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Barely Wearable, Fashioning Art from Waste

August 4, 2020

By Emma-Lee Crane, Jervis Bay Maritime Museum

Single use items are just not fashionable anymore – unless you are artist Ruth Downes. A new exhibition at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, Barely Wearable: Body Adornment in the Age of Overconsumption, explores waste and remnant in playful, stylish forms. Taking advantage of our throwaway culture, Ruth creates intriguing wearable pieces that raise the question of what impact and value our garbage could really have.

With a background that includes design and public art, Ruth has an eye for pattern, shape and colour. Looking beyond the original purpose of the discarded objects and seeing instead the potential for a statement fashion piece, Ruth’s playful experiments allow the beauty and uniqueness of everyday, throwaway items to be realised.

Disposable razors, with their familiar orange plastic handles are assembled to create a bright geometric statement piece, while the discarded keys from an old piano are threaded together to create a new object that is recognisable in element, yet unfamiliar in arrangement. The celebration of these humble, everyday, throwaway items is contrary to their original intended purpose – especially when faced with materials such as coffee pods, beer bottle caps and disposable cutlery – all designed to be immediately discarded after use.

But it’s not just rubbish created by humans that Ruth is interested in. The litter shed by plants is also skilfully tamed and arranged, making an organic mess that would breakdown, into a durable and treasured item.

Nature's Laurel

Barely Wearable is a playful, surprising and thought-provoking exhibition that raises the question of value. At what point does something become rubbish and can this status be reversed if fashioned into something new?

Barely Wearable opens on Saturday 8th August and runs until Sunday 29th November 2020 at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, Huskisson.

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