Check out the Spring issue of Surface Design Journal which features the article Decomposing Couture, written by Leesa Hubbell, which talks about my Weedrobes series. The Lilac Swing Coat, worn by Nita Bowerman is featured on the cover. The whole issue is dedicated to dress and it has many wonderfully creative artists and projects in it.
This mini dress was made entirely from natural materials- Wear it and Compost it! The intention of this outfit made with super antioxidant cranberries was that it would be trashed as the dancer wore it. We did a formal studio photo shoot of the dress intact and then let model/dancer Nita Bowerman go wild and dance her little heart out. The result is that cranberries were squished and Chinese Lanterns went flying! This is my first foray into video so it will be a while until i have an edit of this fantastical performance but i am really looking forward to this project. The cranberries that were left intact have now dried and are waiting to be repurposed into future projects. The dress was made from fresh Cranberries, Hemp thread, branches, Cattails and Chinese Lanterns. Headpiece is made from Birch bark, wasp nest, honeycombs, Blueberry branches, Amate paper. Boots were made from Birch bark over a wooden clog and lined with linen fabric. The style of the dress is based on the iconic shift dress of the 1960′s, which had no waistline and was therefore easy to dance in.
Concept, design and photography: Nicole Dextras. Model: Nita Bowerman, Lighting: Jordi Sancho, Makeup: April Beer, Video: Michael Sider.
FASHIONALITY, dress and identity in Contemporary Canadian Art
Fashionality is a new exhibition curated by Julia Pine at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection Gallery in Kleinburg Ontario. This exhibit features 23 Canadian artists who work with the theme of the garment. The show runs from May 5th to September 03, 2012 and the opening reception is on Sunday May 13. I will be showing photos of my IceShifts and my Weedrobes series, plus a new video on my work. I will also be doing an art residency at the McMichael from June 17th to July 1st. There i will create a new dress/tent called the Nomadik Harvest Dress which will culminate in a performance in the gallery and in the park. The gallery houses the largest collection of paintings by the Group of Seven, the iconic Canadian landscape painters and it is said that some of them are even buried in the park, so it is a great privilege for me to create there.
The artists are: KC Adams, Ingrid Bachmann, Lori Blondeau, Dana Claxton, Cathy Daley, Nicole Dextras, Aganetha Dyck, Jane Eccles, Gathie Falk, Farheen Haq, Barb Hunt, Michele Karch-Ackerman, Meryl McMaster, Kent Monkman, Janet Morton, Jacques Payette, Camal Pirbhai, Barbara Pratt, Ana Rewakowicz, Natalie Purschwitz, Jana Sterbak, Camille Turner, and Mary Sui Yee Wong. “Together, the assorted practical and conceptual approaches of these artists speak the common language of dress and, in the process, help to define just what it is that Canadian fashionality might be.” Julia Pine.
Read more in this Fashionality article
Pharos consisted of six blocks of ice with fabric embedded in them created during the Winterlude Festival in Ottawa Canada in February 2012. The 5 foot high blocks of ice were created outdoors in situ and the garments were meant to represent the early days of winter Carnivals. The piece was installed in Confederation Park, along with 10 other artists who were part of the BlizzArt exhibition. It took a week for the ice to freeze due to the unseasonal warm weather in Ottawa- they even had to close down the Rideau Canal to skaters for a few days. Big thanks goes out to my cousin Michel and his friend Jen who helped with with the installation and photography. The clothing became more exposed as the ice melted in the sun. As 695,000 individuals attended this year’s Winterlude, many photos were taken of my work and it’s a pleasure for me to see how others interpret it.
Pommes Maison was an installation I created for the Land Art Mont-St-Hilaire festival in Québec from October 12th to the 16th 2011, where I was one of 10 artists invited to create sculptures in a working apple orchard within 4 days. It was a challenge to find and harvest my materials and then construct my piece in such a short time frame, in all weather but it was well worth it. On October 16, the exhibition opened to the public and I witnessed people of all ages interact with the apple/skirt/shelter.
