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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.

 

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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

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

I am happy to share with you a new short documentary about the StoreFront, objects of desire project at the Lansdowne Centre in Richmond BC by Michael Sider . This video captures the performance and audience engagement parts of the project as they occurred in the mall;  intersecting consumer culture and artistic interventions with gentle prodding and good humour. And of course the kids are so darned cute! Special thanks to Elisa Yon of the Richmond Public Art Program for supporting the creation of this video. Performers include, Nita Bowerman, Billy Marchenskie and myself. enjoy.

StoreFront, objects of desire was  an installation at the Lansdowne Shopping Center in Richmond BC that blurred the line between consumer culture and art by displaying ephemeral objects in a retail window setting. Here dresses made from live flowers and shoes made of leaves are presented on mannequins as if for sale. By presenting simulated fashion articles within an existent shopping experience the viewer was confronted with having to negotiate the space between desire and ownership. I was on site at the mall periodically preening and adding new elements to the window displays. There were also public interventions in the shopping centre on weekends: The Mobile Garden Dress made a salad and shared it with the public, Sir William the Explorer went looking for gold and timber in the mall and Madame Nicole came out of her nearly 30 year retirement to do Extra D’Extras MakeOvers with shoppers.

StoreFront window display with signage

StoreFront window display with signage

Dates: July 1st to the 31st, 2013
Location: Lansdowne Shopping Center in Richmond BC
Store #960, Kiosk Court, see directory here

This project was presented as part of the inaugural artist residency at the Lansdowne Shopping Centre and supported by the City of Richmond’s Public Art Program.
Lansdowne Centre
City of Richmond Public Art
 

 

For Earth Day 2013 I made a new dress, which began a whole new investigation into my Weedrobes series, namely working with the movement of the armature created for the garment. As often happens with this work ,I do not have much time to contemplate scenarios because the plants are in bloom and the window of opportunity is short. I did realize that the dress covered with fresh material and the dance with the armature where 2 separate projects, so I concentrated on making the fresh dress and the movement piece will come sometime in the future. The concept for the dress came from a cage-like hoop skirt by one of my favourite all time designers Jean-Paul Gauthier. I made the armature with fresh Willow branches from my yard and covered it with Magnolia leaves. The bodice was covered with Camellia flowers also from my garden. I discovered an abandoned Tudor house and the Tara {from Gone with the Wind} concept was born. A post-apocalictic eco-warrior, Miss Rosa Styles, returns to her home to rebuild. We had planned to also do a street intervention that day but it began to hail so we had to cancel that part but we did the photo shoot when the sun came out and the result was very cinematic. Special thanks to the crew: model: Nita Bowerman, Photo Assistant: Kathleen Loski, Makeup: April Beer, Video: Martin Borden, Transportation: Tanya Hockley and flower wranglers: Marina and Celia.

Miss Rosa Styles returns home

Miss Rosa Styles returns home

Camellia flowers, Magnolia leaves, Lilac flowers, Willow, Reed and thorns.

Camellia flowers, Magnolia leaves, Lilac flowers, Willow, Reed and thorns.

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Lady Calla HighLine

It was always my intention to do a street intervention with one of the dresses from the BBG gig and so i met with actor and playwright Miranda Huba and we developed a strategy for bringing Lady Calla to Manhattan. BBG supported this project by providing a small crew to document and deal with logistics. The aim was for Lady Calla to ask New Yorkers where she could find sustainable fashion. After interacting with garden visitors, she took the subway from Brooklyn to the Meat Packing District and then took a stroll down the new High Line Park. New Yorkers are bombarded with promotional gimmicks all the time and so they are quite jaded but we did manage to chat with people, who were not fazed by this woman dressed in live plants asking them where the best stores for sustainable products were. We went by some big designer stores like Alexander McQueen but the heavy security at the door kept us and our cameras out. Instead Madame Calla had fun interacting with the window displays. Many thanks to videographer Catherine Tyc for her support and Kate Blum for her boundless energy. As Miranda, Cat and i took the subway back to Brooklyn, i felt so fortunate to have teamed up with these talented women: Cat is working on a documentary called Swap about fashion and identity and Miranda wrote a play called House of Kosa which examines the intimate relationships within a fashion house.

Lady Calla in front of Alexander McQueem

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On the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery (surrealist show banner in background)

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.

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