meet me at the met: savage beauty+secret gardens.

21Aug11

On hot summer weekend family car trips, my sister and I were boxed, strapped in and propped up like child dolls on the pearlized olive green, poly-damask hinterlands, Grand Canyonesque landscape aka the backseat of the family Cadillac Eldorado, as its cushioned mass thrust fast forward, gliding at 70 plus miles per hour on the freeway. Out of nowhere, the Biblically-proportioned hand of my father at any moment could appear from the North driver’s seat and do one of two astonishing and reactionary things.

If we giggled or fought or clicked the ashtray lids (it was 1970-ish) too many times, like the bored caged and carried animals we were…the hand came swiping back to hit whatever was in its path with a loud “Girls!!” If things were on the upswing, Frank Sinatra 8-tracks had turned the car into a 1940’s lounge and Pop was feelin’ all’ ight…the hand moved to grab one of my mother’s breasts and as she fought off the hand, the car energy rolled and bounced with their laughter and soft-fighting hands somewhere between the rolling human flower petals in the wind image above, and the Caddyshack became a bobbing Snoop Dogg car with a James Brown type of screaming soundtrack.

Fast glide further forward to 2011, to a recent astonishing video seen in a “end of Summer” exhibit at White Box Gallery, of the mesmerizing pulsing bounce of the deep, deep undersea world where savage sharks do their daily thing and devour a submerged pig nailed to a cross by the video artist. The mind-check that occurs from watching the lyrical, natural and sensual moves of the water, the sharks and the fluid carcass at the same time fielding the morbidness of the almost human looking pig…was the very definition of Savage Beauty. More on this very savage, yet secret, deep sea garden fact-of-life snippet later.

We are somewhat carried through both beauty and horror everyday, reminding me of the stark truth of the riddle of the Sphinx, “what travels on 4, then 2 then 3 legs” and then none. A human carriage is like a ghost, carried, crawling, walking, walking with cane and then none. Womb to tomb, cradle to grave, this is the track of our lives.

Welcome to Life’s Savage Beauty, the title of the seminal blockbuster exhibit of designer, Alexander McQueen at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum, which seems to be the perfect moniker for this Summer memory, Alex’s legacy, and these times, after those fast curve ball life-changing heavenly eclipses of the past months. (what? you don’t read Susan Miller??!)

Savage Beauty + Secret Gardens. The summer is full-on, finishing up under the intense, hot sun of Leo and August, where now the brave heart is stronger from being pried wide open to perceive and receive…the most light and heat. Where secret gardens can flourish and savage beauty can be met at once, all in the circuitry of life, represented by the Hebrew letters above in the highway photo. The Alexander McQueen exhibit, with lines wrapping double on both sides outside the museum, wound us all like an endless labyrinthine line deep into the museum where the exhibit hid like a secret garden of delights and horrors. The hours of waiting became a deep and profound gift, also perfectly symbolic for these times.

The show has become perhaps the most lyrical pop-art of this time and note…one of the most popular shows at the Met…ever.  Where death, images of women, patriotism and identity have struck a note with many way beyond fashion. Why did this show of fashion touch a nerve? Coco Chanel made the history books because she freed women to dress comfortably and sporty, new news to reflect a re-found as-free attitude – more like the boys enjoyed. Now, most people do dress in complete freedom. In the absence of rules, the only couturier who could trump Chanel’s gift and give us a fresh spring of water, is the one who undresses the very idea of dress, clothing, bodies and boundary assumptions.

A coutourier operating in the mindset of the Star Wars, Avatar and a future bio-anime morphing generation. A highlight, at a precise moment of the exhibit is a black glass box, approached only by bending and peering into it with the crowd to reveal an enigmatic hologram of the tiny Kate Moss, an angelic vision, much like of Princess Leia beseeching in Star Wars. Goosebump-producing. (Here too a version as captured by one of my favorite fashion video artists, Lina Plioplyte.)

One of McQueen’s shows, a chess game drama, highlighted for me a thread this month, how we squarely meet our thoughts and reactions to anything alien to us and then hence each other. McQueen blurs our encultured consciousness of identity with toss ups of biology, culture, beauty, savagery and ruin while rendering fabrics and bodies alive either with fluidity or restriction. This meeting, this circuitry, this mind-melt and heart-felt is this Master’s gift.

I was fascinated this month by people meeting and connecting at all levels. On the plaid chessboard and checkered streets of New York, what we carry upon ourselves or what square boxes and boundaries we put ourselves in to carry us like speeding square cars and trains during the day, square beds to dream in at night or even the New York liberation of the formally square ritual of marriage, marking the cultural shift and meeting of a basic human definition + construct re-arrange. I have been Fascinated by our arbitrary and increasingly useless boundary definitions of species, gender diverse characters and roles, constructs of how and through whose eyes we see the world and nature. This summer spoke to me beyond the square window of my computer screen. It spoke through every curve of McQueen’s couture and through the spaces where dirt, graffiti, Nature, mushrooms and pushy plants thrust life at us at the crossroads of square window flower boxes, square tree gardens and concrete blocks. Tiny signs and voices of “alien” life on city streets. You can say it is my attempt to tame and embrace the Savage Beauty and Humanity of New York City, above and below, somewhere on Earth. Somewhere in Time.

