Ryerson University

Sarah Casey. Absent Presence (Wedding), 2018-2019. Drawing, wax on paper. Photograph by Mark Bentele.

Absent Presence: A Wedding Dress and the Drawings of Sarah Casey

Over 90 years have passed since the 25-year-old Evelyn Normand Wilkie (1902 – 1969) married William Douglas Howard in Nova Scotia on November 15, 1927. Her sleeveless wedding dress of white silk taffeta edged with silver ribbon was worn with a veil of orange blossoms, capturing the brilliance and promise of a day that marked the beginning of the couple’s lifelong bond. Yet when the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection received the dress in 2016, the garment had deteriorated so significantly that it was virtually untouchable, and the dress was considered a dead object. Nevertheless, the traces of time, memory, and loss that linger in its fragile, torn, and yellowed fabric provide insight into the ways in which we handle, remember, and preserve the past. Through its very materiality, Evelyn Wilkie’s wedding dress allows for a philosophical and artistic dialogue across time and space.

 

Photo of Sarah Casey in studio.

Sarah Casey. Absent Presence (Wedding), 2018-2019.

Left: Photo of Sarah Casey in studio. Photograph by Ingrid Mida, 2018.
Right: Sarah Casey. Absent Presence (Wedding), 2018-2019. Drawing, wax on paper. Photograph by Mark Bentele.

 

Curated by Ingrid Mida, curator of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, the exhibition Absent Presence: A Wedding Dress and the Drawings of Sarah Casey contemplates notions of the delicate and the ephemeral, exploring the limits of visibility and materiality. The exhibition, which takes place at the MLC Gallery, features the original wedding dress alongside large and haunting renditions of the dress and related garments worn by Wilkie drawn in wax by Lancaster University artist Sarah Casey, whose artistic practice engages the unseen, untouchable, and immaterial to explore both intimacy and transience. The thin, translucent material of the dress is rippled with folds, recalling not only the delicacy of the original garment, but of life itself. The exhibition also features a reproduction of Evelyn’s wedding dress created by Ryerson School of Fashion student Olivia Da Cruz, as well as other keepsakes belonging to Wilkie such as a peach silk teddy and silk bed jacket. Other items include a T. Eaton Company Spring and Summer catalogue from 1927 and photographs of Evelyn Wilkie herself, which provide context and highlight the materiality of the original garment.

“The wedding dress of Wilkie is haunting and taunting, and so are drawings by Sarah Casey, which make us sense the affective power of the ephemeral,” says Irene Gammel, the director of the Modern Literature and Culture (MLC) Research Centre Gallery. “We are extremely pleased to bring this Arts Council England-funded transatlantic collaboration between Ingrid Mida and Sarah Casey to our gallery for our viewers to explore the power of the delicate and the connection between the past and present.”

 

Wilkie Wedding Gown Front, 2019

Sarah Casey. Absent Presence (Detail from Yolande), 2019

Left: Wilkie Wedding Gown Front, 2019. Black & white photograph by Victoria Hopgood. Courtesy of Ryerson Fashion Research Collection.
Right: Sarah Casey. Absent Presence (Detail from Yolande), 2019. Drawing, wax on paper. Photograph by Mark Bentele.

 

Many of the photographs, artifacts, and materials gifted to the university by the O’Reilly family are on loan courtesy of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. A catalogue prepared by Ingrid Mida will be available for purchase during the exhibition’s run. The exhibition is accompanied by a drawing workshop and curator tours are available by appointment.

 

Detail of Wilkie Wedding Veil, 2019

Detail of Wilkie Wedding Veil, 2019. Black & white photograph by Victoria Hopgood. Courtesy of Ryerson Fashion Research Collection.

 

Exhibition

Friday, May 10 – Friday, July 5
Tuesday – Friday, 12 – 4 PM
MLC Gallery, 111 Gerrard Street East
Free of charge and open to the general public


Opening and Closing Receptions

With artist’s and curator’s talk and refreshments Thursday, May 9, 5:30 – 8 PM
Thursday, July 4, 5:30 – 8 PM
MLC Gallery, 111 Gerrard Street East
Free of charge and open to the general public


Meet the Artist

Tuesday, May 14, 1 – 3 PM


Drawing Workshops with Ingrid Mida

Friday, June 7, 1 – 2 PM
Friday, June 14, 1 – 2 PM

MLC Gallery, 111 Gerrard Street East
Free of charge and open to the general public
Limited Seats. To RSVP, please contact: admin@mlc.ryerson.ca

All events are open to the general public and free of charge. RSVP required for events only.

 

For more information regarding the exhibition and for booking interviews with the curator and artist, or to become a volunteer docent, please contact:
 
MLC Coordinator, Cameron MacDonald
admin@mlc.ryerson.ca
416-979-5000 ext. 7668
 
Organized by: The Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre
Partner: The School of Fashion

 

 

Ryerson University Faculty of Arts, Ryerson University Faculty of Communication and Design, Modern Literature & Culture Research Centre, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Arts Council England / British Council, Lancaster University

 


 

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