Diane Arbus’s photograph of an elderly couple dressed in theatrical robes, gowns, and crowns to signify their accolades at a Senior Citizens Dance sagely dramatizes the relationship between youth and age. The couple’s less-than-enthusiastic expressions provide a comical, almost cruel irony to the royal portrait. Arbus uses amateur costume and subtle styling to accentuate the couple’s tired disinterest in the spectacle and its rewards. The king sits with his crown askew, blazer and trousers overshadowed by his too-long faux-fur cape, his scepter at the ready. The queen is perched with her legs uncomfortably dangling, hands patiently, if uncaringly, resting on her gift and scepter. Her 1950s wingtip glasses contrast her antiquated, bejeweled tiara. An event that would excite a young couple seems overly familiar and somewhat taxing to these two. While Arbus encourages us to see the subtle irony and dark comedy of the portrait, she poignantly reminds us of our own undeniable aging process, however much we try to bedazzle it.
—Jordan Wolfe, Black Mountain College Collection 2022 curatorial intern