The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial–What Went Wrong?

I felt a little lurch in my stomach when I saw the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial statue on TV yesterday. Why couldn’t we have done a better job in representing and paying respects to one of our most important historical figures?

My first reaction was a purely visual one, and my problems with the statue are simply that it looks unfinished (not in a good way), and it is carved from white stone. Why does Dr. King have no lower legs or feet? Why are they not planted on the ground? It makes him look rootless. I also believe the sculptor(s) need a better eye for the human form, because his waist looks thrust forward by the rock. Perhaps he is meant to be leaning on it? Something isn’t right visually, and that in turn, puts the message off.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who always stood on his own two feet. He spoke truth to power; he took unpopular stands. I’m scratching my head over why he would be leaning against a rock, with his head, back and especially feet utterly disappearing into it. This doesn’t jibe with, or enlighten, our most famous and cherished images of him, which are of him speaking confidently at a podium (with nothing to his back) and marching in protest. Though there is no need for the sculpture to literally represent these memories, a good one might echo or nod to them. Even if the artwork went in another direction, it should be illuminating, uncovering a facet that we may not have thought of right away. Because this sculpture makes you scratch your head and wrinkle your nose, it’s not doing its job in memorializing this man.

And a question: Why is this proud black man, who risked his reputation and eventually his life to carry his message of equality for blacks in a white-dominated society, why is this man carved from white stone?

After reading more about the planning of the memorial on the official website, I can tell you that they have already planned answers. They have an answer for everything, and that is the problem.

The site will tell you all about their reasoning, the meaning behind their symbols and decisions, and the kind of Experience that You the Visitor should feel when you visit the memorial. It’s a lot of garbage. They’re telling us too much what we ought to feel, and not showing us enough within the artwork so that we can feel it. High school students do this, when they construct a painting based on highly specific and personal codes or symbols, but need to verbally decode it for viewers who have no knowledge of the invented language (“the yellow square is my mother; the blue diamond is my father”, etc).


High schools students can be forgiven these early attempts to establish a visual language, and with maturity they will learn to communicate with the language that’s already there and understood by viewers, even if only on a subconscious level. For example, rock is strong and the sculpture is big, so there is an immediate, gut-level sense of strength associated with a sculpture of this size. But to have a man with no legs disappear into the strong stone, even to seem to be leaning into it, that subconsciously tells us that the man is weaker than the stone. To see the difference, compare with this image of four pharaohs carved out of stone at Abu Simbel in Egypt.

Mature sculptors are more fluent in using the many visual principles at their disposal in order to convey a message. What we have here is immature artwork. I see these symptoms in much of contemporary art, where so much needs to be explained because it is poorly communicated on a visual level.

Vietnam Memorial, Washington DC, by Maya Lin
Vietnam Memorial, Washington DC, by Maya Lin

But back to the context of Washington, D.C., where every new memorial is naturally compared to the incomparable Vietnam Memorial by Maya Lin. The Vietnam Memorial is a wall that is black and shiny, like a mirror, etched with the names of soldiers who were killed during the Vietnam War. The wall grows in height as you descend along the path in front of it, because it is set into the ground. The actual experience of descending in front of the wall, finding that you’re suddenly enveloped by it, by black, is almost indescribable. I imagine that is how our country felt as we became incrementally more immersed in the war itself. To look at the names of young, dead soldiers in the wall, while seeing your own face looking back at you from the polished granite, is like looking into a mirror and thinking “If just a few details were different, that could have been me”. Seams in the wall allow for flowers to be placed next to specific names, which recalls the experience of a cemetery (echoing the names etched in stone). At the deepest point of the memorial, with the wall towering over you, it turns, and you turn with it. You will slowly rise again to ground level and the real world, able to see above the black wall once more, but feeling changed on a fundamental level. These gut-level reactions can’t be predicted or explained, and the memory of my experiences there is so strong that I shed a few tears while writing this. To learn more arcane details about the memorial later (the wall turns because it is shaped like a V, which stands for Vietnam, for example) does nothing to contradict what I felt there, and what my own eyes and body told me.

In the way that everything at the Vietnam Memorial works on a visual level, and any further discussion serves only to reinforce what you’ve seen and felt, the King memorial feels like empty words.

