Clothing the rebellious soul

“You Are the Christ. You Are the Buddha. TRANSCEND.”

So reads the graffiti on a wooden plank photographed next to an angsty-looking young man, circa 1960. Surrounded by a roughly drawn smiley face, a Star of David with 666 inside and a stylized peace symbol, the message on the plank conveys a disregard for religious distinctions but also a deeply spiritual desire for universal love.

Desire for peace and unity radiate from this photograph, and from every other piece in “Clothing the Rebellious Soul: Revolution 1963-1973,” currently on display in GW’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery on the second floor of the Media and Public Affairs Building. The exhibit will remain there until Jan. 22.

A collection comprised of beautifully preserved vintage clothing, artwork and other media, all which bring to mind classic tunes from the Beatles, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, “Clothing the Rebellious Soul” represents a cooperative between GW, local journalists and photographers, and is curated by alumna Nancy Gewirz in collaboration with Mark E. Hooper of Princeton, N.J. The exhibit could not be more appropriate for the GW community; it captures the spirit of self-reinvention, political activism and, of course, fabulous fashion sense present on campus today.

“We feel this exhibit is very timely because many students will be able to relate to it, especially with the parallels of the two different wars: the one in Vietnam, and the one we’re in today,” said Olivia Kohler, the assistant director of the Luther Brady Art Gallery.

One can sense the energy the ’60s youth directed toward driving social change, particularly in regard to the war in Vietnam, just by perusing this exhibit. One poster shows small men hatching out of numbered eggs, only to look up in terror as a giant Uncle Sam hand reaches to grab them. Another poster jokingly offers an all-expenses paid vacation to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with free clothing and room & board. Even while expressing a desperate need for change, these pieces retain a gleeful, if anxious, hope.

The sense of rebellion and reinvention extends into the clothing of this generation and, as Kohler said, “many of the fashions you see here have come back in style.” Several ’60s fashionistas chose to take military garb and transform it into a message of peace, as seen in military helmets thoroughly customized with peace and anti-war slogans and symbols. One mannequin dons a blue and white jacket and skirt ensemble with gold buttons and rows of pink braids and tassels, bearing striking resemblance to military costume. If there is any question as to the modern relevance, simply look to the spring collections of designers like John Galliano and Balmain where the military look is, as they say, “in.”

After viewing the free exhibit, don’t miss the video playing at the back of the gallery. Directed by GW student and former Hatchet staffer Ryder Haske, the video captures memories of GW alumni who were here on campus during the anti-war protests.

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