In a way, every wedding is a multimedia theatrical production. Each detail is managed, choreographed, and rehearsed; from rings, to cakes, seating charts, music, vows, catering, decoration, and, of course, wardrobe.
Wedding professionals have to pull off flawless manifestations of other people's most cherished romantic fantasies. Hell, the wedding-induced emotional meltdown is its own reality television sub-genre. And these days, couples — especially young, hip, creative types — are increasingly interested in personalized, unique, YouTube-ready productions that seek to modernize tradition in a way that helps them feel better about their embrace of institutional social convention.
For one such couple — the photographer Ruben Diaz and the artist and designer Bec Ulrich — the answer wasn't to get married; it was to Get Hubbied.
Instead of hiring My Fair Wedding star David Tutera, or auditioning for a new season of Bridezillas, they expressed their love of art, adventure and each other through a creative collaboration with artist and interdisciplinary impresario Bettina Hubby.
What they got was both a memorable, lively, and infectiously joyful wedding day on Sept. 25, and a one-day festival of interactive visual and performance art featuring contributions from friends and luminaries — including Barbara Bestor, Ed Ruscha, Joe Sola, Skip Arnold, Roger Herman and Michele O'Marah — some of which will be exhibited at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts opening this Saturday, October 15 with a reception for the artists, the happy couple, and anyone who still owes them a wedding present.
The overall concept was to have artists reimagine the common, fundamental elements of the traditional Western wedding ceremony. From portraits of the couple by the painter Abel Baker Gutierrez (above) to the beautifully designed favors containing the Playbill, err, program, for the afternoon by Olivia Prime (below).
Guests were greeted at the pre-ceremony cocktails with an installation examining the often-obscure origins of things like rice-throwing, bridal veils, and of course the business with something old, new, borrowed, and blue. Books were a running motif of the imagery, and Nicholas Kahn offered a series of manipulated books, one of which held the “borrowed” family-heirloom jewelry.
An Andy Kaufman-esque sermon by Joe Sola used humor and even a fake pratfall to convey the unpredictability of married life, the certainty of troubles and the indispensable value of having a sense of humor.
It was during this monologue that it first fully dawned on me that the wedding guests were divided equally between the couple's real friends and family, who were just at their loved ones' wedding, and art-world people who had been invited to witness a performance event and may not even, like me, know the couple personally. I could tell them apart because the latter started laughing way before the former horrified group did.
The couple said their vows not on a bed of rose petals but on a carpet of glitter (above) and retired to a private space (below) designed by Daveed Kapoor and Alison Kudlow, an architect and an artist who are themselves a couple. In the Jewish tradition, immediately after the ceremony and just before the wedding reception begins, the couple shares a period of time, historically 10-20 minutes, secluded in a room together. Yichud, literally meaning “becoming one,” is the first time the new husband and wife can be completely alone with each other. The blue and silver cloud chamber was sunlit and casual-comfy chic, like a perfect Pacific sky. “We are re-imagining the traditional atrium — a central domestic area open to the sky — with a California theme to create a space for Ruben and Bec to reconnect pre and post ceremony.”
The rice-throwing was reconceived by Arnold as a double curtain of falling water through which the couple emerged to greet the crowd as husband and wife. The space between the waters was a light-infused private moment in which the setting sun cooperated to produce a moment of giddy magic.
Instead of a bouquet toss, the bride broke pinatas designed by Hubby herself, and all the singles rushed to grab the cascade of treats. William Stone created the wood-grain, asymmetrical ring box. The wedding cake a triumph of sculptural trompe l'oeil by Karen Lofgren (below), resembling a concrete block sporting two bits of steel rebar instead of a plastic, dress-up couple, to represent both strength and humor. A dozen more artists, performers, and craftspeople took part — all of whom will be represented in the coming exhibition.
The fusion of tradition, history, risk, and creativity was impressive, and the opportunity to mull over the role of the artist in the social fabric and the permission to enjoy the privileged status of guest and audience member was a hoot.
But by far my favorite part came about a week later, when I saw a handsome, smiling couple at the MOCA opening, couldn't quite place them at first, and then approached them with my best opening line ever. “Hey, you guys, it's Bec and Ruben, right? We've never met, but I was at your wedding…”
For more arts news follow @laweeklyarts on Twitter.