Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Monday, December 24, 2012


Mary and I belong to several museums and actually go to most of them at least once a year.  One of our favorites is The Bowers where we recently saw a very unusual exhibit.  There are several reasons we like The Bowers:  it is local, in Santa Ana, usually a short, twenty-minute ride, even in Southern California, it is small and most exhibits can be seen in about an hour, there is a nice mixture of exhibits, some featuring antiquities, some historical, some topical, all appeal to a variety of ages and interests.  Until recently, we also had a friend who was a Docent, which gave our visits a sense of personal attention.

The museum also changes its attractions on a regular basis, making it easy to find something new and memorable.  For instance the Faberge exhibit, which we saw last summer, will change in January.  And the one we saw last week, at a Member’s Preview will only last through March.

This is a shame!

The Dutchess
It is titled “Cut” and my initial expectation was that it would be a fun blend of the film industry, of which I am an aspiring member, and costume design, a field I know little about.  I expected that it would be similar to exhibits I’ve seen in the past: Colonial attire, Court Dress of France and England, and even styles of the ‘50s.  Instead, it was a surprise from the lecture by Holly Poe Durbin, who conveyed a surprising amount of knowledge about costume design, which is her field in the Drama Department at UCI, through the actual exhibit of forty-three costumes worn by thirty actors in 25 different films.

Johnny Depp
In her informative and entertaining presentation, Professor Durbin demonstrated the painstaking efforts that go into not only matching the period of the film, but also the character interpretation the actor chooses to play the role.  She mentioned, for instance, that Johnny Depp wanted one of his costumes in Pirates of the Caribbean – The Black Pearl to have souvenirs from his conquests, since he felt his character would have that degree of ego and showmanship.  Sure enough, when we saw the exhibit we could pick out no less than a dozen relics melded into the costume design.  The other fact that was a surprise with the two Depp costumes we saw was how rigid they were, being true to the materials of the time (no synthetic cloth), at the expense of easy movement in the action scenes.

One of the more interesting things I learned from the lecture and exhibit was the presence of an English company called Cosprop, Ltd. It was established in 1965 by John Bright, who would go on to do costumes for, among other films, Howard’s End and A Room with a View.  He and his co-designer Jenny Beavan knew how much work went into the detail of providing the right material and design for period films and felt it a shame to chalk up the expense of construction as sunk costs for the film.

So, working with Merchant Ivory Productions they developed a business model that would allow the leasing of the costumes for the film, and storage of them for subsequent showings at museums around the world.  Cosprop now houses more than 100,000 costumes, mostly in or near London and at any given time have dozens of collections similar to what is at the Bower at any one time. One avenue for bringing a display to a museum is through ExhibitsDevelopment.  Funding for the Bowers display came from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, East West Bank, Mei-Yen Chang, and Coca-Cola.  Richard Chang, writing in the OC Register did an excellentarticle, if you would like to explore the exhibit in more detail.

In any event, I would recommend a visit to The Bowers before the exhibit closed in March.

My next post will focus on a contemporary larger-than-life figure, Sir Richard Branson and why he is currently in the news.   Please join me in about a week.

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