“Fashion is a vulnerable art form. You are wearing art on your body and this can be a very personal statement about your beliefs or culture.” – Henry Navarro Delgado
Landing in Whitehorse for the first time, Henry Navarro Delgado arrived in the Yukon knowing nothing about the place. Delgado wanted to remain as open-minded as possible when he settled into the coveted Junction Artist in Residence (JAR) Program in Haines Junction. This is the second residency offered through the JAR program, which offers artists focused on fashion to immerse themselves in the region, connect with a different culture and experiment with different materials. When Delgado was selected, it was his experience and unique perspective that won him the position.
Outfitted with optimism and a desire to facilitate community, he brought his wife and child to our little village in the summer of 2018. Then he installed himself at the Da Kų Cultural Centre, on a regular basis, to demonstrate his process as well as mentor other artists with their professional goals. This is something he has brought to his other residencies in places such as Havana, Cuba, Hawaii, Italy and Cincinnati in the U.S. As a professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Delgado teaches from a multidisciplinary approach as a designer and artist with an extensive background in fine arts, art direction for film, and fashion design. He has a wide world view and focuses on site-specific fashion projects, exploring public art as fashion and the social issues this can reveal.
“Fashion is a vulnerable art form. You are wearing art on your body and this can be a very personal statement about your beliefs or culture.” Delgado created a collection, throughout the JAR Program, aptly titled The Junction Collection that explores the natural region and its social fabric. Through fashion, he wants you to put yourself inside his gaze of this Kluane Landscape.
His pieces explore the traditional objects of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations in the landscape, as well as exploring the dichotomy and tension that exists here so close to the ever-growing St. Elias Range. There are the opposing elements of Nature as Comfort and Nature as Danger; Summer and Winter; Lightness and Darkness. As well, there is the separateness of the community of Haines Junction itself from the bigger centre of Whitehorse and the line that connects them and the contrasting line that connects Canada to the U.S. Also within the community there is the deepening conversation between First Nations and non-First Nations people seeking a common understanding and mutual appreciation.
Delgado explains that “culture is a dynamic process that is affected by other cultures that intersect through trade or sharing ideas. Just like in Hawaii, I discovered grass skirts were from Fiji and pineapples were from South America; and yet, both are so much a part of the identifiable culture of Hawaiians.
“The Athapascan people are masters of ingenious minimalist design in their artifacts, in response to the needs of hard living on the land. The interaction between Tlinglit and Athapascan peoples brought design elements of Northwest Coastal art that are recognizable today. What is so entertaining is that the value placed on the original design forms of the Athapascan people was so low when first encountered by Russians and, later, Europeans, due to their cultural bias; and yet, now, modern design seeks exactly this minimalist approach of function before form, clean lines and clever innovation. The Athapascan people were way ahead of their time.”
Using local materials onsite, and exploring the landscape, Delgado created pieces out of materials that adhered to his philosophy on sustainability and social responsibility in fashion. Some are made of donated jersey; some are created with donated bison-fur accents. The pieces are inspired by a range of objects found in the surrounding area. Soft strength as epaulettes, a dress of intersecting paths of hide, a single man in a single man’s sheltering garment, and a cabin with a view.
There is a futuristic flavour to some of the pieces that gives a nod to the foresight of the Athapascan people. With a sense of humour and a desire to capture the feeling he has been inspired by while exploring the Kluane area, Delgado has created The Junction Collection to share with the community and will be presenting in the concluding fashion show on October 13, when he returns. Always curious, always optimistic and forever creative, Henry Navarro Delgado reminds us that “Each thread connects us.”
The JAR 2018 Fashion Show will take place on October 13th in Haines Junction at the St. Elias Convention Centre. There will be a community potluck beginning at 6 p.m., performances and presentations starting at 7:30 p.m. The Junction Collection Fashion Show starts at 8:30 p.m. This is a free event and all are welcome. The JAR Program is under the umbrella of the Junction Arts and Music Society and is sponsored by Air North, Adaka Cultural Festival, Arctic Institute of North America, Arts Fund and the Da Kų Cultural Centre.
Marie Eleniak is an ever-curious and creative mom and musician who thanks her lucky stars for this amazing place
we call home.