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Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238

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Marilyn Minter: Blue Poles (2007), Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

I became acquainted with Marilyn Minter’s video work a few years ago, while doing research for my thesis paper as an MFA candidate. Until viewing her retrospective, Pretty/Dirty, at Brooklyn Museum, I had been most familiar with her work through the Internet, never having viewed it in person or to scale. Visiting the retrospective provided me with a new perspective on her work, in relationship to my own work, as well as its implications toward viewers.

An overarching theme throughout Minter’s works is her investigation of this juxtaposition of attraction and repulsion through representations of the female body. In the media, women are portrayed as overt sexual symbols for the pleasure of male viewers. This is because the media represents women as sex symbols in one way: idealized, passive, clean, and one definition of ‘beautiful’. Popular culture vilifies natural, biological occurrences on and around women’s bodies, such as pubic hair, weight fluctuation, menstruation and other ‘imperfections’, thereby putting women at war with their own bodies. In this way, the media is employing women’s bodies to represent the idealized version of sex, while preventing women from ever fully being able to meet this standard.

These conflictive ideas result in a paradoxical attitude among the public towards the idea of sex and the female body in general. Minter’s work shines a light to American society’s obsessed-yet-ashamed relationship to sex, intimacy and the female body in general, by forcing viewers to face these reactions. It is no secret that the media (especially the advertisement and fashion industries,) uses the female body as a pawn to attract the public, sell commodities and promote certain ideals, all while simultaneously entrapping women in this way, rather than empowering us.

As the appropriate title of this solo show suggests, much of Minter’s work features gut-reactive, visceral imagery that is at once visually alluring, while simultaneously repulsive and grotesque. Green Pink Caviar (2009) [below] for instance, is a large-scale video projection that features a woman’s mouth pressed up against a pane of glass. The lips of the subject are colored with dramatic shade of lipstick, and the colors are visually stimulating.

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Marilyn Minter: Green Pink Caviar (2009), Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

The camera angle is head-on and very close, as if the glass were the lens itself. This creates a sensuous relationship with the viewer, by implicating them in the action through proximity and camera angle. The subject’s mouth is involved in repetitive, sensuous, sucking-and-blowing actions with a sticky, neon-green substance. The mouth appears to be playing with this candy-colored or metallic goop, drawing it in and then relaxing its grasp, allowing the goop to whoosh and ooze out, mixing with saliva, back onto the glass plate before repeating the scenario on an endless loop.

I admire this and Minter’s other video works that recreate similar imagery. As a viewer one is simultaneously attracted and repulsed by this. And, viewing it in person, and at such a grandiose scale amplifies its effects. The large scale of the projection, as well as its position alone on a wall of its own, demands that viewers pay attention, and gives the work prominence and prestige.

In my own artwork I sometimes employ similarly wet, sticky, goopy substances and textures. I use silicon, resin or other substances within my sculptures that are reminiscent of bodily fluids, and/or suggestive of sexual or internal organs. Sometimes these substances are pooling in a mouth or dripping from various bodily orifices in my sculptures. I am drawn to these moments within of Minter’s work for the same reason that I employ it in my own work. The contradictive, attracted-yet-repulsed response that results upon observing these types of visual stimuli is intriguing. One is (confusingly) at once enticed and disgusted. I am interested in why this response occurs. I believe it can be attributed to society’s objectification and idealization of women’s bodies.

I believe this is because we as women are taught by society that our bodies (and particularly their fluids) dirty/embarrassing/shameful/untouchable. At the same time, however, women’s bodies are sexualized and sexually glorified from a patriarchal perspective. Minter is luring her viewers in with enticing, sensuous or even erotic imagery, and then subjecting them to an emotional contradiction, with imagery that elicits feelings of disgust or revulsion.

This overarching idea is evident in Minter’s video work as well as her photo-realistic paintings such as Blue Poles (2007) [above]. Blue Poles is a large, 60 x 72-inch painting that is depicts the space between the bridge of a woman’s nose to the top of her eyebrows, and both eyes, which are heavily laden with sparkly, blue eye shadow. There is a prominent pimple, which emerges from the upper right eyebrow. From this zoomed perspective, the eyebrows appear to have many stray, coarse hairs. The subject’s skin is covered with freckles and blemishes, and appears greasy or wet overall. To me, this piece is exposing the beauty industry for what it is – fraudulent and illusionary. Women are made to put on a mask and present this masked version to society, but when seen up close, it is an obvious illusion.

