If you haven’t made the trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art this spring, make sure to do so before May 28th—that’s when “A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes” will be on display until. This exhibit, exclusive to NOMA, is a beautiful collaboration of fashion, art, feminism and the project of self-identity.
At first entering, you are treated to a sign explaining the concept of the exhibit: the display, through fashion, of seven archetypal female personalities. You can view the displays of Sage, Magician, Enchantress, Explorer, Mother Earth, Heroine, and Thespian in any order you like, surveying the connections and the way in which each type of femininity comes to life. There are plaques that explain the typical nature of these types: their attitudes, their strengths and weaknesses. The curators worked hard to paint a full picture of the type of women they are, so that visitors may see themselves reflected back in them. All of these types clearly link to stereotypes in art and literature, but they are all equal queens nonetheless.
The exhibition features over 100 pieces from the mid-1900s until present day, with works by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garcones, and Vivienne Westwood. As NOMA’s website puts it, the transition between all of these pieces aims to “investigate symbols of womanhood and challenge conventional notions of beauty,” showing visitors that fashion is able to express identity and serve as a well-received art form. It would be a difficult task to catalogue the key pieces of every archetype, so I suggest you go and experience this beautiful exhibit for yourself, embracing the various looks of regal femininity open to your interpretation.
As I walked around the exhibit, taking stock of the ornately crafted backgrounds, delicately beaded dresses, and badass graphics, I started thinking about how our generation embodies these different fashion muses in trends. I think that the Thespian would love the trend of pastels right now, the Enchantress would die for Reformation-esque florals, and Mother Earth would rock the latest statement tees. At the end of “A Queen Within,” visitors are prompted to self-reflect by filling out a post-it note with what type of queen they are. It’s certainly empowering to liken yourself to these picturesque, artistically perfect visions of femininity; I left feeling introspective and encouraged. It was truly an experience to see how designers and artists alike have interpreted and represented femininity through their own lens.