Please note that this blog has now moved to my website at www.nicoledextras.com as of February 1 2015. All new posts will be viewed on that site. This new website combines my previous website for my artwork plus my blog, so all the information can be conveniently found under one URL. Thanks.
The Weleda Company created a video about their new demonstration garden featuring the dresses I made for them. It is in German but it tells the story visually by showing the garden and how they process the Calendula plants onsite. I make a brief appearance at the end talking about the dresses I made, plus footage of the models wearing the Wild Rose Dress and the Pomegranate Dress.
In June 2014 I was invited by the Weleda Company to create botanical garments for the Landesgarten Show, Between Heaven and Earth, in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany. Weleda has just opened a new garden complex in this area and my work for them was part of the opening events for this new site. Weleda makes organic beauty and medicinal products based on the Biodynamic© farming concepts begun by Dr. Rudolph Steiner in 1921 and this new 56 acre demonstration garden/farm was a fantastic place to be! The State Garden show was throughout the town but concentrated near the Weleda garden site and around the beautiful Villa Hirzel hotel I was staying in. I made 5 dresses that incorporated the natural ingredients that Weleda uses in their products. 2 dresses, one featuring the Rose and one made with Pomegranate were worn by models at a press event. The other 3 were on dress forms and installed in the garden. I of course took lots of photos, so enjoy! See all the photos on my Flickr page.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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