One of the most pleasant things about New York City is that there is
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
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