Rebel with a Cause

When Charlotte Ghiorse sets out to support a cause, she doesn’t hold back.

The Ithaca-based multimedia artist, known for her filmmaking, photography, paintings, and fashion designs, has stepped up to raise funds for everything from the local library and the Epilepsy Foundation to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Recently, it was The Sophie Fund’s turn.

Ghiorse and her House of ChoCLeT clothing label put on “Collaboration: Invisible Light,” a fashion show held at the Martha Hamblin Ballroom of the Community School of Music and Arts.

The show featured 29 young people walking as models in a kaleidoscope of looks and colors. The garments included upcycled dresses, blazers, jean jackets, and other items, bearing silkscreened crowns, hearts, sports cars, and skulls and crossbones. Painted over the fabric were catchlines like “Love Bomb,” “No Hate,” Prom Queen,” “Slayer,” and “Être” (French for “to be”). Jewelry was provided by Draya Designs.

The October 1 event, in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, raised monies for The Sophie Fund and the Ithaca Fine Arts Booster Group, which supports arts and music programming in the Ithaca City School District.

“I included words on my clothing to playfully empower the teenagers, and bolster self esteem,” explained Ghiorse, whose art over the years has given voice to social justice, environmental protection, ending poverty, women’s equality, and other causes.

The mother of three, once a homeless teen, who began selling her works on the streets of New York’s SoHo after graduating from art school, Ghiorse said she was determined that the show draw the connection between creativity and mental health.

“The arts literally saved my life,” she said. “And, personally, I know that suicide does not discriminate.”

Co-founder Susan Hack said The Sophie Fund was very grateful for Ghiorse’s support, and touched by the way the fashion show intentionally involved young people in celebrating art and strengthening awareness about mental health and suicide.

“Many young people struggle with their mental health, to one degree or another,” she said. “It’s so important for them to know that things like depression or anxiety are illnesses, not weaknesses, and that it’s okay to talk about it and seek help. And, of course, art brings us insight and joy.”