If the Museum of Arts and Design's new show had a soundtrack, it would be Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." As Jovi says and MAD's show tells, "Every day it seems we're wastin' away." Yet in the fascinating "Dead or Alive" show at MAD nothing -not fur, feathers, bones, insects, shell - goes to waste. In fact, 37 international artists whose work is on view have transformed once-living material into "lively" sculpture and installations.
Rather than morbid, the work is mysterious, highly personal, and each in its own way comments on the human condition and the transcendence of life, whether man or beast. One of the most remarkable installations is Keith W. Bentley's Cauda Equina,
made up of 1.4 million hand-knotted horse hairs mounted on fabric and applied to a horse mannequin. The result is a shaggy pony that resembles a huge sheep dog in mourning. Bentley is a self-trained artist who is passionate about animals. On learning that more than 250 horses were going to be slaughtered in processing plants, the artist obtained all the hair from the horses' manes and tails. He twisted and hand-knotted them, a painstaking process that took 12 years. He then created what is, in effect, a horse-hair blanket that he placed over the pony form to create the spooky installation. The idea of covering the pony's head with a flowing veil of horse hair evokes the Victorian custom of mourning when women covered their faces with a veil.