Hinsdale-born designer featured in Chicago art exhibit

If you scroll the American artist by Rene Romero Schuler working on art brokerage online, Artsy, or in person at the Zolla Lieberman Gallery in Chicago, you might casually assume she’s a dancer or ballerina who enjoys painting. Or a painter who likes to dance.

“People have asked me a million times if I’m a dancer, no – I’m the opposite of a dancer. I’m a known awkward person,” Schuler said with a laugh. “I think because my work is a source of healing and grounding for me, what I create are my alter egos – they are these beautiful, strong, confident, balanced beings and I think most of the time I’m a bit more withdrawn , shy, nervous, anxious, awkward.

Schuler’s works of art – whether an oil painting, gold leaf laid on a rough surface, or a clay sculpture – each have a recurring theme: the silhouette of a female figure with a structured bodice and wild petticoat.

The first sculptural piece Schuler ever created was “Uma”, an Oscar-sized wire-shaped bronze figurine.

“I loved how the yarn created these lines, similar to the marks of an oil painting or the lines of palette knives,” she said. “It has become symbolic of the scars and flaws that shape us all.”

In addition to pieces from her collection having a home in galleries around Chicagoland, the Lake Forest resident has exhibited in Rome, Miami and Paris where her art can be purchased at Geraldine Banier Gallery.

As someone who came out of a difficult childhood and established her own name, Schuler, 53, said she tries to create opportunities for others who dare to do something different, like Donovan Laux, 21 years old, born in Hinsdale studying design at the School of Art Institute (SAIC).

Laux will host her first-ever fashion show on Saturday, July 16 at Zolla Lieberman Gallery, showcasing her collection of 12 looks in collaboration with Schuler.

The project was something that kind of “happened”.

In January, Schuler went to visit the home of one of her art collectors who is also a custom home builder in Hinsdale.

“When we were walking around I saw a clothes rack full of these really cool designs and I said oh my god what is this?” Schuler said. She said she spotted a pair of jeans with hearts printed on them and immediately wanted to order them.

His client, Julie Laux, then told him about her avant-garde daughter, Donovan.

“My mom called me that day and said you weren’t going to believe it, but Rene Romero Schuler really liked your jeans,” Laux said Monday afternoon, sitting with her designs spread out in the lobby of an apartment building in Chicago, preparing for fittings later in the day. “I was in disbelief – my mother and I have always admired [Rene’s] working together, so his interest in something that I did – that blew my mind.

From there, the conversation morphed into an extension of Schuler’s exhibition, “Reflection,” which runs through July 31 at the River North Gallery.

Laux’s 12-piece collection is a mix of clothes made from scratch and clothes that Laux “created and manipulated” from pieces that were either salvaged or salvaged.

Reinventing what already exists is a big part of Laux’s design aesthetic – “I feel like there’s a lot of stuff that’s already been created and there’s so much fabric in the world , might as well give it a second chance to be something that people really want to wear,” Laux said.

Showing her jeans, she says she collects them from different people she knows or finds them in vintage clothing stores. She also often transforms unused upholstery into skirts and dresses, a few of which will be worn in the fashion show.

As part of her work with Schuler, Laux used silk and fabric paint to “scrape” a design of Schuler’s delicate female figure onto a pair of jeans using a technique she learned at SAIC.

“This collection is based on something I found in Rene’s work – his pieces have both physical aesthetic beauty and also deeper meaning,” she said.

Several of Laux’s designs include hyper-feminine colors and are made with fabrics like tulle, juxtaposed with darker, sharper lines.

“I really love tulle – I love how structured and unstructured it is,” she said. “He has a very good flow, but if you handle him in certain ways he can be a lot more trained.”

One of her pieces is made from white tulle that she heat treated for a dimensional look.

“I tried to burn a piece of tulle and saw how it creased,” Laux explained. As she crumpled the delicate textile, she realized she could tinker with the fabric to make it look like flowers, which she then hand-sewed onto a boa-like dress that can be worn over a bodysuit or a simple tee. -shirt.

As she prepared for fittings before the big show, Laux recalled trying on stuff from her mother’s closet at age 5 and draping old pieces of fabric over a wire mannequin with her sister. . It was “the start of everything,” she says.

Beginning her final year as a fashion design student this fall, Laux is ready to break away from traditional sewing methods and techniques into eclectic creativity.

“I feel like I’m breaking all the rules now that I know them,” she said. While advancing her vision, Laux hopes to continue recycling items to “give them new life” in an effort to create a sustainable clothing line. Laux primarily takes orders online through his brand’s Instagram account, @donovanjordanlaux, and through word-of-mouth.

For the seasoned Schuler, Saturday’s show marks her first with an emerging designer.

“I want to help give opportunities wherever I can – maybe Donovan didn’t need my help to get started, but she’s an inspiring young designer. I love fashion and I love everyone trying to get their name out there,” Schuler said. “Everything about her intrigued me and I wanted to be a part of it. No reason not to.

Schuler, who has two sons, is preparing to move west to Monterey, Calif., where a brand new studio awaits.

Her art will always be available in Chicago, and her vision will remain intact through the many ways a figure like “Uma” comes to life.

“Healing comes when this being looks at me, even if it has no face. They describe something I need at that time,” Schuler said.

Christopher S. Washington