Presented as part of the Extraordinary Artists event at the AGO

A Workman Arts/AGO presentation



Friday April 13, 2012 7pm-10pm
Art Gallery of Ontario
Weston Family Learning Centre

General Public $25, AGO Members $20, Students $15

The Bedlam Collection – Dress, Lisa Walter

Hans Looijen, Director, Het Dolhuys National Museum of Psychiatry, Netherlands

A unique performance and party will launch Workman Arts’ 25th Anniversary prior to the one-day symposium Extraordinary Artists: The Convergence of Art and Mental Illness in the 21st Century. This runway-style presentation of wearable couture by Workman artists will challenge norms, shift boundaries and inspire dialogue about mental illness and creativity. Ticket price includes presentation and reception.

Participating artists have been selected through a formal adjudication of proposals and will be supported through professional training workshops facilitated by artist/educator Elena Soni, who is working with the artists to best showcase their practice on the garments. The presentation will engage viewers and participants in a dialogue about where art ends and functionality begins. The audience will be treated to an experimental installation/performance in the form of a fashion show. This project will challenge norms, shift boundaries, and engage dialogue about the lives of the creators predicated by mental health and addiction issues and of those who dare don a work of art rather than a garment accepted as normal. Mad Couture Catwalk will include eleven artist “collections” in total.

Project Facilitator
Elena Soni is a Toronto based artist who works with found objects and mixed media. Her collages are narratives of retrieved memories or new found stories. Elena has had two solo shows in Toronto and her pieces are in private collections locally and abroad. She also runs a bespoke fashion studio and is an art teacher in an elementary school. In 2009, Elena co created and co curated a collaborative art project for the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the ROM: Walls and Barriers. A Collaborative Project. Elena is preparing for an upcoming collective show Exuberance: The Garden at the Ontario Crafts Council in March 2012.

Artist Concepts and Bios

Full Speed Ahead

Full Speed Ahead presents a look at addiction and recovery that is both emotional and beautiful utilizing traditional fine art materials and techniques combined with hardware, chains, and working-class items. This collection presents a distressing situation through objects we see in our day-to-day lives, as well as some historical lessons we should have learned long ago.

Stephanie Creede is a graduate of both U of T’s Art History as well as Fine Art (Visual Studies and Culture). She creates mixed media acrylic work, using techniques of collage/bricolage/assemblage with elements of found objects and paper crafting. Her collages feature evocative images and text juxtaposing war, industrial works, disasters and the female form. She strives to evoke a sense of violence and drama, as well as fearlessness, and bravery in the face of struggles, power as well as strength and hope.

Trauma, Memory and Body

Utilizing digital collage techniques to embody the fragmented nature of memory in trauma survivors, these garments will be embellished with fragments of printed text combined with anatomical drawings and childhood photographs. A highlight will be a dress in which the skirt will be a skin made up of recovered childhood memories, or secrets printed and then wrapped in small translucent envelopes. An auditory component will allow the dress to “whisper” secrets.

Catherine Jones is a Toronto-based photographer and collage artist committed to both traditional darkroom and digital techniques. Her work explores themes of trauma, memory and the body. Through the use of found text and imagery, anatomical drawings and childhood photographs, she investigates the fragmentation that is a key component of trauma and memory. She has exhibited in Toronto, Ireland and New York City.

So you Wanna be my dress, huh?

A one of a kind collection, rendered in a stream of consciousness style of storytelling watercolour illustrations, including an out of control Toga Party Jacket complete with purple haze hallucinations and a vest which tells a tale of over-shopping where ladies have lost their heads birthing women who are known as “the purse heads”.

Barbara Greene Mann is an MFA graduate in printmaking from Wayne State University (1973) and a founding member of the Tribes of the Cass Corridor, Detroit. She is a prolific artist who paints from memory and imagination. In her current work she seeks inspiration from current global issues to portray her personal inventions to solve world problems. Her work has been exhibit in Canada, United States and Europe. Most recently she has participated in the Herstarical exhibit in New York City.


Inspired by nature, the passion collection will combine flora, fauna, and fantasy. Dreamlike garments composed from hundreds of photographs will evoke our connection to nature and invite us to reflect on its impact on our daily lives and moods.

Peter Mulcair is a professional fine art and commercial photographer who is interested in nature and our environment. His seeks to reflect and express his moods through portraits of trees, plants, and animals. His work has been exhibited at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography and Nuit Blanche festivals as well as the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite at Queen’s Park in Toronto and is held in private and institutional collections.

Controlled Substance

Controlled Substance will present a tongue in cheek look at the glamorization of substance abuse using hypnotic, glamorous patterns that are bold and inviting yet sometimes hard to look at, much like the declining health and image of a user. Garments will be patterned with bright colours, patterns, and assemblage created by the tools of the trade… syringes, medical tubing, bottle caps, and pills. These elements will draw the viewer into the mind altering and euphoric state of the user. Highlights of this collection will include a Heroin Chic Dress and Chasing the Dragon Swing Coat/Shirt

Sheri Ranger is a self-taught, Toronto based artist who works in mixed media, print making, clay sculpture, video and most recently, textiles. Exploring themes of addiction, mental health, and community her works are thought-provoking, emotionally charged and beg to entice the viewer. Sheri has participated in numerous community arts projects with the Barbara Schlifer Clinic, Parkdale Community Health Centre, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and YWCA. Her work is part of many private collections and has been exhibited around the Greater Toronto Area at Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario events, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Arts, Workman Arts events, and local galleries & cafes.


