By Gillian Vickers
Campus News Reporter
A flamingo-legged toucan and his bearded friend enjoy the sunset. A sea goddess conjures an ocean tempest. An unseen chorus of screams fills an old woman’s dream.
The Off the Page Art Movement staged these eccentric scenes from artist Edward Gorey’s illustrated works last Sunday in the Sustainable Edward Gorey Fashion Show. A slideshow of Gorey’s illustrations shared the Porter dining hall stage with props and costumes made exclusively from recycled materials.
Stefanie Wolf, a main force of motion behind Off the Page’s production, transformed an old bedsheet and a cape that once traveled down the Mississippi River into a gorgeous golden ballroom gown as part of the show.
“We’re taking something already in a state of disrepair and making it beautiful,” Wolf said.
The production itself was the product of a patchwork of efforts. Although Wolf herself sewed a majority of the costumes, applied for funding and ran the slide projector, she insisted that it was a collaborative effort.
“[The show] was an idea that many people developed together,” she said. “I just did most of the footwork.”
Kate Drucker, one of the show’s food organizers, commented on the production’s collaborative nature.
“What’s really impressive is that [the show’s] not for a class,” Drucker said. “It’s just a bunch of students who wanted to put on a really great production.”
Like drifting clouds, the handmade props and costumes momentarily coalesced to recreate the projected slide image. The deep, warm voice of Ken Lyons, a McHenry librarian, narrated Gorey’s accompanying caption before the figures wafted offstage to make room for another bizarre Gorey re-creation.
Gorey’s work defies categorization. In bookstores, Gorey’s works can be found in both the children’s and the surrealist section, but some group Gorey’s art in the “literary nonsense” genre with the works of those like Lewis Carroll.
Gorey is best known as an eccentric illustrator who loved cats and the ballet, but he also experimented with poetry and opera libretti for puppets. Gorey told the Boston Globe in 1984 what he thinks makes good art: “Ideally, if anything [was] any good, it would be indescribable.”
Off the Page’s fashion show offered much more than elaborate hats and oversized sweaters.
A polka-dot-collared pianist welcomed the audience with ragtime tunes. At intermission the largely college crowd devoured homemade foccaccia, organic strawberries and chocolate coconut cake. With a bicycling polar bear and elegant tables featuring severed doll appendage centerpieces, it felt like a soiree with Salvador Dali.
Audience member Linnea Powell, said she enjoyed the peculiar production.
She said, “It’s quirky in a really great way.”