The Mobile Garden Dress participated in the first Eco Art Fest in Toronto during the summer of 2014. This new outdoor festival situated at Todmorden Mills is presented by No 9 Contemporary, an arts orga­ni­zation that uses art and design to bring awareness to envi­ron­mental concerns. It featured 8 public art installations hidden throughout the site, live music, homemade organic dishes, beer and wine. Plus Public Art tours, Watercolour Painting Workshops, Sustainable building workshops, and Clay Stein Making. The Mobile Garden Dress was on hand at all the events onsite and she also traveled around the city to the Brick Works Farmer’s Market, the Taste of the Danforth and to Queen Street. It’s been a busy summer for this Urban Nomad! The dress was worn by several models whom i met and trained at the beginning of the project. Special thanks to horticulturalists Deena Del Zotto, Rachel Kimel and Wendy Woodworth for growing and taking care of the plants!

Mobile GArden Dress hits the streets of Toronto

Mobile Garden Dress roams the streets of Toronto

MGD on site near the stage at the Eco Art Fest

MGD on site near the stage at the Eco Art Fest

 

artecology15

Art And Ecology Now is a new book written by Andrew Brown and published by Thames and Hudson. My work is featured among 95 creators in a compendium of ecologically responsive work. Art and Ecology Now is the first in-depth exploration of the ways in which contemporary artists are confronting nature, the environment, climate change and ecology. As Brown argues in the introduction, “Once an area of interest for a relatively small group of people, art that addresses environmental issues has in the last five years become part of the artistic mainstream.” He adds that “there has been a growing tendency in contemporary art to consider the natural world not only as a source of inspiration or subject to represent, but also as a realm to influence directly — a sphere of action to transform and improve through creative means.”

My work is listed as 1 of 12  best artists in the book  in an article by The Guardian. I also read a review of the book in the print edition of the Art Newspaper while sitting in a café during my visit to Art Basel in Switzerland in June 2014. After working in relative obscurity for years it is nice to know that the art and ecology movement is gaining some legitimacy in the art world and that my work is being counted among these amazing artists worldwide. My work is featured on pages 198 and 199 in the Re/Create section plus there is also an image of View in the introduction on page 7.

pages 198 and 199 in Art and Ecology Now

pages 198 and 199 in Art and Ecology Now

The book moves through the various levels of artists’ engagement, from those who act as independent commentators, documenting and reflecting on nature, to those who use the physical environment as the raw material for their art, and those committed activists who set out to make art that transforms both our attitudes and our habits. It includes at 10 page introduction: ‘At the Radical Edge of Life’ by Andrew Brown, 6 chapters: Re/View, Re/Form, Re/Search, Re/Use, Re/Create, Re/Act plus a Further Reading list. Finally a book that deals with the complex breath of the environmental art movement by adding fresh voices to the topic.

 

Upon returning from my winter art residency in Banff in February 2014, I was happy to discover that Vancouver was under a layer of snow. This is unusual for this temperate climate and I am one of the few who relish in this rare occurrence. It meant that i could continue some of the ice work I had started in Banff and further develop the idea of covering objects that represent our desire for success and commercial goods under layers of ice. These are much smaller in scale than the chandelier in Banff but i had so much fun in one week that i did not want it to stop but the weather just kept getting warmer. I have treated these as triptychs to convey the sense of movement but I also shot video, which I to edit in the coming year. Click images to see a larger view.

Frozen nest of bijoux.

Frozen nest of bijoux.

Miniature filigree carriage. Cinderella desires.

Miniature filigree carriage. Cinderella desires.

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

Frozen bling.

Frozen bling.

Tear drop beads in ice

Tear drop beads in ice

The Winterjourney art residency was held in at the Banff Centre for the Arts, in Banff AB from January 13 to February 21, 2014 and led by visiting artist Andreas Siqueland from Oslo. This residency permitted me to further my exploration of ice as a medium. I was happy to meet fellow artist Del Hiller who was also experimenting with making icicles and who graciously lent me some of his equipment to play with. It was also a time for me to try my hand at video, which i discovered i love as much a photography. It will be a while yet until i edit all my footage into something coherent but i feel i was set on a new path of discovery.

I created 2 ephemeral outdoor pieces in Banff. The first was a chandelier covered in icicles swinging from a tree and it referred to the glamorization of nature. Chandeliers have been a symbol of wealth and prosperity since the middle ages (even thought the first ones were made from wood and supported candles). They had their hay-day in the 80’s and 90’s reflecting the opulence and kitsch of the time.

