Monthly Archives: February 2009

Wearable Art 2009: Altered State

Wearable Art Extravaganza 2009: Altered State

One of the most anticipated events in Juneau, Alaska is the annual Wearable Art Extravaganza. A fashion show of extravagant dresses and costumes made from the most ingenious materials, it pushes the envelope of many of the artists’ creative thinking and abilities. Now in its 8th year, the theme for this year’s show was “Altered State”, a twist on Alaska’s 50th anniversary since becoming a state in the union. Due to its popularity as a fundraiser for an arts scholarship program and for the renovations of the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, the show has also been expanded to two days to accommodate everyone wanting to experience it.

Wearable Art Extravaganza 2009: Altered State

This year’s Wearable Art had 33 entrants,  two from as far as Ketchikan and Homer. The idea for the event in Juneau was borrowed from the popular namesake event in Ketchikan and has taken a solid root since. However, the original wearable art was actually started as a fundraiser for a small art gallery in New Zealand and has since become a large international event there, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Wearable Art Extravaganza 2009: Altered State

But let’s get back to Juneau. The materials used in this year’s show ranged from porcupine quills, moss, bark, and mahogany to mirrors, salvaged metals, phone books, prescription bottles, Skittles wrappers and shower curtains. People of all ages created wearable art and modeled it. Third place on both Saturday and Sunday was awarded to “Goldeneyespy”. Made of brass, fabric, styrofoam, working light bulbs, and many “hidden” objects that could only be noticed upon close inspection – like little toy birds in a cage or a large golden ant – it was truly a creative masterpiece.

“Pieces of Peace” took second place on Saturday and first place on Sunday. Created out of silk, bark chips, porcupine quills, spruce and pine needles, moss and lykens – it was literally a breathing piece of art. The bark for the dress was sent from countries in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia and most pieces had the word “peace” written on them in many different languages.

Finally, the piece that took first place on Saturday and second place on Sunday was made entirely out of solid and striped mahogany, ceder, and lace wood maple veneers. “Lady of the Wood” was created to resemble an 18th Century dress as closely as the all-wood materials allowed. This piece is heading to New Zealand to compete in the International Wearable Art Extravaganza.

Many other pieces were very imaginative and innovative, and it’s only the lack of space that holds me back from describing them. If you’re convinced it’s an event you don’t want to miss, the dates for next year’s show have already been set – February 13 and 14, 2010!

Wearable Art Extravaganza 2009: Altered State

Allure of the Mendenhall Glacier

The biggest celebrity in Juneau, Alaska is arguably the Mendenhall Glacier. A white-bluish tongue sticking out from the vast Alaska-Canadian icefield, it is one of the most popular and interesting places to explore. Commercially, bus loads of tourists are delivered to it many times a day to snap photos from a designated photo point. Formations of helicopters buzz back and forth, taking better-paying clients to the icefield, often for a sled dog ride because, as you have correctly guessed, it was the thing to do in Juneau in years past.


But for the rest of us, the Mendenhall Glacier is special for the variety of hikes it offers around it and kayaking, skiing and skating in front of it. One of the easy light hikes that I often do with friends and family from out of town is a loop trail on the east side of the glacier. However, one of my favorite hikes is along the West Glacier trail and over the rocky outcropping sticking out into the Mendenhall Lake, to the icy caves of the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier

Last November, three of us, to say nothing of the dog, set off to explore the ever-changing face of the glacier. Right at the head of the trail, we caught a glimpse of Romeo, our other celebrity – a black wolf that has been coming down from the mountains for the past several years to spend his winters around the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier

The glacier was as charming as usual. I haven’t been to it in half a year, and it’s a bit unnerving to see how quickly it’s receding. In the eight years I have been in Juneau, it has lost a large chunk of its face, revealing more rocky mountains on either side. It’s said to see an old friend age so fast.


But the beauty of the dark blue ice caves lining the face of the glacier quickly took my mind off everything else. Those caves are very dynamic, constantly expanding and contracting, appearing and disappearing. No two hikes to them are ever the same.


On the way back, fog came over just as we were summiting the rocky outcropping, creating a surreal feeling of being lost in a strange land.

To see my friend Chelsea’s account of the hike, see her posting.