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Central Washington University

February 1 Artwalk Chasing Beauty--New York and Paris Recalls Mad Men Era

January 28, 2013

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- On February 1, the First Friday Art Walk at Central Washington University will feature works by Virginia Thoren, a fashion photographer who began her work in the 1940s. The exhibit, Chasing Beauty--New York and Paris, features works from the era of martinis, minks, and Madison Avenue moguls.

The exhibit explores the intersection of advertising design, photography, and high fashion from the 1950s and ’60s. The images are from the Virginia Thoren Collection, courtesy of Pratt Institute Libraries. 

CWU’s Dean of Libraries, Patricia J. Cutright and her husband, Kenneth Girrard, along with artist Betty Guernsey, of New Jersey, developed the exhibition. Cutright produced the exhibition catalog, and Girrard and Guernsey selected the images from Thoren’s vast archive of advertising tearsheets.

Cutright was the director of libraries at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn prior to coming to Central in 2010. She received her master’s degree in library science from the University of Washington. Girrard, who earned a master’s of fine arts degree from Pratt in 2008, is also an information technology consultant for the College of Micronesia—FSM.

Thoren was a 1942 graduate of the Pratt Institute. She joined the Vogue art department under the direction of Alexander Liberman. Through her contacts at Vogue, she became an assistant to Toni Frissell, one of the leading women photographers of the time.

In 1944, Thoren began work at a new ad agency whose clients included Bergdorf Goodman, I. Magnin, and EMBA mink. She worked in Paris and New York as a haute couture photographer and opened her own penthouse studio in New York in 1952. More recently, her work graced the big screen in the movie Sex in the City as set decoration for one of its most pivotal sets, the offices of Vogue. Now in her 90s, Thoren still lives in New York City.

The opening reception, hosted by CWU President James Gaudino and his wife, Katie, will be held February 1, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the University Reception Center, 211 East 10th Avenue.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,

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