For Wearable Art Awards winners, art wears many meanings

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      It’s official: the winners of the 2010 Wearable Art Awards, presented by the Port Moody Arts Centre Society, have been announced.

      This is big news in wearable-art circles. But let’s face it: for people who don’t really get this particular medium of expression, wearable art raises a lot of questions, most notably: what does the artist get out of creating a one-of-a-kind piece that’s meant to be worn, but probably never will be?

      The Straight recently caught up with three of the winners to talk about what wearable art means to them and how it relates to their respective award-winning pieces, which—along with 100-plus others—will be on display in various locations throughout Port Moody until March 21.

      In the Canadian Spirit category (sponsored by the Straight), Elena Gregusova took home top prize for her piece Dream Catcher. Made using recycled newspapers from all over the world, this larger-than-life headdress represents diversity in the Great White North—something that struck the Slovakian native when she immigrated to Canada six years ago.

      “When I began living in Canada, [I noticed] a lot of people from other countries and lots of other cultures living together and understanding each other,” says Gregusova, calling from her North Vancouver home. “I wanted to show to people everywhere in the world that people [with] different cultures, different history can live together with peace and understanding.”

      In addition to crafting wearable art, Gregusova makes wearable clothing, but Gregusova doesn’t find working with trends and seasons nearly as rewarding as making elaborately symbolic one-offs.

      “I am [a] fashion designer,” she says. “But I like textile designing more, because I can show my feelings. Fashion design is about rules.”

      Local designer Tracey Littlewood won in the mantle (or cloak) category for Txa’msen Steals Back Pride, a contemporary First Nations button blanket that features a 2-D cloth raven holding a wrinkled swath of rust-stained silk organza with photo transfers and some racially offensive text superimposed on it.

      With her Tsimshian heritage in mind, this piece holds special meaning for her. While studying at college, Littlewood came across quotes from early-20th-century ethnographers referring to her people as “heathens” who needed to be saved. So for her, the wool melton cloth blanket is a way of taking back the pride that was stomped on by missionaries. Not bound by the constraints of fashion design or even traditional visual art, Littlewood dove right into her wearable-art project, mixing traditional methods and exploring new and unconventional techniques.

      “I love how limitless it is,” Littlewood says, referring to the tactile satisfaction she gets from making wearable art. “You can really dig into it and form it and make it do so many things that you just can’t do with paint on canvas or even carving wood.”¦Textiles is just wide-open, like anything goes. If you thought there was a rule, you can break it, like, ”˜Let’s take some silk organza and wrap in rusty bits and bury it for a while and see what that looks like.’ You know, you just don’t do that with anything else.”

      For Claire Murgatroyd—who won in the Port Moody Arts Centre Olympic category for her cold-formed, cast-aluminum Pentagram “Apple” Psychic Shield—art is art. She’s careful not to differentiate between mediums.

      “It’s just a self-study, really,” says the Vancouver-based sculptor. “As I do my research, I learn more about the world around me, and I learn more about myself and the way people react to it [the world]. And that’s just like a lifelong path that I’m on.”