While I’m focusing here mainly on the visual elements of the sculpture of Dr. King, there are other aspects of the “experience” that seem like poor decisions or empty gestures to me as well. There is a crescent-shaped wall etched with quotes from Dr. King’s speeches, yet any reference to the “I Have a Dream” speech has been deliberately omitted, the website tells us, because that speech can be learned about in school and books. What a wasted opportunity! It could have been so powerful to see and feel those words. The website also points out that the address assigned to the memorial is 1964 Independence Ave., symbolizing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This doesn’t help me to understand, or deepen my appreciation; this is an empty gesture.

I will say that the planting of additional cherry blossom trees was a nice touch, along with the explanation that their peak blossoms are assured for the April 4th anniversary of Dr. King’s death each year. That is a worthy detail that enhances the experience of the memorial, but most of the other frothy explanations serve to confirm my initial, negative feelings about the sculpture.

I have a feeling that the next time I visit DC, I will again cry in front of the Vietnam Memorial. I suspect that I’ll also shed a few tears in front of the King Memorial, but they will be for the memorial that we didn’t give him.

Jen McKen Stands up to Bullies and Kicks A**!

Photo by Jennifer McKendrick

I know August is supposed to be a slow month for news, but here’s the best article I’ve read in ages, about a photographer in Pennsylvania who discovered some cyberbullying on Facebook. When Jennifer McKendrick (aka Jen McKen) realized that four of the bullies were local girls who had booked appointments with her for their senior portraits, she knew she had to take a stand. Jen emailed them to cancel their upcoming portrait sessions, then emailed their parents to say why.

This woman is my new hero.

On her Facebook page and blog, she wrote about discovering the girls’ page, which was devoted entirely to hateful and offensive comments regarding their classmates. Jen wrote: “I saw it with my own eyes..it wasn’t hearsay, it was right there..with their smiling face right beside such an ugly statement”, and elaborated later that the comments weren’t superficial ones about hair or clothing, but biting, vicious ones about sexuality.

Based on what she read on the page, Jen wrote on her blog: “I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page.”
 
Jen not only cancelled their appointments and returned their deposits, but told them and their parents why. She also attached screen shots of the Facebook page as proof of the bullying statements. (Other readers also reported the page to Facebook, by the way, based on the hateful content).

Jen received reply emails from two parents, who apologized, said they were shocked and promised to deal with the matter.

I went to Jen’s Facebook page and was surprised that the traffic hasn’t shut the site down! The comments are easily 99-to-1 in favor of Jen. Most glow with praise; some promise to send business her way in support of her courage to do the right thing; many wish they could patronize her Pennsylvania business but live too far away. Many also note how difficult it is (in this, or any economy) to do the right thing when it involves turning away paying customers.

The two (only two) dissenters I could find seemed to be teenagers who are not very well versed in how Facebook actually operates. One called Jen “mean” for canceling the photo sessions, and supported another who called Jen “stalkerish” for “snooping on” the Facebook page in the first place. And yet, this is the point of Facebook: to connect via public comments. Everyone knows that what you put on Facebook, stays on Facebook. By that, I mean that if you write it, it’s out there. People find it and read it.

An unexpected voice against Jen, however, is Anne Rice, the vampire novelist. Her opinion, which anyone can read publicly on Facebook (sorry, I “snooped” and found it on her page): “I don’t support this kind of discrimination, any more than I support the bridal shop owner who wouldn’t sell a dress to a lesbian.”

I appreciate your stand on gay rights, Anne, but I can’t side with you about the bullying. What Jen did is not discrimination based on an immutable characteristic such as age, race, creed, gender, sexuality, etc–which are regularly protected from discriminatory behavior. It certainly is discrimination to refuse service to someone based on these characteristics. But to refuse service to someone based on how they choose to act, especially when that choice harms others–it happens all the time and is a necessary consequence for bad behavior. Bouncers and anyone in the restaurant business know that service is regularly denied to those who are disorderly, drunk, or just not wearing shoes and a shirt. Celebrities are dropped from advertising campaigns due to their bad behavior (I still think of the then-charming Kobe Bryant’s Euro-flavored endorsement of Nutella–before he was dropped as a spokesman after his arrest for sexual assault in 2003). Why would Nutella want Kobe’s smiling face to represent them in America’s grocery stores? And why would Jen McKendrick want her product (her brand, her photographs) to be represented by the smiling faces of cyberbullies and bigots?

