An Alvin Ailey-trained dancer, Nick Cave is best known for his sculptural costumes exhibited in art galleries and ritualistic costumes worn for live performances. He received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and his M.F.A. from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills Michigan, and since 1989 has taught surface design courses in the Fiber Arts Program at the Art Institute of Chicago. As a college student, he was immediately interested in the expressive potential of textiles, as well as ways of movement.
His Soundsuits address the issues confronting a black male in America and function both as static museum displays and as energetic performative pieces. Cave discovered the Soundsuits’ potential to alter the wearer’s identity: once inside the costume, it’s impossible to tell if one is male or female, white or black or brown, American or Asian. Although fragile and cumbersome, this suit could easily sprint into motion. The materials incorporated—flowers from a thrift-store Victorian chandelier, scraps from a traditional Bolivian costume, and bits of metal and beads—are throw-away objects transformed into something valuable and lovely. Cave sews—never glues—the elements together, giving a nod (or perhaps a brightly-sequined wink) to traditional craft forms like crocheting and quilting.
Museum Purchase: Founders’ Circle Annual Cause. Photography by James Prinz 2009.19.1A-OOOOO