The average passerby on Bergen Street last weekend would have had no idea that behind the unmarked door of the Brooklyn’s Red Lotus Room was an enclave of artists resurrecting the Bal des Quat’z’Arts, the Parisian carnival known for artistic selfindulgence and bacchanalian splendor.
The Art Monkey’s Ball was an effort from Molly Crabapple, the brains behind Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, where artists gather to sketch and paint sexy and scandalous cabaret performers. Attendees of the Art Monkey’s Ball were happy to get in on the act, violently yoking together looks that blended 1920s speakeasy with Goth, Victorian and sideshow-influenced styles.
“I like to encourage events based on participation, rather than passive consumption,” said Crabapple. “By coming in elaborate, lovely costumes and drawing, rather than wearing jeans and snapping iPhone pictures, attendees become co-creators of the event.”
The quiet tension of artistic focus melded with constantly shifting activity as living tableaus formed in every direction; models draped effortlessly across vintage furniture, statuesque cigarette girls dispensed art supplies and an aerialist slowly shifted from pose to pose in a high-hanging trapeze while mustachioed gentlemen and corseted ladies captured her movements on paper.
I casually sipped my drink and marveled as burlesque performer Jezebel Express lured volunteers into a cage for a round of quick poses, twirling her feathered fans and jiggling her spangled cleavage. “There’s a greater sense of creative ebb and flow at Dr. Sketchy’s events than at a normal burlesque show,” she told me. “People show up expecting to create instead of to watch. It’s just a different flavor of engagement.”