So we’ve come full circle to the idea of this as a business decision. I support it on that level, but I also believe in the old-fashioned idea of calling people out on their bad behavior.

Rallying cry of the day: “If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look pretty on the outside!”





Patron Saint of Painters

I’m wondering how it is that I’m just now discovering that St. Luke is the patron saint of painters…

I knew that St. Clare is the patron saint of TV. Oh yes, even though she lived in the 12th century. She supposedly saw images on the wall when she was sick, and heard things too, so was linked to, and declared the patron saint of, the new media in 1958.

And I’d heard the one about St. Joseph being the patron saint of real estate. If you don’t believe me on that one, then just bury a statue of him upside-down in the backyard when you want to sell your house and see what happens.

But now, something useful to my daily life!

St. Luke was supposedly the first icon painter, painting one of the Virgin Mary, as well as portraits of Peter and Paul.

But Luke was also the patron saint of doctors. The connection there is that in Renaissance Italy, painters and doctors belonged to the same Guild. Painters bought their pigments from apothecaries, where doctors bought medicinal ingredients. In comparison, sculptors were members of an entirely separate guild, the Masters of Stone and Wood, and have a different patron saint, St. Claude.

I may need a little statue to put on my easel, overlooking my paintings. Fun with Catholic culture!

Favorite Quotes from It Gets Better, Musical edition

“When I first came to New York to pursue my acting career, I got a survival job in an office. My first day walking into the office I heard the soundtrack to Barbra Streisand’s Yentl playing through the speakers, and the owner came out, wearing freedom rainbow rings in her ears, and shook my hand. I remember thinking, “Oh, my gay God. I’m home.” J.B. Wing (Broadway singer), p. 69

“You know why everybody’s making videos and writing their stories for this project? Because you matter. You matter. Don’t let anyone define you with their hateful words and actions. Believe in yourself. Life is so wonderful with all its heartaches and joys. And the world is such an incredible, beautiful place. You deserve to be around to enjoy it. You deserve to have an amazing life.” Bryan Johnson (Broadway singer) p. 70

“When I think about being a teenager, I don’t usually feel nostalgic. But I don’t have to feel bad about how I made someone else feel ashamed or unwanted. Despite how painful it was to earn it, I cherish the wisdom I have about accepting myself and other people, all kinds of people, for who they are. When I make a friend now, I make sure they know that I don’t care if they are weird, or popular, or straight, or pretty, or black, or like me, or different. I just want them to know that I like them, that I am their friend, and I mean it.” Meshell Ndegeocello, p. 113

Photographers Extraordinaire

Many thanks go out to Connor Alderman and Jeff Campbell for photographing the opening reception for my Lavender Menace exhibit! They worked tirelessly to capture the spirit of the show and opening reception, while remaining unobtrusive–the best way to get great cameo shots. I know from experience that this is hard to do.

Jeff shot and edited well over 200 photos. And they are gems–unexpected angles, artistic light effects, poignant facial expressions. Here are some of my favorites:

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Jeff not only documented the evening, he elevated the photos to works of art also. Learn more about Jeff and see more of his work here.

“That’s You, in a Chef’s Hat”


This is a series of drawings that my nephew made for me, as a thank-you for taking care of him for a week. No day camp that week, but Camp Maura.

The reason I bring this up is not because I think my nephew is talented and that he might Have Something. That’s a cliche, because what aunt doesn’t think that? (Though I do–he does really interesting things with Scotch tape and earring backings, not the usual materials of choice for a 6-year old).

I bring it up because in his public school, in kindergarten, they learned about installation art. I didn’t learn about that, officially, until college! They were tossing around names like Jenny Holzer and Nam June Paik. I was beyond impressed.

Now back to the drawing: At the top is my nephew splashing in the pool. Pokemon characters are in the middle because we played Pokemon card battles. That’s me, in a chef’s hat at the bottom. I’m making soup (see my ladle?). My niece and nephew are there, and so is the dog, who is sniffing around on the left for scraps.

Road Trip: South Carolina

I think Mia and I have started a tradition with our niece and nephew. For the second summer in a row, the four of us have gone on a short road trip during our visit, somewhere that’s close enough to home that we can leisurely drive there and back on the same day, while seeing what there is to see along the way.