My sculpture was constructed around an apple tree and consisted of a dome shape, which acted as a skirt for the tree and also as a shelter where one can sit, eat apples and contemplate the sky. The structure was made from Willow branches onto which apples with holes through them were skewered, like giant apple kabobs. Once these were staked into the ground in a circle, the tops were bent towards the trunk to form the dome. I then decorated the top with long apple skin peels, which I discovered one day as they were making apple cider in the kitchen.
This event takes place on Mr. Robert’s land and he has a large roadside store called Le Pavillon de la Pomme, which produces fresh apple pies, juice, cider, you name it- warm homemade apple turnovers where the favorite breakfast food of most artists. This very well attended Land Art event is in it’s 5th year and is curated by artist Jérémie Boudreault who runs a small theatre across the road. She was very accommodating and supportive of the artists and took us out to dinner every night for fantastic local meals.
You can view the other artist’s installation on my Facebook page. Not all artists used “organic” materials and some brought pre-made things with them but all works responded to the site and formed a engaging exhibition. All the installations stay up as long as possible as many people frequent the orchard and woods for walks throughout the year. The artists were: André Boisvert, Épurarium, which won the best of show, Olivier Lefebvre, Steve Jobs Portrait, Luce Pelletier, Toison, Stacy Levy, Bluegrass, David Moore, Ulysse, Michael McGillis, Seigneurial Chandelier, Gary Smith, Against the Grid, Yolanta Sprawka, Mémoire d’eau, Linda Swanson, Pommes de la terre and also with Pedro Mendonça, University of Sherbrooke art student.
In September 2011, Laurel Suffragette was created and conceived as a character coming from the late Victorian age, who had been active in the emancipation of women and the garment industry of her day, who had fought for reforms and safety in the manufacture area. Miss Laurel Green-Fairfashion was curious to see how the future had turned out, so she took a stroll down Robsonstrasse, Vancouver’s fashion district, to see what shoppers had to say regarding eco-fashion. The interventions varied from long one on one conversations, to people ignoring her because they suspected she was selling something, to having her picture taken with babies, to engaging store clerks. The most interesting was Laurel’s conversation about jeans with an attentive American Eagle clerk, which was cordial until she asked if the company checks on their factory conditions at which point the store manager quickly ushered Laurel out.
Nita Bowerman‘s acting skills were perfect for this type of spontaneous street intervention and the fact that Nita -an artist in her own right who has an interest in the fashion industry- brings an extra level of commitment to the intervention. Apart from making the garment, I did a photo shoot outside the Vancouver Art Gallery , assisted by Jessica Beisler before we walked down Robson street. This site has been long been used as a gathering place for protests (most recently site of Occupy Vancouver) and it seemed a perfect location for a suffragette from the past to land in Vancouver. The makeup was by Keith Murray and Michael Sider accompagnied us and videotaped the entire session. This footage will be edited into a Weedrobes video in the near future. It was my intention from the very beginnings of the Weedrobes project to take the outfits to the streets and i look forward to doing more next summer.
The dress was made from Laurel leaves pinned onto a framework made from bamboo seat caning. The mutton sleeves are based on the Keystone Jacket which was popular in the late Victorian age as a pattern for women to make their own clothing. The sleeves were covered with Hydrangeas and Baby’s Breath. The bodice was constructed from the bustier made for the Mobile Garden Dress, with a Jabot made from corn husks. The buttons were made from Cherry Tomatoes from my garden. The outfit was installed in my back yard for a few months and allowed to weather.
