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The art of fashion illustration on display at Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation Gallery in Hudson

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: July 20, 2014 12:00 AM
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Hudson -- Fashion illustration was an art form lost once advertisers began using photography in the 70s, but a collection of artwork illustrations can be viewed through Aug. 21 at the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation Gallery, 10 W. Streetsboro St.

The "Norma Wagner Uray: Fashion Illustrations" exhibition, presented by Kent State University's Fashion School and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, spans the professional work of Wagner Uray's career.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The exhibition features illustrations created by Norma Wagner Uray for retail advertising from the 1950s to 1980s. During these decades, fashion illustrations were used in advertising to help persuade shoppers to purchase merchandise at regional department stores. Fashion illustrations in advertising were either line drawings or wash drawings, which are pen and ink with added gray to black watercolor tones.

"Norma Wagner Uray demonstrated exceptional illustration skill and an uncanny knack for designing compositional layouts for advertising," said J.R. Campbell, director of the Kent State University Fashion School. "This exhibition shows highlights of her work with multiple retailers. We are very pleased to present the exhibition through funding support from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation."

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More illustrations by Wagner Uray are exhibited in the hallway of the second floor of the Fashion School in Rockwell Hall at KSU, Campbell said.

"She was very talented and very versatile," Campbell said. "Her work on display is relevant for students to see today. Hand illustrated, full-page advertising doesn't happen now."

"Norma Wagner Uray: Fashion Illustrations" looks at Wagner Uray's illustrations with four themes in mind: showcasing some original illustrations; the design process; representing clothing and attracting customers through advertising/layout; and the relationships with major department stores, said Deanna Burritt-Peffer of the KSU Fashion School. Wagner Uray showed great variety in her designs, being able to effectively capture the signature look of an era. She had a sophisticated design quality that was especially well-suited to rendering textures such as fur, tweed, herringbone or lace.

Norma Wagner Uray

Norma Wagner Uray was born in Struthers, Ohio, in 1926. She graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

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She worked as a window dresser for Strouss-Hirshberg in Youngstown, but they found out she was a "pretty good artist," and she began preparing sketches for advertising, according to her husband, Charles Uray.

She specialized in full-page fashion illustrations for a number of department stores, including Strouss-Hirshberg, Rich's in Atlanta, Joseph Horne Co. in Pittsburgh and Halle Bros. Co. in Cleveland. Her work also appeared in American Vogue magazine.

No one knew about Wagner Uray's collection of more than 300 fashion illustrations until after her death in 2012. Even Charles Uray was unaware of her talent. Married in 1970, Norma retired a couple of years later as advertising used more photography. After her husband's retirement, the couple returned to Ohio and settled in Hudson.

"She always dressed well no matter what type of event," Charles said. "She was always the center of attention."

Yet, she was humble about her work, which was stored at her mother's home for years before Norma donated more than 300 illustrations to a museum in Youngstown. After her death, her illustrations were brought to Kent State University's Fashion School where students can learn from her work.

Norma was a member of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, and its members attended the gallery opening July 15. Correspondent Secretary Lin Rechelt said the organization supports women in education.

"Nobody knew about her art," Rechelt said. "She was an amazing woman. We're thrilled her art is being shown."

Her best friend, Lois Lander, another P.E.O. member, met her 20 years ago at the Hudson Woman's Club when they were both new Hudson residents.

"All her family called her "Pink" because her mother dressed her in pink," Lander said. "She was classy."

Margaret Clark Morgan Gallery

The next show scheduled at the gallery is by the Hudson Society of Artists and will run from Aug. 26 through Oct. 27.

The Margaret Clark Morgan Gallery hosts several exhibitions each year, to learn more about the gallery and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation please visit www.mcmfdn.org.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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McClafferty Oct 20, 2015 7:42 PM

I've been thinking of Norma a great deal lately so I though that meant I should try to look her up. This has to be the Norma Wagner I worked with at Kaufmann's in Pittsburgh in the late 60's but it's not listed. Could there have been more than one great illustrator in Pittsburgh named Norma Wagner? Odds are no. But I was just starting out in fashion illustration and layout. Working with Norma was like going to school all over again. I would sneak over to her cubicle and just watch her work. What gave her work a look that was hard to duplicate was her lines...she sharpend the wooden end of her brush and dipped that in the wash, softened it a bit and...voile...magic happened! She was such a delightful person and very ready to share her secrets. I'm sorry I missed her. When I left Kaufmann's and Pittsburgh, I never saw those great folks again.
I would love to see her work and wonder if it's posted online. It would be wonderful to see it in book form. I think the world should know about Norma's wonderful work.
When I worked with Norma my name was Fran McClafferty, it is now Vinnacombe. Thank you for bringing Norma's work into the light!