Stunning nightdress is inspired by artist’s use of sleeping pills
Past works include a wedding dress made from thousands of old postage stamps
A stunning, floor-length nightdress made out of 2,000 Walgreens prescription labels for sleeping pills is the latest creation of a Minnesota artist, whose previous works include a life-size wedding dress made from thousands of cancelled postage stamps.
Dreaming of Sleep is the title of the new work by Erica Spitzer Rasmussen, an artist from St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in making handmade paper garments. It uses materials including cotton, tissue paper and scanned prescriptions custom-printed on Spoonflower’s Woven peel-and-stick wallpaper.
The inspiration for it came to Rasmussen in, fittingly, a dream but derives before that from her own reliance on sleeping pills.
“I’m an insomniac,” she says. “About three years ago, after a particularly restless night, I finally fell asleep in the early morning hours. When I reached a few fleeting moments of sleep, I dreamt about sleeping peacefully. Shortly thereafter the alarm clock woke me and I wrote ‘dreaming of sleep’ on a pad of paper next to the bed.”
“Sadly, a satisfying night’s sleep for me generally requires medication. Dreaming of Sleep is a self-portrait that illustrates my dependence on those staples of the pharmaceutical industry.”
It took Rasmussen, 47, four months and four eight-foot rolls of custom wallpaper to make the four-foot tall nightgown. It involved her cutting and stitching some 2,000 replicas of sleeping pill prescription labels. “I then integrated a secret note to myself into the hem and completed the work,” she says.
Having only recently finished it, she does not plan to exhibit it until her next solo show, which will be in Oregon next year.
Rasmussen calls the nightdress a “sculptural object,” designed for exhibiting rather than wearing. “Although I made it my size, the structure has no give,” she says. “I can’t wear it without damaging it.”
The nightgown has been through various iterations. “I tried numerous material experiments, all of which failed until Spoonflower introduced their custom designed, on-demand, peel-and-stick wallpaper.
“I simply scanned a page full of sleeping pill labels (which I’d been saving for years), uploaded them to the Spoonflower website, and ordered the first of many rolls of wallpaper printed with them. In a week’s time, life-size medication labels appeared at my doorstep.”
“This product provided me with a paper-based substrate that mimicked the physical qualities of paper labels better than fabric reproductions. I found that if I stuck the wallpaper to another paper, I could cut the rolls of wallpaper down into individual plates and sew them to the surface of the paper and cloth gown.”
Rasmussen describes herself as “an artist who creates mixed media and handmade paper garments.” She exhibits in galleries and museums internationally.
She has created other unusual garments in the past. The most similar to her latest work was a life-sized wedding dress called Mail Order Bride that she made in 2007 out of thousands of canceled postage stamps, collected from around the world over eight years. It was designed as a comment on the mail-order bride business and its growth in the Internet age.
Rasmussen is also a full professor of studio arts at Metropolitan State University in St Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches textile design and shares her enthusiasm for harnessing the latest high-tech innovations, such as Spoonflower’s peel-and-stick wallpaper. “Such technology, coupled with quality products, opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities.”
As well as using handmade paper and now custom wallpaper in her art, Rasmussen is always on the lookout for other unusual new materials. “When I see tomato paste, dog hair, sausage casings, spent tea bags or dried fish skins, I envision a work that may be transitory in nature but rich in surfaces. I derive great joy from transforming everyday materials into something personal, meaningful and beautiful.”
Dreaming of Sleep: Details
Mixed media with handmade paper (cotton, Thai unryu, tissue paper, scanned prescriptions printed on Spoonflower peel and stick wallpaper, and secret note to self) 28”w x 49”h x 11”d 2015.
“It was intentionally executed in a simplistic shape and lack-luster palette to refer to the sterile, clinical fashion associated with the medical community,” says Rasmussen.
Erica Spitzer Rasmussen – Artist’s Statement
“When I was a little girl, a family member told me that eating tomatoes would make me “big, strong and hairy chested.” I avoided eating tomatoes for twenty years.
“As a general rule, my sculptural work is inspired by childhood myths or adult anxieties regarding my body. Like my childhood association between the consumption of tomatoes and the growth of chest hair, I sometimes find body-stories or body-experiences to be simultaneously comical and horrifying. It is often these extremes in emotional reactions that drive me to produce the work, in an attempt to better comprehend each situation.”
“I use clothing as subject matter because it provides me a ground on which to investigate identity and corporeality. My garments are metaphors. They can encompass narrative qualities, illustrate and dissolve bodily fears, or act as talismanic devices.”