Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Wedded Bliss" at Peabody Essex

From my review of “Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony” at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem:
Picture two wedding dresses. On the left is a slinky Vera Wang number from 2004. It’s a sleek, strapless couture creation in satin and silk jacquard, with white-on-white stripes that wrap around it and show off the lady’s curves. It looks like something Cat Woman would wear on her special day.

On the right is a prim, pleated, hand-sewn white cotton dress that Sarah Tate wore when she got married, probably in the 1840s, maybe in Texas. It’s as plain as the Wang dress is flashy. What’s extraordinary about it is that Tate was an African-American slave. It’s a rare surviving relic from a time when slaves could not legally wed but some owners allowed them to marry informally. Wow.

What we have here in the opening gallery of “Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony” at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum is a show that stretches from va-va-voom to the solemn roots of marriage in our culture. And maybe says a bit about — if I dare be so grand — the magical, irresistible force of love.
Read the rest here.

“Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony,” Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem, April 26 to Sept. 14, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Cile Bellefleur Burbidge, “Architectural Fantasy Cake,” photograph by Dennis Helmar, courtesy of the artist; Sarah Goodridge, “Beauty Revealed (Self-Portrait),” 1828, Sarah Goodridge, ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Christian Lacroix, “Wedding Cake Dress,” from the collection of Sandy Schreier, photograph, courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art Photography Department; 19th century Chinese bridal headdress, Peabody Essex Museum, gift in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Austin Cheney by their daughters; wedding dress of Mary Copley Greene, ca. 1837, Dennis Helmar photographer, Peabody Essex Museum.


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