March 6, 2009

Pepe brings old-school lesbian feminist imagery to Las Vegas

Sheila Pepe's collaborative installation, "Yo Mama" is on view in Las Vegas through the end of the month. In the Las Vegas Weekly Danielle Kelly reports that the flying crocheted form suspended from all corners of the main gallery is spidery in its organic accumulation, and appears to be many things; soaring majestic vagina is just the most obvious. "It’s also a sweepingly beautiful dimensional drawing—commanding, fuzzy, funny. The sculpture extends far enough into the space that interaction is unavoidable. The viewer literally enters the piece, a move ripe with both formal and metaphorical implications. Proximity to the sculpture allows for a ridiculously intimate exchange. In complement to the humble materials she is known for (shoelaces, etc.), Pepe has used silver shimmering yarn in homage to Vegas. The moments when these materials intersect and fray are particularly charged. Whether you find the piece threatening or inviting, its detailed method of fabrication is alluring.

"The politics of the piece extend beyond fabrication. 'Yo Mama' is also a collaborative project celebrating maternal lineage. Pepe invited a number of artists from across the country to contribute crocheted and knitted elements to the sculpture. The pattern the artists utilized was based upon the number of letters in the name of their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc. The letters of the text become textile, woven into a grand celebration of feminine strength in perceived vulnerability—the domestic, the handmade, the humble, the vaginal.

"A series of paintings and sculptures by various artists further expands a critical gaze toward the female. Conceptually, as articulated by Pepe, this work is 'engaging different points of view toward women.' This collection is a gem, with strikingly lovely work by Angela Dufresne, Carrie Moyer, Vera Iliatova and Frank Lind (no link available). Each is a window into the many ways we look at women."

“I wanted to know what happens when you bring this old-school lesbian feminist imagery to Las Vegas in a sex-positive, ‘I love my vagina’ kind of way,” Pepe told Las Vegas Sun reporter Kristen Peterson while installing the exhibit last month. “The purpose of art is to bring people together and to generate conversation. I like to see what’s possible when reaching across distances.”

Naomi Arin Contemporary Art, Las Vegas, NV. Through March 29.

Note: Vera Iliatova's wan small-figures-in-the-landscape paintings are on view at Monya Rowe this month.
"Vera Iliatova: Closer Than They Appear" Monya Rowe, New York, NY. Through April 12.

Related posts:
Angela Dufresne: Immediately from life

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