For years pop psychologists have been telling us to get in touch with our inner child, our vulnerable, innocent, whimsical side that gets lost amid our adult preoccupations. Nola artist Nina Schwanse takes matters one step further by getting in touch with her inner serial killer in this Hold it Against Me show about the legacy of Veronica Compton, the aspiring young playwright who became infatuated with Kenneth Bianchi, aka the Hillside Strangler, as he was awaiting trial in 1980. Smitten, she even tried to strangle a woman in the Bianchi style in an attempt to exonerate her beloved by making it appear that the Hillside Strangler was actually still at large. But the victim got away and Compton, alas, got jail time. Here Schwanse, pictured, plays Compton in a series of lurid photos accompanied by smudged love letters, paintings of murdered women and some typed pages from Compton's play, The Mutilated Cutter. Like performance art props sans performance, Schwanse makes it work with her cheesy yet penetrating exploration of the mind of one seriously twisted chick. Compton may have been a mess, but here Schwanse adds a new dimension to her post-feminist, clown-with-a-concealed-weapon repertoire in this Roman Polanski-esque foray into the dark side of American culture.
Thrills and chills continue at The Front where Jerry Therio reinterprets the painted graffiti of another local artist, Jonathan Shaw, in neon sculptures like large doodles or hexograms dramatically rendered in colored light. These neatly complement Christopher Deris' surreal drawings, images that suggest the darkly psychological musings of a young man trying to decide whether to become an artist or a serial killer. Nearby, Claire Rau's plywood sculpture captures in its elaborate scrollwork both the contours of home furnishings and the devouring serpentine flames of the forest fires now ravaging the Colorado Springs region where she currently resides. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
Hold it Against Me: The Veronica Compton Archive: Mixed Media by Nina Schwanse,through July 7, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427; Neon Graffiti by Jerry Therio; Drawings by Christopher Deris; Bonfire Installation by Claire Rau, Through July 7, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980
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