It’s morning, the Heart of the City, Central Park…come meet me and let’s take a trip…

This concept of meeting the “Unfamiliar” or “Alien” is much like our notion of “dirt” or weeds or even, “the other.” It’s good to question our assumptions and test if they are backed by or promise certainty or absurdity.  Certainly, Dirt as Earth is all right by itself. Quite a miracle, regenerative, forgiving and life-giving. However, anything not in its right place in our air-conditioned worlds is termed dirt. Perhaps this concrete is dirt to the richness underneath.  Certainly, with the relative size of the Universe to our brains, even massed together, certainly, Aliens may visit at anytime. Good to figure out how to get along with our own kind so we are prepared. I’m convinced its our Visa for further travels of all sorts. In the meanwhile, if you saw and met this girl on the street, hers or yours, who would be the Alien?

Everyday meeting the preciousness of the planet and its peoples. The lady above is wearing “Tracht,” introduced to me by an Austrian designer I am working with. It refers to tradional Austrian or Germanic clothing and the translation also means “what one carries or wears.” Designer Rose Beck created bundle or package-like handbags from this idea. Juergen Teller produced a limited edition book of the same name….I became enthralled with the idea of Timeless People meeting on their way to traipse in Trachts or Tracks through the Black Forests of Eastern Europe with Precious Packages…or anywhere.

and on New York City Train Tracks…another kind of Tracht…animalistic tracking, posturing, mating dances, sharing Ipods, glances, silliness…two Jewish boys meeting, teasing, perhaps enamored of each other and giggling on a NYC subway platform is a Ballanchine dance performed live.

The bed of a Hasidic Jewish child from James Mollison’s book, Where Children Sleep, captivated me this month in the disparity of where children go each night to dream, as their own secret garden, around the world. Why are our beds and homes square when life is a circular process?

As always the circuitry of visual and verbal weaves into our dreams. The pouty intensity of the Hasidic boy lives in the smug pride of a New Jersey Goth girl groupie headed with her band for their gig at a 2nd Avenue college bar. Is this not the same face as a McQueen mannequin which follows her…?

and the same swagger and hair curls of a hauty Chelsea window box?perhaps this glove, seen the next day, belonged to the Goth girl? Tossing it like the tendrils off the window box?

off the balcony the next morning…these windows neatly shared their wildly planted window box and these people sharing Ipods happened to see me.

In this image of an ape, a black macaque who took its own picture, are His/Her eyes any less deep and playful than the couple above? The photographer who dropped his camera while following a band of apes said, “I walked with them for about three days in a row. They befriended us and showed absolutely no aggression – they were just interested in the things I was carrying.” This one grabbed the photographer’s camera and had fun taking pictures.

Also sharing the same planet is Riyuta, and here is his bedroom in Tokyo from which he scouts the world. Serious uniforms obilterate differences or bring together like the coordinating visual cacaphonic uninforms of these two friends visiting New York from Japan.

and also living and breathing now, compare the plaids and chaos of this child in China and the bed she sleeps in with…the overstuffed world of this little very pampered girl in Japan.

to the feisty red check windows on a fields of encroaching ivy on this building in New York. Like the anti-consumerist and anti- “it bag” of the Tracht-inspired handbag of Rose Beck, the aforementioned lyrical accessory designer from Vienna, who was inspired by the bundled packages carried by people on the move, things are messy, but serve real purpose. Walk this way, a little wild, a little reverent, it may the only way to reconcile the suffering we know concurrently exists in the world and create consciousness of alternative thinking by the reality and craft of manufacture and the message of the objects we choose to carry.

Back on the block, another kind of stringing up, woven and tied Nature. This bow statement in Chelsea was a theme of the whole house…

with the surprise of a huge leaved plant leaning, bobbing and seemingly protecting the house.

This reminded me of this couple I photographed on the subway, visitors, anxiously bobbing up and down checking the map, checking the announcements, checking in with each other…literally tied and joined at the hip.

They seemed to be from South America and their bountiful bodies and abundance of connection to “what to look at to get there” reminded me of the Looking Glass box of McQueen’s show, forcing the audience to look uncomfortably at itself, and then a reveal of fetish artist and innovator, Michelle Olley, attached to a breathing tube, layering references lavishly, from Manet’s “Olympia” to Rousseau’s “The Dream” to Joel Peter Witkin‘s image “Sanitarium.”

