Emily Ketterer, For The Miami Student

Swish. Imagine sitting on a bench, minding your own business when all of a sudden you hear a swish. Looking up you see a group of psychedelic, hairy creatures walking around. They all are unique. Some with long hair from head to toe, others with buttons and garbage stuck to them. But they all look like colorful, whimsical creatures from a far away imaginary universe.

Your world has just been invaded by Nick Cave’s Soundsuits.

Artist Nick Cave is famous for his fantastic Soundsuits — magical mixed media sculptures that are equal parts art, fashion and performance pieces. Essentially, the Soundsuits are fantastic costumes that dancers wear for choreographed dances or show up in public places in a sort of flash mob.

On Jan. 21, 40 of his towering, wearable sculptures will invade the Cincinnati Art Museum in his largest exhibition to date entitled Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth.

Cave’s wild, semi-human suits are made of raffia, twigs, dryer lint, human hair, vintage toys, buttons and much more. They are just at home being worn as costumes as they are hanging up in galleries. The colors, shapes and textures will fascinate you, capture your imagination and take you out of your comfort zone.

Cave began making his suits in the wake of the police beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the race riots that followed. Cave was recently featured in the September 2010 edition of Vogue where he described himself as a humanitarian using art to create change.

Cave explained how these Soundsuits get across his message of racial tolerance.

“You’re not able to categorize [Soundsuits], and the key thing is you’re not going to be able to place judgment,” Cave said. “You have to force yourself to accept the unknown.”

On the surface, the Soundsuit’s otherworldly appearance totally engulfs the wearer until you cannot discern the dancer’s gender, race, or age.

Beyond the message he puts behind his work, he is also a firm practitioner of sustainability. Cave’s use of found and discarded items harken to his less privileged childhood in which he had to make do with hand-me-downs.

According to Brittany Galloway, Marketing and Communications Associate at the Cincinnati Museum, Nick Cave will be present for the beginning of the exhibition.

Videos of the Soundsuits being used in performances are readily available on Youtube. Junior Stephanie Burchinow has followed Nick Cave’s wearable sculptures and is excited for the chance to see them in person.

“I have only seen videos on YouTube … when his Soundsuits would visit campuses or some performances at galleries, so it would be really cool to see them in person,” Burchinow said.

Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth is on exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum from Jan. 21 to April 29.

The museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free every day.