Art I Love: The Bright (& Artistic) Side of the VMAs

While the rest of the world is talking about Miley Cyrus and the train wreck of a performance she gave at the MTV VMAs (along with her backside looking like a plucked turkey butt in those latex boy shorts) and the hidden racism that came along with it, I’m actually trying to embrace the positive side in this awards show gone OH-so wrong.

Here are the top five bright moments of the VMAs, and yes, they all involve art.

5. As much as I hate to even add additional commentary to this whole Miley Cyrus fiasco,

I did find a little humor when Jen Lewis from posted Miley Cyrus Twerks on Famous Paintings.

She started the article with one statement, “Sorry and you’re welcome.” She knew she HAD to apologize in advance for allowing a likeness of Miley Cyrus, her over-reaching tongue, and crêpe-like butt jiggling deface world-renowned masterpieces.

But, eh, at least she bought art into the conversation:

Miley Cyrus Twerking on Son of a Man by René Magritte

Miley Cyrus Twerking on Son of a Man by René Magritte


4. Kanye West gave us Blood on Leaves live for his first time ever performing in the Barclays Center.

His performance began with simplicity: Kanye, a mic and a reddish-orange bloody light.

Then we see an image of a “lynching tree” appear in the background. According to the Schaulager Museum in Basel Switzerland, This tree is reportedly in New Orleans and beneath it are the buried bones of the enslaved Africans whom were victims of lynching.

Photography by Steve McQueen was used by Kanye West during his VMA performance of Blood on Leaves

Photography by Steve McQueen was used by Kanye West during his VMA performance of Blood on Leaves

This is the work of British photographer Steve McQueen. McQueen also has an upcoming film due to be released this fall and this image of the lynching tree is related to that film.

It’s related to McQueen’s fall film, Twelve Years a Slave which tells the story of a free African-American man kidnapped in 1841 and eventually sold into slavery at a cotton plantation in Louisiana. It’s a haunting image for an at-times haunting track — and it all made for a VMA moment that will be hard to forget. And if Simone’s verbal images of “bodies swinging in the Southern breeze” weren’t enough, the backdrop made the television debut of “Blood on the Leaves” that much more unforgettable. (MTV)


Check out the trailer for 12 Years A Slave:

3. The internet is brimming with snickers at Robin Thicke and his mighty tight black and white suit.

His choice of style is being likened to Beetlejuice, the character played by Michael Keaton in the 1988 film of the same name.

Robin Thicke’s striped suit was perhaps inspired by the 1988 hit movie, “Beetlejuice.”

However, instead of joining in the fun and calling him names, I’m going to take the high road and help Robin Thicke out. I know he had NO intention of stealing Beetlejuice‘s swag (just like he had no intention in stealing Marvin Gaye‘s sound, right?) But rather, perhaps he truly channeled other forms of art when deciding on his VMA outift.

For example, this Albert Pinto Tibetan Rug, one of my favorite textile designs, likely inspired Thicke’s jailhouse look.

Robin Thicke's striped suit was perhaps inspired by the Albert Pinto Tibetan rug

Robin Thicke’s striped suit was perhaps inspired by the Albert Pinto Tibetan rug

Or perhaps it was illustrator Malike Favre‘s Hide and Seek that inspired his look.

Robin Thicke's look was perhaps inspired by Malika Favre's "Hide and Seek"

Robin Thicke’s striped suit was perhaps inspired by Malika Favre’s “Hide and Seek”

Maybe even Joåo Lauro Fonte‘s Prisoner on Zebra. It’s appropriate, right?

Robin Thicke was perhaps inspired by Joao Lauro Fonte's "Prisoner on Zebra"

Robin Thicke’s striped suit was perhaps inspired by Joao Lauro Fonte’s “Prisoner on Zebra”

At the end of the day, I blame his wife, Paula Patton, for letting him leave the house looking like that.

2. When it comes to arts integration, I completely expected Lady Gaga to live up to the name of her latest album ARTPOP.

And…Lady Gaga totally gets it (many thanks to her performance art mentor Marina Abramović):

First she appears as a blank canvas:

Lady Gaga performs at the VMAs

Lady Gaga performs at the VMAs


Then she channels art deco artist Tamara de Lempicka (her painted subjects often had broad and pronounced shoulders):

Lady Gaga and Tamara de Lempicka's "Le Charpe Bleu"

Lady Gaga and Tamara de Lempicka’s “Le Charpe Bleu”

Next, she carried a gazing ball, an apparent shout-out to Jeff Koons:

Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons' Gazing Ball

Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball

She dropped the ball for yet another costume change assisted by her wig handler and her personal painter (complete with an art palette) who provided her assistance to pull off her Roy Lichtenstein look:

Lady Gaga and Roy Lichtenstein's "Hopeless"

Lady Gaga and Roy Lichtenstein’s “Hopeless”

And finally she disappeared behind the scenes only to re-emerge as Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus in a seashell-clad body (which she, surprisingly, wore for the remainder of the night!)

Lady Gaga and Sandro Botticelli "The Birth of Venus"

Lady Gaga and Sandro Botticelli “The Birth of Venus”

Well done, Lady Gaga, well-frickin’-done. You get two claps and two snaps from me and the kids.

1. The top spot goes to KAWS.

He created a special edition Moonman. If there was ever a year to win one, this was THEE year. Drake apparently wanted one so badly that he said he might have to consider buying one from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about it anymore, but in the aftermath of the VMAs everybody is talking about someone whose name rhymes with “Riley” whereas everyone should be talking about how dope the VMA stage looked with the oversize Companions. Who is going home with the set design elements? I just want to know. If nobody wants it- can I have it? I’m just saying.

KAWS Companion Moonman

KAWS Companion Moonman


And anyhooo. Class dismissed.


  • Reply August 28, 2013


    This was the absolute dopest way to present art elements to the masses (including me). I look forward to reading more from you!

    • Reply September 4, 2013


      Thank you Patrice! I look forward to you reading more of my blog! *does the cabbage patch*

  • Reply August 28, 2013


    great write up, mcb. and thanks for the background on the gaga and kanye performances. on another note, the miley gif from buzzfeed. way too much giggling. not realistic. the artist who did that sucks. ha. ha. ha.

    • Reply September 4, 2013


      Thanks R Dot. I knew you’d appreciate some background 411. I’ve been schooling you since grammar school- right? Got to keep class in session. Re: miley gif. I don’t think Miley is giggling. I just think she accidentally bit her tongue too hard. NOW- if you meant to say “way to much JIGGLING”, then ya…I totally agree: not realistic at all. no junk…in that trunk. no bueno.

  • […] first noticed the Lady Gaga/Jeff Koons connection when she used his Gazing Ball during her performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs, but my spidey senses […]

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