Uncovering the Magic of Nick Cave’s Spellbinding Soundsuit Sculptures

Bringing art to life with a touch of fabric | Nick Cave – Soundsuits, Heard (detail), 2012 | Photo: publicdelivery.org

Forget clay and stone – artist Nick Cave brings a fresh perspective to sculpting by using fabric as his medium of choice for his captivating works of art.

Nick Cave is a Missouri-born fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois, and serves as the director of the graduate fashion program at the 
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

One of Cave’s most well-known collections is the Soundsuits series, which began in 1992.

This series features several costumes that cover the entire body, camouflaging the person’s shape and creating a second skin that hides their gender, race, and class. These projects aim to encourage the audience to view the wearers without judgment.

Cave’s Soundsuits are made from various materials, including sisal, human hair, beads, feathers, and sequins. He relies on everyday, familiar objects and rearranges them to create new and exciting works of art.

Adding a touch of magic to the world, one Soundsuit sculpture at a time. Nick Cave creates art that captivates the soul – Photo: Artist’s website

Since 1992, Cave has created over 500 Soundsuits.

The first suit was made from a collection of sticks and twigs joined together with wire. He designed it as a demonstration against the beating of Rodney King by police officers.

In a statement, Cave described 1991 as a “very hard year” that caused him to think about himself “more and more as a black man… who was discarded, devalued, and viewed as less than.”

He went on to explain that when he wore the suit, viewers could not tell his gender, race, or country of origin. He was “no longer Nick” but a “shaman of sorts.”

In some exhibits, Cave’s Soundsuits are displayed as static pieces. However, they can also be included in dance and musical performances. Cave often performs in these shows himself, either dancing for the public or the camera.

The video below features a live performance at the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea.