Artful Fright

For some people the thought of stepping into a museum full of works they may not understand is frightening enough. But try stepping into such a museum when it's full of costume-clad artists and art lovers. Since 1995 North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art has been scaring people and stimulating them at the same time by throwing a Halloween bash known as the Monster Mash. Held in conjunction with an exhibition celebrating monstrous imagery in contemporary art, the first Mash, dreamed up by director and chief curator Bonnie Clearwater, was naturally geared toward Halloween. Benefiting the museum's educational programs, the party quickly became a yearly tradition, as did the concurrent creepy exhibitions. This year's celebration, which takes place Saturday, is dubbed Monster Mash Strikes Back.

"The whole theme of this party is Fifties and Sixties B horror movies, like sequels, sequels, and more sequels," says Natascha Otero-Santiago, the museum's program and publicity coordinator. "We think of it as a dress rehearsal for your Halloween party and an artful costume dance party."

Creatively camouflaged revelers can compete for prizes in five categories, such as best group or most horrific. Last year's big winners were a group of people dubbed the Treasure Island Trio ("A woman had a boat coming out of her butt," laughs Otero-Santiago) and a "nuclear family," people dressed as an ordinary family who just happened to have survived a nuclear explosion. "There was blood all over them," exclaims Santiago, "and they had pieces of their skin falling off. They were all dressed in green and had white makeup on their faces so they looked like they were dying."

In addition to the ghoulish goings-on, two exhibitions will open at the museum that evening. "Anna Gaskell" features a series of photographs by the artist of the same name, depicting her surreal version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Gaskell's first film, Untitled (floater), a cinematic take on Shakespeare's Ophelia, will also be screened. Twenty-nine contemporary artists will display work created in tribute to the career of movie director David Cronenberg (Crash, The Fly) in "Spectacular Optical." Maquettes of monsters produced for Cronenberg's films will also be presented.

Partiers who want a memento of their evening can take a piece of art home by participating in a silent auction featuring masks created by Miami-based artists Pablo Cano, Lynne Gelfman, Charo Oquet, and many more. Careful with those bids, though, or the biggest fright of all just might be handing over that big fat check.

-- Nina Korman

The Monster Mash Strikes Back takes place from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 17, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St, North Miami. Tickets cost $35 in advance, $40 at the door. "Spectacular Optical" runs through November 29; "Anna Gaskell" runs through December 6. Call 305-893-6211.

 
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