[Fine Art]

Who said being good was easy?

A group of artists wrestles with an eternal question

The Princess and the Pea,” Jonnie Anderson.
Susanne Forestieri

Please note: “This show intended for mature audiences only,” but don’t get too excited. Curators Wendy Kveck and Danielle Kelly were determined to stimulate your brain, not your gonads. In On Being Good, their new exhibit at the Reed Whipple Cultural Center, they invited artists—all of whom lived in Las Vegas at one time—to explore their interpretations of “being good.” (Editor’s note: Kelly also covers art for the Weekly.)

The Details

On Being Good
Two stars
Through November 29
Reed Whipple Cultural Center, 229-6211

In a more religious age “goodness” was the opposite of evil and was represented allegorically; but in our secular age, without universally understood symbols and with few moral absolutes, it’s not surprising that most of the artists dodged the big issue and dealt with more contemporary notions of empowerment.

You would think addicts and prostitutes shouldn’t feel good about themselves, but Jonnie Andersen demonstrates otherwise. Working as a barmaid in a Downtown country/western bar, she invited her new “friends” to get makeovers and be photographed. Her book, The Little Chapel of Esoteric Cosmetology, is the result. (Two enlargements hang in the gallery.) The battered and bruised women never achieve anything close to glamour, but their faces show a defiant joy that’s deeply moving.

We can’t see the women’s faces hidden behind Wendy Kveck’s signature food masks, worn by two scantily clad young women in a video satire of the perennial beer commercial featuring scantily clad young women. Kveck succeeds in subverting the notion of women as both consumers and consumed.

Laurenn McCubbin also addresses women’s empowerment. In her three-panel graphic short story, a woman assaulted by insults (e.g., “slut,” “bitch,” “dumb” and “FAT!”) is transformed by stages into a mermaid who utters the last word, “Shhh ...” I think McCubbin intended the work as a positive statement, but what does it say when a woman is exultant only after she has lost her pudendum? Do women have to relinquish their sexuality to be powerful?

Aaron Sheppard lacks a pudendum, but photographed by Jill Fiore during a performance piece, his long silken hair falling gently down his back, he easily passes for a woman. The picture uses dark tones reminiscent of 19th-century “fine art” photographs. The deception calls attention to the lie of soft porn as “art.”


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