For every woman who’s ever been asked to smile by a complete stranger, the focal point of Jennifer Henry’s Fêted exhibit might feel strikingly familiar. That is to say, you either relate to the two women at the center of the Cube gallery—expressionless and bored, frustrated and vacant—or get a sense of discontent and confusion. This centerpiece, two brightly lit hostesses on display in festive and billowing party gowns, isn’t a representation of feminine fantasy, but a visceral—and realized—portrayal of women’s existence and experience.
“As a feminine personality, one of your first and most important duties in life is to be a gracious hostess,” Henry says. Pairing it with the room’s playful environment—monochromatic and colorful stripes, balloons and streamers—forces the viewer to react to the women in the center. “We all have our own inner life. If you live it out at the party, are you ruining everyone else’s good time by not having a good time yourself?” Henry asks. “Should you always be festive as the environment is festive? Are we an adornment to things? Are we just an addendum, an accessory, but also somehow oddly integral to [its] success?”
Fêted is the inaugural show at the Cube, formerly Brett Wesley Gallery at Art Square, which continues to be operated by Wesley but with a completely different scope than its former incarnation. “Brett Wesley Gallery would occasionally do conceptual [art] and installation, but at its core was fine-art programming,” Wesley says. “That program, as fun as it was and all the good work we did, was a little bit restrictive at times. … I wanted to go in a very radical, different direction.”
The Cube will focus on happenings like Fêted, with performance and installation at its core. “I think we’re slowly moving away from being a possession-driven society where we buy and accumulate things,” Wesley says. “We’ve always been an experiential society, but you notice it more and more. People are more interested in live events and something unique.”
Fêted will run through October 29, with Henry replacing her two opening-reception models with static mannequins donning her extravagant, handmade dresses cut from plastic table runners. Eric Burwell’s exhibition Deconstruction will follow, with an opening reception on November 8.
FÊTED Through October 29, Thursday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. The Cube, 702-483-8844.