The Transformations of The Magic Gown 1993-2010
October 1993 – THE INITIATION OF INTENTION “I am willing and committed” I found the gown in a dry riverbed in the high desert mountains of Arizona in a narrow canyon with steep cliffs on either side and at first I left the clump of a dress there because I was feeling apprehensive. High above me, on the top of the cliff was a small circular stone ruin from the ancient Anasasi people. I was on a vision quest while on my first of four trainings I would do with cross-cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien from 1993 to 1996. The theme of the in-depth twelve-day residential training was Communication, Mediation, and Conflict Resolution Skills for Personal, Professional, and Relational Growth. Upon returning back to the group from the three-day vision quest I spoke of the dress. Then, within an hour, at the first break, I ran back up the canyon to retrieve the dirt covered torn, worn dress, and I presented it to Angeles Arrien and the group. The mysterious supporting creative forces were underway.

The riverbed gown underwent a profound ritual led by Angeles Arrien; ‘The gown represented the deep feminine nature that is being called forth now for the healing of the planet and humanity, it is the universal healing salve needed now,’ I recall Angeles Arrien suggesting and I thought about those words as I washed the gown until the water was clear and laid the dress out for the group to enjoy that evening, washed, scented, transformed. Three days later, when our training was about to close, the gown was wrapped in ceremony in heavy white paper and given to me to keep respectfully and steward. And for two years the gown was quiet and safe wrapped in white paper. The flowers, cloth and necklace I had ‘dressed’ the gown with for the ritual space was also wrapped separately as well.

Magic Gown Dress ArtCreative Transformation #1, January 1995 – On the full moon the gown was unwrapped in ritual space and laid out with the same flowers, necklace and cloth from the ritual in 1993. A week later I made the art piece seen as photograph number one. The gown was hand sewn to a red fabric with green embroidered fruits and flowers on it. I had a carpenter make a custom pine framed box with an opening front door with a clear plexi-glass front. The box has a carrying handle on the side for easy travel as I felt the gown would be visiting different places to teach and tell her story someday.

The gown would be the first of six pieces of ‘initiation art’ I created from 1995 to 1997 honoring change and experience through the creative process. The initiation art to follow can be seen on the art/sculpture page, they are The White Moth 1996, The Dancing Tree Man 1996, The Staff of Integrity 1996, The Shimmering World 1996, and The Release of Sorrow 1997. Each piece comes with it’s own story of how they were revealed to me, as told in my limited edition book ‘Pale Blue Connection’1997.

The gown along with the initiation art as well as the colorful doorway paintings, started in 1998, that inspired the story of ‘The Magic Gown ‘, would be shown in August 2003, in the ‘Magic Gown Collection Summer Art Show’ in my spacious studio in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.

THE INITIATION OF FIRE - In April 2004, the old building next to my studio burned to the ground in a five-alarm fire during the night; my mother informed me that there was a huge fire on my street where my studio was but I had no idea if the studio was involved. I remember driving over there, thinking, “If I lost everything, I just did and that’s it”. The street was closed off but I saw the fire trucks near the building and then I saw the building was still there. The door to my second floor studio was open, and the windows, and smoke was everywhere. Unbeknownst to me, the firemen had to break into my studio on the second floor to fight the fire in the next building in the pitch black. There, in the studio was nine years of original work, over 60 pieces of art, including the initiation sculptures and paintings and the gown.The firemen moved the art to make room for the hoses and equipment. I was told by someone, that must have thought I was in the building that burned to the ground, that everything had been destroyed but a fireman standing nearby heard them and said, “Oh, no, its ok, but the building is unstable and could collapse”. In a matter of a half hour all my art with the help of a few amazing Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey firemen was out and in a nearby empty store front. Then, I rented a truck and everything was wrapped and taken to storage. (The old building I had my studio in did not collapse and is still there but I chose to not go back.)Thus over the next months, the second initiation would begin when the gown would be taken apart and washed again and she would ‘wait’ wrapped up again and safe in my home. All my sculptures were given a fresh touch and cleaning with new bright paints and added feathers and polishing!

Creative Transformation #2. 2005 – My brother was making me a studio at my home transforming the garage into a beautiful studio overlooking the bucolic woods and wetlands on Clay Pit Creek. The gown would be assembled again. I painted a colorful five-foot pre-Egyptian ancient symbol of life on the board with a pitch-black background and over it I covered it with a sheer see-through white fabric with golden threads embroidered in it that looked like golden stars against the black night sky to me. Over that was the gown, hand sewn, and for two years she would stay that way in my studio.

Creative Transformation #3, 2007 – The second gown transformation seemed to be a very personal phase and now as I was entering a new place of going out in the world with my book, I was ready to once again create a new art piece. I covered the symbol which remains intact and beautifully hidden, as wonderful magical things are’, under the thick pleated woven rich ‘Tuscan red” fabric. Hand sewed on the gown again, and surrounded her on all four directions with custom ordered dried flowers from a family farm of wheat, lavender, miniature roses, thistle and other delicious colors. I was invited as the Artist of the month in the local Rumson Library where she made her debut, to hang with all my other thirty plus paintings and it would end with a summer reading book party for the children where I read from ‘The Magic Gown.” Later, in 2009, the gown would visit Rumson Country Day School and was greatly appreciated by the adults and children attending my Magic Doorway illustrated short story workshop.

Creative Transformation #4, 2010 – Visually I wanted to see the gown with more space, more open; I removed the dried flowers and burned them in the fireplace in ritual. I gave Angeles Arrien the jade necklace to have as it was with the gown for all those years. Liking the new look of simplicity and bareness I added two natural and small meaningful things to compliment the gown. Over the heart I sewed the oyster shell that a sea gull had drop from the sky in front of me in 2000, which gave me the idea for my girl character, Lilly, who in the opening of the book, catches from a seagull’s beak a falling object, which began her magical adventure. The shell was named ‘The Shell of Great Fortune and Mysterious Ways.’ The seagull’s name is Tu and he is a dream guardian. Above the shell on the nape of the neck I added a ‘meadow wanderer’ butterfly from South America representing the character in my book, Theresa, the butterfly that appears to Lilly when change is in the air. (As seen on the cover of ‘The Magic Gown’ book).

Janine Layton Kimmel
Locust, New Jersey, USA
June 20, 2011