Nick Cave’s Strangely Arresting Soundsuits

Nick Cave’s Strangely Arresting Soundsuits

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s “30 Americans”opened with a bang this past weekend. The collection of art by 31 contemporary African American artists is stunning, but the compilation of colorful suits scattered throughout the space provide the most compelling and curious perspective. The suits are made by Nick Cave, a Chicago-based artist. The first Soundsuit was made in 1992 when Cave was teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was made of twigs. Now, the suits are made from anything from dyed human hair to plastic buttons. And they number in the hundreds. Cave was born in…

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s “30 Americans”opened with a bang this past weekend. The collection of art by 31 contemporary African American artists is stunning, but the compilation of colorful suits scattered throughout the space provide the most compelling and curious perspective.

The suits are made by Nick Cave, a Chicago-based artist. The first Soundsuit was made in 1992 when Cave was teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was made of twigs. Now, the suits are made from anything from dyed human hair to plastic buttons. And they number in the hundreds.

Cave was born in Jefferson City, Mo., and credits his upbringing with inspiring a penchant for fashion. “When you’re raised by a single mother with six brothers and lots of hand-me-downs, you have to figure out how to make those clothes your own,” he told The New York Times in 2009.

There are several Soundsuits in the MAM exhibit, but the stoic figures stand still. But they aren’t always so motionless. This strangely arresting video shows the suits in motion. And the difference from the polished museum setting is incredible.

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Abby Callard was an assistant editor at Milwaukee Magazine from 2012-2014. Her journalistic pursuits have seen her covering the Hispanic community in mid-Missouri, politics in Washington, D.C., art and culture for Smithsonian magazine, the social enterprise space in India and health care in Chicago. Abby has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.