The Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Brooker Sr. Grand Gallery of Orlando Museum of Art has been transformed into a fantasy world where trash becomes treasure and an art exhibition becomes a fully engaging art experience. Guests approaching the gallery encounter a massive wall of swirling colors and large mirrored letters spelling out the show’s title. Nick Cave: FEAT. explores life’s discarded items elevated to fine-art media, suggesting the connection all humans share when their knick-knacks are thrust into the spotlight.

The show title is an abbreviation of “featuring,” referencing the collaborative nature of the art. Free of velvet ropes, glass display cases and other boundary markers, the inviting curation of the show allows visitors the up-close opportunity to see for themselves the intricate nature and minute details of the art-making process. This is most obvious in the artist’s iconic Soundsuits, displayed as if walking themselves down a fashion-week runway. With an expansive variety of materials that include vintage tin toys, masks, crocheted afghans, globes, buttons, doilies and sequins, the Soundsuits are the ultimate in assemblage, lifting thrift store items to the level of haute couture.

Despite the dazzle and sensory overload, the artwork speaks to the viewer’s heart and mind through deep emotional undercurrents. Tondo (Untitled), a new piece, explores the traumatic effects of gun violence on young people. Pairing brightly colored trinkets with commentaries on social issues encourages the viewer to see beyond the gaudy, superficial nature of life in the internet age. This is the power of Nick Cave’s work. By utilizing all the baggage, all the useless “stuff” humans collect in a lifetime, Cave reveals just how much those items distract from the deeper, more meaningful issues at hand. After all, like Nick Cave: FEAT., the human experience is a collaborative effort.

Adrienne H. Lee of Orlando is an art historian and a contributing writer for ArtScene Press
Image 1: Soundsuits, Nick Cave, 2011–2017
Image 2: Rescue, Nick Cave, 2014
Image 3: Soundsuits, Nick Cave, 2011–2017
Image 4: Architectural Forest, Nick Cave, 2011
Image 5: Tondo (Untitled), Nick Cave, 2018
Photos: Adrienne H. Lee