Innovative, unconventional and other-worldly, the mind-blowing creations of multimedia artist and fashion designer Maegan Stracy are just that. With work ranging from installation-based pieces to wearable garments, all Stracy’s pieces exhibit one-of-a-kind qualities.
To me, her work is almost sci-fi, possessing futuristic characteristic that beg investigation through touching, visualising and wearing. This visceral appeal, of tactile temptation, Stracy explains is incorporated as, she feels, it’s a really effective way to communicate with an audience because tactility requires such an immediate response. “A smooth slab of marble activates a different response than blades of grass. We all have our favourite textures and know what textures make us cringe. It is interesting to see what some people gravitate towards and what others pull away from.”
Material choices thus play an extensive role in the development of all Stracy’s works, and in order to create tactility she uses several unusual materials such as; vinyl, mylar, carpet, and water. “When choosing materials, I gravitate to things that are familiar and relatable; utilitarian materials that were manufactured for a specific purpose. These are materials we are all familiar with, but only in a certain context. I think the work becomes interesting when an understanding of a material can be shifted because the use of it has changed.
A lot of my investigations revolve around what I can do and what the material wants to do. There is a certain level of control I like to have over everything I work with, but overall a material will do what it wants and I think pieces are really successful when I find the perfect balance between the two,” she explains.
Water has become a common component in Stracy’s recent works, often encapsulating an essence of fluidity and being liquified. “I think there is something really beautiful about water gushing and bulging when it is restricted and contained. It reminds me a lot of those weird slippery plastic water tubes I used to play with as a kid. I could play with that thing forever, but nothing new ever happened, it was that fascination with the feeling of it. That is the type of approach I try to have with my work.”
Movement then, from fluidity to rigidity as well, is an important concept of Stracy’s work, with the interaction between wearer and work being the driving factor behind her unconventional material choices.
“I think it would be impossible to design a garment without thinking about how it moves or changes a wearer’s shape. The stiff ridged movement of synthetic materials makes an interesting contrast when paired with natural fibers that move more organically. In every look I design I combine several materials that move differently, then it is left up to the wearer to decide how things are worn and what can be done in them. I also really like how the movement of a garment is totally dependent on the wearer and how much the wearer is willing to push the garment.”
Stracy’s water bags, which have become both installation and wearable objects, have specifically investigated these notions of movement, as well as the impracticalities of the fashion world, specifically the inaccessibility of luxury goods. “Aside from cost alone, a lot of designer goods are inaccessible, only few are allowed to see these pieces up close and personal and for something that is intended to be worn, only a select few will have the privilege of wearing some of these beautiful pieces.
These are the ideas I was thinking about when making the water bags. The presentation is highly considered, the color and look of the pieces make you want to touch and interact with them but they are so impractical they can never really be used as a true bag because of the weight and keeping something sharp like a set of keys in the bags is totally out of the question.”
These notions of accessibility and usability thus not only interplay with concepts of fluidity and movement and wearer use, but also dictate how Stracy presents her works, specifically how she decides what becomes wearable and what becomes installation.
“Typically, when I first start a project I go through material first. I like to test materials, find different methods of construction and see what the material responds to. For the most part the final manifestation of the project is contingent on what the material wants to do. The overarching theme in my work is interaction and depending on the concept of any given project it could be better fit with an installation or garment.
Recently I have been focusing most of my attention on wearable designs, because I believe through fashion we are able to discuss a variety of ideas and issues in a single piece, especially when factoring in the human body. Depending on the designer or stylist’s intentions a garment can touch on issues of race, comfort, gender, and status among other things. Also, fashion can be a less intimidating venue than fine art to discuss these concepts because everyone understands clothing and how it makes them feel on one level or another,” she explains.
However, Stracy does find instances where she can incorporate the two, with her lookbooks often meshing together the exhibition and installation qualities of her work.
“I have always had these two separate outcomes of my work and it has been an ongoing struggle for me to find the perfect balance between installation and wearable. Photo shoots have been the most effective way to combine the two. This is something I am always working on improving and it helps a lot to have a good team of collaborators to help stage, photograph, and style shoots.”
Overall despite using quite minimal terms to describe her work’s aesthetic, “fresh, approachable and vivid”, they do indeed make a very big impact and invite the viewer and wearer to investigate, appreciate, and in my case adore, her work on a more intimate and conscious level.
So get appreciating, or coveting–hello, glitter filled water bags!
Words / Jamie-Maree Shipton