Flinn Gallery exhibition merges art and fashion at Greenwich Library

GREENWICH — The Flinn Gallery’s latest exhibition recalls the Greenwich library building’s past as a department store, putting 71 shoes on display in an installation its co-curators say they hope to invoke a sense of whimsy.

The designers behind the shoes don’t have household names; there are no Manolo Blahniks or Christian Louboutin. Instead, visitors will see the work of 20 artists from around the world, including professional sculptors, architects and a truck driver.

Jane Gershon Weitzman, founding vice president of Stuart Weitzman retail, commissioned artists to make fantastic shoes to display in store windows. Over 1,000 shoes were created over a 12-year period.

Flinn Gallery curators Debra Fram and Barbara Richards created “Just Shoes: Where Art, Craft and Fantasy Meet” from the larger collection and spent two years working on the exhibit.

They received about 80 boxes of shoe sculptures, some of which were around 30 years old, and carefully unpacked and preserved the collection. Their selections focused on variety, good art, craftsmanship and audience interest – not their personal favorites, of which they had several.

“We hope this inspires our visitors, especially children, to think about what they could do and how they could create something,” said Richards.

A question sheet is available to help children engage in the work.

A variety of materials are represented in the exhibition: corrugated cardboard, ceramics, paper, wire, steel and wire. Styles range from industrial to glamorous to camping.

“It’s really a shoe show, not an artist show,” Richards said.

The curators contacted the artists to let them know that their work would be featured in the exhibition. The shoes are often in storage, and the museums and galleries that display the work each select different pieces, the curators said.

Fram and Richards said they decided to delve into the collection when they saw eight pieces on display at the New York Historical Society.

“Shoes are something that’s very accessible to anyone, of any age, to people who wouldn’t typically go to a gallery or museum, and it’s a great community exhibit,” Fram said.

“Just Shoes” is Flinn’s first show consisting exclusively of sculpture. Fram and Richards said they wanted to create a dreamlike atmosphere but were initially unsure how they would arrange 71 sculptures.

They got their staging idea when the library was undergoing recent renovations, they said. They entered the gallery to find chairs stacked at different heights in the center of the space and decided that was what they wanted.

Scale models and tracing paper became essential for planning the right arrangement, they said. They built 16 new pedestals to accommodate the number of shoes planned for the exhibition.

As shoes are for artists, the exhibition is for them a unique work.

While describing a unique poster design, Richards reflected, “It’s kind of like we didn’t follow the rules.”

“We thought about the rules and really challenged them,” Fram said.

The exhibit opened last week and will be on display through March 16 at the Flinn Gallery on the second floor of the Greenwich Library Main Branch, 101 W Putnam Ave. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and has extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

Weitzman will discuss his search for eye-catching shoe sculptures in a conversation with Christina Chiu, author of “Beauty,” from 2-3 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Berkley Theater. Proof of full vaccination is required to attend.

For more information, call the gallery at 203-622-7947 ​​or visit http://www.flinngallery.com.

annelise.hanshaw@hearstmediact.com