Food and sex!

And a disturbing vagina dentata

Susanne Forestieri

Joke: “Did you hear about the bulimic stag party? The cake came out of the girl.”

Amusing, perhaps, but more of the same would be pushing it and pushing it—and that’s what I felt Whipped Up!, the sex- and food-themed exhibition at CAC Gallery was guilty of. The show has several good, short and to-the-point jokes which are enjoyable as such, but where’s the beef? That said, some pieces in the show are satisfying, but not enough to leave the viewer feeling sated.

Wendy Kveck’s “How much do you really need?” is uncomfortably close to my opening joke—more a disgorgement than a painting, more cake-decorating than traditional composition. Is the artist condemning gluttony, reveling in an orgy of guilty pleasure or doing both?

Like a good one-liner, Cybele’s photograph series “Melon Ballers” sets up and delivers the punchline in an instant—an ear of corn, a zucchini and half a melon go to a salad bar ... Get the picture? The objects are amusing metaphors for the genital regions, certainly satisfying the theme of combining sex and food.

Felice Koenig’s “Sweet Cakes” doesn’t incorporate the sex theme, but I enjoyed it because I’m a sucker for texture, and the “cakes” look like Rice Krispie concoctions I made as a kid. The work is composed of three small square boxes completely covered with raised points of brightly colored acrylic that the artist insists are minute breasts.

Darius Kuzmickas illustrates the theme in his offbeat way. “24 hour fitness” is a mixed-media triptych that wittily equates copulation, exercise and a healthy diet. In demure little oval vignettes he depicts the aforementioned couple, a neatly printed sign (“burned: 30 calories”) and a freshly picked carrot. Kuzmickas did not grow up in America, and maybe that is why he can see some of our absurd preoccupations with a gimlet eye.

Jeanne Voltura often uses the demure, ladylike medium of cross-stitch to make subversive statements. Her “Man’s Best Friend Sampler” conflates dog bones and boners with phallic-like guns bracketed by the statements “DIAMETER OVER LENGTH” and “LENGTH OVER DIAMETER.” Could she be saying something about man’s obsession with size and penchant for violence?

Choice of medium is also intrinsic to the impact of Janet Greek’s Lino-print “Makin’ Bacon.” The depiction of a porcine couple in the act suggests more than the wry double entendre. Having the look of a children’s-book illustration, particularly one of fables, the anthropomorphized animals with their all-too-human facial expressions—he, self-satisfied; she, exhausted—hint at male self-deception.

Did you know that 30,000 years ago the yoni, a symbol of the female genitalia, was worshiped as more powerful than its male counterpart, the phallus? Ceramic artist Anne Mulford (aka Princess Anne), a proud lesbian and tireless proselytizer for women’s sexuality, probably knows all about it. In “In the Realm of the Senses,” a porcelain triangle rounded at the top clearly represents the vulva, labia open to reveal a vagina dentata (a vagina equipped with teeth, which occurs in folklore and is said to symbolize fear of castration). The piece is mounted on a wooden escutcheon (both a shield and a term for the female pubic-hair pattern). Mulford incorporates the yoni symbols of flowers and fruits with small decals and a large fish, which may be a tongue-in-cheek reference to “fish-odor syndrome” associated with women’s private parts.

Jorge Catoni’s photograph/digital art piece “Gobble up” can be interpreted in many ways, but its visual impact is not hard to explain with its irregular outline (a rectangle were it not for the two bites taken out of diagonally opposite corners); the arresting red, black and white color scheme; and, of course, the moist-looking phallus, breasts and voluptuous figurine that look like chocolate lollipops. The images bracket a central rectangle filled with a jauntily handwritten menu in Spanish hawking ice cream and other delectables. The charming insouciance of this sign is emphasized by contrast with a mechanically printed one cataloguing what is forbidden: no running, no pushing, no roughhousing (also in Spanish). The work suggests many things; among them a conflict between accepted behavior and the needs of the body—childhood versus adulthood and order versus chaos.

In all, I think the show has too many duds, but is worth a visit for the few gems that are there.

A Mary Warner show is always worth a visit, and the current one supplies another chapter in her love affair with flowers, particularly Chrysanthemums. She has been painting them for years without diminished vitality, but now she has added architectural elements and employs a different technique. Layering plaster on canvas mounted on boards, she delineates the slender petals in graphite and fills in the forms in washes of pale and iridescent colors luminously enhanced by a layer of paste wax polished to a high sheen.

Whipped Up! **

Through March 1

CAC Gallery, the Arts Factory

Mary Warner ***

Through February 29

Trifecta Gallery, the Arts Factory

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