Cleopatra Katsoolis was my mother’s mother’s mother. She is a hero in our family and a pioneering textile artist. As a sculptor and textile artist myself, I want to make this work to celebrate her work before the silk screens she has left us, embedded with her artworks, perish.
She had an amazing life. This is how the story goes…
Born in 1907 on a Greek island, items of clothing changed the course of Cleopatra’s life several times. When she was ten she had to forfeit her education because shoes were required to go to school. Under the deception that she would be adopted and able to attend school, Cleopatra was kidnapped into unpaid domestic service in Athens.
At 13 she was freed by a relative but forced to leave the house in the only clothes that belonged to her, the clothes she arrived in. She was now a teenage girl in the dress of a ten year old child. It was too short and too tight. The humiliation of this dress and her yearning for education culminated in Cleopatra spending 35 years as a free woman at art school in Sydney. She became a respected textile and fashion designer. Her dresses are dignified, structured and feminine. They are printed with bold geometric Grecian rhythms that come alive in dance. As an artist, it’s not only her memory that is left behind. Some of her fabrics and relics of her practice survive.
I am going to carefully re-print Cleopatra’s designs and re-embed them on new silk screens, essentially giving them another 60 or so, years of potential! I will then print some of the designs on new fabric, and make another dancing dress inspired by Cleopatra’s original designs. This dress will be brought to life in a live dance performance at the festival! I will also exhibit the new dress and a new life size photograph of a beautiful piece of Cleopatra’s original work, a fragile and perishing printed silk circle skirt, at Watch this Space.
I am really excited about documenting this piece of original work while also making new screens and printing new fabric while it is still possible, sewing a new dress, and having Cleopatra’s work danced in again. Cleopatra’s muse, model, fan and only daughter Doreen, is 88 this year. She is a total bombshell and I’m really enjoying sharing this project with her.