworks, Caruso Woods Fine Art Gallery on De La Guerra street on a rainy March 18 night to attend the opening of Anne Luther's solo show, "BAGS, You are what Carry." Twenty percent of the artist's proceeds will be donated to Girls, Inc of Greater Santa Barbara.

Guests were encouraged in their invitations to bring their favorite, most memorable or most outrageous handbag. According to Ms Luther, "a woman can be described by words gestures, pictures and quotes, but her handbag and its contents can provide a glimpse into her personal and secret life."

After her mother passed away Luther purchased a vintage alligator handbag in a local antique shop. It was identical to the one her mother carried when she was child. As a young girl she says she was always fascinated by the mysteries of this grownup accessory and the contents hidden inside.

Outwardly, it was a symbol of all that her mother was: fashionable, chic and rich. Inside was her own secret life. Along the way she began to understand the importance a handbag plays in a woman's life. This simple act of creating a shrine to her mother turned into a two-year discovery.

This current show presents 26 portraits of women represented by a fantasy handbag (each bag has a name). The viewer has an opportunity to learn about the sitter, not in the usual way of studying the face, the surroundings or the dress, but through a representational assemblage handbag. Some works are fantasy creations made with found objects, others are actual handbags embellished with paper collages and vintage items.

Assemblage not painting or photography is Ms Luther's medium. Although the beautiful and talented brunette was classically trained in New York art schools where she studied the human form, she gave up her oils to collect objects and assemble them into an art form. She scours garage sales and thrift stores rather than art supply shops searching for items, which have the power to tell her story. She sees the rejected and apparently worthless objects of art as containing memories of their past owners, offering a glimpse into other times and worlds. A well-loved doll, a single earring or a few handwritten lines on a bit of town paper tell her about those who have lived with these items held them, wore them, wrote them. They whisper their thoughts, their joy and their tragedies as she imagines and celebrates their lives, working their spirit, instead of paint onto the canvas handbag.

According to Ms Luther, "as a cultural icon, the bag is an intimate extension of the body, with its respectable exteriors and intensely private interiors; handbags have an erotic charge. It is perhaps a woman's last secret place; the only place a man's hands are unwelcome."


Frameworks (805-965-1812) is located at 131 East De La Guerra Street.