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The Odd Ball: Board Member Prepares Unusual Costume For Real Art Ways Bash


April 03, 2009

High-powered divorce attorney Ilene Swerdloff will attend her first Real Art Ways fundraiser Saturday as one of its newest board members. So choosing the right dress was important to the 63-year-old, who is well known as a cutting-edge fashionista.

Her choice? A black-and-gold, ballet-length frock featuring a black bustier top and full skirt fashioned of cast-off rubber inner tubes, and embellished with a sprinkling of various size, black-nippled gold breasts made of repurposed carpet padding.

It's the perfect red-carpet selection for The Odd Ball, the name of this year's fundraiser at Real Art Ways, a popular and eclectic, multi-disciplinary arts organization on Arbor Street in Hartford's Parkville neighborhood.

"When they asked me if I would come up with some kind of costume for the fundraiser, I figured: Why not?" says Swerdloff, a free-spirited clothes horse who proudly proclaims she is a lawyer who does not own one suit.

"I mean, who better to do it than a board member," she laughs. "So I said yes, I'd come up with a costume that was appropriately odd."

Swerdloff turned to Hartford visual artist Anne Cubberly, who is as well known for her eclectic art as Swerdloff is for her wardrobe.

"I told her she needed a fabulous costume," says Cubberly, who describes Swerdloff as "passionate, outspoken and fearless."

"She wears what she wants and has ovaries the size of basketballs," she says, alluding to the Farmington resident's bold and venturesome personality. "We were a perfect match because I am a fearless artist."

Cubberly uses recycled materials in her works. "My idea for the costume was inspired by her personality," she says. "She is a goddess of the underworld, an Earth mother, a caterpillar."

With those images in mind, Cubberly went to work designing a piece that met the criteria and "out of the box" spirit the Real Art Ways parties are known for.

"I think a lot of breasts all over your body is odd," says Cubberly, explaining the thought process that went into the creation. And as far as the slightly cumbersome weblike-looking skirt of rubber?

"It undulates when Ilene walks, and Ilene usually does undulate when she walks," says Cubberly.

Cubberly estimates it took about 100 hours to create, build and then alter the dress. Along the way, most of those hours were filled with some really good laughs as the two women worked together.

"I have to say that Anne knows more of my private body numbers than anyone else," giggles Swerdloff, who was measured just about everywhere in order to get the "dress" to fit. "Our relationship now is very intimate."

Swerdloff says her husband Mark's only comment was to ask if she was planning to wear anything under the dress, which, on its own, would provide a pretty clear view of everything from the waist down.

"No, I am wearing something underneath it," says Swerdloff. "My attitude is, let them drool and wonder what they could be seeing."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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