Thursday, December 20, 2007

Midas Touch

Michele Oka Doner

Michele Oka Doner (American, b. 1945) and Nancy Gonzalez (Colombian, b. 1953). “Gleaner” Bag, 2006. Sterling silver and dark bronze crocodile skin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Nancy Gonzalez, 2007 (2007.377.2).

Nancy Gonzalez, whose handbag designs are characterized by the unusual manipulation of exotic skins, collaborated in this example with Michele Oka Doner, a sculptor known primarily for such large-scale projects as her bronze and terrazzo floor installation at the Miami Airport. Gonzalez created the body of the bag with narrow bands of bronzed crocodile, while the handle by Doner appears to be a piece of decayed wood, perhaps driftwood, cast in sterling silver. Both the designer and the artist have re-imagined nature as a higher perfection. As if touched by Midas, the reptile skin and the gnarled branch, while still recognizable, have been gilded into an alternative, fixed, but more enduring beauty. The Costume Institute has an example of an earlier collaboration by Doner. The design, a simple linen dress constructed of one rectangle by Ronaldus Shamask, is balanced on the body by Doner’s silver necklace of atavistic and cosmic symbols. In both the dress and this bag, the scupltor’s work is an aesthetic, as well as a functional, intervention.

“I think the ‘Gleaner’ Bag was used by Eve to gather and transport her leaves, nuts, and seeds as she roamed throughout the Garden of Eden. Notice the silver handle is cast from a piece of wood worn from frequent use. Eve chose this branch because its curve allowed the hand access, and the width was a comfortable diameter for maintaining her grasp. The sac itself is a generous container, organic in shape rather than geometric. There were no right angles in Eden.”

—Michele Oka Doner

Comments (53)

  1. giancinephile Says:

    I hope there are some works by Bruno Frisoni in the exhibit. His works for Roger Vivier keep on pushing the envelope in the accessories department.

  2. karen b Says:

    I wish the site’s technology would allow us to enlarge this a bit more, so I could see this clutch up close. Combining the bronzed, draped reptile with the sterling “wood” is transformative! Easy to imagine this piece as a heirloom that a granddaughter would cherish (and love carrying) as much as her grandmother did.

  3. pat Says:

    Despite the creators’ explicit and narrative descriptions of this object, I see in it a deeper homage to hunter/gatherer roots, or even more ancient sources, formed deep inside the reptilian brain where the impulses of violence and beauty and mystery meet. The handle could as easily be an prehistoric arrow. The bag is literally folded in darkness.

  4. Lori Ettlinger Gross Says:

    “Both the designer and the artist have re-imagined nature as a higher perfection.”

    When I first read this sentence, I nodded in agreement. Silver is longer lasting and certainly more attractive (in its reflective and well-polished state) than aged drift wood; it also stands in appealingly stark contrast to the earthy, bronzed, and mysterious patina of the croc.

    However, such highly reflective surfaces are not without their limits, and over the course of time, the gleam of sterling gives way to tarnish which in many cases has an attraction all its own. And so this handbag with its dense and beautifully sculpted surfaces takes on an entirely different character. Would we then still believe that the Midas touch is an improvement? Perhaps nature, in all her wisdom, has found yet another way to show us that a “higher perfection” is more about perspective than it is about permanence.

  5. James Brown Says:

    A great accessory for the Betty or Wilma’s of bedrock fame !!

  6. Lynne Says:

    One imagines the opening of this bag will reveal deep secrets and plumes of smoke. The must-have accessory for the truly powerful goddess.

  7. giancinephile Says:

    Watching this purse closely, inspecting every detail of it (although limited because of the image’s size) makes me say it is rather very “pre-historic” or savage in the same realm as Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for Fendi years ago which drew inspiration from pagan Europe.

  8. Isabel Says:

    “The First Bag”

    slightly reminiscent of YSL

  9. saul age 6 Says:

    I think that this looks good but it is not colorful enough.

  10. Dani Says:

    I LOVE IT!

  11. Laurie Aron Says:

    This is the being and nothingness bag. The strips of bronzed crocodile mask the existence of any actual container, so one imagines anything pulled out or put in as leaving or entering infinity.

    Aesthetically, I would prefer the branch in the raw rather than silver cast, with peeling bark and a dry leaf or two.

  12. Liza Says:

    I love the silver handle and contrasts well with the croc skin

  13. allie Says:

    This handbag would be a good companion to the “Highland Fling” dress.

  14. Darlene Eklou Says:

    It looks like a weapon.

  15. Moo Says:

    Handle needs redesigning, rest is glorious.

  16. fj Says:

    Wadded up aluminum foil. Interesting concept.

    You Lose

  17. Juju Says:

    OMIGOD!!!! I luv this purse. It reminds me of the forest and the ocean. yayy! and I bought one yesterday at bergdorfs. They are flying off the shelves

  18. Manuela Says:


  19. Manuela Says:

    Better wear it with you guy

  20. Allison Says:

    I agree with Karen B, we can’t zoom in enough! I love the “Eve” story, cute.

  21. Allison Says:

    However, I do not understand why this is labeled “Midas Touch.”

  22. Jo Says:

    Nice bag but would you really want to wear an alligator. Think about it!

  23. Jo Says:

    Comment correction
    Nice bag but would you really want to wear an crocodile? Think about it!

  24. Marlene H Says:

    i like it

  25. ariana Says:

    I could do without the handle but the rest is beautiful!

