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The Mobile Garden Dress, part of the Urban Foragers series, 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 Art and the Environment, 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

 

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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

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

Curator Emily Tyler and artist Nicole Dextras with the Nomadik Harvest Dress at OC3

Curator Emily Tyler and artist Nicole Dextras with the Nomadik Harvest Dress at OC3

I was invited by curator Emily Tyler to participate in the Orange County Great Park’s OC3 challenge exhibition with the installation of the Nomadik Harvest Dress. The theme for OC3 2013 is Sun Soil City  was to inspire discussion relating to important topics of energy, agriculture, and community.  Fourteen curators from prestigious Orange County institutions have been invited to transform a designated space in the Great Park Gallery.  The challenge was simple — create a unique environment within the allotted space showcasing the work of one artist utilizing recycled or reused materials.

It was another road trip for the NHD as the yurt structure had to be strapped to the back of a pick up truck. Unfortunately LA does not offer any transportation options other than the highway! The Dress was set up in the gallery loaded up with vegetables and foraged edibles such as Purslane, Cholla buds and Rose Hips. The Urban Foragers video was installed beside the dress and played on a loop for the thousands of visitors who came by during the Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 and who voted for their favourite exhibit. Special thanks to Greg Pongetti, Nursery Manager at the Fullerton Arboretum for taking us foraging in the garden! The exhibition runs from September 15 – December 1, 2013

The website also has short videos of all the curator/artist teams.

The Mobile Garden Dress, part of the Urban Foragers series made 2 appearances during my StoreFront, objects of desire installation at the Lansdowne Centre in Richmond. The dress was animated by Nita Bowerman, who invited people to water the edibles in her skirt, talk gardening and then make a salad. If the shopping centre is the new community church then camping in a dress covered in edible plants is a great way to bring people together and bring some genuine connection to the retail experience.

 

Madame Jardin comes to life inside the StoreFront window display.

Madame Jardin comes to life inside the StoreFront window display.

Big and small help water the dress' garden.

Big and small help water the dress’ garden.

Engaging with shoppers about gardening and food production.

Engaging with shoppers about gardening and food production.

Sweet cherry tomatoes; Comparing the store bought version to the organic plant.

Sweet cherry tomatoes; Comparing the store bought version to the organic plant.

Once out of her skirt, Madame Jardin unhooks her bamboo bowl to begin preparing her lunch.

Once out of her skirt, Madame Jardin unhooks her bamboo bowl to begin preparing her lunch.

Picking tender purple cabbage leaves

Picking tender purple cabbage leaves

Community salad; everyone   shares in the experience.

Community salad; everyone shares in the experience. Salad ingredients include lettuce, basil, chives, cabbage, peppers and cherry tomatoes.

Food tastes much better on polkadot plates!

Food tastes much better on polkadot plates!

The Mobile Garden Dress comes to life inside the StoreFront window display

The Mobile Garden Dress comes to life inside the StoreFront window display

Sharing salad with shoppers

Sharing salad with shoppers

Madame Jardin and her friends take a nap in her skirt/tent

The salad has been made and eaten and so Madame Jardin invite some of her new friends into her skirt/tent to tell stories and take a nap.

The Nomadik Harvest Dress, part of the Urban Foragers series was part of the Flatlanders and Surface Dwellers exhibition at 516 Arts in Albuquerque New Mexico. Curator Lea Anderson invited me to come down and give a talk about my work and so I took the opportunity to also have the Ms Cornucopia, this time embodied by Korie Tatum, cook up a dish of Cholla cactus buds. I met with local native plant forager, Amy White, who took me out to gather plants, which was the highlight of my trip. We also went out to the desert to take some photos of the dress in it’s natural habitat. Special thanks to Rhiannon Mercer Simpler and her husband Trent for having us in their home and also to Marge and Wolf for letting us onto their land. I had been to ABQ a few years ago for the Land Art Symposium and since then i had imagined one of my pieces in this sparse but rich landscape. Thank you to all who helped make this vision possible. Go to this Flickr page to see more photos and Special thanks to gallery assistants Teresa Buscemi and Claude Smith, who took photos and brewed up a large pot of Navajo Tea for the event. View video of the Tohono O’odham picking Cholla, one of the desert’s super foods.

Nomadik Harvest Dress in the Desert

Nomadik Harvest Dress camping and foraging for local native plants in the New Mexico desert

Cholla buds taste like a cross between and artichoke and asparagus. They have a slippery texture like okra or aloe verra.

Cholla buds taste like a cross between and artichoke and asparagus. They have a slippery texture like okra or aloe verra.

Cholla stir fry with veggies. Local and nutritious.

Cholla stir fry with veggies. Local and nutritious.

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Nomadik Harvest Dress with Lorraine Matheson Heidi

The Nomadik Harvest Dress was completed during a 2 week art residency at the McMichael Art Gallery in June 2012 in collaboration with the Fashionality Exhibition. This wearable architecture is the second piece in the Urban Foragers {house of eco drifters} series, which began with the Mobile Garden Dress. The design is based on the yurts I experienced while in Mongolia. The skirt is created from a folding bamboo fence and Willow struts sewn into a wool waistband.  The traditional felt outer covering is replaced with crazy quilt of woollen sweaters, which have been shrunken and dyed. The covering contains over 40 pockets that are meant to hold the plant materials gathered by the dress wearer. The skirt also acts as a shelter for camping in cooler weather and it also carries a portable Butane stove, pot and utensils for cooking the veggies. The piece was presented during the Canada Day festivities at the McMichael and animated by Lorraine Matheson Heidi, who interacted with visitors about the local edible plants in her dress.The NHD, animated by Nita Bowerman  was presented at the Sustenance Festival in Vancouver, where we made a soup with local vegetables and shared it with the public. Special thanks to Fred at the McMichael for teaching me about the local plants.

Nomadik Harvest Soup

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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.

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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 Mobile Garden Dress was commissioned for the Vancouver Children’s Festival and was worn everyday for a week by artist/actor Nita Bowerman, who was usually followed by a gaggle of chatty children who wanted to water her plants and smell the herbs. During this week I  taught workshops to kids who helped create the Eco-Wardrobe installation, which consisted of outfits made from leaves and flower petals hung on a clothesline on site. I later added more detail to the dress and we took photos of Nita wearing it in a greenhouse at Southlands Nursery owned by Thomas Hobbs. For this I created an elaborate head piece out of edible flowers and added accents to the dress such as the collar made from Peruvian Chili Peppers. She was right at home in the steamy greenhouse surrounded by her potted friends. Watch video of the dress in action  here.

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