I had the distinct pleasure of meeting curator Susin Rubin at Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer. She found me sometime after my Steampunk panel, and was very complimentary of both my costuming work…and curious about the notion that I didn’t sew.
Susan was representing Scotsdale Public Art which was presenting a large exhibition called “Steampunk: The Exquisite Adventure” - and as such, invited my participation. I was honored and very excited about the potential. They were also very impressed with the talented photographers whose skilled eyes capture my projects to best advantage – and requested images of additional costuming to be framed and shown alongside one of my costumes and gear. The photography of Dim Horizon Studio was selected by SPA to accompany my static exhibit.
Together SPA and I elected to exhibit “Tornado Jane” as a strong example of re-purposing salvaged materials. Tornado Jane was constructed using storm debris from the tornado that savaged the Birmingham, Alabama area in April 2011. (NOTE: the debris was collected with permission and care at the home site of my friend Stephanie who lost everything but her life that day.)
“Tornado Jane”: Constructed using debris collected in the wake of the April 2011 tornado that savaged Pleasant Grove, Alabama.
Scotsdale Public Art had a highly professional method in place to collect and curate various Steampunk-inspired work from as far away at the British Isles. They were patient and practiced throughout the run-up and opening of the event. They even took time to text me images of my own work being assembled at the venue.
While I missed the October exhibition opening due to distance (Arizona is FAR!), I enjoyed the images and online coverage from the event, marveling at the other artists’ creations and vision. I connected with many of these artists through the only means at my disposal – social media! Even long distance, I was in the finest company.
In December, I received a call from one of the event curators who was very dismayed to report that my particular exhibit had been tampered with and parts of it stolen. Part of the headpiece had been taken and some of the handpiece had been dismantled and stolen. They were so upset and seemed gravely concerned about my response to the incident. They were sending me an incident report for my review and asked me for a dollar value to compensate for the loss.
Truth be told…it doesn’t have real value. I mean, it’s debris that’s been torqued, attached and turned into costume art. I assured them that I wanted no money for the loss, but rather hoped that they would take a page from my method and look around to see what they could replace the missing parts with. It suddenly seemed like a fun idea that the work could morph mid-exhibition into a group project – smile!
They seemed deeply embarrassed about the thievery, and I appreciate the feeling of violation the curators and host venue must feel. But in the end, I’m glad it was my ad hoc, eccentric collection of oddments that was pilfered rather than some of the finely crafted works that are on display there. Instead of any compensation, I asked only that the event grant their permission and blessing to me as I chose to talk about what happened publicly. I didn’t want to portray what happened as any kind of failure on the event’s part. They have been exquisitely careful with all the artists’ work throughout. This unfortunate theft was just a bizarre exception in an otherwise flawless exhibition.
“Tornado Jane” exhibited with Photography by Dim Horizon Studio
But, hey! Someone wanted part of my work badly enough to cross the ropes and do some rather involved deconstruction to get what they wanted. That’s a STORY right there. Who was the person who wanted these cast-off and damaged bits so badly? Why take time to disassemble it and steal parts? Why not take more? Why mine? Instead of a standard show, I now have a unique memory – a tale to tell from the show I couldn’t even attend in person. That’s like gold, y’all. I love a good story, something to think about, a unique experience best of all. Achievement unlocked.
Tornado Jane was taken off exhibit after the incident. And that part does make me sad. I’m hoping that my friends at Scotsdale Public Art have since hit the thrift
store-junk drawer to see if they can replace the missing parts with things THEY think might look good on the costume. I think it’s in keeping with the whole tornado theme; a community putting things back together after parts of it are damaged or lost. I hope Tornado Jane can come back strong. She’s tough. And she’s been through worse.
It has been – in fact – An Exquisite Adventure after all!