Now that I've gotten past a few pressing projects, I'm ready to delve into my next one - a project that I've been mentally working through for months now, and am finally able to tell you all about it, I'm really excited!
Back at the end of last year, I purchased four antique ceremonial robes that came from an old Oddfellows lodge somewhere in West Virginia.
My best guess is that they're from somewhere in the vicinity of 1910-1925 era. Definitely very old, and they've seen some use and some tribulations, as they're not in great shape. My plan is to make a small body of work using these four robes to comprise as much of the art as possible - all of the parts of these robes can be used to make dolls - the cotton fabric, the lining, the buttons, embroidery, tassels, tags, and even the reverse sides all have merit and potential.
Normally I would hesitate to take scissors to such artifacts, but like I said before - these are not in good shape. The photos make them look better than they actually are; there's a lot of fading, staining, moth-holes, ripped seams, broken buttons, water damage, and other issues. I want to take these objects that would otherwise just languish in a dark closet somewhere, and turn them into cherished objects, and breathe new life into them by transforming them into Dust Bunnies!
I've long been fascinated by the mystery and lore of "Secret Societies". Not necessarily the organizations themselves, but their reputations for mystery and intrigue; secret symbols and rituals, bizarre initiation ceremonies and complicated membership rites. Not the reality of secret organizations, but the fantastical rumors and stories built around them, by the uninitiated. I've also been drawn in by their keen sense of design and symbolism - antique fraternal ephemera is just a pure aesthetic treat.
So, I'm about to start building this body of work, which I will sell this spring as as online event called the "Secret Society Sale". I'm looking forward to forcing myself to be creative, to research and learn, and to really get to know these garments as I work with them. Who knows how long they were used in Oddfellows meetings? How many people wore them? I love a good antique mystery.
Just as a note, historical or factual reality is not my goal with this project - I know the history and rational existence of the Oddfellows and other charitable fraternal organizations, which are still alive and well. It's an exercise in suspending our belief, and asking "what if?". What if there were invisible, mystical hands pulling the strings of important events? What if every symbol we see actually has a deeper, hidden meaning? What if that plain-looking person walking toward you on the street is actually the highest post in an elaborate and powerful organization!?
My bunnies are obviously not smart enough to actually be a part of any organized membership, secret or otherwise, but they'll be doing their best to festoon themselves with (what they deem as) appropriate attire, don (what they think are) meaningful symbols, and (attempt to) show you just how organized and powerful they can (or can't) be.
More info soon!