Monday, 3 December 2012

the wrap [and what happened to a dress that was in the river]

yesterday i left New Orleans
it was a wonderful four weeks "in residence"
during which i found new excitement in my work
and gained a bit of an understanding 
 of some of the local flora

but it also went a good deal deeper. 
i first visited New Orleans in 1983
in the year of the Ash Wednesday fires
our family home had been one of the casualties
and the option of travelling to North America to help my grandparents pack their belongings for a return to Australia after some 24 years residence in Canada seemed a very good escape from a life that had become a merry-go-round of working at my job with the Arts Council during the week and then helping with the rebuild on the weekends when i wasn't on tour

in this month, hearing stories about what my friends and others went through after 'the storm' i've learned to be grateful
in comparison to flooding, fire is relatively clean. things are burned instead of being distributed across the region
and while there were some toxic things to be dealt with [ie piles of arsenic+copper ash from "green" pine posts] the earth and the remains were not soaked with chemicals and oil and sewage and ghastliness.
we didn't have to deal with refrigerators full of rotting food
or be evacuated hundreds of miles away from where we belonged
there were a few looters
but by and large people behaved in a civilized fashion
within a few days of the rain that followed the fires
lilies were pushing their way up through the blackened earth
and almost as soon as the ashes had cooled
the telephone company laid a line across them
so my parents had a phone amongst the debris

i'm telling you all this to give you an idea of [some of] what i was thinking while this new body of work was brewing.
 Chris Rose's book, "One dead in Attic" puts life very sharply into perspective.

and now on a much lighter note
here are a few details of the work in the Riverside gallery

the two below aren't in the show
as they were opened after it was hung

and the last bundle i opened
was a dress that had been to the river

i gave it a thorough wash test
in Schiro's laundromat

and am delighted to say
it "came up a treat"
i think i am beginning to get the hang of dyeing cotton


  1. The whole of your entry is moving and touching india but l am totzlly blown away by the river dress....gorgeous.xxlyndas

  2. Your words made me think about how debilitating Katrina was and how water delivers its many faces to us on earth. We depend on water to live which seems to be a dangerous relationship. Life giving and destroyer. Just like fire. Your work in N.O. is stunning and alive. The dress is lustworthy.xo

    1. you'd be proud of me Christine, every stitch sewn by hand...whilst sitting by the dye cauldron [a relatively small one] to make sure it didn't overflow

  3. Yep, 30 year anniversary coming up . . . if we don't get a big one this year, I'll eat my boots. The Port Lincoln fires have already eaten up 6 houses.
    The dress had me goggle eyed!

    1. good thing you wear thongs then, Ma. less chance of boot eating.

      [for international readers that translates as jandals or flip flops, not to be inferred as a nasty type of undergarment!]

  4. oh my - what a post treat

    the ash wednesday fires seem just like last week - yet it was almost 30 years ago? goodness.... I have difficulty imagining widespread flooding (I live amongst rolling hills - we only have 'flash' flooding) but fire I have a greater understanding of... its also been 30 years since the last massive fires in our area .... every fire season we wait to see if its going to be another tough one - fire is inevitable in our country.

  5. As a native of NOLA with much family still there the katrina story is part of my family history. I devoured Chris Rose's book right after it came out. That one and many other books written about Katrina.

    After my trip there last week I brought back magnolia, camellia, louisiana sweet gum, crepe myrtle, chinese tallow and various other windfall leaves. I've experimented with magnolia and camellia leaves and didn't have much luck so now I have some soaking in some rusty water for my next try. What leaves did you work with while you were there.

    1. if you wander back through the blog you'll find i have listed the species

  6. Love the dress, brilliant. Ash Wednesday leads me to Black Saturday.. and Katrina and Sandy lead me to TC Yasi, which I don't wish to go through again.. yet we keep smiling..

  7. Very poignant India ...I was in Adelaide at that time and remember praying for friends at Greenhill.... helplessness .... but the human spirit survives and grows ... beautiful exhibition to reflect

  8. Thanks for the details. Your dress is gorgeous: absolute wow!

  9. I quail at the thought of these catastrophes.It does make one count ones blessings when looking from the outside in. Your work... as usual.... lifts the spirits. Opening the dress bundle must have felt like Christmas.

    1. every bundle is a present. and yes, blessings are good things to count

  10. ohhh, getting the "hang of cotton"...i will need to watch so
    closely...i don't live a silk is otherworldly beauty to
    me, but cotton....
    and i just learned that Juniper root bark makes a beautiful dye,
    the tried and true rustredochre here, the timing could not be
    more perfect. THANK You for coming around to cotton....

    1. being in the South - home of cotton - what else ?

  11. wow so beautiful india. i am feeling some dye pots might need heating up this summer. as always, you inspire me. xx cleo

  12. wow so beautiful india. i am feeling some dye pots might need heating up this summer. as always, you inspire me. xx cleo

  13. Stunning - love the inky black/blue, perhaps it is your stury about fires but I am thinking those prints could almost be branded into the cloth like a hide.

  14. a very moving post to read about the fire/flood.
    and that dress ...magnifico