A great artist transcends the limitations of their chosen field.
Visiting the Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty, at the V & A this weekend reminded me of how inappropriate the title "Fashion Designer" was for this man.
This breathtakingly curated exhibition perfectly represents the absolute genius of his art. The creations that sprang from his too-brilliant mind were often mythic and unsettling with a symbolism that taps into some deep, dark part of our psyches.
I visited the exhibition on Friday, taking the afternoon off from my weekend at Breaking Convention, a mind-bending conference on psychedelic consciousness. I was deeply affected by Savage Beauty and it stayed in my mind throughout this brilliant conference. It was fascinating to see how some of the subjects raised over the weekend linked beautifully to what I saw in McQueens work. There is so much of the shamanic in his creations, many of his outfits appear to be embodiments of spirit animals. There is a heavy use of feathers and skulls. His work is a fearless acceptance of shadow, making beauty out of darkness.
Another theme spoken much of at the conference was "the divine feminine". This is at the heart of a lot of conversation surrounding psychedelics, in particular ayahuasca, which is called "mother", a distinctly feminine presence. The divine feminine is less Marilyn Monroe and more Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation. The divine feminine is powerful and wild and, seen through the traditional lens of the patriarch, dark. A self most often suppressed in women. McQueen famously said of his work, "I want to empower women, I want people to be afraid of the women I dress." He was calling forth the divine feminine in the women he dressed, giving them (often literally) wings and talons.
McQueen was a massive commercial success but that wasn't because he created obviously pretty pieces with mass appeal. His success came from a purity of creation that taps into a primordial consciousness that is common to all of us. When artists create from this place of fearless, genuine expression they communicate with that timeless part of our own consciousness and everyone just gets it.
I can't think of any other fashion designer I could get that deep about. I fucking love you Lee Alexander McQueen. Rest In Peace.