Real macabre art. I’m so happy.

This past weekend I went to the Museum of Art and Design (or MAD), the new-ish museum in Columbus Circle. They have an exhibition right now called Dead or Alive, inspired by the cabinet of curiosity. The cabinet of curiosity is where the rich well-traveled, well-educated man in the 1700s and 1800s would put all of the natural items he had collected in distant lands (taxidermied beasties, shells, pinned bugs, coral, pressed plants, etc.). Here’s a picture of one to give you an idea.

Using the concept of the cabinet of curiosity, MAD created an exhibition of, well, dead things. It was very difficult not to think of this movie quote over and over again. (quote is at 1:25)

Being the somewhat gloomy goth-like creature that I am (you can review my Ossuary of Sedlec entry if there’s any doubt in your mind) I loved this exhibition. Actually, what’s even dorkier is that I have been following a few of the artists for years, and could make comments like, “Oh, she’s working with bone now! That’s a different medium for her, compared to the metalsmithing work she did in 2007.” I’m just going to cover a few of my favorite artists there. There was Jennifer Trask, the artist I was geeking out about above. I first saw her work at SOFA in 2007 or 2008. She did these amazing necklaces made with a beautiful marriage of the rare and the mundane. For example, snake skin that had been shed. Gold. Bone black. Raw diamonds. Silver. Butterfly wings. Charcoal. Leaves. Beetles. Here’s a picture of one of those necklaces.

Jennifer then went through a period where she made amazing pins. Here’s one of my favorites, using semi-precious stones, gold and some small animal’s vertibrae.

At the exhibition, Jennifer had a big wall piece, which I’m not used to seeing from her. It was great, though. She had a frame, and coming out of the frame were all these flowers, but all the flowers were made from bones. There were antlers too. I prefer her jewelry, but I like that she’s trying new stuff.

The other artist I was psyched to see was Alastair Mackie. He works a lot with owl pellets and the contents therein. In college, I wanted one of his mouse skull orbs so badly.

I was hoping to see a mouse skull orb in person at this exhibition but alas, it was not meant to be. Alastair had a piece where there was a loom, and next to it was a pile of mouse bones. Owl pellets, for people who don’t know, are the regurgitated inedible remains of their food. The owl can’t digest fur and bones, so his body makes a little packet out of it and he barfs it up. The loom had fabric woven on it with the fur of the mice, and the mouse bones were what was left of those pellets.

What delighted me more about this exhibition, more than the plethora of dead things, was the complete anal retentiveness of many of the artists. Sometimes I feel like I’m too nitpicky, but these artists made me feel right at home. “If it’s not tiny and perfect and complicated, don’t bother,” seems to be their motto. I was with my people, and it felt so good. Let me give you some examples. There was Fabian Pena, who makes collages of skulls and hearts and hands with tiny pieces of cockroach wings.

Or Tim Hawkinson, who made the pointy thing out of pieces of interlocking eggshell. He made a tiny bird skeleton out of fingernail clippings.

My personal favorite was the piece by Lonneke Gordijn, with the LED lights that had dandelion seeds painstakingly attached to each bulb to mimic a dandelion poof. These people are crazy, I tell ya. Crazy AWESOME.

There was also Kate MccGuire, who makes swirling writhing shapes with pigeon feathers.

But the big surprise winner for me was Jennifer Angus, who prints her own wallpaper and then makes installations in rooms where she covers the rooms in patterns of pinned dried bugs.

The best part of her installation was there was a dollhouse in the middle, and bugs were propped up on their hind legs pottering around the house, doing roofwork and fixing the porch and whatnot. I couldn’t find a picture of it, but I found a similar one to give you an idea.

The exhibition is on until October 24th, so if you get a chance, make an effort to see this. The permanent collection is pretty terrif too, and the store is stellar. All-around good stuff.

Addendum: I totally forgot the light fixture made from silkworm cocoons, or the giant hairnet filled with milkweed seeds. Did I mention this exhibition is fantastical? Because it is.

One Response to “Real macabre art. I’m so happy.”

  1. Gemma says:

    I will be up in early October so I hope you won’t mind re-visiting this with me and a few of my co-workers… 😉 w00t!

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