WOW: World of Wearable Art
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
Through June 11, 2017
Some art exhibits welcome analysis and critique; the rare few beggar description and are best experienced through images. Such an exhibit is the World of Wearable Art at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum.
The skinny for those who've never heard of WOW: It began in the New Zealand South Island town of Nelson in 1987. Appropriately, its founder, Suzie Moncrieff, is a sculptor, not a fashion designer. Her idea was to combine design with the then emerging concept of performance art. To that end, she invited professional and amateur designers, artists and fabricators, and individuals working in various media to submit their wildest, most inventive designs for a show. The only rule was that whatever they created, it had to be wearable. That definition did not include the word "pragmatic;" in fact, the more whimsical and outlandish, the better. WOW, if anything, challenges, even lampoons, ideas of designer fashion.
WOW was an idea whose time had comes. It is now in its 30th year, awards over
$165,000 (New Zealand) per year, and culminates in a sound, light, and art performance that's like Cirque du Soleil on steroids. It's also an international competition these days, but it's still by no means the domain of professionals—wood and fabric artists submit entries, but so too do taxidermists, metallurgists, and people who are simply clever at fashioning something from everything from plastic stay ties to re-purposed suitcases. The Peabody Essex Museum exhibit has 32 pieces, a stripped down show, but still one that's like falling down an LSD-induced rabbit hole. But enough words. Here are some visual examples of the magic awaiting a viewer.
|Lobster dress with working tail|
|Detail of claw|
|Plastic and ties|
|This is color printer sheets transferred onto sheet metal|
|Plastic & ceramic|
|Inspired by tattoo art|
|Inspired by reptiles shedding skin|
|Lady Gaga? Cinna from The Hunger Games?|
|Felt but designed so that...|
|New Zealander commentary on American car love|
|Cat Woman goes op-art?|
|Woman warrior. Samoan if memory serves|
|Uniform made of old suitcases|
|Bra fashioned from hedgehogs|