Leaking, Bleeding, Out of Control
Lately, I've been explaining to any folks unlucky enough to be trapped in cocktail chatter with me that it's gotten to the point where I absolutely hate art. It is boring, and stupid, and at close to 11 years I've been at this job far too long.
I would like to punch art in the face.
The only exception, I explain, is pictures of vaginas, usually perpetrated by university feminists. It just really pleases me to see there are still—still!—university feminists paying homage to the mystic power of their bits. Pictures of vaginas cheer me up right quick, and I always want to pat the college feminists on the head and clutch them to my bosom and shout, "Yay, you!"
So about 20 minutes after I'd convinced my boss to let me pass on this art-critic gig to the next lucky winner, I got an e-mail from Carrie Yury, showing her master of fine art thesis at UCI. She wrote, "I PROMISE you will like what you see, including but not limited to: photos of real women's asses, women's self-defense collective demonstrations, cool car hoods, beautiful drawings and weird chicken embryo photos."
I took the job back, at least for now.
* * *
There are four others showing with Yury for eight days only starting Thursday, May 25. Jessica Lawless puts women in clown drag and then shoots them practicing self-defense—a deadly serious performance she got into following her friend Mia Zapata's Seattle murder in 1993. Tom Haviar paints gutted interiors, devastated slabs of particleboard and asbestos, litter and clutter like a bomb or Katrina's gone off. Amy Robinson explores sci-fi in one series and treasure maps to the psychological realm in another. Eric Cho paints car hoods, which (Von Dutch) is pretty much the reason I really, really hate art.
But it was sitting in Yury's studio, looking at her big photos of real women's asses and talking about Freud (She: "This thought that the woman is lacking something because she lacks a phallus . . ." I: "Fucking Freud!") that I loved my job again, just for a while.
Yury and I talked and talked. "We're also seen as excessive," she said, "like we're leaking and bleeding all the time and just out of control!" and then pointed to one of her be-pantied unbabes, with zitty, un-air-brushed thighs and pubic hair scraggling all over the place. She pointed to a tiny spot on the cotton shorts. "So this one's actually leaking!"
There is an aging thigh, lumpy and varicose-veined. There is a 12-or-13-week pregnancy bump. There is her friend the crunchy girl, who didn't mind kneeling on pine needles and bark, bent over ass-only to the camera, holding her hand over her Easter-egg-blue undies to shield her pieces, her bare feet filthy and cracked.
There are diptychs, the bottom halves facing us, pubes pulling free, unwaxed, from the sides of the women's very Hanes-for-Her cotton briefs. The top halves are faced away from us, showing us their backs and the sides of their breasts and a healthy amount of armpit hair, but never their faces. Like a hooker who won't kiss you, they'll show us their bodies but still need to shield their truest selves.
I don't need to explain, do I, that this is not a sexy show? The large prints are not glowing, retro Empowerment Cheesecake la do-me feminism and the Suicide Girls—although Yury told me that when she was working on her prints in an LA lab and a man over her shoulder did a double take of horror at the zitty, hairy thigh before him and that man turned out to be actor Jason Lee, well, she really, really wished they had been.
Instead it's '70s-style feminism—which definitely isn't hot right now—angry and ugly and absolutely hilarious. It's the only art I don't want to bitch-slap: it's leaking and bleeding and out of control.
"NEW MASTERS," UC IRVINE ART GALLERY, 712 ARTS PLAZA/ACT 1200, IRVINE, (949) 824-5297. OPENS WITH A RECEPTION THURS., MAY 25, 6-9 P.M. THROUGH JUNE 3.
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