Nippley Sweetness and Light

Get It Off Your Chest explores the breast, holds your interestmostly

By Catriona GrantGive me a woman who doesn't love looking at other women's breasts, and I'll give you a woman who, like the very Reverend Lou Sheldon, hasissues.

Honey, give me a handful of that!

I love breasts. I do, I do, I do. I especially like those elegant teardrop ones, but really, I like them all, with the big, honking exception of those big, honking fake ones. I hate to sound too Ms.on you (well, actually, I don't), but they're so brazenly men-over-sisterhood: the girl who dies with the biggest tits wins.

But the natural sort, and the simpler, less-honeydew implants? Really, what's not to love? Breasts are much, much nicer (and squeezier—like Charmin!) than the vag, though I'm often a sucker for college coeds making earnest, Eve Ensler-inspired, identity-politics art about their womanly cores. I think their odes to puss are awfully sweet, especially when slicked with fake menstrual blood or accessorized with limp fetuses dangling from a string.

But pretty? Let me think about it. Hmmmm.

No.

"Get It Off Your Chest" at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is a full cup of nippley sweetness and light. Then it gets a bit boring. And then you're done! And a good time is had by most, excepting, probably, the Reverend Lou and his ladies' auxiliary, for whom I believe sex is still through a sheet.

Mmmm. Sheet sex.

"Get It Off Your Chest" is a packed show, sprawling through three rooms, all focused on delicious love pillows. Some of the delicious love pillows are missing, with only scars where they used to be. Others are fabulously lopsided. Most hang, like the breasts of tribal women in NationalGeographic.None are fake and awful, unless you count the melons in Malia Schlaefer's Served.Taken from the late trend in body sushi, the photo is a big (poster-sized), lush one, with a young woman with salmon on her cooch (a cherry for her clit), cottage cheese on her thighs and actual melons for her melons. Honeydews, to be precise.

There are other very funny pieces as well.The gallery offers up a bed of breasts, some with eyeballs for nipples, some circled with coarse, wiry hair, some encrusted with pacifiers, all under a pink crocheted throw. Jonathan Hollingsworth gives up a small black-and-white photo, SheCalledHerselfSuzanneSummers."She" is a bag lady—an upscale one, judging by the fact that her bag is from Pottery Barn. She sits on the street and flashes the photographer her rack, and it ain't bad.

Emily Hogan is, shockingly, the only person in the juried exhibit to take on the Holy Virgin's breasts with EasterCandy,in which Jesus is a chocolate bunny on Mother Mary's tit.

And Mary Ellen Scherl crafted 50DD,a big—big—plaster lady trunk, her fat rippled and unstoppable. Unlike, say, the charmingly rotund of Fernando Botero, her fat is not firm and jolly. It oozes forth, uncontrollable. And while I'm usually a size-ist in the real world (go ahead, bring on the letters), when one dimension removed from the actual subject, I love to see people letting their very imperfect bodies hang out, as it were, baldly unashamed.

I have an intimate relationship with my breasts (I imagine most women do), and I, for one, really love mine. But as much as they're ours, they're also a public commodity, belonging equally to anyone on the street who wants to take a gander. I had a conversation last night with a girlfriend whose 11-year-old niece is already sporting a D-cup. She's in sixth grade, and already nobody looks her in the eye. My friend is worried about how that will shape her, how she'll see herself only reflected in men's eyes. Yes, that very much happens. But they may also make her feel very much ancient, archetypal, natural Woman.

You never know.

Anyone can take a look—they're our ambassadors, really, the first things people see when we walk down the street, our womanliness right there on our ribcage—but that doesn't mean just anyone gets to grab 'em.

Kallie Clark's video TrustMetakes the opposite tack, documenting as she blindfolds herself and lets gallerygoers feel her up for 30 seconds at a time. The piece is supposed to be about trust, of course, about what information you can glean from people sight unseen, and surmising from that how respectfully they'll treat you. Watching hands knead and cup her breasts is incredibly invasive, and it feels as though it were done only for envelope-pushing rather than actual artistic searching. (The fact that the video ain't that well-made probably doesn't help matters.) It's better to offer yourself as sushi than as meat. You adore the body beautiful, and like the breast's magical purpose, strangers are nourished and fed.

"GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST" AT THE ORANGE COUNTY CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART, 117 N. SYCAMORE, SANTA ANA, (714) 667-1517; WWW.OCCCA.ORG. OPEN WED.-SUN., 11 A.M.-4 P.M.; AND BY APPT. THROUGH APRIL 24.

 
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