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My Mother's Wedding Dress 

A banquet


This thought-for-food gathering of studies is a celebration of first loves from childhood, of sculptural, textural, and natural world experiences; a testament to the need to touch and move fabric and found materials, to dress, to caress, to show, to shield, to build..and to call upon this passion to express and represent recurring themes, feelings, and memories throughout the stages of womanhood. These delicate totems or tokens, assembled together for holiday dinner, are fashioned from plaster, clay, wire, wishbones, egg shells, soap, fishnet stockings, vintage lingerie and linens, gold lamé and crushed red velvet. They are intended as the ideological precursor to future, more in-depth works in related forms ...and are also created from earlier versions. 


When I was quite young, I found in an attic crawl space a box of fabric which was so alluring that I was compelled to cut into it and make it into other things. I think this was, first and foremost, a primal hunter gatherer instinct. The fabric I stumbled upon was my mother’s wedding dress and, as far as anyone remembers, she was never too bothered about the incident. She had many children to worry about. 


The attraction and accessibility to not only fabric but other found materials nurtured a love of sewing, wrapping, carving, smoothing, stretching, mending, fusing, opening and revealing and moving many forms of matter in space and has always been present in my life - in the creation of pretend habitats in the greater expanse of my raw and rural childhood and my own self-tailoring and visual expression including, much later in teen years, the production of wardrobe essentials, including a minimal black lace prom dress (much to the horror of my date). In young adulthood, the years of intrigue and exploration and delving deeper into the unknown left marks that made me yearn for the comfort of the warm softness of innocence and question the journey forward, but also inherently pulled me back to these forms of expression, in and out of formal art training. The journey into and throughout motherhood and domesticity and all of the cyclical goodness and complex returns that come with that choice brings everything home again. And every fiber, everything I touch in my daily life, as a woman and a mother, is a new skin and conduit to touch the ones I love and is metaphor - for love and acceptance, power and submission, fear and openness... and linked inextricably to memory of youth and formative sensory and sensual experiences. 


Profoundly inspirational also is my place of origin; the fields, my family’s land, and the Russian monastery near where I grew up. The fields, the ravine, the monks, and the gold domes are forever locked into my state of being; they are the first landscape of my spirituality, sensuality and sexuality. I can only see them as one informing and influencing the other, in flux, in memory. There is purity and peace but also fear of the unknown that is the house of this origin. It is not an illusion but it is elusive as a mystery, one I have no need to solve.


This display,  My Mother's Wedding Dress, is intended to be delightfully provocative. Each material is not merely suggestive but elemental in its manifestation. Gold threads pulled from woven lamé are tall grasses, the whole fabric is the greater fields and monastery domes. The monk is walking through fields of gold alone. His robe is the black mesh of my favorite brassiere. Shreds of vintage cotton depicting a rooster and baby chicks dangle from a poetic cliff from my teen years. Black fishnet is stretched over mounds of clay, a direct nod to blatant but complex sexuality. Napkin rings are carved from rose soap, a handmaiden's staple. Rose Hood, a petite saint, is wrapped in a red velvet cloak. Red velvet gushes upwards in petals from the femme vessel centerpiece...

This offering is autobiographical at its heart, but will hopefully appeal to young dreamers, fairy tale readers, and lovers of symbolism. It came to me because it was meant to be. 


My mother, Nancy Lee, was married to Philip James, on December 12, 1959. 

The bride wore crushed red velvet. 


This banquet is in honor of my mother and all women and all womanhood. 

This display also is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Jeanine Padgett, a beautiful and fierce art and soul sister, a fiber artist, whose life ended tragically in the days that I was completing this project. Jeanine's last endeavor on this earth apart from being an artist, wife to my brother and mother to two amazing boys, was designing space blankets for NASA; blankets to wrap and protect objects being sent into outer space. 

Julie Ayaz

November 19, 2020


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