ICE collection brings light and dimension to the darkness of depression. Highlights include a Frozen Waterfall dress created by combining photography with digital manipulation, printed directly onto fabric. Bright Reflections is intended to represent ice on a sunny day, with various elements being added: feathers, Mylar, CDs, and sections of tulle, to create a reflective surface. The collection is designed to leave the viewer feeling refreshed, cool and very much alive!

Annette Seip after many years in the field of science graduating with an MSc from McMaster, turned her talents to photography and digital art. Her award winning photography studies the relationship between order and chaos, isolation and connectedness, light and darkness. She has exhibited in juried and solo art shows in Mississauga and Toronto, including Britain Street Gallery, Queen Gallery, Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Visual Arts Mississauga, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, CONTACT Photography Festival, and the Royal Ontario Museum and Cooper’s Fine Art Gallery for Touched by Fire. R.M. Vaughan described Annette’s “Ice Diamond” in the Globe and Mail as …”a photograph so dappled with liquid light, it could be mistaken for a Mary Pratt painting.”


This collection will explore nature through patterns and symbols. The individual garments will emulate the current resurgence of animal imagery in popular culture reflecting the great concern for the environment. The Atlas Jacket speaks to the responsibility we have as custodians of the earth and the power we have over it.

HMS Skycastle is a self-taught artist who has been mentored by the artists Ronald Satok and Fiona Smyth. His work tends to the fantastical and mysterious, revealing a menagerie of creatures, landscapes to be explored and stories to tell. He works in paper mache, super sculpey and drawing mediums. He has won the Youthline as well as the Identify N’ Impact awards for contribution to community arts.

The Un- Taming of the Shrew

The Un- Taming of the Shrew, Alexander McQueen meets Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a collection of deranged garments. Garments embellished with an abundance of recycled fabrics along with the presence of the ever protective pussy willow resemble twisted remnants of the forest floor layered with time and tragedy. The urban forest comes alive with the atmosphere of a time revisited through marriage of environmental found objects blended with the passion of resurrected fairies and shrews.

Susan Berthelot Spagnuolo is a Toronto based artist working in photography and mixed media. She enjoys recycling materials, reinventing & challenging norms. Susan has Co-curated the Generations exhibit at Harbourfront Centre which engaged with Toronto’s leading public art sculptor’s to promote sustaining environment, art, history and culture. Her work has been exhibited during Scotiabank’s CONTACT Photography Festival and Nuit Blanche as well as at the Propeller Centre for Visual Arts, Hart House, and the Gladstone Hotel.


Social anxieties sometimes lead us into our own world to find solace. (With)Drawn is an homage too the private safety found in the act of drawing. Not only the illustration but the surface itself is inferred to be of heightened importance and a substitute for human interaction- the images being the conversation and the substrate being the listener.

Jace Traz makes visible art with pens, paint, plastic. He makes audible art with strings, sticks, and sara. His works are held in private and institutional collections. Most recently his work appeared on prime time television show Risky Buisness. He is also currently writing and performing with his band All Dressed.

Mental Chaos

Mental Chaos garment designs will represent the conflict and struggles faced by people with Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. The collection will include a dress enclosed with metal “cage” and bustle to illustrate a sense of being imprisoned by one’s thoughts and perceptions and a jacket covered with shattered mirrors to express the fractured identity and self-harm behaviours of a person with these disorders. A vest with deep pockets stuffed and overflowing with a hodgepodge of small household and personal items will represent hoarding, the OCD-related acquiring addiction that leads to upheaval and isolation, the secret shame of having too much stuff and of wanting to be in control of one’s environment, even if it becomes unmanageable or unlivable.

Annalise Walmer is a multidisciplinary artist, musician and writer who explores themes of identity, isolation, feminism and effects of trauma. Formally trained as a graphic artist, she works mainly with found objects and describes herself as “an urban archeologist”. Her work has been exhibited at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (2009-2011), Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (2003, 2008), and Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts. Her artworks are owned by private Canadian collectors.


The Classical notion of the mad man as a “Natural,” who lives half-clothed and in the outdoors (harmless if peculiar) poignantly contrasts first-person narratives of being at war with one’s self, as described by people with mental illness. The Bedlam Collection articulates these disparate ideas in counterpoint, through the use of textile sculpting, batik, and natural materials.

“Bedlam boys are bonny, for they all go bare and they live by the air. And they want no drink nor money.” from Bedlam Boys, English folk song circa 1618

Lisa Walter is a multi-faceted artist, educator, and journalist who lives and works in Toronto. Her first full-length play, Difference of Latitude, was published in an anthology by Canadian Playwrights Press in 2005. She has been exhibiting her visual art since 2010, including two works for Nuit Blanche, and participated as a visual and media artist with Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival in 2010 and 2011. The Globe and Mail has described her work as “delicate and unsparing.” Lisa is the 2011- 2012 Visual Artist in Residence at Workman Arts.

This projects was made possible with the support of:



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