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Lickety-spit Jimenez pushes envelope

Citizen Staff Writer
Visual Arts

POLLY HIGGINS

Metromix.com

The next time you consider spitting, think about it. Really think about it. Because it may just end up back on you.

That’s exactly what happened to Elisa Jimenez. A contestant on the fourth season of “Project Runway,” the UA grad used her saliva to mark fabric, and now she can’t get it off.

“Thirteen years as a (designer), and I’m known as the girl who spits on clothes,” Jimenez says, incredulously, during a phone interview.

But Jimenez is no reality show casualty. While she may be sewing next to Christian “fierce” Siriano for eternity in digital form, her three-dimensional life is far more textured. She entered “Project Runway” an already established designer who counted Sarah Jessica Parker among her clients; and Jimenez, who splits her time between New York and Santa Fe, N.M., has continued with high-profile work that recently included “High School Musical 3.”

Clothing – spit-marked or no – doesn’t always tell her stories, however. A restless artist who speaks through drawings and marionettes as well, Jimenez shouts it out loud Friday at MOCA in a show she’s calling “Pop, Play & Pleasure-Able Purchase.” It’s an evening Jimenez cannot summarize in one sentence – or even several – though it will cull all of her interests in a way that a performance hasn’t, she says, since 2003.

There will be a fashion show, after which the local models will strip (they’ll have sheaths underneath) – “a shedding of skin,” Jimenez notes – and toss the clothes into a bundle that attendees can pick through and purchase. The idea, she says, is “you can be that beautiful person I just was on the runway.”

Four of Jimenez’s marionettes will be traveling with her – “they’re very excited” – to be part of the performance. One is just 3 inches tall, another about 7 feet. “I have a couple of broken marionettes and I told them, ‘You should come. Just because you’re broken doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be seen.’ So it’s very tongue and cheek.”

Jimenez calls this trifecta of fashion, drawings and marionettes the Hunger World, which dates to the early ’90s when she lived in Tucson.

“The Hunger World came to me as my life’s work in grad school,” she says, adding that her MFA from UA is in combined media. “In my 20s, it was all about hunger . . . emotional hunger, intellectual hunger.”

Expect various narratives to play out during the performance, though they’ll be snippets, Jimenez says. “I definitely do play with that idea that the whole story isn’t given, but everyone will leave full.”

You might leave with a Jimenez clothing item, too. Her partner, Moe Nadel, will be there as well, selling custom bags made of recycled materials.

“Moe has a standard price range, but I’ll have things that are $50, $100, $200. . . . Hopefully everyone can walk away with something,” Jimenez says. “It would be lovely if I could install everything in a temporary way and then by the end it’s empty.”

It’s a fun approach to building a bridge between commerce and art: No neatly folded Gap sweaters here. And after the perfection that is New York Fashion Week, where Jimenez showed an eco-friendly line called Urban Nomad, the fashions at MOCA will be “a mix of the finished and the unfinished. . . . That’s where I’m at right now. I’m very pleased with what I’m doing,” she says.

Also sewn in to “Pop, Play & Pleasure-Able Purchase” are in-jokes for Jimenez, because as much as she wants us to play, she enjoys her trickster side, too. For instance, some of the clothing for the MOCA event is made from scraps left over from “High School Musical 3.”

“I love that it’s like this quiet subversion,” she says.

And if spit was used in the creation process, well, just think of that as play, too.

IF YOU GO

What: Elisa Jimenez & The Hunger World – “Pop, Play & Pleasur-Able Purchase”

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: MOCA on The Plaza, 149 N. Stone Ave.

Price: $5 MOCA members, $10 general

Info: 624-5019

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