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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Condom Couture
by Amy Wooten
2006-11-29

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Adriana Bertini with her creations.

______________

Brazilian artist Adriana Bertini has a slightly different take on the rubber suit.

Bertini, an international sensation dedicated to HIV prevention, takes fashion design to a whole new level. Her colorful latex creations—from cute cocktail dresses to sultry ball gowns—are made entirely out of defective and expired condoms. Her exhibit, 'Dress Up Against AIDS: Exhibition of Condom Dresses,' is on display at Columbia College Chicago's Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash, through Jan. 5.

This innovative artist hopes to break the social taboo of talking about and using love gloves by shedding a new, fashionable and humorous light on rubbers. The current exhibit features a wide array of vibrant, hot couture made from more than 100,000 condoms.

Windy City Times had a quick chat with the creative, passionate activist about just what led her to stitch together such a taboo object.

Windy City Times: What message do you hope people take away from the exhibit?

Adriana Bertini: The first message is for people to start to have more of a dialogue with themselves and each other about AIDS prevention and sexuality.

WCT: Do people typically react in a positive way, or are there people who walk away feeling uncomfortable still?

AB: It depends. In some places, some people will be very interested—fantastic. In other places there are still people who look at the work ashamedly and it's still a taboo. The reaction varies.

The most common reaction is, 'Oh wow, these are condoms? Really? How can that be?'

They immediately smile, and then they stop to think. That's what I've noticed, watching people.

I did a show in Africa within a conference with people seeing the show who worked with AIDS prevention and none of them knew they were condoms. It shows how distant people are from the only effective object that can be used for prevention for sexual transmission.

WCT: When did you first become involved in AIDS activism, and what led you to start creating dresses?

AB: Before working with AIDS and the dresses, there was a whole history of family education that has always led me to be an activist. I worked for Greenpeace for 10 years, and then when I left Greenpeace, I went to work for a volunteer program where, once a week, I taught theater to children living with HIV.

There was a sequence of events. There really wasn't one thing that led to, 'I'm going to make clothes out of condoms.' It started when somebody gave me a box with 144 condoms. Just leaving Greenpeace, I was very aware of the environmental aspect of it—what we do with this material, and if it's biodegradable or not. I started researching the actual material. Then, I started having a partnership with manufacturers and importers of condoms, and I started getting larger amount of condoms. The first large amount I received was 2,120. Then, I got increasingly involved, and now I get 100,000 a month.

WCT: What is the largest amount of condoms you've used for one piece?

AB: 80,000.

WCT: What kind of piece was it?

AB: It's Richard Gere's favorite piece. It's in Thailand showing at an NGO.

A World AIDS Day opening reception with the artist will be held Friday, Dec. 1, at the gallery from 6-7 p.m., with Savage Love columnist Dan Savage appearing later. See www.colum.edu/criticalencounters/Events.php.


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