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!
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!