States of Dress – NEW YORK

NEW YORK CITY – Garbage Bag Dress

When thinking about what to create for the New York edition of the States of Dress project, I -like countless others across the world- thought first of America’s most famous metropolis: New York City. The first time I ever visited New York as a young artist was during a massive garbage strike, and it left a lasting impression on me to see mountains of garbage piled so high on busy city sidewalks. I was raised in Chicago, where we have alleys to hide our garbage. I was surprised to discover that New York is a city without alleys, resulting in every home and business -even the fanciest restaurants- leaving their piles of trash right outside their front doors on the sidewalk. Even when there is not a garbage strike, as I found during many subsequent visits, the garbage bags regularly lining the sidewalks in New York take some getting used to. To me, the sanitation workers that mange these tiny mountains every week are the true heroes of the city.

However, by no means did I mean any disrespect or want to create something “ugly” for this metropolis of art, beauty and fashion. I therefore strived to create a “couture”, jet-black, fashionable New York dress, that just happened to be made from garbage bags. To me, this piece represents all the dramatic contrasts inherent to New York: wealth and poverty, art and homelessness – beauty and trash.

To fill the bags, I used another New York icon – crumpled-up New York Times newspapers saved for me from the daily leftovers at the Marmara Manhattan Hotel. This was a great material to work with, filling yet lightweight. As an added benefit, the dress was recyclable when finished!

Sketch for the Garbage Dress design


And the beginnings of the project. I worked in an art studio in Brooklyn rented from fellow artist Rob Kimmel, who was out of town for the month with his family in Morocco. Special thanks to friend Stacy Lee who visited the studio and helped me stuff bags with newspapers!

The finished dress!


I also made a detachable train so that I could walk in the dress, then add the train at the photo shoot.

Hair Styling by Jamie for New York Garbage Dress

I found the fabulous hairstylist Jamie at Emilia’s hair salon in Brooklyn, down the street from the art studio. She understood the project immediately, and created the perfect “trashy-elegant” hairdo for the Garbage Dress photo shoot. She even used crumpled up black garbage bags hidden inside the hair to create volume!

Here Jamie is teasing the hell out of my poor hair! This is going to take a long time to untangle!!

The finished masterpiece! Thanks Jamie!

NEW YORK – Garbage Dress Shoot #1 in Brooklyn NY

This is the first day shooting the NY Garbage Dress, in a loading dock with great graffiti near the art studio I rented in Brooklyn from fellow artist Rob Kimmel. The first challenge is getting me up onto the dock in the dress! Here I am being hoisted up with a little help from my friends, volunteers T’ai Jamal Hanna and Jay Loebscher.

I did not attach the train until we got to the shoot location to help with ease of movement.

Volunteering to shoot the NY Garbage Dress is friend and amazingly talented New York photographer Layo Mayoli

Some final loading dock shots
This pigeon behind my head hung out the whole shoot, protecting its nearby nest.
Now we are trying a seated shot, with some styling help from T’ai.
Manning the video camera on the left is volunteer Katrina Stachowski.

Some final seated shots…
…and getting back down!

T’ai making sure everything looks good for some street shots, taking advantage of the beautiful architecture of the next door building.

Layo in action!

Some final street shots.

Thanks so much to my helpers! From left to right: Katrina Stachowski, T’ai Jamal Hanna, Jay Loebscher, and photographer Layo Mayoli

NEW YORK – Garbage Dress Shoot #2 in Manhattan

This is the second day of shooting the NY Garbage Dress. We found a location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where the city keeps garbage trucks parked in a large lot and along the street. Perfect place for a guerrilla photo shoot! The city workers let us shoot for about 20 minutes before we got kicked out…

On my left is Heather Lamb, a wardrobe stylist along to assist. And on my right is Anthony Gatto, juggler and budding film maker who generously offered to film the day for my documentary “States of Dress”

Stephan Landry (right) was the photographer for the day’s shoot

Final Garbage Dress shots!

Casino Chip Bikini Auctioned for Benefit

On October 23, 2008 the Las Vegas First Friday Arts Festival celebrated its Sixth Year! As a big supporter of this monthly Vegas arts happening, I donated my “Casino Chip Bikini” to the First Friday benefit art auction. Lovely Vegas model Stacy Lee also donated her time to model the bikini for bidders. The event took place at the Newport Loft building downtown. Here Stacy is pictured on the beautiful rooftop deck there.

And here she is again, posing with local art star Jerry Misko, who also donated one of his fab Neon Paintings to the benefit.

