WISCONSIN: “White Pine Dress”

The next dress project took place in Seely, Wisconsin at Castle Gardens, a small home-farm owned by Dan and Margaret Krause. While working on this project I stayed at my friend Amy Maxon’s family cabin in nearby Stone Lake. We used tree limbs recently blown off the many white pines at Castle Gardens. “Phorpa” the dog thought my pile of materials was a bed made just for her.

Josey was visiting Castle Garens and kept me company while I built the dress form. I made her a crown with extra chicken wire and she filled it with flowers. Here she is wearing her masterpiece.

Karen and I worked late into the night to finish the 12-foot-tall dress form for “White Pine Dress”.

With a little help from “Gray Nose” the cat.

Dan graced us with music from his home-made Native American flute.

Attaching the branches to the dress form took five people about four hours to complete. Here I am with Karen and Calvin.

I was just another tree for the cat to climb.

The completed “White Pine Dress”

Karen looked great in “Pine Dress”!

And Calvin gave it a try-on as well…

The crew! Many, many thanks to my friends, helpers and hosts. From left: Dan Krause, Margaret Krause, Calvin Ramseyer, Amy Maxon and Karen O’Mara.

IOWA: “Prairie Dress”

The Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center in Toddville, IA graciously agreed to host the Iowa dress project, “Prairie Dress”. They are working hard to convert their acquired land back to the natural prairie that once covered Iowa.

We needed to secure a permit to allow us to cut the prairie grasses. Here are Craig and Felicia collecting material.

Here Cynthia and Paloma are weaving grass into the wire armature for the dress. I found volunteers to help with the project through a local art gallery and also by searching online.

The completed “Prairie Dress”

I thought it was fitting with the nature of this Great Plains state to keep Iowa’s dress low to the ground.

This project would not have been possible without my awesome volunteers, who spent a day with me under the hot sun, attacked by ticks and mosquitos, to make “Prairie Dress” happen. From left: Leif Zalewski, Felicia Taylor (hair and make-up), Craig Volesky, Stewart McCoy (holding the wire dress form), Cynthia Wittstruck, and Paloma Jamal Scheck.

Iowa is in America’s heartland, the great prairie lands that became the farming breadbasket for the United States. I found out during my work on “Prairie Dress” that the natural environment of Iowa has been reduced to 1/10 of 1% to make room for farming and housing. In other words, if Iowa was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, only one piece would be undeveloped nature.

First Stop

Ottertail, Minnesota (population 451) is where I am laying my head these days, while I paint a mural in the neighboring town of Wadena. Small town life is something to get used to again after Chicago. I need to remember to pay AFTER pumping gas, and get used to people looking at me like I’m crazy when I lock my car door. I was near here last year with the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, making the Corn Dress, and the Alley Arts project in Wadena asked me to come back and help get an ambitious mural project started in their town.

The New York Mills Cultural Center has graciously allowed me to use their beautiful upstairs studio space to work on wire dress forms for the next project.

First Days on the Road

Driving through Sauk City, WI, the sky lit up with an amazing rainbow, a good omen for the journey! I am on my way to Wadena, MN, to help the town with a mural project they are starting. I will try to jump over to the Dakotas on my days off to create a dress sculpture…. Does anyone have any contacts in North or South Dakota?

Leaving my home in Chi-town


All of my possessions have been sold, stored or given away, and my life has been edited down to what I can fit in my 1986 Volkswagen camper van. I am set to travel for the State of Dress project for the next year or so.

Getting a little help (?!) from my friends….

ILLINOIS: “State of Dress” benefit art auction

On April 23, 2005 Saverio Truglia Photography generously hosted a benefit art auction in his new studio space to raise funds for the next leg of “State of Dress”. Over 200 people ate, drank, danced, and made merry while 25 of my paintings were auctioned off, as well as donated artworks by Chicago artists: Katie Baker, Elke Claus, Eduardo De Soignie, Mark McGinnis, Paul Munro, Doc Sanjuro, Galina Shevchenko, Renata Stojkowski, and Saverio Truglia. Rocking the house was Matt Faunce, Environmental Encroachment, MoFoe and Jungle Street Rockers, all under the blessings of MC LA*JC, who also took a turn on the turntables.

Over $2000 was raised to help fund the next leg of State of Dress. The money will go towards the purchase of a digital video camera to document the project. Party photos by Jake Setlak.

MINNESOTA: “Corn Dress”

MINNESOTA: “Corn Dress” was created in September of 2004, while I was an artist-in-residence at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center in New York Mills, Minnesota, supported in part by a grant from the Jerome Foundation. “Corn Dress” was created with a 14-foot-tall welded steel frame, complete with a built-in ladder. It was 6-foot wide at its base. This sculpture was made possible by the hands of many wonderful volunteers, in a corn field belonging to Ray Sonnenberg and Brian Sillanpa of Homestead Valley Estates. Photo by Kevin Cederstrom.

This sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Ray Sonnenberg, whose humor and goodwill charmed the creation of “Corn Dress”. Ray passed away shortly after I left Minnesota, and he will be missed by all who were lucky enough to know him.

Assisiting in the construction of the “Corn Dress” frame were students from Paul Detloff’s welding class at New York Mills high school.

About 200 people visited “Corn Dress” the day it opened, with some visitors driving over 60 miles to see it. It was covered by several local newspapers and television stations.

I think children enjoyed the corn dress most of all, standing in line to climb up it over and over all day.

Stacy takes in the view.

Beverly flying high.

Ray waves to passing trucks.

After enjoying one week of visitors, “Corn Dress” met a fiery end in a bonfire attended by the local volunteers who helped to create it.

ILLINOIS: “Red Dress”

This is the very first “dress” sculpture, created back in 1999. It is made out of 28 red dresses purchased at thrift stores in Chicago. I had been using these red dresses as materials / props for my performance and installation work, and this huge dress represents the culmination of the series. Illinois is my home state, I and have been shopping at Chicago thrift store since my teen-aged years, so this first dress piece was very personal.