Check out more of Shannon Cottrell's photos in “LACMA's Muse 'til Midnight Gets Neo-Victorian.”
Known for his portraits and, specifically, his realistic approach of depicting the male body, Thomas Eakins championed the use of photography and motion capture photography as an aid to painting. Right now, you can see a smattering of his work, including the photographs, sketches and studies that led to his large oil paintings, at LACMA.
“Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins” opened in late-July and will continue through October 17. With this exhibition in mind, LACMA's fourteenth annual Muse 'til Midnight event was a neo-Victorian fete. It was a party that made perfect sense, combining the work of a maverick of the Victorian era with the L.A. underground's current fascination with the retro-futurism of steampunk.
Saturday night's event was divided into two portions. For the first half of the evening, until about 10 p.m., guests were able to tour both the Eakins exhibition and “Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape,” which features the Los Angeles photographer's series of images from high school football games. In an adjacent courtyard, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band played as a sea of party-goers floated between lines for open bars.
After 10 p.m., the crowd was ushered to LACMA's fifth floor penthouse area. Inside the large, comfortable space, The League of S.T.E.A.M. and Clockwork Couture had set up display booths and synthpop group The Unextraordinary Gentlemen played. Out on the patio, Shawn Strider and the team behind Labyrinth of Jareth had created a small, enchanting setting similar to what one might see at the annual masquerade ball.
Inside LACMA, the past met the present in a way that pointed to the future. Though the bulk of the crowd was dressed in standard 2010 Los Angeles party attire (which could mean anything from jeans and a t-shirt to a semi-formal dresses), a sizable amount of attendees arrived in Victorian-inspired garb. Steampunk, complete with accessories fit for a science fiction adventure, was popular. There was little in the way of period pieces, the outfits people chose were more Victorian as seen through the eyes of 21st century folks. This made for an interesting evening, the sort of night where we spent much of it trying not to inadvertently photobomb people as iPhone camera after iPhone camera caught the fashionable action. Perhaps soon, bustled skirts and top hats will be inescapable fashion, but, for the time being, they're still turning heads.