Special costume design, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle
When Director Jane Jones invited me to create work for Book It’s production of A Tale of Two Cities, I jumped at the opportunity to satisfy a curiosity I have long had – what would it be like to place my work in an actual theatrical setting.
In an exciting bit of synchronicity, A Tale of Two Cities touches on several themes and sensibilities I had explored in my most recent installation Small But Mighty Wandering Pearl (Oct. 2006, CoCA). In that installation, I created a life-sized eviscerated White Stag, with a few hundred feet of intricately crocheted, knitted and stitched organs and blood streaming out from his side, culminating in a fountain/chandelier of blood. My inspiration was two bloody events that had changed me irrevocably. Likewise, I wanted to create something that could speak to how, in all our lives, sometimes the greatest trauma can leave us raw but we emerge exquisite, new and more our true selves. In some way, I see a parallel of this idea in the French Revolution. Certainly the Terror of the Revolution cut a deep gouge through Western civilization in much the same way, and influenced every art form, civic and political mode of being. I felt challenged to create a visual metaphor that could touch on the paradox of the horrific events that arguably and ultimately made the world a better place. Dickens provided a most potent symbol with the knitting of Madame Defarge, a literal record of the ghastly reckoning to come, hidden in the domestic hand-work of a woman. She seemed to me an embodied member of the Three Fates, spinning, measuring and cutting our destiny. I seized on the idea that the revolution -and likewise the oppression that brought it about- shredded individual identities and bodies, ‘knitting’ them into a teeming yet homogenous mass of hysteria. I used piles and piles of torn-apart old clothes and shoes to create work that provides a mirrored image of the decadence of aristocratic oppression reflected in the decadence of blood spilt by the mob.