  26. olivia lennon Says:

    This hanbag is fabulous and could very well be used for parties, and even day to day activities. Simply gorgeous and definetly in today’s hott new trends.

  27. Mmmmm Says:

    a little boring (a lot boring)
    could be translated in French and other language…not evryone speaks english…
    en gros c nul!

  28. Frédérique Mengard Says:

    Michele Oka Doner gives a perfect definition of what a woman’s bag should be. Every woman needs like Eve a handbag to carry on herself the necessary stuff to survive. The “Gleaner” seems to be an antique piece discovered by some archeologists and touches on the idea that the first woman has been created with her handbag.

  29. Andreas Says:

    How much can you have going on in one outfit?!?

  30. Andreas Says:

    Whoever designed these is physchotic.

  31. Sammy Grob Says:

    Ruffles!!!!!!!!!!! I wonder how much it costs? But it is pretty nice!

  32. Dimps Says:

    this bag is very beautiful! It kind of reminds me of the flinstones

  33. lilly Says:

    love it

  34. stephen Says:

    It’s weird that King Midas wished that everything he touched turned to gold.

  35. MAR Says:

    handbags- the thing whose mad an woman to a lady. i like , that the ideas and inspiration to made nice things for the ladies hand comes more and more from women.
    we know, what we like…
    a bag isn’t only a bag- it is a philosophy. i make handbags from different stuff and the ideas goes endless . since 3 years i get the news letters from the metropolitain art museum, and this blog is a nice idea to bring people together, whose have the “smell and taste” for creativity on fashion far from the trouble out of the streets.
    MAR berlin/ germany artist

  36. Lily Monir Matini, Esq. Says:

    love the handle
    almost dagger-like

  37. Kristina Says:

    A very unique and original piece. The handles detail is amazing. It appears to look as if the piece of wood was dipped in silver showing every intricate line. Definetly a dream bag I would wish to show off on city streets.

  38. Lona Gutknecht Says:

    The “Gleaner” bag is elegantly rustic. It carrys a Beauty in its self.
    The collaberation between Doner and Gonzalez is beautiful.

  39. Nicole Says:

    This bag demostrates nature at it’s finest. Nancy Gonzalez never fails in creating the perfect handbag for the chic woman.

  40. Katie Says:

    I think this bag looked a lot different in person then it does in this picture. When I saw it at the museum it looked like a bag that maybe a cave man would carry. The wood handle strapped to a crocodile skin handbag is a very unique, different look. Its defiantly a bag that was made just for show because it would be very uncomfortable to carry. Im surprised at the name of the bag because when I think of the word Midas Touch I think of something more refined and elegent.

  41. Danielle Says:

    The creator of this handbag has an amazing creative eye. It is so unique and you can tell it was not just thrown together. Its looks like a classic clutch bag from far away, when you get closer the detail is amazing and shows the designer’s true creativity.

  42. Matilda Says:

    Fantastic design! It’s tribal meets chic.

  43. Lexi & Bre Says:

    It’s a fashionable, must-have handbag. I *dig* it.

  44. marina urbach Says:

    ‘I do not understand why this is labeled Midas Touch.’

    According to the legend, everything that Midas touched became gold.
    The title was probably given by the curators, not the artists.

    Each title tries to encapsulate in few words the whole concept of each piece.
    In this case, perhaps, the title alludes to the improbable fusion of two disparate elements into one. Also perhaps to the fact that the branch became silver in this case, rather than gold.

    ‘As if touched by Midas, the reptile skin and the gnarled branch, while still recognizable, have been gilded into an alternative, fixed, but more enduring beauty.’

  45. Bob Wyman Says:

    As you say: Michele Oka Doner is primarily known for projects like the Miami Airport floor… But that’s quite a pity since she does much, much more. In fact, I’ve always known her more for her jewelry than her other work.
    Since this is a “blog,” I think it would be very much in the tradition of blogging if you were to provide links for the various people that you mention. Blogs that don’t “link out” are typically not held in high regard… In this case, a link to Michele Oka Doner’s blog at: would be very appropriate. Links from other entries to the sites of artists, donors, etc. would really enliven the presentation and experience of being here.

    bob wyman

  46. marina urbach Says:

    ‘Blogs that don’t “link out” are typically not held in high regard… ‘
    Who does not hold them in high regard? Perhaps this blog will be a first one: it will be held in high regard, without ‘linking out’. Let’s wait and see.
    Perhaps this intervention is another case of ‘Midas Touch’:
    How to use the web, as effectively as possible, for promotion.

  47. marina urbach Says:

    How to use the web, as effectively as possible, for promotion:
    Ads disguised as posts.

  48. hope Says:

    Sooo Fashy!

  49. Riley Says:

    BEST HANDBAG EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  50. 21st Century Human Says:

    Ah, my dear Met! This is not a blog. It is a guest book, at best, or a curatorial site with comments perhaps. Not same same. Read up. (Preferably not on paper media.) You too can join the present.



  51. meimi1995529 Says:

    i dont really like it to much but its ok…

  52. david Says:

    this is kind of a strange forum to propose this question, but i’m trying to track down any information on the nancy gonzalez showroom… does anybody know how i can find this?

  53. marina urbach Says:

    ‘i’m trying to track down any information on the nancy gonzalez showroom… does anybody know how i can find this?’

    Perhaps she does not have a showroom, or perhaps she lives in another country. I would send her a letter c/o the curators of the
    Costume Institute, that they could forward her. Perhaps you could put a letter to her and a note to the curators explaining your request, in another, bigger envelope, addressed to the museum. Just an idea.

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