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Retired New York City Opera costume,
monofilament, stainless steel rings and hardware
6 x 10 x 6 feet


13 MAY – 25 JUNE 2011

E.V. Day’s Butterfly is one in a series of works, Divas Ascending, which were made from retired opera costumes from the New York City Opera; and first exhibited in the Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center for the 2010 opera season. Butterfly, composed primarily of a ceremonial wedding kimono worn by Cio-Cio San in the Opera’s productions of Madama Butterfly from the 1940s through the 1980s, is Day’s response to the tragic story of a young woman trapped in misfortune. In Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the optimistic teenager Cio-Cio San renounces her religion and family life in Japan for the love of Pinkerton, an American sailor. When she learns that Pinkerton has deceived her and that she has lost not only him but also her own family, she chooses the ritual suicide harakiri. In Butterfly, the artist has manipulated the garment with hundreds of tension-lines to symbolically transform Cio-Cio San’s suicide into an alternate vision of flight, an escape from her dramatic circumstances. Translucent monofilaments pull the ceremonial garment into a shape reminiscent of a rocket ship blasting off the Earth. The silver-threaded cranes (symbols of luck in Japanese culture) have been sliced out of the garment and appear to be flying away, their wings lifting the robe upward toward the heavens. Through the center of the kimono, a flock of naval epaulets and gold buttons signifying Cio-Cio San’s beloved Captain Pinkerton shoot like meteorites through her body, lifting her up and away to freedom from earthly concern.