Art imitating life best describes the work of contemporary artist Nick Cave. Born as one of seven in Missouri, Cave credits his creativity to his childhood. From an early age, he would manipulate the clothing passed down from his older brothers to give them new meaning. His passion for the arts led him to earn a Masters in Fine Art and also training at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Cave’s work is the epitome of avant-garde. He incorporates dance, sculpture, fashion, and video to convey his themes. His exhibits are thought provoking and a conversation starter for its audience.
Nick Cave Exhibit at Glenbow
Nick Cave Exhibit at Glenbow
The Button Wall
In the words of Lupita Nyong’o, 'no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid'. The Button Wall is the backdrop of the exhibit that catches your attention upon entering. It is reminiscent of the night’s sky that we all have made a wish upon at some point in our adolescent. Stars are a symbol of imagination, dreams, hope and creative brilliance. When we open ourselves to the idea that anything is possible, change reveals itself and makes dreams come true. The Button Wall transformed the environment of the exhibit into a safe place for visitors. The imaginative atmosphere forces viewers to step outside of their everyday lives to self-reflect and dream.
The Wall Relief
The Wall Relief is a lot to take in at first glance. Ceramic birds, cats, and metal flowers are found entangled in strings of crystals and beads throughout the wall sculpture. Unlike most of the objects in the vicinity, the golden bird has only a single strand around its feet. Despite being at the forefront, the bird’s line of sight suggests that the bird’s primary focus is on what’s holding it back rather than freeing itself. In a subtle notion, Cave reminds us that we tend to hold onto past failures instead of moving forward and growing from them. In the words of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, ‘it is not possible to go forward while looking back’.
The first Soundsuit was created in response to the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. They were created as an armour to protect its wearer from profiling by concealing its identity. Armour is not needed when love surrounds us. Nick Cave suggests that we can showcase our love by being better advocates and allies to marginalized people. Throughout the exhibit, you may notice that some of the mannequins under the Soundsuits have clenched fist. This implies that the wearer is trying to exercise self-control. Even with a second layer of skin to prevent profiling, the wearer remains on edge. The Soundsuits challenge us to ‘Love One Another’ and not look away when others are being mistreated or mischaracterized.
Knowing the past is the gateway to the future. A person without the knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots. Cave stacked the white napkins in a shape that signifies the rings of a tree. Aside from giving away the tree’s age, the tree rings also provide snapshots of the earth’s past conditions. Looking closely at the napkins you will see that the rings of the napkin are thin but from a distance appear thick. Tree rings grow thinner in years when it is cold whereas thicker rings indicate the conditions encourage growth. The Napkins offers reassurance that although we have a divided past, society has flourished over the years and will continue to do so in the future.
The Hustle Coat
You can visit Nick Cave’s: Feat. at the Glenbow in Calgary from June 29 to September 22, 2019. This exhibit is well worth the trip, inviting you to discover what message Feat. has for you.