The Space Age Look
By Elizabeth Lewin
The Space Age Look – a casual lifestyle infused with bold colors, patterns, prints and a uniqueness that lured icons like the Beatles and Rolling Stones to trade normalcy for a pinch of futuristic flavor night after night. Here on earth, as we know it, the Space Age seems like a rather “far off” phenomenon. In truth, without infamous shows like The Jetsons and Star Trek what would we “earthly” humans know about what robots, cell phones, automated machinery and exploration would mean decades upon decades later? Simply put, we wouldn’t.
Marty McGee, curator of The Future is History: The Rise and Fall of Space Age Culture & Design 1957-1972, always had an affinity for space. Just looking at him in his decorative pants, white jacket delicately adorned with a rocket ship pin reminded me of someone I’d see walking around the science museum – proudly exploring part of the past seemingly forgotten. McGee shared with me that although his love for the Space Age, Culture and Design or Astrofuturism, as author Harry Harper dubbed it back in the 1960’s, was a challenge. “I had wanted to do a show like this for the last year and a half but timing was a factor. I approached a few people, Michael being one of them and eventually a dream became a reality and this space became available,” McGee shared.
It was hard not to get “lost in space” in such an epic venue – voices echoing one after another, “oh my goodness remember this!” The space, a beautiful old brick warehouse on 27 Chandler Street, cold but blanketed by the body heat floating from floor to floor. The first floor decadent with artifacts sprinkled with history. At one point, I stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by robots, posters, replicas of real-life space shuttles, plastic covered LIFE Magazine displays and vintage clothes courtesy of MODA Vintage, an eccentric store full of gems. As I closed my eyes, the sounds reminded me of a 7-year-old just about to board the Back To The Future Ride at Disney World – an unforgettable trip through time.
Eric Schwartz, a native of Erie, PA, came not only as a patron, but also as an artist whose one-of-a-kind robot is featured in the exhibit. Who knew a compilation of antique pieces, garage sale artifacts, and plain old garbage would be eye-catching art? “Since I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated with things like robots and spaceships and stuff like that. I got away from it for a while, but recently I got back to it and it’s great to see people in this community appreciate eccentric expressions of art,” Schwartz said.
Back to Astrofuturism, I needed clarification, the term rolled off my tongue and yet I had no idea what it meant! Soon I realized, perhaps it’s hard to even articulate the meaning. Perhaps, (as I came to understand at the end of this exhibit) some art forms, this being one, are best experienced rather than recanted. That’s when I realized that this exhibition of time is meant to be experienced unlike any other here in the City of Buffalo. And I’m not just referring to the artwork; I’m referring to the people as well. Everyone appeared as eccentric as the pieces on display – no duplicates, no copycats, just originals. Watching people bond as they collectively took a trip back in time to their childhood where astronauts and exploration were more important than celebrities and mansions. Walking into this exhibit I felt something – perhaps an appreciation for the past or perhaps an appreciation for hard work and creativity. Nonetheless, after four hours perusing the exhibit, meeting, greeting, taking pictures and interviewing old friends and new acquaintances, I walked away with my own definition of what I believe Astrofuturism is. In my opinion, today’s culture, art, is all about enhancement – stripping away the natural elegance and making something as ornate as possible. Whether it’s one’s face or a canvas, we are misguided in thinking that more is better. I tend to disagree. This exhibit displays quite the opposite. This particular culture, this art form, is all about taking something simple and finding its inner beauty, an elegance that exists not to the normal eye, but to the foreign eye. The eye that looks deeper to uncover something so simple it becomes unique and artistic after a while – be its shape, color or texture, and enhance that which already is…naturally.
So, if you’re someone out there curious about these timeless “knick-knacks” so to speak, I encourage a trip down down to Chandler Street before April 27. Experience what the future has to offer – it may no longer be a mystery, but it’s certainly made history.