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Dominance, Submission, Meaning & VOICE

Sally Deskins, Red Belly

Feminism has long sought to gain equality by obliterating dominance and submission. Yet some find the ends of this dichotomy alluring… erotic, and seek to drink in both sides. So comes the quandary: how to sustain this sensuality yet stay true to a feminist commitment? That’s a question that artist, Trilety Wade asks in the new exhibit: Les Femmes Folles: VOICE.

Wade knows that submission and dominance can vacillate and be exchanged. She explores how balance might be gained in the space between while reveling in both sides. As she describes it:

I usually find myself on the cusp of submitting. I almost give in to my desires. I almost give in to another person. I never wholly submit, thus I am also dominant. That push and pull of submission and dominance leaves me in a static state of anticipation, which is reflected in the distance between the figures in my paintings.

My paintings make me question why there are some people and desires I want to submit to, and why I never allow myself the freedom to either be submissive or dominant; instead I freeze.

Moving to other matters involving passion, power, surrender and control, Sally Deskins’ “Red Belly” signifies motherhood, the scarlet color evoking fiery emotion, passion and sacrifice — which may be ennobling blood-life or deadening blood-loss. The energy of this red belly calls to mind more life than loss, though the two may be intertwined.

A passionate theme continues in the seductive vibes of breasts and loins:

The curly-prints from my pubic hair give the image an erotic flair. The white stamped nipples provide a ghostly aura, and the various drips and red line at the bottom sheds light on the beautiful indeterminism that is visual art and sometimes life as well.

Inspired by Yves Klein’s “Anthropometries,” Deskins’ self-portraits explore the relationship of mind and body. She paints her body with as if it were a canvas and then physically straps herself to paper or canvas to form an imprint, painting her psyche on what appear to be a series of Rorschach Inkblot Tests. Through these self-portraits Deskins searches for her voice.

Ella Weber explores how identity evolves over a lifetime. In her “Boy’s n’ toys” series she places a person next to a person-sized inanimate object from pop culture. The drawings seem to be all about innocence, nostalgia and humor. But look closely and see something more subversive.

In “but is she worth it?” Weber places Mrs. Butterworth’s on a bed of sticky syrup. Next to her a woman holds a plate in each hand, resembling scales. Perhaps she’s weighing her options, to serve or not?  A stack of hotcakes lie between the two figures.

What is the appeal of nostalgia… falling back to a place of greater inequity when women and Blacks were all about serving others? Why does the past still loom so large? And why is it so sticky?

Inanimate object and human being stand side by side. What does it mean to be human – and female? How does identity grow? And might those hotcakes be just fine levitating in thin air? Weber voices the questions.

Wanda Ewing knits social commentary into latch-hook yarn rugs that explore how race factors into society’s notions of feminine beauty and sexuality. The interlace of gender and race adds further texture. In her hands a surprising juxtaposition of risqué images of women’s bodies attaches to cozy yarn rugs. As if Madonna and whore are woven together?

Megan Loudon Sanders delves into identities that lie hidden yet seek expression. Historically, women were asked to conform to rigid standards that left their potential concealed from them. By mixing stylistically dissimilar elements, Sanders depicts a woman who at first glance could pass for any suburbanite. Yet she subversively announces on her body, This is who I am:

A young woman in a blue polka-dot dress brings her teacup up to sip, a simpering smile to the viewer. Intricate and colorful tattoos line her hands and arms, challenging the pristine environment.

While identities can lie hidden, so can the emotional significance of everyday life. Trudie Teijink uses a digital camera to document the remnants of family suppers, highlighting the colors and shapes of food and the utensils used to prepare it. She reveals how art emerges in the mish-mash that falls together. Her work makes us ponder how sentiments and human connections arise through the sights, smells and tastes of food, and of preparing and imbibing together. But sometimes, she says, the mundane still seems futile.

While domesticity seems a safe haven, home can be dangerous. Marcia Joffe-Bouska uses barbed nests to pose the question, “How might things appear safe when they are not?”

Joffe-Bouska also uses egg and nest imagery to express the worth of each individual and to explore how we might create our own safe havens. Strong metal nests signify strength, fabrications representing DNA indicate smarts, and lacy trimmings suggest patience. Each egg/nest combo represents a reason, a justification, or a reminder of why we have value. And each titled piece opens with this mantra: “I am ….”

Other themes look at the voices in our heads, how so much of the work women do everyday lies invisible or seemingly insignificant even to those who do it, and performance art invites attendees to write out notes to be re-interpreted by performers, with response. And more.

Women are speaking up, challenging status quo power politics and giving voice to lives and identities that too often remain shrouded and undervalued, all the while promoting positive communication in the VOICE exhibit.

Together, this art calls for deeper thought, broader expansion, and raised voices.

Co-curated by Sally Deskins and Megan Loudon Sanders, VOICE artists include Marcia Joffe-Bouska, Sally Deskins, Wanda Ewing, Kristin Lubbert, Jewel Noll, Melanie Pruitt, Amy Quinn, Megan Loudon Sanders, Trudie Teijink, Trilety Wade and Ella Weber.

Les Femmes Folles Presents: VOICE, a curated exhibition

The New BLK, 1213 Jones St.

Opening reception: Friday, April 13, 7-10p.m. Exhibition runs thru April 30. Preview art-talk at Indian Oven: April 11, 7p.m.
Art Talk at The New BLK, April 18, 7p.m.

