Thoughts on Alexander McQueen

14 Jun

At the Met we went to visit Savage Beauty, the exhibit of clothing from Alexander McQueen’s collections over the years.

The high level of skill and technique in the sewing, tailoring,  and use of various textiles was inspiring.  Lots of beauty.  Lots of perversity.  Lots of silk tulle.

McQueen clearly loved God’s Creation. And he recognized the results of sin. Yet he did not see himself as subordinate to or working with the Creator. From much of his body of work it seems he neither acknowledged that the world was God’s  nor that it is created. Fed through his mind’s eye like a camel through a needle, McQueen’s creations came out similar to that camel: broken reflections born of an unregenerate love; beauty covered with gore, bloody and twisted, at times almost unrecognizable.

His last collection was a marine-themed futuristic full-circle riff on Darwinian what-if’s:what if global warming happens, what if the seas rise, what if we evolve to live in those seas.

You know those old monster/horror flicks?  The ones where it seems obvious in retrospect that mixing nuclear bomb tests with ant nests, or dinosaurs, or tomatoes, was not such a good idea?  There is always foreshadowing in those movies; indications that all is not as it seems or that something more is happening than is evident.  The characters involved in the plot don’t see the hints, but we, the watchers from outside, do.

Where did writers get the idea of foreshadowing?  Dickens and script writers did not come up with it ex nihilo.  They got it from where we all get all our ideas: from creation itself.  The old rerun “Attack of the Killer Migraine” played here last night.  Did I catch the foreshadowing?  Nope.  Though in hindsight it clearly was there. It was not that my glasses were dirty that I had trouble seeing all yesterday.  Those nasty moles on my brother’s back?  dum-dum-DUM.   They hinted that something else was going on.  I think Mr. McQueen didn’t see the foreshadowing either, until close to the time he chose to end his life.

The disconnect between his years of training followed by the ongoing thoughtful effort to imagine, design, and produce unique, beautiful, excellently tailored clothing collections and a worldview of random destructive happenstance must have worn down his psyche.  When one devotes one’s life to creating lovely intelligent work at some point it becomes clear that nothing “just happens”.  How difficult to maintain competing world views!

McQueen, it has been reported, had a line from Helen’s soliloquy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream tattooed on his right arm : “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”

CS Lewis’ poem As The Ruin Falls  may be of use in explanation.

“I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.”

He saw his self-imprisonment.  He saw his lack. He came to the chasm.  Did he finally see the clues all around him about the bridge God made in Christ and chose immolation instead of submission to the head Creator?  Or did he miss the foreshadowing speaking to him from all the created world and despair?  Or did he want his own will to be done, rather than God’s,  and got it?

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