A Dressing the Future: The Ecofiction of Nicole Dextras
May 28, 2022 — September 10, 2022
Summer Exhibitions Reception
Friday, May 27, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
The evening will also feature open studios by the current resident artists.
A Dressing the Future: The Ecofiction of Nicole Dextras explores the exemplary craftsmanship of environmental artist Nicole Dextras’ set and costume designs from her dystopian film trilogy, A Dressing the Future (2016—present). Giving a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the artist’s process, the show features video excerpts; a selection of plant-based costumes; and ephemera that includes props, models, and other set components.
Inspired by the environmental art movement that emerged in the 1960s, Dextras shares a concern for the health of the planet and the environmental consequences of human behavior and the global economy. Her artistic practice, which incorporates her meticulous use of materials, encourages sustainable decision-making on an individual level, as well as within the fashion and film industries.
Presenting three challenging futures affected by fire, desertification, and flooding, respectively, Dextras’ narratives counter the reductive post-apocalyptic films of Hollywood, focusing on the dignity and strength of the survivor. When faced with material shortages, her protagonists provide a hopeful glimpse into the resourcefulness of future creatives by working in tandem with other living species to survive their dystopian surroundings.
The first film of the trilogy, Waiting for Spring: Persephone and the Pomegranate (2016), depicts a young woman who is sequestered in an abandoned warehouse due to encroaching forest fires. She wears a jacket made of pomegranate peels and a mask filled with herbs to protect herself from caustic smoke as she forages for food.
In her second film, Chronos: Time of Sand (in production), Dextras relies on strong visuals to demonstrate how Chronos turns to weaving, basketry, and plant cultivation to live within formerly thriving agricultural lands affected by megadroughts. In her director’s statement for the film, Dextras says, “This short film works on many levels: it is a survival story, it is an ode to clever inventions, and an exposé on the impacts of industrial agriculture. My choice of drama instead of the documentary genre is based on my interest in imagination as a means to propel us into an environmentally secure future.” Chronos weaves clothing from fiber processed from Yucca plants and dyes it with indigo; he also weaves a tower, based on Italian architect Arturo Vittori’s designs, that catches dew in the desert plateau, to be used as a water source.
The third film, which presents a future affected by flooding, is still in development. Dextras’ time in Houston will inform her research for this story, and the exhibition will include visual research and test samples.
Each of Dextras’ eco fictions echoes the aftermath of recent natural disasters. HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall comments, “Faced with the realities of climate change, Nicole’s film trilogy is hopeful. Despite the circumstances of fire, drought, and flooding, coupled with the lack of digital technology, her characters are resilient and resourceful as they turn to longstanding craft-based practices and their ability to coexist with plant and animal species to survive.”
A Dressing the Future: The Ecofiction of Nicole Dextras is curated by HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall. The exhibition is made possible in part by generous support from Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
About Nicole Dextras
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Nicole Dextras’ studio practice utilizes film and transformative and often immersive installations to explore the concept of existential fragility and to mark the evolution of time. She graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a degree from the interdisciplinary department in 1986. Dextras has exhibited her work internationally, including in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. Her recent exhibitions include States of Collapse (2021, group exhibition) at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan; Courants vert (2020, group exhibition) at L’espace Fondation EDF in Paris; and The Dystopian Museum (2019, solo exhibition) at the Richmond Cultural Center in British Columbia. Dextras has received numerous awards and residencies, including the Surface Design Association’s Craftivism Award (2017), the Art of Healing Network Environmental Artist Award (2013), and several grants from the BC Arts Council as well from the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2020, her work was featured as part of the United Nations Postal Administrations’ Earth Day stamp collection. Her solo exhibition at HCCC marks the debut of her work in Texas.
- Nicole Dextras, “Persephone’s Reflection,” 2016. Film still from Waiting for Spring: Persephone and the Pomegranate. Photo by the artist. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Persephone’s Jacket,” 2016. Film still from Waiting for Spring: Persephone and the Pomegranate. Photo by the artist. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Chronos Headpiece,” 2021. Film still from CHRONOS, time of sand. Photo by Bruna Xavier. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Chronos Weaving through Warp,” 2021. Film still from CHRONOS, time of sand. Photo by artist. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Chronos and the Amulet,” 2021. Film still from CHRONOS, time of sand. Photo by the artist. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Chronos Jacket,” 2021. Yucca, abaca, silk fiber, willow bark, durian peels, recycled jeans and sash, reed, cotton string. Photo by the artist. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Chronos and Iguana,” 2021. Film still from CHRONOS, time of sand. Photo by the artist. Courtesy of the artist.
- Nicole Dextras, “Pomegranate Dress,” 2016. Pomegranate peels, Snow fungus, dates, fish maw, thorns. Photo by the artist. Courtesy of the artist.