COLLECTING: mannequins Feed

My Rootstein mannequin comes home!

Do any of you remember back when I owned the art gallery, Pine Street Art Works,  and had a bunch of mannequins there? Oh how I loved them. When I closed, back in 2009, I sold three of them, two Maira Kalman children and one Adel Rootstein. I kept three Maira Kalman/Ralph Pucci busts. 

I sold the Rootstein - Diane Dewitt - to someone who was crazy about her, and that made me feel better about losing her, but I found I really missed her. Years later, I heard that the new owner gave her away to a mutual friend. I emailed the friend and said if she ever decided that she didn't want the mannequin anymore, that I'd like her back. 

Lo and behold, the day arrived. Two days ago we were reunited. I rearranged my living room to welcome her and she is home at last! So please expect to see many more images of one of my favorite models. 

Adel rootstein diane dewitt mannequin in home of liza cowan. photo ©liza cowan 2015

Here she is working hard at the shop, selling tableware. Glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals. 

Diane dewitt adel rootstein mannequin helps sell tableware at pine street art works. glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals. photo ©liza cowan

Mannequin by Ralph Pucci/ Maira Kalman

From the photo vaults: The blue haired boy. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci, based on drawings by Maira Kalman. Photographed at Pine Street Art Works ©Liza Cowan 2007. Used for advertising and display at store for many years. 


Mannequin Ralph PucciMaira Kalman photo ©Liza Cowan 2007
Blue Haired by mannequin by Ralph Pucci / Maira Kalman. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2007

Libby Holman, Fernand Leger and Mannequins in Dreams That Money Can Buy

I can't imagine a more perfect blend of people, ideas and art. Here's a clip from the 1947 flim Dreams Money Can Buy, produced and directed by Hans Richter, Dada/surrealist artist. The film, which follows a story line about a man with the talent of seeing into people's minds to help them craft dreams, features segments by Surrealist superstars, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Fernand Leger. Here's the Leger segment:

Mannequins...Fernand Leger. Be still my seesaw heart. But there's more.

The song, The Girl With the Prefabricated Heart, was sung by Libby Holman, a Jewish, bisexual, broadway star and chanteuse  and a huge supporter of civil rights, anti war and environmental causes. She may be obscure today, but in mid 20th Century America, she was a superstar. Known not just for her stage and recording performances, but also for a scandalous and difficult personal life, as well as for her serious and deeply held committment to political causes.

Libby Holman, 1931
Libby Holman in 1931
Louisa Carpenter, in 1941 she was magager of Robin Hood Theater, Deleware
One of Libby's great loves, Louisa Carpenter. Here, in 1941. Deleware Public Archives.

I'm just going to imagine for a moment that Libby Holman and my mother, Polly Cowan, must have crossed paths at least once in New York City or Connecticut, where they both owned homes.

The soundtrack in the clip above differs slightly from the one in the original. Same song, same singer, but a different recording. Both include Josh White, a now-famous African American folksinger, who Libby worked and sang with, sometimes at great peril to both of them.


Libby Holman and Josh White 1944
Libby Holman and Josh White, 1944
hans richter, dreams that money can buy, libby coleman, the girl with the prefabricated heart, photo Arnold Eagle.
Hans Richter on the set of The Girl With The Prefabricated Heart. Photo Arnold Eagle.

More about Libby Holman here and here

More about Josh White here


More from the Cowan photo vaults:


Mannequin silhouette, adel rootstein mannequin, Photo © Liza Cowan , retail window design
Mannequin Silhouette. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2009

In the summer I put white curtains behind the show window at Pine Street Art Works. The bright west light throws everything into silhouette in the afternoon. You have to be inside the gallery to get this view. Mannequins by Ralph Pucci International (left) and Adel Rootstein (right)


Mannequin silhouette, flower silhouette, adel rootstein mannequin, ralph pucci mannequin, retail window design, liza cowan photo
Two mannequins in silhouette. Liza Cowan photo 2009

Set your table

Time to set the table. Holiday festivities are coming up, and then there's just plain every day gorgeousness. Check out what we've got for your table.

Table top at PSAW and AO! Glass
Here's what's on the table: Jello Placemats, made by Flashbags for Pine Street Art Works. Goblets by AO! Glass. Vase by AO! Glass. Mid century condiment bowls. Boxed sets of stationery as guest gift.

In the background: Ginny Joyner food illustration prints, mid century botanical school charts.

Also available for you table: Shinzi Katoh tea pots, Liquid Cardboard tabletop sculpture, more mid century vases and dishes, pottery from Paige Russell.

Did someone say party?


It's a cold rainy day here in Burlington, VT, but I finally got my Obama T shirt and I had to put it in my shop window.