Abundance of bodies, reflection and connection is a stark contrast to this “bedroom” of a child in Brazil. The one thing my friends who have traveled to impoverished areas say, is that seemingly when people have nothing, the one thing they do have is hope. 

Community gardens are growing in NY and around cities the world over. As I toured the famous community garden in the Village, next to the Time Landscape of Alan Sonfist, this butterfly flitted around me and only stopped when she/he decided it would make a nice picture.  This original native plant sanctuary has flourished since the 1970’s and in some views, like the one below, you would hardly guess this was in the middle of NY. Unfortunately, both the community garden and the Time Landscape are threatened by development according to a sign posted there.

The simplicity of gardens to heal our dramatically tortured souls, communities and planet always reminds me of simple acts of non-violence, my favorite being John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in. The power of images carried around the world and simple acts between friends and lovers can be those butterfly wings impacting the globe. I’m glad cynicism is dying as simple love arises.

John and Yoko stepped out from the Dakota on the Upper West Side flanked by these pots.
These dragons and bearded Pan of the Dakota are perfect for the cross cultural meeting of bearded John and Eastern-born Yoko!  They contrast the secret gardens of the Upper East Side which are more square and well-ordered…

and the trees are wearing boisterous skirts by the end of Summer…

One of my favorite Central Park trees bears the scar of meeting a fence.  This X marks the spot where we head Downtown for meetings of lovers and healing of city conduits for rain storms, drainage, floral healings through an Art Farmacy…first a peep at lovers meeting.

The meeting of red and white is very symbolic of man plus woman, did you know? This is why these colors show up in comforting classic cafe checks and international symbols of healing. Go read a bit on Kundalini and let me know what you discover!

In the meanwhile…downtown “love-ins” for storm drains and interpretations of window boxes aka “Agbags” from Natalie Jeremijenko’s Farmacy Clinic and The Art of Eco-mindshift. Natalie, whose “real-life experiments include walking tadpoles, texting “fish” and planting fire-hydrant gardens” is in full force on TED.

and I loved this redwood burst of color in this +helsea window box…

Back uptown, these two gorgeous + colorful girl peacocks, in each their own way, met and sat in front of me on the Met Museum steps one afternoon. They seemed to be from Africa from their language and dress and appeared to just come from a drawing class. Their styles, one so “butch-like” and the other so delicate and birdlike fascinated me for the whole time they sat.

McQueen’s peacocks and the dreaming beds of two African children from the book…

…and a beautiful wired “a tree grows in Harlem.” The neat bricks, the flowery contact paper…the plan + the wild.

a little further south and east colorful elders take respite…and a couple stroll together with their walkers. When did they first meet you wonder and how long have they been traveling together? The savage beauty of McQueen shoe, is another kind of walker. I was outside in the lush countryside, reading the exhibition book, and came to this picture of this reptilian shoe and then suddenly…

randomly flipped to this image of a dress bodice, this face on a heart, upon which the intensity made my eyes tear up, how can we not be in communication with the “aliens” we share this earth with, I thought, and then…this little alien being, with just that face, fell upon the table next to me.

This was precisely a McQueen moment. The blurring of boundaries of art, life, bodies and beings. As we allow them to meet within us, this possibility of permeability between forms becomes a communication incapable of senseless destruction, fear or separation. Yes, forms evolve. Respect and consciousness must meet for Peace to reign.

a random white rubber glove on the street and…the promised shark feast upon the pig carcass.

A pair of bulbous mushrooms, doing what fungi do, arising indiscriminately from decay and death, even in a square of earth on a busy city street…

are they not from the same mold as McQueen’s bold rubber latex dress and hair skirt?and as sinister and lovely as the eerie, mysterious and poisonous “destroying angel” mushroom?

Let’s face it. In the state of the world today we are going to be meeting life and death resurrection in every moment. In what is in the news, carried or worn by ourselves or others. In how we take in sensory or mental information. It begins with sparks. thoughts. associations. sentences from our mouths. meetings. judgements. decisions. It all matters. It all creates matter.

To feel savage beauty is to bear compassion and respect for all life. And like this Jurgen Teller image from a Marc Jacobs campaign, once you feel that, being sensibly grounded while enjoying a sense of humor and lightness at this game, this game which must be dreamed and played well…well then you have met your match.

In a week I am headed to the highway to the hot and lush secret garden of Brazil, for the first time ever, for a design conference, BOOMSPDESIGN, in Sao Paulo. We were invited to speak for our Green Provocateur project. I saw this image of a boy last week with a balloon or kite and it seemed to speak to hope, children’s dreams and Biblical hands. Catch you on the other side of Brazil’s delicate mobile of green beauty, thrusting favelas + visionary dreamers + …

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One Response to “meet me at the met: savage beauty+secret gardens.”


  1. 1 I-hello from Sao Paulo. the best 9 “I-not” #artdesignbrazil trends « Jade Dressler

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