'Costume sculptor' Sha Sha Higby to perform, teach Nov. 18-20

Sha Sha Higby creates intricate "costume sculptures" which she then wears as part of her performances.

Performance and visual artist Sha Sha Higby will be in Juneau next week to lead two hands-on workshops Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 18 and 19, and present a performance Wednesday, Nov. 20. Her visit will be hosted by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council as part of their 40th anniversary season.


Higby’s work blends elements of wearable art, sculpture, mask-making and costume design, as well as storytelling and dance. She creates intricately layered wearable sculptures, and then uses those creations to inform her performances. In her own words, she approaches “dance through the medium of sculpture.”

“The handmade parts of the costume are my door into performance,” Higby says on her website.

Each piece takes her about two years to develop, but her performances are largely improvisational and unrehearsed.

Higby began her artistic explorations as a doll maker, puppet maker and sculptor. Soon she began adding movable parts and flexible joints, but still found herself frustrated by her artwork’s lack of motion. So she took it a step further and began making things she could place on her own body.

Higby’s work has been deeply influence by her travels, which began with a trip to Japan in 1971, when she was able to study Noh masks and theater, followed by a five-year stay in Indonesia, where she studied dance and shadow puppet making. She has also studied art in Thailand, Burma and India, trips made possible through many different arts grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts in Solo Theater Fellowship and a Indo-American Fellowship.

Her two workshops in Juneau will be “Moving Archetypal Image” on Monday, Nov. 18 from 6-9 p.m., and “Wire Forms in Light” on Tuesday, Nov. 19 also from 6-9 p.m., both of which are recommended for Juneau’s Wearable Art artists. In the first, participants will create their own wearable headdresses out of paper, fibers, wire and other materials (participants are welcome to bring their own memorabilia as well). In Tuesday’s workshop, participants will make freestanding wire sculptures covered with paper, which they will be able to light from within or animate with a revolving base. After their sculptures are complete, participants will create a short performance pieces, using their sculptures as inspiration.

The cost of each workshops is $35, or $60 for both. Registered Wearable Art artists can receive a discount; call the arts council at 586-2787 to find out more.

Higby’s performance will be Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 pm at the JACC. Tickets are 20 general admission or 18 for students and seniors and are available online at www.jahc.org or at the JACC.

For more on Higby, visit www.shashahigby.com.


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