FROM FLAMBOYANT TO FLAMBÉ: A Trip to the MAD Museum, Beyond and Below

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Eye-popping Machine Dazzle Exhibition at MAD/Jenna Bascom, courtesy Museum of Arts and Design

by Ann Fox

Museum of Arts and Design/ajay_suresh, CC BY2.0

New York’s over-the-top Museum of Arts and Design has one of the world’s best acronyms. With the Machine Dazzle exhibit, it has more than lived up to it.

Joyfully excessive/Ann Fox

The artist, formerly known as Matthew Flower, came to New York to pursue art and ended up joining the Dazzle Dancers. The fans called him a dancing machine and a new name was born. He’s since become a costume designer, a performance artist, and a drag queen. The costumes in the exhibit reflect his eclectic careers, and then some. Should I mention it’s over the top? Joyfully excessive says it better. If Coco Chanel advised clients to take one thing off before leaving, Machine Dazzle would advise putting on the kitchen sink before leaving.

An installation of lunging, hanging, diving, climbing figures with multi-colored neon laser swords. . ./Jenna Bascom, courtesy MAD

The first thing you see when you get off the museum’s elevator is a large installation of lunging, hanging, diving, climbing figures with multi-colored neon laser swords, in glitter and tulle, interspersed with stuffed animals and balloons on top of a huge mirror that reflects the entire thing back to you. And this one pales after you’ve seen the rest…

It’s obvious Dazzle loves thrift stores. He’s taken their ubiquitous treasures: chunky jewelry, bent slinkies, dented ping pong balls, broken toys and one-armed dolls, painted them and hung them on hoop skirts, even headdresses and created fabulous, campy eye-popping outfits. The mannequin in multi-colored tulle sitting among a multitude of balloons was breathtaking. Even the Goth figure in a dress of shiny grey plastic bags with feathers and nails hanging on the skirt with a black twig and a bird’s nest headdress was spectacular. A Civil War era costume for “A Twenty-Four Decade History of Popular Music” by Taylor Mac, had a crinoline cage covered in barbed wire with (rubber) hot dogs and buns hanging on it. Dazzle made it look pretty!

Seeing food dangling from Machine Dazzle’s clothes made the  GGGs hungry. They went straight to EZ Paella after the show/Ann Fox

The guy also makes you feel plain… and with food dangling from clothes, hungry. The Guidepost Galloping Gourmets went from the heights to the depths. After the show, we decided to eat in the subway.

No pizza rat hangout/Ann Fox

The Columbus Circle subway station is no pizza rat hangout. It calls itself the Turnstyle Underground Market. La-di-dah. There are 39 eateries alone, plus retail stores, a pub, food vendors and wine shops. It stretches from 57th to 58th underneath Eighth Avenue, with nary a varmint in sight. As you descend the steps into the station, you see their sign, already graffitied. A tenuous start. But once below, it looks like a nice, clean food court. Only better.

The sign is already graffitied; a tenuous start/Ann Fox

Where would you get Russian dumplings, Korean noodles, whiskey-flavored gouda, empanadas, homemade doughnuts and blintzes under one roof? Add Italian/Korean and Guianese/Caribbean foods… No E Train smells would dare sneak into this paradise for the

The GGGs, as always, were prepared and made straight for the famed EZ Paella stand. We could almost smell the Mediterranean – or was it the subterranean? We could almost hear the crashing of the waves on the beach in Valencia or maybe it was the train pulling into the tracks below? In any case, a sign greeted us “No paella today.” I was ready to throw myself under said train. Quick to avoid an international incident, we being famed correspondents from the Dean of English Language Publications in Spain, they offered a paella burrito.

Sorry, no paella today? Abomination!/Ann Fox

What an abomination! And how is this even possible if there is no paella? The small print read Spain/Venezuela Fusion Cuisine. They came through on the Venezuelan dishes, which were delicious. Take-out from the pub helped wash it all down.

Dazzling “artisan” fashion/Jenna Bascom, courtesy MAD

Follow this with pastries and artisan coffee, knowing that in New York “artisan” translates to “over-priced,” and you have a delicious meal. It was a perfect Dazzling day.


Machine Dazzle video: check out