In addition i immersed myself in winter films, which have made great impressions on me, most notably the frozen house in Doctor Zhivago and the murder scene in the Quebec film Kamouraska. The blood on the snow, the harshness of winter and the magical space of the frozen palace spoke to me about the beauty found in the extremes of nature, both forbidding and awe inspiring, depending on one’s point of view. Alas since my work follows the seasons, it all melted away with the spring sun but the ideas and images will lay dormant until the next snowfall.

This scene in Dr. Zhivago was actually created with white wax!

Light painting at night onto icicle covered chandelier. Banff Art Residency 2014

Light painting at night onto icicle covered chandelier. Banff Art Residency 2014

I also experimented with icicles on wearable pieces, which cumulated in a Dave Chihuly- esque sculpture of frozen garments. It was very ephemeral and only lasted a few days as the weather got warmer. I would like to play with this technique in the future and develop a narrative for the eerily beautiful images it conjures up

Medusa-like detail of icicles   on a red dress. Like myths, both alluring and frightening.

Medusa-like detail of icicles on a red dress. Like myths, both alluring and frightening.

ice laden flower sculpture

Ice laden flower sculpture

Queens in the Desert series, Meet the Characters:

Dame Dracaena La Puente, heiress to the great Shelly oil conglomerates is still seeking paydirt with her fashion savvy. Oblivious to the environmental repercussions of her family’s over one hundred year legacy of natural resources exploitation, she still dresses to the nines to impress. Even though the oil wells dried out years ago, her privileged LA upbringing entitles her to the finest luxuries. She favors the exotic pedigree of the Dracaena Draco leaf, often called Dragon’s Blood, a red resin extruded from the plant, which was used in ancient times as varnish, medicine, incense, and a dye. Inspired by the deep red brown of the Stradivarius Dracaena stain, her skirt echoes the lines of the famous Red Violin with round luscious curves, constructed from the fallen sheaths of the Palm tree. The color scheme is furthered with the addition of woven Philodendron Seloum sheaths with their flame like spiked ends.

Dame Dracaena La Puente wearing her dress and matching hat and shoes in the desert

Dame Dracaena La Puente wearing her dress and matching hat and shoes in the desert

Queen Gabriella San Nicholas is a direct descendant of Juana Maria, sole survivor of the Channel Islands massacre of 1814. It is said that when a fur trapper finally rescued Juana Maria, she wore a skirt made of greenish cormorant feathers. Today Queen Gabriella imbues the fierce survivor instincts of her ancient native ancestor by dressing in a simple but elegant dress made from Palm tree husk. The rich toned fibre is accented with Rosettes made from Araucaria, New Caledonia Pine Needles and strings of red Palm Berries. Her wide rolled collar is festooned with clusters of pods from Firmiana Simplex, the Chinese Parasol tree and to top it off she accentuates her eyelashes with turquoise feathers. Juana Maria would be proud of this revival especially in light of the fact that she died only 7 weeks after her arrival at the Santa Barbara Mission due to the richness of the foods in the New World. It might also compensate for the fact that her feather dress was apparently sent to the Vatican, but it appears to have been lost.

Queen Gabriella San Nicholas  wears feather eyelashes to honor her ancestor Juana Maria

Queen Gabriella San Nicholas wears feather eyelashes to honor her ancestor Juana Maria

The Mandarin Princess is the great great-great granddaughter of Citrus tycoon Charley Chapyman, who was himself a descendant of the legendary Johnny Appleseed. She is nostalgic for the lazy days of summer when what is now the Fullerton Arboretum was an orange grove and the fruit dominated the development of the SoCal area. She also likes to reminisce about her childhood visits to the now abandoned Magic Kingdom in Anaheim. Subsequently the short curved sleeves and the puffy overskirt of her dress evoke the cartoon design of Mary Blair’s Cinderella costume. This SoCal belle of the ball wears a party dress festooned with dried Mandarin peels within a lapelled bodice and overskirt of Palm sheaths. Her high collar is covered with the lace-like Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass) and the skirt is made from the long succulent leaves of the Aloe ( Canaria), which are held together with long palm thorns, which act as guards for her shattered sun kissed dreams.

Mandarine Princess  close up

Mandarine Princess close up

I spent the last 3 weeks of my art residency at Cal State Fullerton creating new pieces at the Fullerton Arboretum. It was a fantastic experience for me because Chris Barnhill, Director of the Living Collections let me pick a large variety of plant material from their extensive botanical garden, tucked away on 26 acres within the university campus. It was my first time experimenting with tropical plants such as Palm trees and Citrus peels and i could have spent months there experimenting with new materials. I built 3 dresses based on the Little Green Dress Project, which were worn by models for a photo shoot in front of a giant Cactus at night. The aim of the project though was to install the dresses in the section relating to the plants plants used in the garment as an educational tool for plant identification. Furthermore this project is an extension of the Weedrobes series which promotes DIY and Eco fashion.

