Vancouver is a city that is filled with unique and exceptionally creative individuals. Throw into this mix someone who has respect for the environment and a keen fashion sense and you get Dahlia Drive.
“Dahlia Drive, the clothing line by Vancouver artist and designer, Wendy Van Riesen, is a hybrid of two distinct types of work. I believe it blurs the line between fashion/clothing and sculpture. This wearable art consists of second-hand recycled garments, largely women’s silk slips and undergarments that are then dyed and silk-screened. Most of the slips are found in thrift stores or turned over by women who no longer wear them. No two finished articles are the same as the dyes take differently to every fabric and every silk-screen that is applied on the flat canvas of the slip interacts in a new way each time with each particular piece. Van Riesen’s belief in recycling and making responsible decisions about our environment leads to her motto of “resurrecting the fashion wasteland” (Van Riesen). On the Dahlia Drive website, www.dahliadrive.com, five values are given in which Wendy Van Riesen uses when creating. These values are 1. Respect for the Environment, 2. Art is Affordable, 3. All Women’s Bodies Are Beautiful, 4. Integrity, 5. Vision. The idea of using what we already have before creating more waste and conservation ethics greatly inspire her work and appeal to many consumers in today’s society who are becoming more conscious and concerned with the effects our choices have on our planet.
The dyes used on her slips range from rusted metal objects, flowers and berries, to indigo. Some of Van Riesen’s very first pieces were dyed using the dahlia flower, giving a rich yellowy-green color, this combined with the name of the road she grew up on, Dahlia Drive, gave her the name for her clothing line.
There are various silk-screened images on the slips, the most popular and eye-catching are the ones with the skeletal system or intestines. I believe this is one way in which the line is blurred between this being just fashion and it becoming sculptural. Although these slips are very beautiful on the female figure, we would not expect to see a skeleton or the interior workings of our abdomen printed on the front. Such images cause the viewer to question the relationship between the exterior bodies wearing this silky colorful slip and the structure which lies beneath it. Typically society views beauty as being only the top layer; that which is most visible. But when the inside is brought to the outside on such an unconventional piece of clothing, a garment that is often considered a type of lingerie, it forces the viewer to ask questions. Traditionally slips were meant to be worn beneath a women’s clothing when perhaps the top garments may be too revealing. However these Dahlia Drive pieces are meant to be worn as the top layer with just the skin and bones beneath. The skeletons on the slips have very similar features to the lace found on the borders of the slips. Both having a pattern in which it follows as well as a mirrored image of itself, weaving and interlocking intricate details.
While the slip itself is almost 2D draped on a hanger, it shifts into a more 3D form when it is worn on the body. Here it blurs the line between being wearable are and a painting. Perhaps a viewer may find the clothing beautiful and appreciate what this clothing represents in terms of recycling and caring for the environment but may not be able to see themselves wearing it as a piece of everyday clothing. However the possibility of hanging it on the wall like a painting on display in their home might appeal to them. It could work with the idea of the slip being the canvas and the printing on the slip being the painting itself. It could serve either purpose and still be seen as a work of art.
Wendy Van Riesen believes strongly in “celebrating the female form” in all its beautiful sizes and shapes. Dahlia Drive garments come in sizes ranging from petite to x-large. It is important that all women, regardless of their size are able to enjoy beautiful clothes. Perhaps another way to view these works is by questioning their relationship to a 3D sculpture. As a 2D form then could actually be seem as incomplete works of art until they have the human form beneath them to fill and complete the site-specific sculpture. If the body is the finishing touch to making this a 3D sculpture then all different sized bodies must be considered for each different sized slip.
The silk-screen images ranges from internal structures to prints of birds, trees, and musical instruments as well. “These images and textures reflect the beauty of the female form while implying what lives beneath and above the simple layer” (Van Riesen). All the dying, printing, and appliqué of the slips have been done with the intention of making a statement about caring for our planet, preservation of resources, and internal beauty”.