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 peel-and-stick wallpaper by Spoonflower.com the custom fabric and wallpaper website.
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.”
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.
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.”
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