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Nick Cave

Artist 205 Nick Cave Soundsuits Sculpture

Nick Cave (born 1959) is an American fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist. Cave's upbringing gave him an artistic attentiveness to found objects and assemblages. He is best known for his Soundsuits – wearable fabric sculptures that are bright, whimsical, and other-worldly. He also trained as a dancer with Alvin Ailey. His later sculptures focused on color theory, mixed media and large scale installations.

Cave's low socio-economic status growing up forced him to repair hand-me downs from older siblings; this is where he began developing skills in manipulating fabrics. Influences of African art traditions, armor, ceremonial dress, couture fashion, and designed textiles as well as stereotypically feminine objects are present in his work to express a multitude of concepts. His work deals with strategies to negotiate the real life stakes of vulnerability and consequence by transforming the experience and environment.

With his performance art he aims to create situations where diverse communities come together to share the experience, making sure to distinguish his pieces as art rather than costumes. Cave describes himself not as an artist but as a messenger as his work frequently deals with spectacle and responsibility. Today’s focus is on his Soundsuits which are sculptural costumes enveloping the wearer's body in materials including but not limited to dyed human hair, sisal, plastic buttons, beads, wire, sequins, and feathers.

Soundsuits camouflage the body, masking and creating a second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgment. In using everyday objects, Cave can create an atmosphere of familiarity while rearranging the objects into interpretive representations of both social and material culture. As race, identity, and gender are generally accepted to form the axis of his work, Cave's soundsuits can telegraph many concepts simultaneously.

Their meaning can therefore change based on their environment, movement, fixed state, and/or the inclusion of group choreography. The finished pieces bear some resemblance to African ceremonial costumes and masks. The suits also reference carnival costumes, Dogon costumes, Rococo, and ball culture. “My practice revolves around uplifting and reifying otherwise distressed bodies, which is the core purpose of the Soundsuit,” - Nick Cave I find his self assigned role as a messenger and highlighting humanity by removing the human element very intriguing.

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