at the Norton
The Norton Museum’s current special exhibit of “Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television,” on display through September 4, presents a delightful collection of outfits worn during the original productions of Sci-Fi films and TV episodes.
The “Star Wars” films and the “Star Trek” series – in all its versions – take up much of the exhibition, but there are plenty of other colorful outfits to see: the Riddler’s snazzy green suit and swirly jacket dazzle the eyes; Eldon Tyrell’s robe from “Blade Runner” is royally impressive; Batman’s sidekick Robin’s red, green, and yellow felt clothes look very much like a Halloween costume.
The wall captions inform about costume designers choosing shapes, colors, and fabrics to create impressions appropriate to the characters’ outstanding qualities, Batman being an interesting, somewhat ambiguous example. While audiences usually put him on the positive side, his costume, so the caption reads, represents “vigilante lawlessness” and an “uneasy truce between good and evil.” The costume designers’ real art is nicely illustrated by the display of such favorite characters as Darth Vader, whose attire was creatively assembled from many departments, ranging from the military / WW II section through the motorcycle and the ecclesiastical divisions.
This exhibition appears to draw a wide range of audiences. Four-and-a-half-year-old Kieran, who plays Star Wars Lego games, said he liked Obi-Wan Kenobi best; his parents are both avid Star Wars fans who saw the original trilogy when it first came out, and they enjoyed their visit to the exhibit very much.
Finally, it seems more could have been made of the use of medieval and other pre-modern materials in these Sci-Fi classics (for example, the plot of the 1956 film “The Forbidden Planet” has been read as based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”).
And some questions kept coming up throughout the walk through the displays: why do the guys’ costumes look relatively comfortable (to totally cool) and most of the women’s outfits seem un-wearable? Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine of Star Trek “Voyager”) said her extremely tight metallic catsuit was “brutal to wear.” But those questions probably go beyond the realm of this exhibit. If you want to get out of the house, this is a real option!
The Norton Museum of Art is at 1415 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Hours Friday are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Beate Rodewald is Associate Professor of English at PBA; her research includes utopian studies and science fiction and fantasy