The title of the exhibition, Pretty/Dirty is an extremely suiting description for this show, and Minter’s work overall. As previously stated, the imagery in the videos and paintings is at once alluring (pretty,) while also repulsive (dirty). I believe that Minter’s work overall is a playful investigation and political commentary about the issues of representation of women in the media. It was fascinating and inspiring to catch a glimpse into Minter’s prolific career, and gain perspective through her lifetime of iterations of this ongoing line of inquiry.

ANIMALIA at Local Project Art Space, 11-27th 44th Rd Long Island City, NY 11101:

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I visited ANIMALIA at Local Projects Art Space during its opening on last Thursday, March 2, 2017. I am proud to have been included as one of the exhibiting artists in this group show, which solicited artworks that revolve around the theme of animals and the animal kingdom. While the description during the open call simply requested submissions from artists featuring animal-themed art, the press release statement was much more critical and politically charged than I anticipated.

The artwork itself varied in this group show, which is to be expected, as it featured the work of over 40 artists. A simple watercolor rendering of a bunny hung adjacent to a playful, chubby, cartoon cat, down the wall from a portrait of a provocative, aggressive pig in an NYPD uniform.

ANIMALIA is not simply a celebration of different animals, as the open call suggested, but is more accurately openly critical commentary about humans and human nature. The press release opens up with the statement: “The only difference between animals and humans is that humans have a very developed Ego.” I agree with this statement. This idea is actually something that I am expressing (less overtly) in my work, regularly, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it reflected in the overarching idea of ANIMALIA. In my work I strive to bridge gaps in understanding and empathy between humans and our non-human co-inhabitants of the world, through the physical combination of human and other forms.

My Fingersnails series, which is featured in ANIMALIA, are human fingers that emerge from snail shells, and appear to be slinking around as a snail or hermit crab would. Viewers often find this imagery alluring, yet jarring, which initiates a visceral reaction as they consider the implications of the collision of these two seemingly separate worlds – human and animal.

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Curator Julian Calderon argues that humans have mentally separated our selves from the animal kingdom in order to justify our mistreatment of animals and nature. “Ego makes us feel separated from nature. It is the human Ego that has declared that animals have no emotions, can’t communicate and are incapable of sympathy; … We look and treat nature as something we have to dominate and subdue. We use phrases like “no even animals do that” “what an animal!” to describe humans acting in sub human standards.”

While I agree with his criticism, (I have been a vegetarian since the age of 16 because I couldn’t bare the thought of eating animals,) I am not sure if I agree with Calder’s claim that the “ego” is the root cause of this mentality. I do believe that our continued disregard and disrespect of the natural world is partly caused by our human disconnect with the animal and natural world. (Maybe these arguments are one in the same, just differently worded.)

Maintaining this disconnect makes it possible to continue to function as a capitalist society in the way that we do. The devastating takeover of Standing Rock comes to mind as a perfect example of the clash between our Capitalist society and nature. Our Native American communities, who have historically respected and cherished nature, living harmoniously the way that non-human animals do, were defeated in the name of money while defending our environment and natural resources.

I generally believe that it is a lack of empathy for others (human or other,) that causes of many of the issues we are facing in the world today, including environmental as well as social justice issues.

Proof of this argument can be seen our politically divided country, and the backlash of progress that we are seeing as a result of our current Administration. The public support of anti-progressive policy and worsening of social justice issues, including racism, sexism, transphobia, misogyny, general xenophobia and other issues, is a prime example of the lack of empathy that humans have for members of our OWN species. If we can’t feel empathy for our own species, (much less our fellow Americans,) then I can hardly have hope for an empathetic relationship with other species.

Calder goes on to attest that humans are somehow jealous of animals’ carefree existence. “They walk naked and mate without shame. They kill and eat without guilt. They live without worrying about anything in life. They pay no rent and [couldn’t] care less about others’ opinions. There is no injustice, envy, and wealth loss in the natural world.” He argues that by returning to a more animalistic state, (taking only what we need, maintaining and sustaining our environment for the greater good of all, and coexisting in spite of our differences,) we humans could regain the carefree lifestyle of other animals.

