“Such a nasty woman.” Doreen Garner is an artist, not a politician, but she embraces the pejorative terms often used to describe her explorations of the black female body as a nexus of sensuality and oppression. In her video, Observatory, she gazes out from a glass display case of what looks a lot like viscera or medical garbage, and in another, Uniqa, (video still, left) she appears as a scantily clad dancer alluringly writhing to rap music in the harsh light of video projections of gory surgical procedures — an approach partly inspired by J. Marion Sims, the 19th century “father of American gynecology,” who subjected female slaves to grisly experiments in his pursuit of medical breakthroughs. Saartjie's Triangle, top, refers to a South African tribal woman exhibited in a European sideshow because her voluptuousness was of a sort not seen there since the prehistoric Venus of Willendorf. Utilizing materials that evoke smoked salmon and white caviar topped with a dark thatch, it memorializes a part of her that was -- bizarrely -- surgically excised after her death at age 25, preserved, and shown at a major French museum until 1974. Garner can seem like snark on steroids, but her work is a meditation on the superficiality of sensations that seduce and repulse, and how they affect our relationship with others, ourselves, and the world around us.
Natori Green's drawings and mixed media works about African American hair, rendered in a style somewhere between expressionism and arte naïf, look startlingly unaffected and whimsical. Combing in the Mirror depicts a swarthy figure with natural hair against a backdrop of pictures of women with straight, processed coifs in a glaring contrast of cultures, while Can I Touch Your Hair? spotlights the sense of “otherness” that some associate with natural locks. Green's deeply felt sincerity infuses edgier, more experimental works like Hair Consultant (Lips), left, where strands of wavy dark hair pouring from between red paper mache lips extend a world of stark realities into the ether of surreal dreams. ~Bookhardt / Ether and Agony: New Mixed Media Works by Doreen Garner, Through Nov. 6, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975; Reappearance of Modern Happiness: New Mixed Media Works by Natori Green, Through November 6, Second Story Gallery, 2372 St Claude Ave, 710-4506.
In Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, a samurai has been murdered, but it’s not clear why or by whom. Various characters involved tell their versions of the events, but their accounts contradict one another. You can’t help wondering: Which story is true? More>>