This year it was South Carolina.

We were only about two hours from Atlanta when we saw this yard and someone yelled for me to turn the car around so we could take a second look. As we stood in front of the fence that separated the yard from the road, we talked about folk art.

Since the kids had been to Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens last year, they were familiar with the everyday materials, the hand-lettering, and the pride in the unconventional display.

I love Southern folk art, much more heartfelt than the folk art I grew up seeing in New England, and that made me want to yawn.

Wore Out Art Supplies

Every time I throw away an abused, no-longer-serviceable paintbrush, I think of the Reverend Howard Finster:


“LIFE:TIME ART-SUPPLIES WORE OUT BY HOWARD FINSTER”

Just look at all those dried-up Sharpies! He staple-gunned every single one he ever used–along with every pencil nub, every squeezed-out tube of paint–all around the walls of this little outdoor building. He made a memorial to being industrious, to documenting your hard work, then stepping back and sending it out into the world.

That’s the way you do it.

New Artwork: New Bedford Waterfront

New Bedford Waterfront, Digitally manipulated photographs, 5 x 7, SOLD

Here is the piece which I donated to the fundraiser/auction for the New Bedford Art Museum this year. I have a special place in my heart for the Art Museum (not to mention New Bedford), since I lived a mere three blocks away during grad school.

This year’s theme was New Bedford/Southcoast Through the Lens. I had some stunning photographs from my afternoons wandering around the waterfront, and decided to manipulate them by cropping, combining parts of them, playing with color and light effects.

I hear the piece went to a good home and I’m glad the fundraiser was a success!

Superheroes and Political Art

I love my EW magazine, and here’s one more reason: the July 29 issue features an article called “So One Comic-Book Legend Said to the Other…” that got me thinking about the connection between superheroes and political art.

The article is a conversation between authors Neil Gaiman, who is, incidentally, a favorite of my old roommate Matt, and Grant Morrison. Not being a science fiction or comics fan, I’m mostly unaware of their work, and truth be told, I’ve been superheroed-out over the past couple of years. Fan-boy, I’m not. Definitely not.

But I’ve been aware, at least from the periphery, of the special place that superheroes have held in the gay community. Superheroes all seem to be in the closet about their true identity for some reason, and deliver justice to evil bullies. I get that. But the accompanying blast of testosterone was offputting to me, although I have a special place in my heart for Wonder Woman (of course!), the Wonder Twins, and now Super Dyke (who does not dispense Justice, but Hugs).

Out of respect for the gay community, I decided to give the article a go.

At one point, Gaiman says:

I think the great thing about superheroes is they posit that one person can make a difference, and that’s the ultimate moral glory of any story. It’s like the action of saying, “Yes, I can make a difference. I can be smart. I can get out there and do the right thing.

Morrison replies:

…I think the message of all those stories was yes, one person can make a difference, and by the way, that person is you.

This exchange got me thinking about one of the reasons I make political art, by way of anti-gay bullying paintings. Sure, on a personal level, I’m articulating feelings and making connections among latent ideas. But with this body of work, I am also making a difference in the world by drawing attention to a problem, and sometimes suggesting a solution. In fact, that is the driving force behind a work like Love One Another.

Love One Another, Acrylic on magnetized puzzle pieces, approx 2" x 2" each piece, $15 per piece

As I wrote in an earlier post,

…President Obama and Ellen DeGeneres, among others, have said that everyone shares a responsibility for taking a stand against bullying.

This idea of everyone doing their part is the inspiration behind Love One Another.

This artwork is made of 100 painted, magnetized puzzle pieces. Unlike other artwork in this show, the individual components here are designed to be removed from the whole, with each piece taking on life of its own as a small abstract painting. This shows that we all…have a stake in this problem, and can each do something to help solve it.

…Removing pieces and taking them home is a commitment to taking a stand against gay bullying. Posting them on the fridge or a filing cabinet is a daily reminder of the responsibility that we all share.

So Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their colleagues have also felt the personal calling to make a difference. Super Dyke too–although she doesn’t chase villains in a tricked-out vehicle (I don’t think), she makes the difference she can, by giving hugs to anyone who needs one. I guess we all do what we can: I paint, Super Dyke gives out hugs, Bruce Wayne builds sophisticated crimefighting tools.

