IF our hats could talk, they might say a thousand different things depending where you come from.
An African shaman's headdress sprouting feathers, linens and hanging bones might tell you the story of a wild, exuberant being trying to find wisdom through faith and nature alike. Bull-shaped horns made from gold, rising high and mighty could tell the story of a valkyrie, a Norse warriorgoddess whose strength and courage knew no bounds. Or what about the Mohawk? Would it tell a story of a proud First Nations member, or that of a punk rocker? What if we mixed these headdresses? What stories would they tell? That's the idea behind Talking Heads: A Contemporary Look at Headdresses, the latest North Vancouver Community Arts Council exhibit.
The show runs until Sept. 7 at CityScape Community Art Space, 335 Lonsdale Ave., and features a free headdress-making workshop on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. for people of all ages.
The exhibit blends the old with the new, mixing cultures and in some cases blending them with doses of the modern world to create original, inspiring headdresses that tell tales of old and new. Fashion, it would seem, is a beast of the ages.
"I wish that the culture, our culture, wore more hats and better hats, not just baseball caps and whatever," said NVCAC exhibit co-ordinator Jo Dunlop. She describes the Talking Heads exhibit as unusual and different - high praise from someone whose business is finding and arranging original pieces of art.
"Every piece is completely different from the other," Dunlop said. "We had one artist actually inspired by nuns. So there's three headpieces (that reflect) the monastic life. The novice, the nun, and the abbess."
That particular display wasn't done on canvas or common linens, but was made entirely out of de-constructed book covers, vintage suspenders and a few buttons. Is there a hidden meaning there? That's for the artist and the patron to decide. But officially, mum's the word.
All together, this exhibit boasts the work of 14 different artists, five from the U.S., a few from around B.C. and the rest practising locally.
One such artist is Anni Hunt, a West Vancouver resident who put together a piece entitled Shaman's Shroud, inspired by ancient African wise men and women who famously wore large and heavily decorative head pieces.
"I got thinking if whether or not shamans had a headdress," Hunt said. "Of course I knew they did, but I wondered if they had one that honoured them in their death. A headdress specifically for that."
With that thought she was off. In her research she discovered a shaman's death shroud would commonly include linen and embalming fluids to slow down the decomposition process.
Keeping in theme, she found African mud cloth, paper yarn and linens, porcupine quills, bones and feathers - items that would naturally disintegrate - and got working.
"I got things as if it were his or her favourite things to use during ceremonial episodes," Hunt said. "Then to simulate the embalming fluid I dipped it all in wax."
Even the colours are natural and reflective of the history, utilizing black, white, red and earth tones. The whole process took her several weeks, but the product was well worth it, according to Hunt.
"I had never done a headdress before," she said. "So this was fun to do and a bit different."
Shaman's Shroud can be found hanging from the ceiling in the exhibit, near fellow artist Anne Marie Andrishak's work, Veiled.
"Mine was really 'Veiled' on different levels," Andrishak said. "I did a bridal veil, a veil used by Muslim women, and some veils in general."
But sweet and thoughtful ideas sometimes sprout from the dirtiest of places - and this time quite literally.
"I worked out a plant from my garden, it's actually a weed I pulled out of my garden last year and put it in my compost," she said. "I found it a few weeks later and brought it back to my studio and kind of looked at it all year and it all kind of came together in my mind."
Andrishak describes her piece as lacy in some places, burnt in others, and utterly unique - which, to her, is much like the rest of the exhibit.
"I like that it's so diverse," she said. "It's very different. People have done very different interpretations of headdresses. I think it's lots of fun."
"I think it's interesting headdresses were so important in so many different cultures and countries throughout history," she said. "It's sort of drawing from that and putting a contemporary take on it. Blending what the artist has with historical culture and creating something from that."
Andrishak and fellow artist Brigitte Rice will be leading the Aug. 24 workshop, teaching people of all ages how to make their own headdresses. Materials will be available, but interested people are encouraged to bring their own items.
For more information call 604-988-6844 or visit nvartscouncil.ca.
News Photo Cindy Goodman / ANNI Hunt's mixed-medium artwork Shaman's Shroud is on display at North Vancouver's CityScape Community Art Space as part of Talking Heads: A Contemporary Look at Headdresses. Residents can make their own headdresses at a free workshop on Aug. 24.;
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