This blog focuses on the joys, challenges and lessons of living the creative life—and make a living doing it!
Author Gayle Mahoney is an arts marketing consultant and has shown and sold her own artwork for over 25 years.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Curiosities: Creative Inspiration for the First Monday of the Year

Last summer, Penelope Green of The New York Times wrote "The New Antiquarians," an article about young artists and designers who reject modern influences of art, design and fashion and in their place unearth the relics of the Victorian Age to find inspiration.
Here is the link to the article:
(Make sure you click through the slide show)

A quote from Green's article:
"It’s way more than anti-modernism, this sort of deep spelunking into the past," [Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology] said. "It’s not aspirational and it’s not nostalgic. It’s a fantasy world that is almost entirely a visual collage. It’s a stitched-together, bricolage world, an alternative world."

Several blogs have surfaced in the last few years penned by self-described "neo-antiquarians" or "neo-traditionalists." These movements refer more to aesthetics in fashion and design than to politics (as Green also noted in her article), and have some of the same cultural underpinnings of the post-punk "goth" movement of the 1980s and the Anne Rice vampire-inspired "Victorian goth" subculture of the early 1990s.

One aspect of Victoriana that is embraced by the "neo-antiquarians" is the collection of specimens of art, physical and natural sciences and their presentation in cabinets, or as the Victorians called them, "curiosity cabinets." Historically, these collections had educational as well as social value. A broad and varied collection reflected one's wealth and status, but also provided a physical representation of new learning and optimism that paralleled the expansion of science and the expansion of Europeans into the New World. On a larger scale, this trend was reflected in the founding of museums of natural history that attempted to create comprehensive encyclopedias of knowledge by presenting samples of the physical, biological and anthropological sciences all under one roof. This desire to compile a collection of new learning led to the popularity of world expositions that brought everything that could be found in the world into a few acres of parkland.

The Victorians expanded their collections of artifacts and scientific specimens out of optimism about the expanding world, but today we are desperate to preserve the environment we see disappearing all around us. Maybe this is part of why the "neo-antiquarians" are drawn to this aspect of Victorian culture: feeling a connection to an era where people were more optimistic about human possibilities, and desiring to record or collect whatever we can before it disappears.

From a creative perspective, how do these ideas influence our work as artists? How do relics of the past, such as an arrowhead, shard of pottery, piece of beach glass, a rock or a feather influence the creation of your art? We all have bizarre collections of objects around our studios. How do your little collections inspire you? Discuss! Or more importantly: CREATE!

Here are a couple links for further reference:

A related blog—seems inactive right now but there are some interesting archived articles:

A gallery neo-antiquarians would love:

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