Obama window, art about obama, vote nov 4th t shirt, obama art with tibean buddhist symbol,
Obama t shirt and Obama Flashbag in window of Pine Street Art Works.

Obama shirt detail

Obama shirt, detail

Flashbag Obama limited edition 

Limited edition Obama bag by Flashbags. Each bag is numbered. A substantial portion of each sale goes to the Obama Campaign. Order online directly from Flashbags or if you are in town, come by and buy one at Pine Street Art Works.

Two weeks to go until Nov. 4th, and I don't know about you, but I'm filled with a mixture of hope and anxiety. If Obama wins, well, the world will be a much better place. If he loses, there will be hell to pay. Obama says "do you want four more years of the same?" But I say a McCain/Palin presidency would be exponentially worse than we suffered with Bush.

So keep on making those calls, talk to your neighbors, do everything humanly possible in the next two weeks to make sure Obama wins.

Here in Burlington people are enthusiastic about Obama. Almost everyone who comes into Pine Street Art Works is delighted to take some of my Obama Or Else postcards, or some buy an Obama bag by  Flashbags. A few people have been politely not interested. No fights, no arguments. Just lots of, "what are you doing to help? Any suggestions of what I can do to help? and "here's what I've been doing to help."

But a few stores where I've asked if I could leave some Obama cards have said, "well, we can't afford to alienate our clients or customers who support McCain." Maybe it just shows that I'm not that great at business, but my response is, "Bite Me!" I'd rather lose the business than not show my support for Obama and sane government.

Obama postcard, obama or else, presidential election art, presidential election ephemera, presidential election propaganda, obama in art
Obama Or Else postcard. Still available, still free. Send SASE to 404 Pine Street.

Oh, and this is the painting that is also in the window. It's my variation on a Tibetan Buddhist White Tara. I painted it about 4 or 5 years ago, and it's in the window because right now I am showing photos from Tibet taken just before the Chinese takeover. The photographs are by Heinrich Harrer, who wrote Seven Years In Tibet.

Tibetan buddhist white tara, tibetan buddhist symbol, painting of white tara, interpretation of tibetan buddhist tara 

White Tara. Acrylic on Canvas, 64" x 51". Copyright Liza Cowan 2003


I had the great pleasure of visiting the Ralph Pucci headquarters in New York City the other day. Pucci makes mannequins - and sells limited edition home furnishings - and I have five of their creations. Those of you who know my work know that I love to photograph my mannequins, and I've always kept the Pucci people aware of what I'm doing. Wade Willams at Pucci has always been gracious and fun to talk to, and when I had a trip planned to the city, I made an appointment with Wade to get a tour.

ralph pucci showroom-Wade in mirror, liiza cowan photo
Photo by Liza Cowan. This is Wade, reflected in a fabulous mirror by Philippe Hiquily in the Pucci foyer.

Pucci- heads on shelf
A shelf of heads in the sculpting room. On the upper right is the head of my beloved Maira Kalman girl. Liza Cowan photo.

Pucci-three wave mannequins
Ralph Pucci workrooms, Photo by Liza Cowan. Three finished mannequins in front of a shelf of  casting forms.

Pucci head molds
Photo by Liza Cowan. Ralph Pucci mannequin head molds.

These things look to me like ancient treasures recovered from a sunken ship. Maybe Greek amphora. But they're not. They are workaday artifacts, which, in my opinion, only makes them more valuable.


Pucci hands
Photo by Liza Cowan. An assortment of Ralph Pucci mannequin hands.

Pucci - sanding manniquins
Photo by Liza Cowan. Sanding down the cast fiberglass mannequins at the Ralph Pucci factory.

Kalman willy mannequin in psaw window
One of my Maira Kalman mannequins in my show window at Pine Street Art Works, photo Liza Cowan


I'm a huge Maira Kalman fan. I love her childrens' books, her New Yorker covers, and mostly I love her mannequins. I consider myself lucky that I get to live with her art every day because I own five of her mannequins produced by Ralph Pucci International. I put those mannequins to work every day in my display window, on my showroom floor, in 24911502my ads and even on my handmade handbags by Flashbags.
Maira Kalman bag from Barnes & Noble.

Yesterday I was cruising the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble in Williston when I came smack dab upon Maira Kalman tote bags. They're nice enough and they're inexpensive but I really prefer mine. Everything about mine says fun flash design. From the image, to the beautiful stitching, to the cellphone pockets. And I wonder where the B&N bags were made? China? Mine are made in Vermont.

Bag photo and image design copyright Liza Cowan for Pine Street Art Works. Maira Kalman mannequin made by Ralph Pucci International. Bag made in Vermont by Flashbags.

