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The Robe Ward: Discomfort Zones consists of three related bodies of work: Coping Mechanisms, The Sentinels, A Bitter Pill: If the Hat Fits Wear It. This is a textile-based exhibit, which subverts the idea of textiles offering comfort and protection by presenting prickly pieces that not only needle but also expose. These pieces propound on a world in crisis while presenting a mythology of, and manual for, survival. The fragility and endurance of textiles is a wonderful metaphor for the environment; archaeologically and historically, very few textiles survive, but those that do have been preserved by perfect conditions and extreme care.
Imagine a future archaeologist, 3200 years from now, discovering this trove – like Howard Carter uncovering the tomb of Tutankhamen. They would find coded documentation of a global civilization on the brink of self-induced extinction; a record of the follies of humankind along with clues to a potential future.
Coping Mechanisms is a series of “medieval” copes, each measuring 6’ x 3’. These are designed to hang on the gallery wall, defining and embracing the gallery space. Like their medieval counterparts, these copes are showy, ostentatious even. They also tell stories – not about the power and wealth of the wearer, however, but about the sorry state of the world today: about species being lost, about habitats being destroyed. Like a chorus of Cassandras, they sing about treachery and greed. Like fig leaves in the garden of Eden, they cover up our collective shame of inaction. They are lyrical lamentations offering warnings of extinction. However, within each is a morsel of hope.
A cope is an ecclesiastical vestment worn over an alb or surplice. Copes are semi-circular and highly decorated. Many have survived the ravages of time by being preserved with the utmost care due to their great value. They can be viewed in museums all over Europe and are a staple of any textile history book providing beautiful illustrations of the incredible handwork of the day. They are covered with ornate embroidery and some are encrusted with jewels. They were designed to be displayed to the congregation when the prelate’s back was turned and provide a wonderful canvas for the imagery based on medieval iconography. I chose this highly decorative, powerful garment as the foundation upon which to impose my own liturgy of ideas because of its rich history and recognizable shape. The power of the church was embodied in the copes worn by the clergy. I am harnessing this power to continue to spread messages, albeit of a different nature.
The Sentinels is a series of cuirasses, styled after various historical suits of armour and measuring approximately 24” x 36” each. They are designed to be displayed on wooden stands (provided). The Sentinels face both forwards and backwards, like the Roman god Janus, who presided over transitions (including war). They look to the past reflecting a broad historical and cross-cultural examination of the causes and damages of war. They look to the future searching for salvation. Caught in the present, they illustrate the potential within us all to forge a protective and resilient carapace. The Sentinels keep watch over our precarious position, balanced between hope and annihilation. They draw simultaneously from the textile art canon and from the realm of anthropology.
I chose the cuirass, that part of a suit of armour which protects the body, as a form to explore because of its role in preventing potential harm to the wearer. I am interested in the role textiles play in providing comfort to the wearer and wanted to explore this idea by examining “garments” that are traditionally constructed from hard, uncomfortable materials, although also intended to provide comfort (of a different sort) in their discomfort. Armour is a wonderful metaphor for the barriers we construct around ourselves to provide distance from perceived threats, real or imaginary, as illustrated in my pieces.
A Bitter Pill: If The Hat Fits Wear It is a series of stylized pill box hats designed to be displayed on plinths. The hats are made to fit my average-sized head. They are beautiful, but slightly sinister, as they challenge us to choose an epithet and live up to it; to choose a future and make it happen. They demand action of the wearer, not complacency.
I like the simplicity of the pill box hat. It lends itself to endless interpretation. The very basicness of the form makes it a good vehicle for the myriad materials that can be used in its construction. So the inherent hatness of each piece becomes secondary to the decoration upon, and meaning of, that piece. Hats have played many roles over the ages. They have been used to signify the age, gender, wealth, status, occupation, family and place of origin of the wearer as well as providing protection from the elements. This collection adds to the extensive collective code of the language of hats.
All the pieces in this exhibit are grounded in the textile tradition. My materials tend to be salvaged, either from the natural or manufactured realm (or from the Pender Island community thrift store). This stands as an anti-waste statement as well as echoing the value historically bestowed upon fabric. Fabric was so precious, so time-consuming to make, that not a scrap could be wasted. A reminder of the unsustainability of our disposable world.
Sentinels face both forwards and backwards, like the Roman god Janus who presided over transitions – including the transitions between war and peace. They look to the past reflecting a broad historical and cross-cultural examination of the accoutrements and causes of war. They look to the future searching for salvation. Caught in the present, they illustrate the potential within us all to use whatever is at hand to forge a resilient protective layer between us and that which could harm us.
The Sentinels keep watch over our precarious position, balanced between hope and annihilation. Each “sentinel” is fashioned after a specific historical suit of armour: Roman, Greek, Medieval, French, Japanese, Kiribati. They have been created from salvaged materials such as bottle caps, beach glass, cassette tape, bubble wrap. They draw from the textile art canon and from the realm of anthropology to illustrate the potentially disastrous results of human greed on the environment. They remind us that beauty can be found all around us and that this beauty is worthy of protection.
|The Promise of Change. Picking up the Pieces.||Medicine Hat.||Skull Cap.||Thinking Cap.|
|Medusa's Cope.||Fibonacci's Cope.||The Apothecary's Cope.||Daeadalus' Cope.|
|Susanna Moodie's Cope.||Tumbling Cube Cope.||Citon Shield||Broken Promises. The Politician's Armour. After the Election.|
|Expired.||The Hypocrite's Hair Skirt.||The Hypocrite's Hair Shirt||In Memorium or The Wake of Progress|
|Empty Promises||Fight or Flight: For Joan of Arc||Joanna Rogers. Hypochondria.||Portable Wealth|
|Egophobia||In Vino Veritas||Samurai Armour||Salal Armour|
|Jade Armour||Dominoes Roman Armour.|