fig. 19: Six Costumes in Search of a Character
Woven trash costumes and performances,
Market St., SF, CA
San Francisco Art Commmission, 1994,
© Estelle Akamine

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Artist Statement
Estelle Akamine

I have always been aware of recycling as a creative act and a household necessity. My mother told me that she learned to crochet from string used to tie bundles in the family store. Both my mother and grandmother, a first generation immigrant from Okinawa, had incredible collections of plastic and paper bags, containers, twine, bottle lids and rubber bands for "just in case" stored in unruly closets and drawers. One valued practicality, the other, ingenuity and invention. As it now turns out, I regard cast offs as the start for a good art project.

My media is textiles, more specifically weaving. I found it wide in scope, allowing for much experimentation in technique and materials used. Weaving could be the basis for conceptual clothing for performance and dance; it could form sculpture; it could accept wire mesh, fiberglass screen and industrial material; it could enhance entertainment and public spectacles. With it, all these concepts become reality.

Applied to recycling, it challenges every art impulse I know: designing beauty from the unlikely, problem solving with bad materials, changing behavior, elevating attitudes, creating a new experience or a thing, putting myself in risky places doing potentially embarrassing things, working within a tight budget, wearing a funny outfit or putting a rubber tire hat on your head. It is the ultimate art experience.

My series of clothing from recyclables is the result of a tug at my social and activist conscience. This work enabled me to show others how recycling can be a viable material for self-expression; an environmental message I can convey with what I already know.

Reducing recyclable waste to a fiber level allows me to create connections, from fiber to fabric, with the past and future, to the earth and others. I extend a notion about materials that other artists and wiser cultures before me have always practiced for their practical needs. I think of frontier rag rugs and baskets plaited from newspapers and unraveled cloth rewoven into blankets. I salute those inventive individuals who show us how to reuse material in a meaningful and creative way in all industries.

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All text © Estelle Akamine.