Lady Gaga had everyone talking Sunday when she accepted her award for Video of the Year in a Franc Fernandez-designed meat dress.
While the daring design still has people abuzz nearly a week later, those who work in the world of art and fashion are quick to point out Gaga is certainly not the first person to use flesh to make a point.
"It was quite a dress! The first thing I thought of — [because] a lot of what I do is an overlap of art and fashion — is I thought of [artist] Jana Sterbak. She, years and years ago, made a dress out of meat, and I think her dress was called 'Dress for an Albino Anorectic,' " said Nancy Deihl, coordinator for the M.A. program in costume studies at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture. "Her dress still exists, and it's all dried out [and] it's already this kind of icon of meat fashion. It wasn't fashion, it was an art piece, [but] I thought, 'What a copycat!' Because this thing is so well-known and everyone talks about this artist."
Diehl was also reminded of an equally out-of-this-world fashion plate. "My second thought is: She looks like Cher," Diehl said of the pop icon, who happened to present Gaga with her award Sunday night. "I think she's the new Cher, who just kept pushing it. ... I really feel like it's almost a raw version of one of Cher's leather outfits. It's obviously all about shock value."
Artist Mark Ryden, who has also used similar visuals in his own art, said he thinks the use of meat is just part of pop culture's current zeitgeist. "Many people forget that meat was once part of a living creature. They can see it as simply a product you buy in a clean package at the grocery store. Seeing meat in the context of a dress is a bold reminder of what meat is and perhaps instill awareness of where the meat comes from. That awareness would hopefully be followed by respect and reverence and then would perhaps lead to the better treatment of the animals we use for food," he said, referring to his own painting, "Incarnation." "However, many of these things are simply in the air. There is a zeitgeist that drives these things to permeate our culture."
In "Incarnation," his muse also wears a dress made of meat. "For me, it is about how we are all wearing 'meat' all the time. It is the physical substance that keeps our souls in this reality." As for the Fernandez design, he praised it for its multilayered meaning. "It is beautiful and grotesque at the same time," he said. "I believe this combination is why it is so engaging and has captured such attention."
In fact, as two judges from "America's Next Top Model" were quick to point out, their show used meat as fashion years ago. "We already did that in cycle 10 of 'America's Next Top Model.' Sorry, Gaga!" Jay Manuel told MTV News. "You know I love you. You know that you're the true supreme artiste, but we did do a photo shoot with the girls."
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