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On Chess: Fashion, Climate And Chess

A Michael Drummond design. The St. Louis native has a local boutique and appeared on the Lifetime television series Project Runway in 2010.
Attilio D'Agostino | World Chess Hall of Fame

With his head down and the sound of a harpsichord rhythmically chiming in the background, artist and fashion designer Michael Drummond slides from one part of his at-home studio to another, masterfully and meticulously bending, shaping and attaching bra underwires to a vinyl form.

Instead of his usual layers of chiffon, knits and leather strappings, Drummond has stocked up on a variety of found materials — some typical, most not — for a new selection of works he will present at the World Chess Hall of Fame.

While to some, chess and fashion may seem about as opposite as can be, we know from experience that opposites tend to attract, fueling a cross-breeding of sorts that expands the views of both parties in order to connect on a deeper level. For Drummond, it’s through this unlikely connection that he tells a much deeper (and darker) story.

Through clothing, sculpture, jewelry and photography, Drummond’s show, "Michael Drummond: Being Played," balances and explores three overarching themes — chess in strategy and form, the climate change crisis and the concept of “predatory delay.”

“Predatory delay” is a term coined by Alex Steffen to describe "the blocking or slowing of needed change in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime." In Drummond’s game, it is placed as one opponent. We – the consumers and humans of Earth – are the other.

Here, the “predatory” opponent is multi-faceted. It’s climate change, time and evolution, the fashion industry and corporations whose profit-driven processes have caused reprehensible damage to the planet in which we live.

Sometimes, this opponent is also us, who, by the systems put in place by those in power, become the “predator” of the world around us in one way or another.

Using chess as a guide, each piece in "Being Played" represents a piece on the board and is aptly titled using algebraic notations to represent its moves. Works that are ripe for your individual translation spring into action like a series of hieroglyphs.

What’s left behind from a former society has turned into the gems of a new one. Hats are expertly crafted from hair and wire, while resin cast fossils take on a rich crimson hue and are crafted into jewelry. Each mannequin and form is stoic, powerful, vulnerable and reminiscent of a chess piece that has come to life.

Through chess, Drummond weaves a tale that connects the ultimate game of strategy to the world around us. With power comes sacrifice. For chess, that may mean the loss of knights and pawns, but in our world, that means the loss of nature, of resources and of valuable materials as we know them today.

In "Being Played," Drummond creates a story about evolution through chess that in and of itself is still evolving.

While viewers won’t walk away with a resolution, they will walk away with something to consider. Perhaps they will be inspired to create better sustainable habits for themselves, buy less stuff or learn how to play chess.

Maybe they will leave feeling nostalgic, hopeful or captivated. Regardless, it’s the emotional connection to the work and the personal feelings that they walk away with that intrigue Drummond the most and inspire his quest to create.

The public is encouraged to attend the free opening reception of "Michael Drummond: Being Played," 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 10. Visit worldchesshof.org to RSVP to learn more.

Sarah Stallmann is an award-winning writer, content producer, and creative consultant who specializes in strategizing, managing, and executing creative projects while providing a distinct point of view.