Materials For The Arts Opens FORMALITIES the First-Ever Sculptural Exhibition From Machine Dazzle

Machine Dazzle has graced stages across New York City and beyond with awe-inspiring creations and performances for decades.

By: Nov. 29, 2023
Materials For The Arts Opens FORMALITIES the First-Ever Sculptural Exhibition From Machine Dazzle

Materials For The Arts Opens FORMALITIES the First-Ever Sculptural Exhibition From Machine Dazzle

Materials for the Arts (MFTA) has announced the official opening of FORMALITIES, a solo exhibition by MFTA Artist-in-Residence Machine Dazzle. Renowned costume designer and artist, Machine Dazzle has graced stages across New York City and beyond with awe-inspiring creations and performances for decades. 

Since starting as MFTA's Artist-in-Residence in April 2023, Dazzle has had unlimited access to the supplies in MFTA's 35,000-square-foot warehouse, brimming with an eclectic assortment of buttons, beads, fabric, and knick-knacks to create a solo exhibition. FORMALITIES marks the first time Dazzle has crossed the stage of maximalist costumery and delved into exploratory sculpture. Enchanted by the objects he found in The Warehouse, Machine Dazzle has created a series of sculptural curiosities that tease out the artistic potential in everyday items, resulting in poetic wonders that beckon exploration. 


"I had the extraordinary pleasure of observing Machine Dazzle's artistic journey during his residency at Materials for the Arts, where I found myself utterly captivated and completely—dazzled—by his one-of-a-kind energy and creativity,” said NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “I'm so thrilled for the opening of 'FORMALITIES,' Machine Dazzle's new solo exhibition at MFTA which marks his first foray into sculpture, an exciting evolution in his artistic trajectory. I welcome the public to immerse themselves in the otherworldly tapestry he has woven to witness the magic of his creations - all developed on the fertile ground of MFTA." 


“My residency at Materials for the Arts taught me to see objects in a unique way,” said Machine Dazzle, MFTA Artist-in-Residence. “In a warehouse of inanimate objects, I was intent on building, creating, and nurturing possibilities. My work for ‘FORMALITIES' takes everyday objects and transforms them into different shapes which conceptually changes their intended function. Considering these objects as ‘sculpture' transforms them again into the realm of art. The viewer discovers the past, the present, and future of these fantastic organic curiosities.” 


“I've been following Machine Dazzle since Taylor Mac's ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music' performed at St. Anne's Warehouse,” said Tara Sansone, Materials for the Arts Executive Director. “So having Machine join Materials for the Arts as our Artist-in-Residence has been truly an honor. Our warehouse is a place that, by nature of all its aisles and aisles of materials, fosters creativity. Watching Machine grow in his creative practice by tackling a medium he hasn't explored previously has been incredible to witness.” 


Drawing inspiration from the commonplace items found on MFTA's shelves, Dazzle infuses these simple materials with his unconventional artistry, blurring the boundaries between the natural and the synthetic. Though his sculptures resemble scenic landscapes found in nature, their construction is far from it. Christmas ornaments, vintage jewelry boxes, and various homeware take center stage as Machine breathes new life into them, creating inorganic sculptures that look and feel alive, beckoning viewers to delve into their infinite details.

In FORMALITIES, crystal clusters resembling geodes glisten in the shadowy depths of an installation; a voluminous head of shaggy blonde hair reveals dozens upon dozens of Barbie heads clustered together to form a wig; a fixture resembling anatomical forms is suspended in air, challenging perspectives as its ivory pillar flourishes into shimmering textures and objects. FORMALITIES is a testament to Machine Dazzle's ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, inviting viewers to reconsider the beauty and complexity hidden in the everyday. 


FORMALITIES by Machine Dazzle is on view at Materials for the Arts now through Friday, January 12, 2024. The MFTA Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. This exhibition is free and open to the public.

A self-described artist trapped in the role of costume designer, Machine Dazzle creates elaborate designs that transform the most ordinary objects into dynamic displays that transcend the human imagination. He has been dazzling stages via costumes, sets, and performance since his arrival in New York in 1994. He has collaborated with artists Julie Atlas Muz, Big Art Group, Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, Chris Tanner, Soomi Kim, Pig Iron Theater, Bombay Rickey, and has designed projects for Opera Philadelphia and Spiegelworld.

These opulent displays of wearable art have been featured at the Museum of Art and Design for the artist's first solo exhibition Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle where clips of his work in Taylor Mac's Pulitzer Prize-nominated A 24-Decade History of Popular Music were showcased as well. His work has also been on view at Parsons School of Design in New York City, and he contributed to memorable camp-themed looks for Diane Von Furstenberg and Cara Delevingne at the 2019 Met Gala. Machine received a Bessie Award for Outstanding Visual Design and was the winner of the American Theatre Wing's Hewes Design Award for his work in 24 Decades-A History of Popular Music. His work for The Hang was recognized with a 2022 Drama Desk Award nomination for Best Costumes for a Musical. 


Machine Dazzle has held residencies and performances at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Joe's Pub, Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Moody Center for the Arts at University of Houston, Wesleyan University, Harvard University's Theater, Dance & Media Department, and Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ. Machine Dazzle recently released an album of original songs titled Treasure, and he has been a long-time shopper at Materials for the Arts. 

A program of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Department of Education and Friends of Materials for the Arts, MFTA is NYC's largest reuse center supporting nonprofits with arts programming, public schools, and City agencies. On average MFTA collects about 1.5 million pounds of supplies each year which it provides, free of charge, to its member organizations. In addition to providing materials, MFTA has the MFTA Education Center, Gallery, Artist-in-Residence and Designer-in-Residence programs, and Third Thursday public programming, which are supported by Friends of Materials for the Arts. Learn more at