Invoking Venus, Feathers and Fashion

Marsha, Ty, and Dana at the opening of Invoking Venus, Feathers and Fashion.

INVOKING VENUS, Feathers and Fashion features photo-based images by Catherine Stewart and accessories from the clothing collections of Claus Jahnke and Ivan Sayers.

Using bird specimens from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver-based Stewart explores the role colour, patterning and adornment play in courtship and attraction. Through the juxtaposition of images of bird plumage with images of vintage fabrics and actual feathered fashion accessories, the parallels in human and bird behaviour become apparent. The lush and sensuous images magnify details in avian plumage and vintage fabrics, revealing a multitude of rich and varied hues that combine to create the colours, textures and patterns observed when viewing birds and humans at their finest.

“On the surface, birds and humans are very different. Yet, if you really observe these two groups you can start to draw many parallels in their behaviour,” explains Yukiko Stranger-Jones, Exhibits Manager, Beaty Biodiversity Museum. “Through pairs of images, Stewart engages us in a visual dialogue that examines the role adornment plays in the courtship of both birds and humans.” (text from the Beaty website)

The opening reception included a fashion show featuring historical clothing and accessories from the collections of Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke. The show was hosted by Ivan Sayers and explored the history of feathers in fashion. Clothing from about the 1880s to the 1970s was worn by a series of models who strutted their stuff on the red carpet running beneath the gigantic whale’s skeleton in the Museum’s atrium.

Seated right below the whale’s huge jaw bones, we contemplated the possibility of being crushed if the “big one”, the huge megathrust earthquake overdue in these parts, were unhappily to occur this evening.

In his comments Sayers pointed out the action and reaction of clothing designers whose dresses became longer or shorter, tighter or looser, bigger or smaller depending upon the changing political and social status of women through time. (It was difficult to get a photograph that was in focus – the models did not stand still for very long).

Similarly the hats alternated between gigantic feathered confections and small, close-to-the-head caps and bows.

One of the most bizarre hats included the head and feathers of a small animal on its front face. A break in the proceedings allowed the audience a chance to view Catherine’s photos works hung along a corridor framing the Beaty collection.

I rather like the Francis-Bacon-like effect in the picture below. See more pictures here. More information about the show is here.

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