Even among the dozens of oversized, brightly-colored plastic snails that fill the lobby of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Sky Cubacub stands out. Cubacub, who identifies as a genderqueer person of color and prefers the pronoun “they” is dressed in a bright pink see-through bodysuit, chrome platform shoes and a multi-colored chainmail cap. Cubacub’s geometric makeup makes them look like a colorful time-traveler.
But five years ago Cubacub was in a dark place – fighting severe anxiety and panic disorder that caused stomach issues, daily panic attacks and frequent absences from work. Cubacub needed to break free from the rut they were stuck in, to refocus their mind and to feel comfortable in their own skin again. They needed a rebirth.
In a ceremony inspired by performance-artist Leigh Bowery that Cubacub now has inked on their right quad, they were figuratively “born again” with the help of their friends, a bizarre harness and most important to them, the power of intention.
Cubacub went six months without having an anxiety attack and a year later had started a clothing line with the goal of using fashion to help people feel comfortable and confident in themselves, regardless of their gender, size or physical abilities. They named the line Rebirth Garments.
“I was trying to think of what was really important to me in my life and that ceremony really changed me for the better,” they say. “It was recognizing that I had these disabilities but I wanted to use them as my strengths rather than feeling like they were taking over my life in a way that I didn’t have control over.”
Cubacub walks outside the Museum and into Newfields, through the gardens and past the Lilly House. Their vibrant outfit draws lots of attention from children and their parents, but Cubacub seems at ease. They rejoice in the attention that their clothes draw, so much so that they chose “Radical Visibility” as the name of their zine dedicated to celebrating the queer-disabled community. But making clothing that a client feels as comfortable in as Cubacub does in their own is no simple process.
All of Cubacub’s garments are custom-made for their client’s bodies and abilities in order to create a “dream outfit” that they feel both comfortable and confident in. In order to achieve this, it’s important for Cubacub to get an understanding of who they’re designing the outfit for before starting their design.
“I try to get a sense of what will make clothing more accessible for their body and what will fit their gender expression better,” they say. “(I ask them) what parts of their body that they would like to highlight, parts that they feel vulnerable about but want to highlight in this context and colors and patterns.”
Cubacub giggles as they pose for a photo with a bright yellow plastic wolf. Their fun-loving attitude is evident in everything that they do, from photoshoots to fashion shows.
Rather than presenting their garments in traditional shows featuring models walking a runway, Cubacub hosts “dance parties”, where local models of various genders, sizes and abilities show off the outfits made for them. The idea came to Cubacub following a bit of advice given to them by an older fashion designer.
“I was once told that ‘You should only have models who are hangers.’ And I thought that was so dehumanizing and so disgusting and misogynistic,” they say. “I wanted to do something where the clothing highlights the person for who they are, whatever their body shape is or whatever disability they have. So a dance party just seemed the most exciting and fun.”
They walk over manicured grass, down brick stairs, and around to the rear of the Lilly House. Chaperones urge lines of children in summer camp tee shirts to keep moving as they distractedly stare at the giant red plastic elephant leaning against the rear of the House.
“Woah that’s weird,” a little girl with a pink lunchbox exclaims as Cubacub poses for pictures under the elephant’s trunk.
While Cubacub has hosted shows throughout the country and many in their hometown of Chicago, they say that some of their most memorable ones have been in traditionally conservative locations. Cubacub says that it’s in cities like Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Indianapolis that they can have the most impact.
“I want people to feel like they have community,” they say. “When I did my show in Cincinnati two years ago, I had all these amazing models and they all said the same thing – that they felt very isolated being a queer person with disabilities. It turned out that lots of them knew each other but they just didn’t know each other in that way. Many of them were coworkers or something like that, but it strengthened their community and they didn’t feel alone.”
Cubacub hopes to bring members of Indianapolis’ queer, disabled and fashion communities together at her Fresh Fruit dance party at Newfields on August 23 at 9pm. Like their other shows, it will feature diverse local models expressing themselves in custom-made clothing from her Rebirth Garments line. It will be a celebration worth seeing for yourself, regardless of gender, race, or physical abilities.
“(I want people) to think that they’ve stepped onto an alien planet … It’s an alien planet where every body is a good body,” they say. “Well every body is a good body on earth but society doesn’t view it that way. In this planet it’s already accepted.”
Installation views of Summer Wonderland: Spectacular Creatures at Newfields. Artworks © Cracking Art.