Faculty Spotlight: A Place of Her Own

—Julia Halprin Jackson

Photo: Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao

Robin Lasser never wears dresses. Instead she designs them as tents, art installations that function as wearable architecture and transmit messages about the spaces they inhabit. Since 2004, the San Jose State art professor and recipient of the prestigious Eureka Fellowship has partnered with her former student and professional photographer Adrienne Pao, ’05 MFA Photography, to conceptualize, construct and perform dress tents around the world.

“We feel that the spectacle can be utilized as a bridge to connect people to the work,” Lasser says. “We try to create the tent dresses so they are awesome, wondrous and magical, because perhaps it allows us more space to turn towards an issue rather than away from it. Ultimately, these pieces are not there as propaganda pieces, but rather as bridges toward connections.”

The tent dresses are immersive experiences. Viewers are invited to come inside, respond to sound installations and interact with models. Take the Green House Dress Tent, which she and Pao constructed in 2007 inside a working greenhouse in Richmond, California. They replaced domesticated flowers with plastic daisies wearing sunglasses which moved along to a musical composition she created about greenhouse gases.

Lasser sees dresses as important symbols of gender politics, and often refers to the installations as “she” or “her.”

“With a lot of the work we do, there’s this tension between the relationship of our bodies and place,” she says. “It’s a female-centered, feminist perspective. Most of our dresses have a large stature. They have a place in the world.”

Julia Halprin Jackson

Julia Halprin Jackson is a writer on San Jose State University's Strategic Communications and Marketing team.

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