Art Apart: Metamorphosis
About the project
Drawing inspiration from Franz Kafka’s novella Metamorphosis, Alison Helmer designs a costume for a drag performance by a fellow NTS student, with the additional challenge brought by physical distancing which limits the materials and resources she has. Alison shows us the process of costume designing in 3 parts:
- Hair and Makeup/Performance
This project mirrors the current societal themes of isolation and Kafkaesque madness which ensues. Alison comments on the relationship between gender exploration and identity by exploring the concept of shapeshifting partnered with that of drag performance and by using imagery of insects and nature, and the beauty and oddities within them.
Follow the project on Instagram over the next few weeks. Alison adds new content every day.
This project received financial support from the National Theatre School of Canada via the Art Apart program, an emergency fund for emerging artists who are affected by physical distancing due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
About the artist
Alison Helmer is a multidisciplinary artist who has been deeply and continuously influenced by her studies and experience working on the east coast of Newfoundland. She began her studies in the Technical Theatre Production program at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. While there, she worked for two seasons as Head of Design with Beyond the Overpass Theatre Company, and as the costume and set designer for Rising Tide Theatre’s 2019 season.
Currently in her final year of the Set and Costume Design program at the National Theatre School of Canada, she has been able to explore restoration costumes with a contemporary twist on Nell Gwynn directed by Krista Jackson, as well as work on the costumes for NTS’s 2019 creation project with directors Zack Fraser and Ariana Bardesono.
From the beginning, Alison knew that she wanted this to be a corseted drag costume, but since the performer and her were interested in creating a more androgynous look she decided not to emphasize the hourglass figure that is most often associated with drag and exggerated ''feminity''.
Concept con'dt: The next source of inspiration ended up inspiring the name of the project, and came after her research of different species of insects. As Alison was looking through and discussing her collection of images, she was reminded of the novella Metamorphosis by Czech writer Franz Kafka, in which a man wakes up one morning to find he has been transformed into a giant insect.
#artapart Concept: most productions or designs begin with an idea or a concept, and the theoretical and visual research that follows. In this case, the concept came about in conversation with the artist/character for which Alison was designing the costume. The drag persona of the artist in question represents the artistic/gender expression of that artist, and the aim of the project is to find a way to express identity, and specifically gender identity through costume.
Metamorphosis - An inside look into my process as a costume designer: Welcome to Alison Helmer's #ArtApart project, where she will be inviting you to follow along her solo process of costume designing for a drag artist through from its conception, rendering and construction, to it's full realization.
Costume drawing by Alison Helmer.