The Queens in the Desert: The Mandarin Princess , Dame Dracena La Puente and Queen Gabriella San Nicholas

The Queens in the Desert: The Mandarin Princess, Dame Dracena La Puente and Queen Gabriella San Nicholas.

About Queens in the Desert:

Set in the not so distant future, where California’s water supply has evaporated and the economy as we know it has crashed, 3 women rising from the ashes of the SoCal elite gather one evening to parade their latest fashions. They have turned to artists to create their outfits as the design houses have all but vanished. As nature rebounds from years of being paved over, organic elements proliferate and the previous yards of jewel-encrusted fabrics of haute couture are replaced with the exotic shapes and textures of the desert world. Five-inch long bright yellow thorns of the Palm leaf are used as pins and orange Dracaena sheaths make up a not so billowy shirt flounce. Theses Queens in the Desert have an aura of eccentric determinism about them. Conjuring up the charm of their royal predecessors they exude the Grand Dame worldliness of the original Gertrude Bell with a dash of the campy drag of the fictional Priscilla. It’s Mad Max au Naturel with a touch of withered Rodeo Drive prestige.

The Dragon's Blood Dress in the desert section. The orange front piece was made from the Dracaena leaf which is to the far left o f the image

The Dragon’s Blood Dress in the desert section. The orange front piece was made from the Dracaena leaf which is to the far left o f the image

The Mandarine Princess in front of the Heritage House, which is surrounded by orange trees.

The Mandarine Princess in front of the Heritage House, which is surrounded by orange trees.

Queen Gabriella San Nicholas stands at the entrance of the Fullerton Arboretum.

Queen Gabriella San Nicholas stands at the entrance of the Fullerton Arboretum.

Photo Shoot Credits:
Photography and design: Nicole Dextras
Photo Assistant: M. O. Quinn
Makeup Artist: Adrienn Ihasz
The Mandarin Princess: Rachel Burkert
Queen Gabriella: Cosmo D’Aquila
Dame Dracaena: Megan Eras
Light Painting crew: Emily Tyler, Marty Loggan and Peter Lang
Special thanks to Harriet Bouldin of the Fullerton Arboretum

The Ego Eco, environmental art for collective consciousness exhibition was curated by Allison Town and Emily Tyler for the Begovich Gallery at California State University Fullerton, which featured to work of 13 artists. I participated on a variety of levels during my 5 week residency there. During the first 2 weeks i completed the Traveling SeedBomb dress and assembled the Urban Foragers series and staged a public intervention which was filmed and shown along side the Traveling SeedBomb dress in the gallery. The 3 Urban Foragers were at the opening reception and i was also on hand to talk about my work at the opening preview earlier in the day. During the evening, Juliana Rico made seed bombs with the public, people signed adoption paper for Vaughn Bell‘s Pocket Biospheres and i was delighted to meet artist Esther Traugot and her delicately crocheted seeds. Here is an excerpt from the Curatorial Statement.

Disconnect between real actions and real-time becomes increasingly evident in our fast-paced, technologically saturated urban environments. Selected artworks in ego|eco: environmental art for collective consciousness aim to confront traditional notions of “spectatorship,” promoting involvement over complacency through the inclusion of engaged public art practices and environmental art conveying a collective call to action. Juxtapositions of mediums, content, scale, forced perspectives and changes in cadence and flow will encourage viewers to become both physically and psychologically aware of their own roles as “spectators”—symbolic of a greater need for action and social reform in the pursuit of sustainability.

A 100-page catalogue including a scholarly essay by CSUF Exhibition Design alumna and founder of ecoartspace.org, Patricia Watts will be published in early 2014. See more of the exhibition HERE.

Gallery entrance view with title wall, Traveling SeedBomb dress and dress form with vest and hat and Urban Forgers video beside it. Photo: M.O.Quinn

Gallery entrance view with title wall, Traveling SeedBomb dress and dress form with vest and hat and Urban Forgers video beside it. Photo: M.O.Quinn

