Here at The Pier, we're used to seeing clothes made out of all sorts of unusual material. Heck, at Pier32 we even sell some. Fancy a jacket made out of shredded drinks bottles? We can do that.
But artist Robin Barcus Slonina is taking the process one step further. She works with materials like poker chips and pine cones to create dresses-as-sculpture, artworks that are designed to make us think about nature, the consumer society and the ephemeral nature of fashion.
These are not dresses to be slipped on for an evening out. For example, her pine cone dress is eight feet long, and can't even be 'worn' in the traditional sense. Robin explains:
"It took six weeks to gather and clean the sap off the cones, then meticulously attach them to a wire form I contructed in the shape of a dress."As an artistic statement, Robin believes that her dress-forms have a powerful feminist resonance and, more importantly, that they look good, saying:
"I have always simply liked the shape of the dress as an abstract form, and I think it is interesting that it has come to represent the female in our culture."Her work on consumerism and urban waste, which included a dress made completely from items bought from a 99c store and one built out of rubbish bags, has gone down less well. The 'Garbage Dress', which she was photographed wearing in New York City, raised eyebrows in the Big Apple, and brought criticism that she was doing the city a disservice. But Robin countered that her first visit to New York coincided with a garbage worker's strike; a powerful memory that she wanted to celebrate with "a couture, jet-black, fashionable New York dress that... represents all the dramatic contrants inherent to New York: wealth and poverty, art and homelessness--beauty and trash."
Robin works closely with community groups and volunteers to help create her dresses and get them documented in the appropriate environments. The end result, she hopes, is memorable for everyone who gets involved. She says:
"I love every dress, and each one holds precious memories of the place where it was created and the volunteers who became a part of the experience."Fashion should be fun. Although Robin Barcus Slolina's pieces are not the most wearable, her sense of playfullness and thoughtful approach to her art mean that the dresses, and the Vogue-style photos in which they are most likely to be seen, have an impact that's much more meaningful than a one-note joke. As she says, the dress-form has an iconic power. Subverting it gives her work a pleasing sense of sharp humour that is cut with clever social commentary. There's nothing simple about her dresses. They're complex structures that are as thought-provoking as they are beautiful.