Earth Art - The Little Green Dress Projekt

The 11 on display as of August 19, 2012
One of the privileges of what I do is constantly meeting new and interesting people.  Enter Dawn Russell. She decided to go back to school at the University of the Fraser Valley a couple of years ago to study textile arts.  Her final project showcased last spring involved weaving original fabrics and dying them using time, water, sun and rusty rebar or organic materials. Phenomenal!! She also happens to work at Van Dusen Gardens and when we met for lunch a week ago, she shared about the various Earth Art Exhibitions being displayed over the summer.  The one that caught my imagination was the Little Green Dress Projekt by artist Nicole Dextras.

A graduate of Emily Carr, Dextras is both a teacher and an environmental artist who has had exhibitions across Canada and as far away as Mongolia where she participated in Land Art Mongolia 360.  Her award winning work - created in a variety of mediums - has been published numerous times including in ELLE Canada and the book My Green City (Berlin).  For this eco-conscious art installation, the starting point was the ubiquitous little black dress, first introduced by Chanel in 1926 -

"The concept behind the Little Green Dress has been extrapolated from the age-old fashion adage that every woman should own a little black dress and brings this notion into the realm of today’s environmental awareness. It proposes instead that women should have at least one item of clothing in her wardrobe that is produced in a sustainable and equitable manner. The aim of this project is to promote awareness on the impact of industry on our environment and to offer a realistic opportunity for change by creating a demand for better practices through consumer purchasing. For this reason the dresses will be made entirely from organic materials; Wear it and Compost it!"

Over the course of the next 34 days, the number will grow to a total of 28 and displayed in a triangle shape with the newest at the front and the oldest at the back.   Each dress is created with one particular woman in mind.  The women were selected for their support of eco-fashion and each provided the local organic material used to create their garment.  Once finished the garments are put on display in the gardens and left to the elements to naturally decompose.

In walking around the display and looking closely, it is obvious that the material chosen varies widely from dress to dress.  I even saw sea weed and insect tunneled bark turned inside out.  The photos shown on this page are from the blog site and showcase what they looked like before put on display.  In the top photo you can clearly see the changes that have been occurring over the time they have been exposed to the elements including the debris fallen on the ground around a few of them.

Each dress is unique and defined by the type of organic material provided the artist.  Dextras also creates them onsite in a clear glass greenhouse so that visitors can watch creation come to life.  Curious to know more about the process and the amount of plant material use for each dress?  There is a great write-up with photos here.  I love the fact this artist is open to sharing the process in case others would like to try it.

Van Dusen located at 5251 Oak Street with parking lot accessed on 37th. Hours and admission price (very low) are found on their website at  Although open year round, I would take a moment to visit this great location while the weather is beautiful.  This is a natural garden that displays things as they are.  There are no potted plants coming out of greenhouses, so each month offers something different to view.

Update - the final complete collection!