Pussy Galore

Sophia Pottishs life in celluloid

Photo by James BunoanCombine Becca's lost-little-girl construction-site taggings and Courtney Love's post-Larry Flynt glam-junk and you get Sophia Pottish. Her paintings are the missing pharmaceutical link proving that like kittens grow up to be cats, so do joyous, Cosmo-swilling Sex and the City chicks age into the empty-eyed, pill-wolfing dames of Valley of the Dolls.

In her modest installation at Costa Mesa's ArtMartyr Gallery, Pottish starts out with Nagel-ish idealization. Eyes and lips stand out against flat planes of boneless cheek. Nostrils are deep and inky black. Pretty girl! She moves on to tall grrls in babydolls and Peter Pan collars and tall grrls in unbuttoned, ripped-sleeved Oxfords and Pussy Galore skirts; all are posed in the same classic mannequin contraposto, with hips like daggers. Sometimes there's a pink martini popping out of a canvas peopled with Ocean's 11 walk-ons. There are skinny Siamese cat shadows like in Lady & the Tramp, green-wigged hookers (think Julia Roberts), and an army of James Bonds in Dr. No silhouette. There are pussies on the bottles, and there are always bottles. Get it? Like a pussy, and like a cat!

While Pottish's pieces are well-designed and fun with sunny, flat yellows and reds and legs for many miles, all of them are filtered through fiction; Pottish doesn't paint anything she hasn't seen on TV. That retro '50s cad? Those gabbing, cackling girlfriends? The pink flamingo lady who never lived outside a Chandler pic? Even those nihilist mannequins, their compositions livened up with some missile-like red syringes, are more Sid & Nancy or Gia than anybody Pottish could have met in her home town of Redondo Beach—unless Pottish was hanging out when Patti Smith was singing about girls drowning there, but that was 1975, and I don't think she was.

Pottish's compositions are intricate and pleasing, but she's still struggling for subjects of her own, and so everything is drowned in style like gravy over grade-B meat—in a a nice way! It's life as cast by certified casting professionals, until drug addicts are played by Angelina Jolie. It's life as seen by set designers; even the hovels are better-art-directed than your pad. And it's fantasy on par with an ad exec's—where every night is an Asti Spumante night—minus the night-lifing posses of gratuitously multiculti kids.

"Personality Traits" by Sophia Pottish at Artmartyr Gallery, 1310 Logan Ave., Ste. H, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-0664; artmartyr.com. Open Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., by appt. through Thurs., March 25.
 
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