Thursday, November 1, 2012

Women Who Rock (their clothes)

Speaking of rock music, I went to see the Women Who Rock exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. last week. It was a fun exhibit and I loved the costumes, but that was the problem. Most of the female musicians were represented by what they had worn—that's fine for someone like Madonna (above) or Lady Gaga or Cher, for whom costume drama and sets are as much of their art as their music. But  it was puzzling to see a singer like Marianne Faithful represented by a glam outfit that she wore God knows when (also in her glass box were two prominently displayed faxes Keith Richards had sent her; apparently he scribbles in the same decipherable way that he speaks). I would have liked to have seen pictures of the dewy-eyed Marianne Faithful alongside pics of her more haggard, cigarette-throated elder self, or even better, a looping video showing her transformation over the years, which would surely be a better representation of her life.

Would a "Men Who Rock" exhibit have any kind of focus on items of clothing they had worn? Here is the pair of jeans that Bruce Springsteen wore on the cover of "Born in the U.S.A."; here the chambray shirt Dylan wore on "The Times They Are A-Changing." Not very distinctive, or for that matter, very important in terms of the art produced.

I'm not sure what else one could use to visually represent rock music. Some walls played videos of performances, and there was an entire wall of album covers. Each room had its own soundtrack, according to time period. We walked through in less than an hour and then had lunch. Still, I have to admit, I was thrilled to see the outfit that Cindy Lauper had worn on the cover of "True Colors" and the short (and tiny) red dress Tina Turner had worn in her "What's Love Got to Do With It" video.

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