Monday, October 06, 2014

World of Wearable Eulogy


September has been a month I tell you...
One month ago today, I rushed to our father's hospital room and a week ago he died.

In amongst all of that was The World of WearableArt. Normally each year I blog, facebook and tweet about WOW because I have something in show and I am generally asked to speak or give an interview about it all. This year was different. A few months ago I got asked to do a corporate gig for the opening night at a private function but turned it down for a variety of reasons. I'm no psychic, but I'm so glad I had said no, because two months later, that was the night the nurse from the hospice called and said 'If you want to gather family now, this is a good time.' At that stage he had maybe a couple of days to live, and 400 hundred miles between us. There is no way I could have talked chattily and inspirationally about my work that night. The following night, the awards night, whilst my sister held his hand in the hospice, I watched the show with, my phone tucked down my bra, barely seeing the wonders before me, waiting for 'the call'. 

In the days that followed, I had time to reflect upon my father's decline, life and art. At his funeral, family paid tribute to this man we all loved so much and as always happens at such an event, people said 'I never knew that about him,' as past history of a life well lived comes together in the memories of those who knew a person at different stages of their lives.

In the hospital and the hospice that followed, he was shrunken and incoherent; a frail shell of the man he had once been. To an onlooker- just another wrinkled dying 83 year old man. But to us, he had been so much more. He had done stuff, he stood for something, he had a story and a presence and years of work and goddammit, investment in life. He affected people and the effect on us was remarkable. 

Later, someone asked me about my WOW entries and I barely had the energy to think about them. They wanted to know how long it took, what they were made out of, was I excited about the show and all the usual curiosity. I tiredly showed them pictures and explained the process and then, the backstory... and they were amazed. These were not just fancy costumes; they had a reason to be.
And it occurred to me that my wearable art pieces were kind of like my father. On the outside, just something to observe - with little understanding of what was inside; what made up the whole, what the history was. Because story is everything. Without it, there is just wallpaper, or the husk of a person with no empathy or meaning. 

And my art means a lot to me. I'd like you to understand it too. So here it is, explained. And if you like either of them, you can vote for People Choice http://www.includeme.co.nz/fairfax-media/wow-people's-choice

Firstly 'Mighty Acorns' - not so much to say about this except that little people are nurtured from breast milk and so become strong. I chose to make my babies into elfin folk. The acorns were made out of plastic bowls with felt detail and Fimo nipples. The babies were dolls I repurposed with new ears, colour and clothing.

Mighty Acorns- Photo courtesy WOW


Mighty Acorns- inside

 And then, then there is this:

London Missionary Church

Whilst in Samoa last year we went and saw the lava fields on Savaii, and I was awed by the forms and the history: 

The Virgin's Grave
In 1905, Mt Matavanu's lava poured through the London Missionary Church of Saleaula, Samoa
 The 1905 lava fields of Savaii are a moonscape of textural delights. Through tunnel like tubes, which now house moss and tiny cave swallows, lava continued down and right through the London Missionary Church, in Saleaula capturing the arches and walls forever in volcanic rock. The lava poured down to the sea; along the molten journey was the Virgin's Grave; a girl buried some years before. A bubble formed over the tomb and created a natural cave. Spared from the mountain's outpour, the grave became a holy shrine, and the only place that seems to grow flowers in the whole barren field.
Made from 30 meters of plastic backed painters drop cloth felt from Bunnings, my most  ironic moment was painting the fabric with a spray gun.
I made the archway from MDF board, and carved Styrofoam. It attached to a custom made trolley with castors. The basis of the corset was made at a specialist corset making class the previous year and I made the palm fronds from painted fabric- it took me ages to get the plaiting right. I handmade the shirt from sheer fabric and satin and all the other components were made from the painters drop felt with other details- like the cave swallows. LEDs lit up the front 'lava tube' and a light in the virgins cave at the back. 

It took me months and left me with terrible OOS. My finger is clawed every morning and I have to heat it to make it work again. And work it will, because doing this stuff gives me joy.
'Talofa Lava' was one of the best pieces I have ever achieved and I'm pretty proud of that. Next year will be my 20th year of entering with the 23rd piece.  I have an idea for it, and it has plenty to do with those final days of my father's life. When I have finished it, don't say 'good luck, hope you win' because that's not why I did it. Say instead 'What is the story?' Look beyond the materials and the glamour of showtime. Beyond the facade. Look for my father. He will be there.


Talofa Lava front
Talofa Lava back


Talofa Lava side views
Talofa Lava details




5 comments:

Melinda Szymanik said...

Such beautiful creations Fifi. We are all stories in the end...

Tracey vL said...

Two very beautiful and meaningful works that really resonate on so many levels. Thank you Fifi.

Mandy Hager said...

What amazing creations - so beautiful and full of meaning. And powerful words to match xx

Talia Hunter said...

Love these!

Barbara Murison said...

I will come back and visit these wonderful creations again Fifi - they are so worth it.