Flashbags are hand made in Winooski VT  (just outside Burlington) by a small group of fabulous women. We have collaborated on many designs. My own art is on some, as well as pieces by artists who have shown at PSAW.

Now they have made me a collection of ephemera bags based on my ephemera collections. Jello, children's readers, needle books and old coloring books form the core of this collection of bags and accessories.



Whoopee! It's Jello Flashbag. Images from PSAW collections by Rose O'Neil, famous for her Kewpie Dolls. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.



Images from chilrden's reader and old coloring book. Collection PSAW. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.


Checkbook cover with image from mid 20th Century Needle Package. PSAW collections. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.

Checkbook cover with Jello illustration. PSAW collections. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.

You can order all my bags and accessories at Or, if you're in the Burlington, VT area, come over to Pine Street Art Works and pick one up here.

Ali Marcheldon and Laura Cheeney of Flashbags sitting on the display steps at psaw a couple of years ago. Image courtesy of SevenDays Vermont.


I suppose not everyone thinks of store mannequins as art, but I do.

Eugene Atget, mannequin,boulevard de strasbourg, paris, 1912
Photograph by Eugene Atget, Boulevard De Strasbourg 1912

I’ve been a bit obsessed with mannequins - contemporary hardworking sculptures - since I was in grade school in the sixties. One day, I must have been about thirteen, I found my way down to the display department in Bloomingdale’s in NYC. It was like wandering into Surrealist heaven. I don’t remember how long they let me snoop around before they booted me out. But not before I got the chance to see all those arms, legs and heads and torsos on their way to becoming the next fabulous window or floor display.

Mannequin, rootstein, photo liza cowan, mannequin conversation
My first mannequin, Ruth, on the right, with her friend, Dianne DeWitt by Adel Rootstein. Photo by Liza Cowan

I bought my first mannequin around four years ago from a local dress shop that was going out of business. She was band aid pink, but a few coats of gesso and white paint made took care of that.  My collection has grown to seven mannequins. They sit in the display window, or inside alongside the art. They pose for ads and signs and merchandise. They are enormously fun to dress up, like huge dolls for grownups, and they are always a pleasure to be with.

Diane dewitt in polka dot small file ©liza cowan
Dianne Dewitt Mannequin by Rootstein. Photo ©Liza Cowan

Dianne Dewitt by Adel Rootstein. Photo by Liza Cowan

I was lucky to find a source for an amazing Adel Rootstein mannequin, the beautiful Dianne Dewitt. When I first brought her home my children were so freaked out by her blank eyes that  I quickly painted in iris and pupils. I pasted on a nose jewel and earrings, and gave her some subtle gray lipstick. Otherwise, she is as I found her. I often change the mannequin's clothing. Sometimes it fits the theme of an exhibit, or the season, or just a whim. I usually shop for them at thrift stores. Sometimes they wear my old clothes (which are huge on them) or, as below, I wrap them in fabric and scarves.

Rootstein's Dewitt with Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman little girl. Photo by Liza Cowan

The mannequins have all kinds of jobs around the gallery. Here, in a traditional occupation, they are showing off hats by Burlington milliner Jude Mulle, in the Holiday '06 Artifact show. Dianne is joined by one of my five Ralph Pucci International mannequins. This little girl is based on the work of Maira Kalman.


Ralph Pucci, Maira Kalman, mannequin, orange sari fabric, mannequin on postcard
PSAW postcard. Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman mannequin. Photo and design by Liza Cowan

Mannequins were made to work, and work they do. Here the Pucci/Kalman woman posed for a Pine Street Art Works advertising postcard. I wrapped her in sari silk, and photographed her against a black backdrop. She has also posed for newspaper and magazine ads.


Mannequins by Ralph Pucci based on drawings by Maira Kalman. photo ©Liza Cowan
Male mannequins by Ralph Pucci based on drawings by Maira Kalman. Photo ©Liza Cowan

These are my "boyakins." Also from Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman. Here they pose for a picture. I'd like to say that they work hard, but they are mainly just pretty boys whose job it is to dramatize the art they sit next to. Sometimes one of them will sit on my desk.


Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman mannequin against mid 20th Century botanical chart. Photo Liza Cowan

ralph pucci, mannequin, boy mannequin, mannequin in graphic design, mannequin red back ground,
Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman mannequin. Outdoor sign and Flashbag handbag.  Photo by Liza Cowan

This Pucci/Kalman mannequin works as hard as the Kalman woman. He has worked as a sign model, and I put this image on a handmade handbag by Flashbags. He and his sister have a sassy little attitude that always makes me laugh They are source of delight to the children who come to the gallery and want to play with them. I totally understand, and as long as they are careful, I let them.