Every piece in Swept Away, an exhibition at New York's Museum of Arts and Design, is made up made of dirt, dust, trash, or pollution: "Stuff we leave behind, or deem unclean, or strive to remove or discard or disguise or hide."
Henry Alford visited the show with Dave Hill, a comedian who's performed on HBO, Cinemax, and This American Life. Hill is also the biggest slob he knows. "This is like my apartment," Hill says looking around at the creative wonders of filth surrounding him.
They marvel at a quilt made of lint, a dust-covered cleaning cloth molded into the shape of a skull, and sculptures of crows burned to charcoal and smeared all over the place. A "dirt map" – an 8x10-foot plastic tray filled with 15 years of soil samples – confirms Hill's gravest suspicions: "Everything is covered in urine."
Will the show make non-messy people understand the beauty in the funk? "Aside from making for some great first dates," Hill muses, "I hope it wakes people up to the fact that we're all messy people. Literally messy. And then emotionally messy."
Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design is on view through August 12, 2012.
Dave Hill is the author of the forthcoming book Tasteful Nudes. Henry Alford's latest book is a guide to manners Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?
Slideshow: Art from Swept Away