It is believed that we can learn a lot about the sensibilities of a woman by what she wears on her feet.
Like whether she's rich or poor, sophisticated or naïve, formal or casual, or whether believes she should be ready and able at all times to break into a sprint to flee an assailant, catch a bus or make it home before curfew.
Artist Laura Ann Jacobs is, admittedly, into fashion. But not to the point of pain.
Hence, her sculptural collection "Feminine Objects d' Art," premiering at The Hart Gallery in Carmel this weekend, is as much a statement as, perhaps, an antidote to the discomfort of fashioning a life in captivity through the trappings of style.
"The advancement of feminism," said Jacobs from her San Francisco studio, "is countered today by society's pursuit of physical perfection. The surreal, circus-like atmosphere of freaky makeovers and society's obsession with the female anatomy can be as condescending as it is intoxicating. My work divulges as much as any other torturous reflection of wealth, power and success: What women will put up with."
Jacob's attention to sex roles in style actually began with a loftier pursuit than shoes when she created a collection of spiky bras intended to poke fun at a similarly ill-fitting contradiction of enhancing yet restraining breasts in the interest of perfecting the tastes and trends of the moment.
The line sold well but did not wear well. When patrons began hanging her wearable art on the wall, Jacobs took it as validation.
"I decided," she said, "to follow their lead and make the art less wearable and more sculptural."
The result is a collection of ornate sculptures, among them, "Slipper a Pill," "Broken Up Over You," "Pluck Me," "Aunt Rose," "Party Widow" and "Are You Game" each as unique as the story that inspired it.
"I enjoy art that works on many levels," said gallery owner Eva Hart, "and I was delighted to discover Laura's work. It's a whimsical commentary on sexuality in contemporary times. This concept, married with her technical expertise, results in work of the highest quality and integrity. The surprising contrast to our existing exhibitions at The Hart Gallery brings a refreshing and joyful experience to all of our visitors."
Born in Baltimore, Md., Jacobs grew up in a sheltered suburb known as Pikesville but often called the "Golden Ghetto."
She moved to San Francisco after meeting her grandmother as she disembarked the Queen Elizabeth for a three-week vacation and never left.
She started showing her work in an art gallery in the city, but this is not where her artistry began.
"I came out of the womb with a pencil in my hand," she said. "Always doodling, it was never a question. By the time my parents got back from their Puerto Rican vacation in 1963, I had destroyed the brand new and very fashionable pale-blue paint job in their bedroom with a 2-foot-high mural around the entire perimeter of the room. I was enrolled in after-school art programs for the next 15 years."
Legend has it that if you watch and listen closely to your children, they will teach you who they are at a very young age. At least, that's what Jacobs believes.
By the age of 2, she had started collecting little things. Weird little things.
"So many weird little things," she said, "that they no longer fit into a bag or a box. By the time I was 5, my brothers referred to it as my 'junk drawer.' The things I collected as far back as 40 years ago now find their perfect place, encrusted in my creations, with mystical purpose."
That "Junk Drawer," she says, now encompasses most of her living space.
Jacobs was formally trained in fine art through enough colleges and universities to paper an entire room with advanced degrees, namely: California College of Arts & Crafts, Academy of Art, San Francisco State University, University of Maryland, Towson State University Abroad, Alfred University and Maryland Institute College of Art.
But she has never let it get in the way of her art.
"I have experimented throughout my life with so many mediums and techniques," she said, "that I can knowledgeably incorporate them into my art. From oil paintings to pastels, from glass to bronze, from ceramics to welding even knitting, I have an arsenal of options."
And plenty to say with it.