Want a sip of the exotic? Mobile has a strange brew on tap for May 5 topped by an especially creative head near Bienville Square.
“There’s a lot going on downtown that day, so I’m really excited,” artistic mastermind Courtney Matthews said.
She’s the instigator behind the fashion installation event Neu Dawn 2, the sequel to a 2018 experiment at Sway Downtown (10 S. Conception St.), which seemed like a first for Mobile. A longtime denizen of the Azalea City’s creative community, Matthews sought to drop painters, costume designers and make-up artists into a metaphorical Mixmaster and see what emerged.
Success exceeded expectations. A repeat performance was demanded.
“I said if people showed up and supported it and loved it then I would make it a yearly thing and here we go,” Matthews said. “I had people on the same day last year begging me not to forget to include them again and others who said no last time and now want to.”
The general formula is this: Matthews takes the Pantone Color of the Year, matches it with music and then tells her creative enlistees to riff on those general ideas.
The color this year is “Living Coral” and the song inspiration is the Chambers Brothers’ classic “Time Has Come Today.” Trey Lane will curate the music for the show itself.
“The costume designer never meets with the artist. They’re just going by the artist’s little sketch and color palette. At the most, they might get a more detailed image from the artist say a week before the event for final touches but that’s it,” Matthews said.
Models are adorned and then hair and make-up artists are allowed “free reign” over the rest of their appearance. The models are placed in front of the canvases to complete the various installations.
Two weeks before the show, Matthews said she has “21 artists, 21 costume designers, 21 models and about 15 beauty squads” at the ready. Some are pulling multiple duty, modeling and applying make-up or painting and costuming.
“Some are uber-multi-talented like Jessica Price,” Matthews said. “She is her own total installation with art, costume, hair, make-up and her own model.”
It runs 4-7 p.m. as the last in the aforementioned odd cultural mix. Delta Dogs will stage a Hobby Horse Derby fundraiser in Cathedral Square. Then Mobile Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert awash in Russian flavor at the Saenger Theatre (see Art Gallery).
Of course it’s also Cinco de Mayo, which brings up a satellite component of Neu Dawn 2. It’s not on premises but steps away, near the corner of Dauphin and Conception streets, 203 Dauphin to be exact.
“[Noble South’s] Sidecar Lounge is opening specifically for our show with a couple of different flavors of margaritas for us,” Matthews said, laughing.
Maybe it’s the wild mix of cultural elements or the new artists, but Matthews seems especially energized.
“[Painter] Lucy Gafford threw me for a complete loop since I’m actually her costume designer. It’s not that I knew what she was going to go for, but I’m going full-on psychedelic with it and I’m so excited,” Matthews said.
There are other new participants such as Colleen Comer, Marnée Wiley, Brennan Gibson and Chris Murray, who Matthews called “Caravaggio reincarnated.” Artists from Red Cup Revolt are involved as well.
Returning participants are familiar: Mateo, Rachel Stringfellow, Lillian McKinney, Sunè Van Rooyen, Ryan Jetten, Ryan Johnson, Suzette Callahan, April Patrick, Gypsy Dean, Brendan Cooke, Justin McQuillen and many others.
Some are going full force, like costumer Richard McGill Hamilton of Mobile Fashion Week who had fabric created from painter Emily Ryan Smith’s work for his efforts.
Entrance for Neu Dawn 2 is $5. Proceeds help provide scholarships and supplies to the summer art program at Alabama Contemporary Art Center.
The entire list of participants held more than 70 names. If the weather is as perfect as last year’s, it could make for an event outsized for its cozy confines. So then what about next year?
“I think we might outgrow it after this year, but I don’t know where we’d move it. I love the idea of a raw, old building but you have to do so much to get ready for that. We’ll just take it as it comes,” Matthews said.
She repeatedly emphasizes how loose the process is. The enigmatic element is part of her nature.
“I’m such a curious cat and I love the mystery side of everything. I want everyone to get to be 100 percent creative,” Matthews said.
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