Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Catharsis that is Couture

As many of you know from the show at MassMu and the article by Dan Kane, I’ve spent that last year or so working on a line of small scale dresses. The line is called Hoard Couture (working on that trademark as I write this) because they are made from accumulated materials. No, I am not going to bore you with the details of the process or the reasons behind it as that is what “artist statements” are for.  This time, I want to share some of the moments behind the treasure hunt which makes this process worth it.

Before I proceed, let me assure you there are no dead animals, rotten food, dust monsters or mounds of thrift store trash piled up in my hallways. The house is clean as can be (thank you Josie!!), extremely organized and lacking in food as my sons will attest to.  Where the resources are coming from are the boxes and bins of life’s mementos and supplies chronicling a rich history of friendships, educational overload and “things” to remind me of time gone by. For some reason, without a visual object to spark a memory, I cannot recall much of my own past, the mental storage bin is empty (if anyone tosses an “air head” joke in  here, remember who has the mighty paint brush of revenge), until I can hold something to  unlock the floodgates.

Yesterday was one of those moments. In the quest for a single cord to connect one device to another, a very special cord that seems to have only been manufactured for one device at one point in time and not like any of the other 100 cords accumulated from years of devices, I had to make a foray into the bunker. The bunker is the name given to our storage area as our “basement” which is not really a basement as most know them to be, is my home studio. The bunker would be an awesome bomb shelter and we would not lack for things to do while waiting out Armageddon.

Never did find the cord, but there will be a dozen more dresses coming out of that place over the next 2 years.  Not quite sure what to do with the gym uniform but……  do any of you remember the gym uniform? To the horror of my son while I tried to describe it, he likened it to a onesie for grownups. Yep, that would be a fitting description. It was a one piece knit thing with a zipper up the back (which we daringly turned around backwards in a vain attempt to be sexy and buy us few minutes out of gym class being sent back to the locker room to turn it around the proper way) which was mandatory to wear along with white ankle socks and white Keds. NO exceptions! To make matters worse, the bottom shorts part was bright red and the attached T-shirt top was red and white horizontal stripes. God hated us back then. Red has followed me in the documentation of disasters. I showed him a photo from the mid ‘80’s with a red sequined pageant dress and hair so big and teased I could have passed for a lit stick of dynamite.

But in those piles are the bittersweet as well. All the letters ever written to are there.  Every handwritten note from Gary (remember him? in peace my friend) that he wrote from submarines all over the world, every newsie letter from my husband (then boyfriend, turned fiancée)  as he studied long hours in medical school, every piece of 1960’s stationary passed between two childhood friends separated by yet another job transfer.  Signatures and snippets of wishes on cards from relatives long gone and faded postcards showing a “new building” on a campus (now since torn down). Even the clay pizza was there.

Clay pizzas do not count as hoarded food. It was a gift from a senior boy back in 1987 who passed high school because he passed art. It had all come down to needing one more class…..quess who got called into the office and told to make it so no matter what, he needed his college football eligibility. Okay, so the cast running from his palm to his shoulder should not be considered? Can’t draw, can’t paint, can’t build….but he could pound stuff…so the class project was to create a buffet out of clay by drawing a food item from a hat….yeah, I rigged it, fire me. He made a pizza, met the parameters and passed the class. On his last day of school, this big lug of kid (there was a not so nice nickname for him in the teachers’ lounge) stopped by my room to gently lay the pizza on my desk and say thank you for helping him achieve his dream.  Stupid kids and their sentiments….how could I throw away that memory?

The really cool thing about this dress project is that none of them will ever really be done because I keep finding more items to add to the existing dozen, more beads, more trims, more sticker, more neckties…. however, the holy grail of cords was not to be found. It has to be here someplace but until then, who knows what treasures will be unearthed (more like unpacked) next. Dresses to be made include: match books, hats, shells, corks, colored pencils and markers, scarves, sunglasses (some vintage ‘60s and ’70’s in there!) party favors, feathers, happy meal handouts, puzzle pieces……..CORDS…… you get the idea. 

Sorry, still no real show visits to write about. I’ve passed through several over the last few weeks, but for some reason finding time to put thoughts into words and then into print has been elusive at best.  Could be the sunshine showing up far too early, could be life’s unexpected wake up calls disrupting the days, could be kids home on breaks, but regardless of all of that, I still take some time to see what else is being made and shown in our local arts world. Sometimes all the chaos makes one want to put on a onesie and curl up with a good stack of letters (which sounds awfully similar to a Snuggie and a Kindle does it not?)

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