The Urban Foragers got together for the first time as a group to share a communal meal made from the food sources they each carry in their self sufficient dresses. The Mobile Garden Dress, aka Madame Jardin, The Nomadik Harvest Dress, aka Miss Cornucopia and the new kid on the block, The Traveling SeedBomb Dress, aka Agent SeedBomb got together at California State University Fullerton for the Ego Eco exhibition at the Begovich Gallery. The day began with the dresses walking around campus and interacting with students about sustainable food practices and also promoting the exhibiton. They then settled into the courtyard in the Visual Arts Department where they set up camp for the day. Madame Jardin and Miss Cornucopia helped Agent SeedBomb set up her teepee and then they began preparing the meal. They traded foods to enhance each others recipes and each created a dish to be shared. The Mobile Garden Dress made a salad from the veggies in her over 40 potted plants hanging from her hoop skirt  and added pomegranate seeds from the NomadiK Harvest dress. The Harvest dress in turn borrowed fresh herbs from the Garden dress to add to the soup she made from the many vegetables harvested from the Fullerton Arboretum. She also made a tasty fruit salad topped with Coconut from the SeedBomb dress. As it was her first time making food, the SeedBomb dress prepare a simple dish of energy snacks by crushing nuts and seeds with a mortar and pestle and rolling them into balls. She also shared some of her fresh sprouts for the salad. After inviting friends to join them in their communal meal, they told stories while soaking their feet in the pool and then later retired, each to it’s own comfy little shelter to bed down for the night. The event was held beside  Richard Turner’s “Wall Gazing Gallery”, a open structure with a corrugated roof with water falling from it into a pool surrounded by peach coloured Bougainvillea trees.

The whole process was filmed and is now available to view here or click on the You Tube icon to watch in your browser.

The Urban Foragers camp

The Urban Foragers camp

Credits:
Agent Seedbomb: Alice Tokunaga
Ms Cornucopia: Andrea Harris-McGee
Madame Jardin: Megan Eras
Artist and photographer: Nicole Dextras
Videographer: Kirk Dickinson
Curators: Emily Tyler, Allison Town
Makeup: Dusty Germano
Support crew: Gaby Castillo, Marty Lorigan, Martha Rocha, Mark Uspon
Special Thanks to the Fullerton Arboretum Staff and Lou Arnwine

Agent SeedBomb is the name of the character who wears the Traveling SeedBomb Dress; an eco agent-provocateur with good humour and style, advocating for self-sufficiency through food independence and sustainable practices.

The dress houses 50 glass vials filled with enough seed to plant over an acre of vegetables, grains and herbs to feed a family for one year, which were purchased from the Sustainable Seed Company in California. In this role, Agent SeedBomb aims to inform viewers on the identification and preservation of seeds while also engaging the community in activities such as seed bomb making and sidewalk stenciling with grains. In addition to being and avid sprout grower, he or she prepares delicious protein snacks from recipes using mostly seeds and nuts.

This piece was developed for the Ego Eco exhibition at Cal State University in Fullerton California during the month of August 2013 and it was joined by its sister pieces for the first Urban Forager communal meal. The Foragers set up camp beside Richard Turner’s “Wall Gazing Gallery”, an environmental sculpture reminiscent of Asian shrines found along country roads and they prepared dishes with produce supplied by the adjacent Fullerton Arboretum. The dress was then installed in the Begovich Gallery for the duration of the exhibition. On opening night Agent SeedBomb, played by Alice Tokunaga  gave out Seed Money (seed embedded paper coins by Leafcutter Designs) to the public. I love their thoughtful designs and was very happy to incorporate it into the project.

View full Art Statement: The Traveling Seedbomb Art State

This dress is made for traveling and throwing seed bombs.

This dress is made for traveling and throwing seed bombs.

The Traveling SeedBomb Dress is the third instalment in the Urban Foragers series. Like its predecessors, the Mobile Garden Dress and the Nomadik Harvest Dress, it functions as a garment, a shelter and a food source. As this series is about self-sufficiency, each new piece refers to a nomadic structure and for this one i chose the teepee because the shape resembles a Pine cone.  I am fascinated by the ingenious ways that plants propagate their seeds and so i have tried to incorporate this into the design as much as possible. There are cone shaped pockets all around the edge, which hold seed bombs, which were placed within easy reach of the wearer so they could be thrown while moving about.

The structure is based on a series of hinged cedar pieces, which when folded down make up the skirt and when extended they form the teepee shape. I have used metal bolts and wing nuts as a means to hinge and tighten the segments. My intent is to someday replace these with a more organic material but for now they at least only require a small screwdriver to assemble. The skirt is covered in heavy duct canvas hand painted with a dandelion motif, a symbol of highly effective plant survival and endurance. Our agent of propagation also wears a secondhand vest adorned with épaulettes of fresh Wheat Grass and a hat formed from a bamboo birdcage with birdseed.

I looked at many options for displaying the seeds and finally decided on the glass vial because I want the public to be able to see the seeds clearly so they can learn to identify them. I created a wire cage for each one, 50 in all and hung them between the struts with linen thread. I also attached some glass globes and green cans, which have holes in them to facilitate the daily rinsing of seeds for sprouting.

Traveling SeedBomb dress set up in Begovich Gallery

Traveling SeedBomb dress set up in Begovich Gallery

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