The words that are written around the outside edge of Love One Another sum up the inspiration behind it, and also Gaiman and Morrison’s thoughts on the morality behind the superhero mythology:

You are only one.
 One is enough.
 Take one.
 Help one.
 Love one another.

Road Trip: Harvest Gallery Wine (and Art) Bar, Dennis MA

Photo courtesy of Coco 1003

What does Dorothy say in the Wizard of Oz: that you really don’t need to search any further than your own backyard? Well the Harvest Gallery Wine Bar is a hidden gem in Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. I’d never heard of it, even though I’ve been visiting my parents in West Dennis for years.

But I know it now, and I’m thrilled.

This place has the best of everything: sophisticated without being snooty, arty while still being accessible, delicious food and drink that’s not pricey and comes in generous portions, live music that’s not amateur hour or cover bands.

There was a great mix of demographics that you don’t always see on the Cape: a table of young, hip couples, a group of women meeting at the bar, couples of all ages on dates, some singletons who came out for a glass of wine. Again, perfect.

We had a delicious mushroom crostini and some good wine and beer. Don’t you just hate it when you’re served a miniscule portion of food? Not here–the crostini was large enough to be split three ways! Healthy, local options; everything looked and smelled fantastic.

The art on the walls was a pleasant change from the lighthouse shtick that’s too common at art galleries in seaside towns. We saw large abstract paintings, delicate mobiles, sturdy wood and bronzes, mixed media on paper. The shows change every couple of weeks, feature Cape artists, and seem to be held to a nice curatorial standard.

Check out their website for info on art, menus, and musical line-ups.

We feel like we found “our” place–can’t wait to go back!

Artist Puts Money Where Mouth Is, Donates 10% of Exhibition Proceeds to It Gets Better

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Artwork created in response to gay bullying raises money for foundation combatting anti-gay teen bullying and suicide

(New York, NY)

Maura McGurk was so moved to hear of the suicides of several teenagers in Fall 2010, bullied because they were gay, or at least thought to be gay, that she began memorializing her anguish for the teens in paintings.

Simultaneously in the Fall of 2010, columnist and activist Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better Project, which sprang from the same concern for bullied gay teens.

In July 2011, McGurk and the It Gets Better Project came together when she exhibited her anti-gay bullying artwork in Norwich, Connecticut and donated 10% of proceeds from sales to the non-profit organization, to support their work with LGBT youth.

McGurk contacted Savage and It Gets Better because of their shared interest in saving teens’ lives, and told them about the exhibition. Savage was already acquainted with her work, since he owns one of her anti-gay bullying paintings, called, appropriately enough, It Gets Better.

McGurk’s artwork was on view at the Wauregan Gallery in an exhibition entitled Lavender Menace: Paintings by Maura McGurk in Response to Gay Bullying. From that show, she sold five paintings of various sizes on paper and wood panel, as well as 18 painted puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces were part of an installation that was dismantled and sold piece by piece during the exhibition. The sales generated a donation of more than $160 for It Gets Better.

McGurk says that although the subject matter of teen suicide and gay bullying is weighty, her message, like that of the It Gets Better Project, is uplifting and supportive. As such, the artwork itself is colorful and attractive.

“I want my work to have a chance to tell its story, and so I try to make it beautiful through colors and textures, so you want to spend time with it,” McGurk said. “And if you spend time with it, hopefully something else will emerge. Lots of art has been made about war and tragedy, and some of it is really bleak and ugly. Let’s face it–tragedy is ugly. But I can’t make my work that way; that’s not me.”

McGurk’s anti-gay bullying artwork can be viewed on her website.

More about Maura McGurk: Believing in art’s power to change the world, Maura’s current work supports LGBT youth by taking a stand against gay bullying. Maura is has exhibited her paintings at various venues in New York, New England, and Italy.  Her work is held in over sixty private collections in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Maura McGurk Featured in “At the Edge” Magazine

The premier issue of At the Edge magazine, an independent art publication which focuses on emerging artists in New York City, features artist Maura McGurk and her crusade against gay bullying.

The article discusses McGurk’s July 2011 solo exhibition, entitled Lavender Menace: Paintings by Maura McGurk in Response to Gay Bullying. The paintings in the exhibition were inspired by the deaths of several teens who committed suicide in Fall 2010 after being bullied because they were gay (or were thought to be gay). McGurk teamed with the It Gets Better Project to publicize the event, and donated 10% of proceeds to them to support their work with gay youth.

