Funky fashion pushing limits in competition

THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S WIFE, created by Anh  Le, performed by Aria McAlonan, is one of the  many pieces on display at the upcoming  Comox Valley Art Gallery Wearable Art  Competition.  PHOTO BY BILLY PIPE - PHOTO BY BILLY PIPE
THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S WIFE, created by Anh Le, performed by Aria McAlonan, is one of the many pieces on display at the upcoming Comox Valley Art Gallery Wearable Art Competition. PHOTO BY BILLY PIPE
— image credit: PHOTO BY BILLY PIPE

Clothing is more than just something to cover the skin. Be it funky jewellery, tie-dyed T-shirt or skinny jeans, what a person wears expresses the essence of their personality.

“The Wearable Art Competition takes that concept and pushes it as far as possible,” says Anh Le, curator of the Comox Valley Art Gallery. “And the theatrical element makes the event so much more than a fashion runway show.”

The third annual Comox Valley Art Gallery Wearable Art Competition takes place at the gallery June 16 – 18. The first two nights feature the performances with the Saturday night gala including the awards ceremony and celebration dance.

“It’s really cool,” says Le. “Each year we sell out so add another night.”

June Savage figures she’s put around 50 hours into her wearable art garment so far. “It’s an outrageously huge ball gown called Masquerade,” she says. “For the skirt, I cut 600 toilet paper rolls in pieces to look like feathers then painted each one with a coat of silver and then iridescent sparkles.”

A big Elizabethan collar created from paper coffee cups and more toilet paper rolls, a mask and spectacular operatic music add to the dramatic effect.

“The real challenge will be walking and performing in the piece,” Savage adds. “It weighs 10 to 15 pounds and I’ll be wearing eight-inch high heels.”

Savage moved to the Comox Valley from Gabriola last year and operates a home-based hemming business. “People are shocked when they drop off their pants and see me practicing walking in my heels,” she says.

This isn’t Savage’s first foray into the art fashion scene. She was actively involved in arts events on Gabriola where she created a jacket out of a box of Kleenex and a tank top out of turkey feathers.

“The local gallery would put out a challenge and I’d go from there,” she explains. “This will be my first art project in the Comox Valley so I’m really excited. And I’ll be 59 on the 17th so that makes the event extra special.”

Christa Hutchison found last year’s wearable art show so amazing that she decided to participate in the next one there and then.

“It was so inspiring that I knew I had to be part of it,” she says.

Her creation, Tidal Siren, is loosely based on the sirens in Greek mythology but with more of an ocean theme.

“I’ve spent a lot of time cutting fabric to look like a seaweed skirt and drilling holes in scallop shells and sewing them together to make a corset,” she says. “There’s also a driftwood staff with a huge conch shell on it. It will be heavy to wear.”

Performing the piece will be Sheri Rofferey, Hutchison’s best friend since childhood.

Although she’s into crafts and taught a mosaic course for autistic people at CVAG, Hutchison, who manages the Romance Shop, says this is her first piece of public art.

“I’m so impressed that the gallery has this show open to anyone to participate in,” she says. “It’s a great community event and I can’t wait to see all the other costumes.”

This year’s show features 20 entries which will be eligible for prizes in six categories, including an Audience Choice. Spectators will be invited to vote each evening.

Judging the costumes are Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council and the Public Program Coordinator for the Campbell River Museum, Kirstin Humpherys, president of Courtenay Little Theatre and Lori Kenney, an artist with a 25-year background in creating costumes and accessories for the television and film industry in Vancouver.

“The audience is encouraged to dress up and be as colorful and flamboyant as possible,” says Le. “This is a real opportunity to express yourself artistically with clothes, jewellery, whatever. The whole event has a huge wow factor.”

And, in a change from tradition, audience members are also encouraged to bring their cameras and take as many photos as they want.

Tickets, available at the gallery are $20 or $15 for students and CVAG members for June 16 and 17 and $30 and $25 for the awards ceremony on the 18th.


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