Before she left on tour for Japan, my friend the amazingly talented singer Tara Baswani wanted to collaborate on a dress project / photo shoot together. In honor of her music I made a cassette tape dress for her to wear. It was then used for a local Valentine’s Day Couture Art Challenge in Vegas, benefiting the Children’s Heart Foundation. Since I grew up in the era of romantic “mixed-tapes” I figured it was fitting for Valentine’s! Tarra is modeling the Cassette Tape Dress on the program for the benefit fashion show.
It was then modeled on the catwalk by Jessica Napier. Hair and makeup by Stephanie Aguilar.
In case anyone is wondering why I have taken some time off of the dress project, perhaps this video will explain how I was busy making my most beautiful creation yet….
When thinking about what to create for the New York edition of the States of Dress project, I -like countless others across the world- thought first of America’s most famous metropolis: New York City. The first time I ever visited New York as a young artist was during a massive garbage strike, and it left a lasting impression on me to see mountains of garbage piled so high on busy city sidewalks. I was raised in Chicago, where we have alleys to hide our garbage. I was surprised to discover that New York is a city without alleys, resulting in every home and business -even the fanciest restaurants- leaving their piles of trash right outside their front doors on the sidewalk. Even when there is not a garbage strike, as I found during many subsequent visits, the garbage bags regularly lining the sidewalks in New York take some getting used to. To me, the sanitation workers that mange these tiny mountains every week are the true heroes of the city.
However, by no means did I mean any disrespect or want to create something “ugly” for this metropolis of art, beauty and fashion. I therefore strived to create a “couture”, jet-black, fashionable New York dress, that just happened to be made from garbage bags. To me, this piece represents all the dramatic contrasts inherent to New York: wealth and poverty, art and homelessness – beauty and trash.
To fill the bags, I used another New York icon – crumpled-up New York Times newspapers saved for me from the daily leftovers at the Marmara Manhattan Hotel. This was a great material to work with, filling yet lightweight. As an added benefit, the dress was recyclable when finished!
And the beginnings of the project. I worked in an art studio in Brooklyn rented from fellow artist Rob Kimmel, who was out of town for the month with his family in Morocco. Special thanks to friend Stacy Lee who visited the studio and helped me stuff bags with newspapers!
I found the fabulous hairstylist Jamie at Emilia’s hair salon in Brooklyn, down the street from the art studio. She understood the project immediately, and created the perfect “trashy-elegant” hairdo for the Garbage Dress photo shoot. She even used crumpled up black garbage bags hidden inside the hair to create volume!
This is the first day shooting the NY Garbage Dress, in a loading dock with great graffiti near the art studio I rented in Brooklyn from fellow artist Rob Kimmel. The first challenge is getting me up onto the dock in the dress! Here I am being hoisted up with a little help from my friends, volunteers T’ai Jamal Hanna and Jay Loebscher.
This is the second day of shooting the NY Garbage Dress. We found a location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where the city keeps garbage trucks parked in a large lot and along the street. Perfect place for a guerrilla photo shoot! The city workers let us shoot for about 20 minutes before we got kicked out…
On my left is Heather Lamb, a wardrobe stylist along to assist. And on my right is Anthony Gatto, juggler and budding film maker who generously offered to film the day for my documentary “States of Dress”
On October 23, 2008 the Las Vegas First Friday Arts Festival celebrated its Sixth Year! As a big supporter of this monthly Vegas arts happening, I donated my “Casino Chip Bikini” to the First Friday benefit art auction. Lovely Vegas model Stacy Lee also donated her time to model the bikini for bidders. The event took place at the Newport Loft building downtown. Here Stacy is pictured on the beautiful rooftop deck there.