Trying on Wearable Art at The Centre

BY SARAH HARWOOD

2011 marked the third year Grande Prairie participated in Alberta Arts Days. Winding down this year’s festival on October 1st, the Centre for Creative Arts hosted its highly anticipated second annual Wearable Arts Show. By popular demand, they held it twice in one night.

This hugely popular, high-energy exhibition encourages local artists and onlookers to explore our relationships with art, fashion, identity, and culture. On the dramatically lit catwalk, clothing becomes a tool for expression and a dynamic piece of art. Using the body as a canvas, it conveys a message, an emotion, or a concept. It compels us to stop and wonder.

Beweave It or Not, Lori Kolacz

It is this sense of marvel that Lori Kolacz hopes she instilled with her fabric-free piece, Beweave it or Not, a short, retro-styled dress woven entirely from over 140 pastel blue and pearly white latex balloons.
Through “twisting”, the art of balloon sculpting, Kolacz satisfies her desire to share joy, laughter, and beauty in every day and to celebrate the transitory quality of life. “In that way,” she explains, “balloons aren’t just for kids.”

A large but often under-appreciated aspect of twisting is the inherently short lifespan of each sculpture. Kolacz’s dress, for example, took six hours to make on the morning of the event to ensure it looked “fresh” for its runway debut. By the next morning, the dress was a deflated shadow of its former self. At once fun, whimsical, and light, Kolacz’s “pop art” Beweave it or Not subtly and generously reminds us to savour every moment.

Some artists presented in the show use things we look at every day but don’t see as fashion. With her post-apocalyptic inspired hoop skirt and bikini called Silicon Beach, artist Skylin Herba takes this one step further by making her outfit of used circuit boards – objects that we not only don’t see as fashion, but that we typically don’t see at all.

Bringing awareness to planned obsolescence and e-waste is a predominant goal Herba explores in this outfit. “Parts of it were created by tearing apart an iBook,” she shares, “I spent so much money on it just a few years ago!” Bits of old DVD players, ceiling hardware, aluminum tape, and coated telephone wire are also built into this piece.

Cloaked in Midnight, Niki Sangra

“It’s not that I want to villainize technology…” Herba continues, “It just makes sense to prioritize our purchases; to not stress so much about having the newest thing out there. Treat what you have well, and try to give it a second life.”

One of the most striking contrasts between conventional fashion and wearable art is the way each acts as an extension of self. Alex, a founder of the highly successful online blog, Fashionartisan, says “You cannot talk about fashion without relating it to the kind of life a person lives.” Wearable art, however, pays no heed to the demands of day to day life. Its currency isn’t determined by brand name or functionality, but a higher level of creative freedom that stimulates our fantasies, fears, and curiosity.

For Niki Sangra, the visionary behind bringing a wearable art event to the centre, this sense of diversity and inclusiveness is what compels her to create wearable art. She draws comparisons between the event and Halloween “where everyone’s given permission to be who they want.”

Reminiscent of a costume worn to a masquerade ball, Sangra’s creation, Cloaked in Midnight, shrouds the wearer in a surprisingly heavy black cape covered in rows upon rows of rustling, hand-made fabric feathers. A simple, form fitting dress in the same colour is worn underneath. Sangra spent months silversmithing an intricate bird-like mask and a glimmering layered necklace that add a magical and mysterious air to her piece. “Contrasting a more static art like painting,” she explains, “wearable art changes every time you move. It lets what’s inside come out… You have to move to it.”

Silicon Beach, Skylin Herba

Few genres can cross and mix so much content with such intrigue and accessibility as wearable art. It shows what popular fashion typically ignores: Beauty has no one-dimensional standard.
If you have any questions about wearable art or about how you can get involved with the show next year, contact the Centre for Creative Arts at 780-814-6080 or info@creativecentre.ca. You can also view video footage of the event at creativecentre.ca.


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