The Maple Flapper Jumper symbolizes hope for new beginnings. Fresh off the boat and in honour of her new Canadian home, she wears a dress of Sycamore Maple Tree Seeds, which resembles the liberated woman of the 1920′s. Emancipated from the Victorian corset and with her unincombered boyish bob, she is now able to move freely and make her mark in this new port. As a young entrepreneur, will she open a garment factory that pays a living wage to its workers, or will she become disillusioned and turn it into a sweatshop? Her future is still a mystery but she hopes to influence her destiny with her old-world talismans, the money tree (Pachira aquatica) which is associated with good financial fortune and her messenger of good news, the Magpie Robin.
This new addition to the Weedrobes collection was first inspired by the pink Samara seeds I found in my neighborhood without knowing that the Maple tree is a symbol for longevity and money! I sure did not feel that way the day I picked the seeds because I was on a ladder covered in Aphids. I found the wild Lupines growing along the highway and although I was not wearing a black mask at the time, they always make me think the Monty Python’s Lupines sketch.
I am a founding member of The Art Is Land Network, a Vancouver based group of artists who work within the environmental art genre. The common thread for these 9 artists is their engagement with landscape. From September 8 to the 18th 2011, we will be hosting our first exhibition, art (IS)LAND on Granville Island with 11 outdoor installations. Under the theme: the island as microcosm of the world, the artists will employ natural and repurposed materials to engage the public in the various aspects of this popular urban site, such as history, industry, boating and local flora. The projects will be accessible as a self-guided walking tour and also as guided tours. please visit the website for more information and a map of the site.
My installation Stream, will consist of a river of fish made from leaves hanging from the trees in Railspur Alley Park, echoing the origins of False Creek as a rich fish habitat once shared by local First Nations. The fish shapes will be made from leaves, such as Magnolia, Laurel and others for fins and details. I will be leading 3 free public workshops at the False Creek Community center to make the leaf fish. See times and dates here. I will also be hosting a Eco-Salon talk through the Community Arts Council on August 24th. Click here for more details.
The AILN project is in conjunction with the Vancouver Fringe Festival- look for a full page map and details in their program guide. We are also collaborating with the Second Nature Lab at Emily Carr University where i will be teaching my environmental installation Class on September 10, 17, 24. Register here. Visit us on Facebook
The Mobile Garden Dress is a self-sustaining garden and shelter for the new urban nomad, complete with pots of edible plants and a hoop skirt which converts into a tent at night. This garment is 100% compostable and recyclable. It is contrusted from natural materials such as Willow, basketry reed, grasses and leaves. The hoop skirt is covered in pots containing live edible plants such as herbs and vegetables. The dress advocates for an autonomous and democratic urban lifestyle based on self-sufficiency. During the day, Madame Jardin interacts with people and engages them in conversations about plants, gardens and composting. At night she can sleep in her tent/skirt, unwind and water her plants in a local community garden. Like a true nomad, her camp can be quickly transformed; her hoop skirt collapses into a light-weight framework, her organic cotton tent fabric becomes an elegant dress and all her belongings fit onto her wheeled structure.
The Lilac Swing Coat is a new addition to my Weedrobes Collection. It reminds us that the olfactory senses are a basic element in nature used by plants, animals and mammals alike. Here there is no need for manufactured artificial scent, the redolent flower itself entices our nostrils. On the day of the photo-shoot in front of the historic Marine Building, passersby stopped and took in the garment’s aroma.
This manteau parfumé of fresh scented Lilac flowers epitomizes the perfume industry, in particular the seductive ads of Chanel No 5 featuring Catherine Deneuve who stood for luxury and sophistication. The coat itself is styled on the glamour evening jacket preferred by film stars in the 1940’s.
Although perfumery is an ancient art, it is now a multi million industry fronted by celebrities who use it to extend their brand. The concept of having one’s own particular fragrance from a perfume is based on the feral need of marking territory, such as leaving our scent on our lover’s pillow. With everything from aromatic plug-ins for your home to mouthwash for your pets, our noses are quite out of joint and may someday lose their ability to distinguish real human musk from something concocted for a pop star. The Lilac Swing Coat is here to remind us that style and nature can happily co-exist without any monetary transactions.