Most of the following is extracted from emails sent by Colette Balcaen or Roberta York on the above project.
The hats came from a woman named Anastazja Urbanik who immigrated to Canada from Poland (going to France to South America and finally to Canada) and lived to be 94 years old. During her life she collected many hats that were all special to her, so she kept them all.
When she passed away, most of the hats went to Colette who wrote in the first proposal for this work:
“As a tribute to her life, I decided to use her hats for my new art project. Since I generally work with fabrics to create installations, and that many of my pieces are the product of people collaborating with me, I thought that it would be great if I could donate a hat to each individual (artist or artisan) who might like to transform it to express their life situation as an immigrant or as a person in a minority because of gender, a person with a mental illness or whatever difference in society.”
Since this time, thirty-eight artists have taken at least one hat to transform. This transformation is unique to each artist. While each hat speaks to something from the life of the original owner - it will change with the new one. Each artist undertakes to make it represent something from their own life, some event, feeling, opinion, belief, or life experience which speaks to or for them as an individual.
As Colette wrote in her introduction to the piece:
“When all the hats are completed, they will be ready to be installed in a gallery as an installation. Some hats will be suspended from the ceiling, from varied heights with fishing line, and some will be placed on surfaces, so that viewers visiting the exhibition would be able to appreciate the hats. A number of varied mirrors (floor-length or hand-held) would be available for people to visualise themselves in the world of someone else - the creator of the piece. The goal of this experience is to enable people to interact with the hats, to reflect about other people’s life experiences, and probably entice people to discuss, enjoy and appreciate uniqueness of individuals in our society. We plan on making further contacts for this exhibition, so that it may be able to travel to other areas in the province and even, possibly, other places in Canada.”
We feel that the context of this installation will touch many people and make many aware of all the differences in our society. It is a celebration/manifestation of our mosaic Manitoban / Canadian society.
Thank you so very much for being part of this very special project. Please remember that you can contact us any time.
Colette Balcaen Roberta York
So each ARTIST has taken one or more of the hats from the collection left to Colette and agreed to transform the hat into something representative of that artist’s life or experience. The term “transform” is wide-ranging and the format of the transformation is the decision of each individual artist.
Well Monday, Oct. 1st, we had our own small Ravenesque group’s unveiling of some of our hats which were left behind with Colette afterwards.
First to show was Dianne Johnson who had three hats and all are so different: “Those were the Days” is a cowboy style hat decorated with various pictures of all her horses from years past; the second “Puttin' on the Glitz” is a fun piece that’s more a decoration than a hat; and her last piece "Buttoned Down Winter Wedding" is a lovely white hat actually decorated with wedding dress finery.
Then I showed my hat which was very basic and I think utilitarian which I then dressed up slightly. This piece “Poppies Aloft” was inspired from my love of poppies and my Ukrainian heritage (used as headdresses with various coloured ribbons for the female dancers). I hand needle felted the poppies, buds and leaves then stitched into place on the black twill hatband. As was pointed out to me, this hat portrays the hardships Ukrainians endured and yet the joy and beauty they cherished in their culture/heritage.
Then came Val Wilson with her dressed up “Milady” but her’s is actually attached to the mannequin’s head form and has quite the statement in itself even with my added décor in one of my pictures.
|added chandelier reflections above|
|Roberta's added room decor behind|
Then there is Pat Findlay with her bowler type hat transformed into “Life in a Goldfish Bowl” and quite realistic like too. I really wanted her to model it but it is not meant to be a hat now at all.
We did not get to see Roberta York’s creation as her's is not finished. Guess that means I truly HAVE to visit whichever gallery this display will be featured at and see all the creations! From the above plans it will be something to see alright! Yes I will post the whereabouts as soon as I hear and those able to can check it out too.
Again thank you Colette Balcaen for bringing in these hats and dreaming up such a display and also Roberta York for helping to organize the artists and artisans drive to pull it off. Much appreciated ladies.