I think that this idea would be a great conversational starting point for a class project prompt, especially in an upper-elementary or middle school (4-7th grade range). Questions and discussions could be initiated to encourage students’ empathetic thinking and consideration of others’ perspectives as we discuss the relationship between humans and nature.

Some Topic Questions or Prompts that come to mind are:

  • What would it look like if animals ruled the world?
  • What would our society be like if people were more like animals?
  • What kinds of lessons can humans learn from animals?
  • What would it look like if our government were taken over by animals?
  • How do you think wild animals feel about humans?

 

 

I will be participating in Williamsburg Walks, as part of Northside Festival.

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There will be food & drink, music, film, and lots of hanging out in the Williamsburg streets, which will be pedestrian-only! Come check it out!

Announcing my curatorial debut- a group exhibition in Jersey City!
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On view through the month of May.
Official press release and more info coming soon!!!

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A few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Malawi, Southeastern Africa to visit one of my best friends, Colleen, who is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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With Colleen’s assistance, I was able to organize and teach a jewelry-making workshop in Chikwina, a small, mountain-top village in the northern region of Malawi. We conducted the workshop out of Colleen’s home, and I demonstrated how to make jewelry (earrings, bracelets, necklaces,) using simple, everyday materials like bottle caps, wire and metal washers.

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We were lucky enough to also have some thread, beads and jewelry materials on-site (leftover from previous projects,) which added a little extra color and variety into the mix! These black, red and green beaded earrings represent the colors of the Malawian flag, and are also seasonably festive for Christmas!

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The intention behind the jewelry making was to create a product to be sold to generate income. This idea could only work if it was realistically possible for the villagers to continue making these items without outsourced materials or help. With this sustainability and self-sufficiency in mind, I chose readily available, low-cost (or even free, in the case of the bottle caps) materials, and a simple process. Colleen and myself are facilitating the sales of the jewelry for now, (just in time for the holidays!) and are brainstorming about how to turn the sales aspect into a more sustainable process, as well.

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If you are interested in purchasing some jewelry for the holidays (or beyond!) you can contact me via email: s.mcbride1221@gmail.com.

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All proceeds go directly to the jewelry makers in Chikwina to fund local, internal programming and community development projects.

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This September I had the great privilege of being able to take part in the 7th annual Governors Island Art Fair. It was a lot of fun, a ton of work, and a super rewarding experience! I was surrounded by inspiring artists and visitors every weekend, and got to hang out in the raddest place in NYC, so I feel pretty lucky. :)

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I just finished updating my website to include photos of the installation.
Click here for installation views, and here for detail shots of some of the individual pieces.

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It has been great to see The City College of New York well-repped on Governors Island-based art shows this September! Today marks the last weekend day of the season that the Island is open to the public, and the last day for the several art exhibitions and events that have been going on.

Ceramics Department Head and Professor Sylvia Netzer has some work on view with AIR Gallery in one of GI’s Nolan Park houses:

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Another Ceramics Professor and MFA Alum Mary Sweeney is also represented in the AIR house with her ceramic sculptures:

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Sculpture Department Head and Professor Colin Chase has 2 sculptures on view with the Sculptor’s Guild, also located in a building on Nolan Park:

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And lastly, my own installation as a part of 4Heads Governor’s Island Art Fair is located on Colonel’s Row, Building 408_A, 2nd Floor:

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September is turning out to be an exciting and busy month for me. Here’s what’s happening:

I am so honored to be included in the 7th annual Governor’s Island Art Fair!

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I got to create a sculpture installation in a gorgeous, uninhabited, deteriorating room in ex-military barracks on Governor’s Island. The show will be on view every weekend in September on Colonel’s Row on the island.

(here is a sneak-peek!)

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Also, I have a collaborative piece in a group show at CityLife Gallery in Jersey City opening on Friday, September 5! The opening reception coincides with the quarterly JCFridays event in Jersey City, NJ.

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Both shows will be up all month long, free and open to the public. I am thrilled to be in such good company at both of these exhibitions. Come out and see some art!