This week’s issue of the Capital City Weekly is devoted to an art form that has become strongly associated with Southeast Alaska: wearable art. With its exuberance, open-to-all format and anything-goes runway show, wearable art highlights qualities our region is known for, such as individuality, ingenuity and creativity.
The concept of wearing “art” is of course an ancient one, and in our region is exemplified by the woven robes and carved masks created by Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian artists. That strong artistic foundation continues to inspire some of today’s wearable artists; for example, in this year’s Juneau show, held this past weekend, young artist-models Lyric Ashenfelter and Helen John created beautifully detailed button robes out of duct tape in a piece called “Haa Shagoon,” and longtime wearable artist Kathryn Grant Griffin wove a ravenstail ensemble in what has become her signature medium.
But though traditional art forms are sometimes represented at wearable art, the runway show -- with its emphasis on using unusual (often free and abundant) materials -- has evolved into something more spontaneous and eccentric, a freeform collection of distinctive creations that have little in common other than their originality. This year’s Juneau show, “Reflections,” directed by Flordelino Lagundino and hosted, as always, by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, included many pieces that expressed personal journeys, such as motherhood (Jessica Sullivan’s “Wiped Out,” made from baby wipes ombre-dyed in red wine), depression and recovery (Lacey Davis’ butterfly-inspired “Shattered Pieces of a Chyrsalis”), getting ready for college (Helen Thurston and Katie Buchanan’s “I Didn’t Read Any of These,” made from 60 pounds of college-related mail), and making healthy choices (Beth Bolander’s three part piece, “Reflection of Choice,” representing religion, drugs and money), as well as the celebratory crowd favorite “Phoenix,” co-created and modeled by Canvas artist Joanne Sam.
In this week's Arts, you’ll find an article about two Wearable Art pioneers, Halli Kenoyer and Diane Palmer of Ketchikan, home of the first wearable art runway show in Southeast. Read that story here http://juneauempire.com/art/2016-02-17. We also have Q&A’s with two Juneau artists, Lauralye Miko, who created her piece, “Southeast Seawolf” from nautical charts (read that article here: http://juneauempire.com/art/2016-02-17/wearable-arts-qa-lauralye-mikos-southeast-seawolf) and Rosie Ainza, whose piece “Tweet” makes an arresting statement about social media (read that story here http://juneauempire.com/art/2016-02-17/wearable-art-qa-artist-rosalinda-ainza). To view more of Michael Penn's photos of the Juneau show, visit http://juneauempire.com/art/2016-02-17/photos-wearable-art-2016-reflections, or the Juneau Empire's slideshow at http://juneauempire.com/slideshow/2016-02-15/slideshow-2016-wearable-art
Still to come is Sitka’s show, planned for March 26.
This week’s issue is also my last as managing editor of the CCW and arts editor of the Juneau Empire, a dual role I’ve held since January 2015 (my time as arts editor goes back to 2009). I can’t imagine a more rewarding job for a writer than sharing others’ stories about what moves them to create. Thank you to all those who gifted me with the chance to hear those stories. Thanks, also, to the writers who trusted me to edit their writing, and who came up with great ideas for stories and columns, particularly staff writer Mary Catharine Martin, a gem in every sense. And to the photographers who have taken part -- many of them weekly -- in the Art in Unusual Places reader-submitted photo feature, launched as an experiment in May 2012. I loved opening up those emails every week to see what they’d captured.
Over the years I have often been reminded of the fact that each issue is created not by the newsroom, but by the combined input of many -- all those who’ve been interviewed, written an article or a column, taken a photo, or contributed a poem. An awareness of that generosity is the strongest feeling I’ll take away from my time in the editor’s chair.