Sunday, July 5, 2009
'The Model As Muse' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
'The Model as Muse' show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art felt like an air mattress of an exhibition, sustaining a large body for a long period of time but eventually collapsing in upon itself. I know something about air mattresses, having slept on them enough what with my peripatetic life and having patched them up with duct tape.
Saying that, I must also say that I love looking at beautiful people and beautiful photographs and there's enough on hand to keep you entertained. I even passed by a Paris 'Vogue' cover of Janice Dickinson from 1979. Now thirty years later, she's been kicked off Celebrity Island (NBC's "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!").
What did interest me was seeing the chronology of fashion images from the 1940s to the present; from Dovima and Suzy Parker to Penelope Tree to Twiggy to Cheryl Tiegs to Lauren Hutton to Christy Turlington to Gemma Ward to Natalia Vodianova. From one decade to the next you see how not only the clothes changes but the bodies upon which they hang. Faces and bodies like bathing suits go in and out of fashion.
The exhibition is called 'The Model As Muse' and what with the extensive holdings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I would have loved to have seen how the idea of Muse has influenced painters, as well as photographers, across the ages. I'm very curious as to
"what makes a muse?"
Why does a subject attract the attention of the artist and compels the artist to then transfer his feelings on to a canvas, or today, an inkjet print? Is it sex? Is it love?
Sex is easier to understand. We all know the sensation of being caught in a hormonal tide and cast upon exhausted on a beach only to then be yanked back out to sea. Even the photographer with as much creativity as one of those salt crystals in the ocean, still has the impulse and energy to keep pushing the shutter button on his/her camera when confronted with a groin stirring man or woman.
Beauty is also easier to understand. A genetically blessed man or woman is like a television in a crowded bar, even if the sound is off everyone still keeps looking.
But a part from sex and beauty, what then?
For the last fifteen years, I've continued to photograph my niece in Kentucky. She has fascinated me, entertained me, provoked me in so many ways that I can't not turning my lens in her direction. Even when she's not doing anything I find her interesting. From year to year, from childhood to adolesence to young womanhood, she has continued to engage me.
Yes, I understand that love can be a great motivator, but love per se, doesn't necessarily make a great image nor does it make someone compelling in a print or a painting. My niece was never a quiet breeze ruffling the curtains in the window, she has always been the strong wind that knocks open the front door.
It is a question that I continue to ponder even as I continue to photograph her.