If you were there that chilly winter night back in 1998, then you know that although the folks at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art were expecting a few hundred people, close to 600 showed up.
And if you were lucky enough to get in, you know that for three hours you were transported to an unexpected place of theatrical spectacle -- the opening of a never before attempted, one-of-a-kind show called Body Packaging.
It was unlike any show that had ever opened in the gallery, or at any other gallery in the city, for that matter. There was art all right, and there were artists milling about as usual among food, wine and music. But mingling with the artists were models dressed in indescribable garb. And running straight down the middle of the gallery, dividing it almost exactly in half, was a large runway ramp -- the kind you see models strutting down when premiering the latest couture fashions.
This peculiar runway show featured works of three-dimensional art as fashion -- works relating to the human body, displayed on the human body -- elaborate, futuristic costumes created by some of our finest regional artists expressing their mediums and personalities in the form of, well, you could call it clothing.
It began with just a trickle of people entering the gallery. Then things increased from a trickle to a steady flow. And then, without warning, the flood gates opened. Within less than an hour the place was shoulder to shoulder with artists, students, intellectuals, models, business owners, community big shots and, of course, just us plain ol' regular folk there for the stimulation and excitement.
Suddenly, the gallery at UCCS took on a whole different feel. This was no longer just an opening; it was an event. A production. A live, theatrical performance, a choreographed stage show complete with music, lighting and strutting models. It was a live art ramp show. And it was an extravaganza.
By all measures, Body Packaging was a surprise and a success. It had stretched the boundaries of the usual art show and opening, and there has been nothing like it since.
If you missed it the first time, you are in luck. Original collaborators and local artists Barbara Dimond, Lindsay Ray, Jacqueline Rogers and Varya Tudor have again joined forces and are set to stage a repeat performance, this time in the larger venue of the City Auditorium. Body Packaging: The Third Millennium returns this Friday night bigger, better and even more cutting edge.
Similar to the last show, the theme for Body Packaging: The Third Millennium is the journey of the human body into the next millennium, stimulated by science, technology, culture and aesthetics as well as "pure vanity."
"Basically, it's how [we think] people will package themselves in the future," Dimond elaborated. "What do we envision? What are the possibilities with the materials we have now?"
Inspiring the audience to ask the same question, a masked ball will follow this year's show. People are encouraged to dress up, wear costumes, put their own packages together -- and walk the runway if they dare.
"This is a happening," said Dimond. "It gets people pumped. There is music with each piece, a master of ceremonies, lights, drummers and opera singers.
"But it is still an art show," she stressed. "It's an untraditional way to display art. The art is alive and moving. It's art made to be worn."
The art in extracted from many different mediums. One piece, for example, is a construction of all computer and Xerox paper. Another is a head piece made from stained glass, another of papier mach. And there are pieces made from all sorts of recyclables such as bags, packing materials and metals.
"The work is amazing," said Dimond. "This is not just stuff thrown together. The artists really pushed themselves -- challenged themselves."
Should you miss the show -- and I urge you not to -- all pieces will be on exhibit at the Tri Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake beginning November 10. But this promises to be the art, (and art participation) event of the year, so find a way to be there.
Proceeds will benefit the Pikes Peak Arts Council's Arts Education Fund which brings art to students, and to the American Cancer Society's "Look Good Feel Better" program which purchases custom-made pediatric wigs for cancer patients.