by MOLLY BRENAN
The sun may have set on the British Empire, but recently artists have lit it back up. It’s not the most flattering light, either. Previously I wrote about how time cannot only heal the wounds of war on society, but with the help of art morph them into, if not causes to celebrate, the kind of battle scars one wear’s with an amount of pride. But we’re past the age of Romanticism. More and more, artists are choosing to pick at the scars of their nation’s dark past and highlight the horror rather than the valor.
The late, great Alexander McQueen returned to the theme of national identity over and over in his canon. McQueen was Scottish by birth, but grew up in London, lending him an interesting perspective on both cultures. The autumn/winter 1995-6 collection Highland Rape, though one of McQueen’s earliest, is still one of his most resonant. Bloody and wild models staggered down a runway strewn with traditionally Scottish flora. Mcqueen clarified that the “rape” of the title isn’t regarding the models’ shocking appearance, but the figurative rape of Scotland by English rule and force. The collection specifically references the Jacobite Uprisings.