Martha McDonald presents a perspective on Victorian mourning culture that is deeply felt, well-researched, and fascinating. In a simple and powerful way, her Weeping Dress shows how the grief/loss experience (and how a person in mourning is expected to dress and conduct themselves) literally marks us.
The once-black crepe dress was worn and dampened by the artist and, as you can see, released its dye. Mourning clothes (in the first year at least) were not meant to reflect light, hence the reliance on wool and crepe-like fabrics. The black dyes used on these were most unstable, so everyday occurrences (like being out in the rain, or sweating, for example) caused the colour to run.
This work is quietly effective, and memory of it still resonates several days after my visit. I’m sorry to have missed the opening night performance (when the dress was activated).
The Weeping Dress can be viewed at Craft Victoria until April 21, as part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. Martha McDonald will be giving a gallery talk at 2pm on April 2.