Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MAD: a psychedlic trip with the whole family

It's Sunday morning and we are wondering what we are going to do with our day. So I'm looking something else up on Google, but now on Google, all of the sudden, news items appear below the search bar, and so my eye falls on a dress down there. It is a link to a "story" on the Counter-couture show at MAD, the Museum of Art and Design. (Clever name. How easy it is at first to mistake that couture for culture. The mistake triggers a subtle recognition and this recognition, the moment the eye slows down, if only it will slow down, slows down the eye even more.) So I follow the link to the story and realize that this might be something worth doing and go to the website to investigate. Turns out that on this particular day they are having "Denim demolition: distress, paint, bead, rip, or embroider denim. MAD will have a limited supply of denim and recommends participants bring their own denim to work with." Okah, yeah, this would work for the kids and maybe even be good for us too.

It so happens that MAD is partnered with the Cool Culture Card and (thanks to the PTA of P.S. 150 in Queens) we have a Cool Culture Card, so admission is free. (I should mention here that the reason we have a Cool Culture Card is because we personally led the PTA charge to get one.This took considerable political maneuvering and campaigning, but we felt it would be worth it, as we hope to prove.)

Jump two hours later and there it is, the MAD building, on the edge of Columbus Circle. On the outside of the building there is a set of arrows, pointing to a hole. The words on the building next to the arrows say, "Enter other worlds here" >>> O. In the hole there is a field of grass and wildflowers. Here, in the center of of the city, it is as if you are laying in the grass and looking out at the hills, bare cheek to earth, into the country-side. Promising.

The first thing we do in the museum is the Denim Demolition. Lucia gets busy on a pair of my old dad jeans (embrace it!) and Sofia makes a jeans pocket patch. The sheer amount of materials they had to work with was inspiring. Hour well spent.

Then we go to lunch across the street at the Whole Foods. To get to this particular Whole Foods you have to pass between a beautiful Botero couple, 20 ft tall naked rotund couple, gleaming in bronze. We love Botero, so it was a pleasure to introduce him to the girls. (The pleasure, he seemed to say, was all his.) And then we did the whole Whole Foods thing. Expensive place to shop, but cheapest for lunch. We ate enough good food to feed a couple of Boteros.

The first MAD exhibit we went to after lunch was Lauren Kalman's curated jewelry show. The girls love jewelry, so it was a good place to start. There were dozens of drawers and inside each one were 3 or more pieces of one of a kind jewelry, like a necklace made out of the phone book, or that stunning one that looked like a ring of pink flamingo feathers, but was really made out of butcher paper. The girls had to open every drawer of course. It was their dream, opening dresser drawers and finding so much bling.

The next exhibit was equally impressive, all woven art, curated by Francoise Grossen; woven rope sculptures, wildly woven abstract wall hangings and etc. The weaving show turned out to be a good prelude to the Counter-couture show on the 4th and 5th floor. You might say it wove us in.

On the fourth floor Ken Kesey's Trips Festival was playing on the wall, and there was a dance floor, (which my daughters later made good use of.) All around the perimeter of the dance floor were dozens of psychedelic duds made in the late 60s and early 70s by truly inventive and far out DIY designers. It's all great, and terribly nostalgic, but I'll just mention one dress here, and I think that will suffice.

The incredible story behind this dress is that "while serving a two-year jail sentence in Milan on a hashish smuggling charge, Mary Ann Schildknecht was taught to embroider by the nuns who ran the prison. Using torn bedsheets from her prison cell she embroidered this skirt and top, meticulously covering every inch with the satin-stitch. Her design and patterns evoke a journey through a fantastical narrative of castles, faces, and natural landscapes. The blouse was designed with a hole in the sleeve, should the wearer need a sudden blood transfusion."

What a great way to spend two years in jail! Milan must be the only place in the world where the prisons have satin sheets. It fits nicely with the fact that the police uniforms in Milan are designed by Armani.

The 60s are behind us (and, come to think of it, ahead of us too,) but, even stuck here, in the sad twenty teens, it was nice to trip, lightly, in lieu.