An excerpt:

McGurk says that although the subject matter is weighty, the work itself is colorful and attractive.

“Whenever people hear the words abstract art, or gay art, or political art, they say “Uh oh”. I want my work to have a chance to tell its story, and so I try to make it beautiful through colors and textures, so you want to spend time with it. And if you spend time with it, hopefully something else will emerge. Lots of art has been made about war and tragedy, and some of it is really bleak and ugly. Let’s face it–tragedy is ugly. But I can’t make my work that way; that’s not me.”

The magazine has a particular passion for artists affiliated with the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. McGurk exhibited several paintings at the West Side Neighborhood Alliance (WSNA) offices during the HK Artist Studio Tours in June 2011, and the WSNA is covered in an article in the current issue as well.

Other articles include a history of Hell’s Kitchen, a monograph on Victorine Meurent (Édouard Manet’s model for Olympia and Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) and a spotlight on the International Women Artists’ Salon.

Details regarding purchase, as well as a launch party, will be released soon.

Road Trip: Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Atlanta GA

Outwrite is a gay bookstore in the Midtown neighborhood of Atlanta. They are also the largest LGBT landmark in the South. That strikes me as prestigious, but also a little scary, since they’re not THAT big.

But I don’t mean to be that way, and what’s not to love? And I do love bookstores. This one is independent and feels that way; I had the pleasant sensation of being back in Berkeley, or at least in college, while I was there. You know what I mean: super-knowledgeable clerks who will come track you down in the stacks because they just remembered something else you’d like, the smell and sound of coffee being made, baked goods made with love and wrapped in Saran Wrap (not plastic boxes, and more on their pastries in a moment), handmade art on the walls…Oh Nostalgia! You rear your head again.

But I digress. There are lots of gay titles, but this is also a full-service bookstore, so you can get the latest release, and even order anything in print. I saw some books there I’d never seen anywhere else, such as a hardcover academic book on lesbian art from the 1970s through the 90s.

They have a great deal of signed books available, and live events. We just missed Chelsea Handler the night we were there (dammit).

If I lived in Atlanta, I would put this place on my regular route. It’s that good. Everyone there was having a good time, including the baristas, and there was a very active but low-key atmosphere humming along at all times.

The food was great, the art was also quality (not always the case in a coffeeshop, I fear), and they serve soy milk! What else do you need?

If that’s not enough, their website is fun AND they serve Cubby Cakes–homemade pastries with photos of gay, bear men on the wrappers. Are those the bakers? The muses? The target audience?

I’ll ask the next time I’m there.

Alexander McQueen and the Spectacular Spectacular

I’m still digesting the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty show.

I feel a bit wrong to even write that. But in my defense, there was much to chew on.

Other people have written more (not to mention better) about the show, so I’ll leave that for them.

But some things, for me, were especially notable:

The demographics (which always interest me, everywhere) were surprisingly varied. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, since his designs were part of the recent Royal Wedding (a sliding spectrum of demographics there, after all, but certainly one that skews as far as Queen Elizabeth’s age bracket) and also inspired Kurt’s prom outfit on Glee (hello tweens!).

In a nutshell, this was the most un-Met-like exhibit I’ve ever seen. From the loud music, to the lighting, to the thematic edge and darkness (though denied by Mr. McQueen in the wall text), to the theatricality of the presentation, to the way the galleries were physically transformed, there was no hint that you were in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I was so overwhelmed by the way the exhibition was presented, that all I could think about as I walked around was: This has changed everything.

I think we’re beyond the so-called “blockbuster” exhibit, which began with King Tut in 1977, and generally encompasses the rock stars of the art world, especially Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, and the like. Some would say the Blockbuster is a cynical way to fill a museum’s coffers; some say it’s a democratic rather than esoteric way to display artwork; some say it’s spoonfeeding, unchallenging, as it only gives museum-goers what they want to see.

But even the Blockbuster was still a “typical” museum experience. McQueen changes that. For good or bad, the bar has shifted. Future shows will be compared to the spectacle that was Alexander McQueen.

“Spectacle” doesn’t quite cover it though. The only word I can think of for what I saw comes from the movie Moulin Rouge. Welcome to the age of the “Spectacular Spectacular”.