Ashes and Snow ArtworkAshes and Snow at the

Nomadic Museum on Pier 54

One of the most pleasant things about New York City is that there is always something interesting and unusual happening. On our most recent trip we decided to indulge in one such event, the Ashes and Snow exhibit at the Nomadic Museum on Pier 54.

Pier 54 is one of the piers along the Hudson River that was once used for loading and unloading cargo, and we supposed that someday someone will open a Cargo Loading and Unloading Museum to commemorate this fact. For now, we made do with a museum made out of shipping containers and appropriately titled the Nomadic Museum. Ironically, shipping containers are why cargo is now loaded and unloaded by machines in Newark rather than by longshoremen on Pier 54.

The museum is a long airy space, bounded by the cargo containers, the tent like roof, and the heavy floor of the pier itself. The photographs dangle on exhibit along the long path, and in the distance one can catch glimpses of the video montage and meditation being projected on the large screen at the end of the pier. The images involve animals, exotic locales and third world people, all of great beauty. Today the exhibit is morally suspect, though western art has often used animals, exotic locales and third world people in its search for beauty.

The muse for this exhibit seems to have been Diana Vreeland, one of the great poseurs of the 20th century. We are using poseur in its most positive sense here. She was a brilliant editor and designer, and she created and edited a generation of the visual and fashionable arts, and it was an important generation, for she presided over the baby boom's great looking outward. However, only a poseur would use a Faberge cup to hold her toothbrush.

Anyone who read Vogue in the 1960s, or at least looked at the pictures, had to be impressed with her breaking out of the visually static and all too familiar fashion world of the 1950s. Vreeland was willing to consider African wood beads, Thai fabrics, Moroccan tiles and non-white skinned models as beautiful. She was not alone in this, but she was one of the most influential.

With Ashes and Snow, Gregory Colbert follows in her tradition. If you have taken the subway in the last month, you have probably seen one of the advertisements. The images involve elephants, water, children, rain, dancers and birds of prey. The exhibit will open your eyes. If you remember the 1960s, you will remember the feeling and the sense of wonder. Somehow, it seems our eyes have grown closed. If you are too young to remember the 1960s, you can experience something that should be experienced in every generation.

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