June 2010, Collaboration with Nicole Banowetz
For the first annual Denver Century, a 100 mile bicycle ride through Denver and its environs, we created a fish costume to be worn while riding the course. While engaging with other cyclists - thousands attended the event, I gave out business card-sized bike-advocacy fliers, with this small, simple message:
The disaster caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion has dumped tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. An ecological disaster, entire fish habitats may now be destroyed. The extent of the damage is still unknown - the data to make estimates has been withheld by Beyond Petroleum. It’s probably really bad news. Something as simple as riding your bike, instead of driving your car could lessen the pressure to drill for oil in such incredibly environmentally-dangerous locations. If I can ride 100 miles in a fish costume as protest to the BP disaster, what incredible difference can you make with your bike on a daily commute, to lessen your personal dependence on oil?
I had introduced myself as, "Oily The Fish", modeled after, "Smokey The Bear" (Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!), in attempt to raise awareness on the BP Oil Spill, which was, at the time, still pouring millions of barrels of oil, into the Gulf. An attempt to use humor to break the ice and introduce a horrific, important, yet easily ignored topic to strangers who still shared similarities with myself: we were all riding bicycles.
The title of the piece, A Woman Needs a Man, Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle is an quote, attributed to Irina Dunn as a feminist slogan illustrating the superfluousness of men to women's needs (cite). Sometimes, one feels that the human race is, rather than a part of nature, disparate from Nature - a Nature that could well live a little better without us, who seem destined to destroy it. Obviously, it doesn't have to be this way, but the time when we do become less Nature's grand destroyers and more its grand protectors is still over the horizon. The costume and message hint that amazing things happen with small steps from individuals: if one can ride a bicycle 100 miles, in a humorous fish costume, one should also be able to ride a few miles as part of a commute to their place of work. The individual step may be small, but all great adventures start - and are composed of, very small steps.
I rode with the costume for around 100 miles, totaling around 6 hours of ride time throughout Denver and its environs: Golden, Lakewood, Parker, etc.
This costume was created with sculptress, Nicole Banowetz by first taking a cast of my torso and building the costume to fit my body, specifically. The most difficult part of the process was to make a costume that was both attractive to look at as well as functional to wear all day, riding a bicycle, fairly fast. Weight was concern - especially the head, as speeds up to 50 mph were expected to be reached on mountain decents and we didn't want anything to sheer off, or get caught in the bicycle and bring myself to an untimely death.