Despite her own colorfully pictographic epidermal adornments, Jessica Goldfinch thinks tattoos have had it, at least, in America. What was once outre is now blasé, but Russia is different, especially its prisons, where tats still rule. There they are not just edgy but also markers of status and identity, in symbolism that takes on unexpected new twists because of the way the old USSR reversed the roles of religious and political icons. For instance, a Jesus tattoo symbolizes state persecution more than religious redemption, but a crucifixion scene on an inmate's chest indicates a master thief, so her collage painting of a crucifixion scene with with an onion domed structure in the background, left, is titled Prince of Thieves. But a tattoo of Lenin on the chest, like the one seen in Father Lenin, top, offered protection from being shot in the heart by a guard since Lenin was a holy icon in the old sectarian USSR, where Jesus was relegated to outlaw status. These mostly smallish paintings and sculptures explore the complex range of symbolism found in a state run alternate reality where Western values are inverted and reflected back at us in reverse. Another highly symbolic series of flowers with hypodermic syringes instead of pistils and stamens--a visual exploration of addiction's deadly allure seen in her Syrinx Flora sculpture, bottom,--makes this Goldfinch's most seductively provocative exhibition to date.
At the UNO St Claude Gallery, Chen Gu's Far Away series imagines a world where female desires are paramount, and her highly varied visual meanderings are like snippets from a colorful journey. Nina Schwanse's mostly video subversions of the seductive female pop persona have been so elaborate and thorough that this Trouble Every Day expo can only hint at the highly elaborated extent of her very obsessive oeuvre, perhaps best seen on her website: ninaschwanse.com. Suffice it to say, she's really something. ~Bookhardt
Crimes Against Faith and Other Tales of Compulsion: New Work by Jessica Goldfinch at Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506; www.barristersgallery.com, Far Away and Trouble Every Day: New Work by Nina Schwanse and Chen Gu, UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Ave., 280-6493; www.unostclaudegallery.wordpress.com/
All through May 5
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