The artist and model!

…And lovely art patron Kellee Antalek won the bikini in the live auction!
And here is Kellee a few months later, modeling her new art acquisition!

Photos by John Rettie

States of Dress – NEVADA

“Casino Chip Dress”
was photographed on the Eldorado dry lake bed in Boulder, NV.
It is the Nevada dress for the ongoing “States of Dress” series

“Casino Chip Dress” is made of over 2000 casino chips,
each with 6 drill holes joined by clear zip ties.

At the photo shoot on the Eldorado dry lake bed…

Special Thanks
to Kent Thomson for providing studio space to create this dress,
Todd VonBaastians of Atomic Todd Gallery for his generosity and support,
The Gambler’s General Store for partial donation of materials,
Benoit Beaufils for his tireless enthusiasm & assistance,
Ross Gibson, Jim Slonina, Tarra Scarff, my Mom & all the other volunteers
for their help & friendship.

This photo was taken by the great Dave Proctor (
with hair and makeup by Keely Zelanka.

Finished Dollar Store Dresses!

Here are the finished dresses from the 99¢ Only Dress Shop Exhibit
at Atomic Todd Gallery in Las Vegas:

Special Thanks to Todd VonBastiaans of Atomic Todd, to all my volunteers
(see full list in post below),
and thanks to 99¢ Only Stores for their support with this project.

Gallery Views:

“Feather Duster Dress”
made of feather dusters, sponge scrubbies and shoelaces

“Sponge Dress”
made of sponges, hot glue & velcro

“Blue Sponge Dress”
made of sponges, hot glue, shower curtain & shoelaces

“Silver Sponge Shorts & Vest”
made of sponges, hot glue & shoelaces

“Sponge Bikini”
made of sponges, hot glue & shoelaces

“Casino Chip Bikini”
made of casino chips, zip ties & shoelaces

“Easter Egg Dress”
made of plastic easter eggs connected with a price tagging gun

“Playing Card Dress”
made of playing cards & packing tape

“Beach Ball Dress”
made of beach balls & staples

“Whiffle Ball Wedding Gown”
made of whiffle balls and shower scrubbies (whole & unraveled)

“Casino Chip Dress”
made of casino chips & zip ties

First “States of Dress” short film!

This is my 100th post on my States of Dress blog!

To celebrate, I am announcing the launch of my very first States of Dress mini-film, “Wyoming”. It is the first in a series of shorts about the ongoing project. It shows how I made “Willow Creek Dress”, a floating dress of woven willow on Lower Piney Creek, at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Banner, WY.

To view, please click on the link below. Enjoy!

Gallery Show at Atomic Todd, Las Vegas NV

“99¢ Only Dress Shop”
April 30- May 24 at the Las Vegas art gallery:

Atomic Todd: 1221 Main Street, Las Vegas, NV

“Sponge Dress” by Robin Barcus Slonina
Photo by Eric Guideng, Hair & Makeup by Krystle Randall

Continuing my exploration of environmental dress making, I am turning to local dollar stores in the urban environment of downtown Las Vegas. I will be creating a “dress shop” entirely out of items purchased at various 99¢ Only stores. I will be working in my “artistic sweat shop” during the run of the exhibit, making dresses out of items like sponges, whiffle balls and easter eggs. This show will be completely interactive and open to the public. I invite everyone to come visit, try on the artwork, or even help create it!

Please click on the links below to read two articles from local papers about the show:

The Las Vegas Sun / Review Journal
“Sort-of-Wearable Art on the Cheap

By Kristen Peterson

The Las Vegas Weekly
“The Sponge Dress, and Other Delights; Pop Art Goes to the Bargain Bin”
by Greg Thilmont

Here are some pictures from Opening Night!
the artist

Gallery owner Todd VonBastianns

Art slaves Ross & Benoit (above) and Tarra (below)

Gallery views

playing with the art…

Sarah getting into ART!

Your dedication to this silliness really touched my heart.
Barb Barcus
Benoit Beaufils
Heather Eggerding
Barbara Ellis
Tara Ellis
Ross Gibson
Amos Glick
Laura Herbert
Jessica Holker
Marah Kaprowski
Stacy Lee
Luke Littell
Nick Mays
Bryan McCarthy
Carolina Moraes
Brett Palmer
Lucy Pascoe
Dave Proctor
Lakeisha Sable
Tarra Scarff
Andy Schmitz
Danny Sidlow
Jim Slonina
Kent Thomson
Todd VonBastiaans