LES FEMMES FOLLES: VOICE WANTS YOUR VOICE

Call for art

Deadline: April 6, 5pm deliver to The New BLK, 1213 Jones St.

Open to: artists who identify themselves as women

Les Femmes Folles: Voice is a curated exhibit featuring the artistic perspective of 11 Midwestern artists who are women at The New BLK Gallery opening April 13, 2012. The artists would like to also showcase the VOICES of other artists who are women with a collaborative piece. Artists are invited to create a mouth in any medium, in 2-dimensional form, no larger than 18×24” that can be hung on a wall. Deliver to The New BLK by April 6 to have it included in the show opening April 13 with artist contact information. Details sallydeskins@yahoo.com or mloundons@unmc.eduor shane@thenewblk.com

More information on the exhibit at thenewblk.com or facebook.com/newblk

Taking Mom to Court for Bad Birthday Card, No $$$

Two children, now in their early 20s, have taken their mother to court charging damages for:

  • Sending a bad birthday card – and no money
  • Neglecting to take one child to a car show
  • Telling the other child, at age 7, that she would call the police if he didn’t buckle his seatbelt
  • Failing to buy enough toys
  • Haggling over the amount she would spend on a party dress
  • Calling her daughter at midnight to insist she return from a homecoming party

The Chicago Tribune itemizes the complaints, saying that last week the court record stood about a foot tall with the children seeking $50,000 for “emotional distress.”

Come on, isn’t all of the above called “typical parenting”?

Steve Schmadeke, of the Tribune filled in details on the card:

On the front of the American Greetings card is a picture of tomatoes spread across the table that are indistinguishable except for one in the middle with craft-store googly eyes attached. “Son I got you this Birthday card because it’s just like you… different from all the rest!” the card reads. On the inside (his mother) wrote “Have a great day! Love and Hugs, Mom xoxoxo.”

I can see why her son felt this was “inappropriate” and sued.

An appeals court dismissed the case saying that ruling in favor of the children could open the floodgates to excessive judicial scrutiny and interference of families. Really? The court was tempted to rule in favor of the children? How this case managed to get as far as an appeals court is beyond me.

I’m not sure whether the children, who were raised in a $1.5 million home, are just spoiled or whether their father is manipulative and abusive.

Turns out the whole thing was dad’s idea. He not only came up with the scheme, but volunteered to represent the kids in court. Luckily, he’s a lawyer.

Mom and dad are divorced. This could be revenge.

But how did dad rope the kids into his evil web?

I don’t know the details of their family life, but the whole thing reminds me of something I read from Kathleen Krenek, Executive Director of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. In an op-ed piece for the San Jose Mercury News she says, “Father’s often use their own children as pawns to abuse their victims, creating family rifts that position the mother as inferior and the father as the good guy.” She continues:

An abuser hits his wife when the children aren’t around, then turns into the “fun” parent when the children are around. The victim, their mother, is frazzled, anxious and stressed out. The children see their father in a good mood, then see their mother: stressed out, annoyed and scared. Then their father says, “Hey let’s go to the movies.” The mother doesn’t want to go, spoiling their family fun. In the eyes of the kids, the father is the good guy.

Who knows whether dad found a way to make himself seem like the “fun” parent and turn the kids against a sullen mom. Regardless, dad, daughter and son should all be embarrassed for, at the least, being such spoiled brats.

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Sex Lessons from Mom and Dad

Even when girls and boys get the same negative message about sex, girls seem to come out worse.

Many young people only get silence from their parents on the subject. But silence communicates: Sex is unmentionable, shameful.

Parents often worry that raising the subject will lead kids to have sex. Actually, when parents talk, their children are less likely to become sexually active, and more likely to behave responsibly.

“Don’t touch yourself there.” Another message linking sex and filthiness.

The advice doesn’t always work as hoped. Sex therapist Lonnie Barbach tells of one little girl who, “put that extraordinarily dirty place directly under the faucet of the tub in order to wash it more thoroughly and was pleasantly surprised to find that the water created a most intense sensation which culminated in orgasm.”

Other little girls aren’t so lucky.

Here’s the downside to the parental rebuke. Touching yourself is exactly what sex therapists advise when women have trouble achieving orgasm. Because they often don’t understand how their bodies work.

In fact, while parents may scold both boys and girls, the reproach seems to have a more negative impact on girls. Boys who don’t touch themselves, and who don’t have sex, will have wet dreams because their bodies need regular ejaculations to create fresh sperm. This clues boys in to how their bodies work.

Girls don’t always figure out how the clitoris works. It’s an organ that’s small and hidden, and girls’ bodies don’t force orgasms. Women can go their entire lives, having many babies, without ever experiencing one.

Most young men masturbate, but only half of young women do. Perhaps this is why.

But parents give boys more positive messages about sex, too. “Never waste a boner,” a male student volunteered when I asked what sorts of parental advice they’d heard.

Girls probably won’t hear anything remotely similar.

We’ve all heard how boys are told to sew their wild oats before marriage, while girls are encouraged to abstain. Some dads have even taken their daughters to “purity balls” and vowed “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.” A little extreme. And the notion of “covering” a daughter seems a little creepy. But it reflects the larger society’s concern with girls’ “sexual cleanliness.”

Girls and boys get different messages on sexuality from parents. And even when they don’t, girls’ sexuality can be more damaged.

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