“Resist!” declared the bold letters at the bold faculty art show, “Nasty Women & Bad Hombres.”
Patrons found the edgy exhibition irresistible.
With “Resist,” Bekkah Walker asserted the arts’ role on the frontlines of political activism. In the heat of the country’s social turmoil, Walker threw all notions of subtlety onto the bonfire of outrage lighting the night of the Trump Administration. Even the name of the show, strung together from two of the Tweeter-in-Chief’s most caustic slurs, is a linguistic middle finger to the alt-right takeover of America.
“Allegory 2016,” a Nathaniel Clark painting, features a skeleton dressed in patriot’s red, white and blue presenting a woman, bound to a chair, gagged and blindfolded. Her breasts are exposed to an elephant with an ominous look in its eyes. In the background a small girl holds a candle while a mysterious figure cloaked in shadows watches over the skeleton’s shoulder. If we accept the bound woman as a representation of Lady Liberty, the piece makes a powerful statement about how it feels to live in dangerous times where elected officials have adopted misogynistic and unethical rhetoric.
“Backyard Archaeology” by George Essex makes use of the remains of a dead opossum found in a classroom as well as bones, fish fossils and all sorts of ephemera that might otherwise be regarded as junk. It is presented on a backdrop of panel painted with earthy-red tones under sky. Essex uses depth brilliantly, the objects on the panel could perceived lying flat on ground or buried deep in the earth.
Essex poses the question “Offended? A Racial Sensitivity Test” to viewers. A flattened can of Crazy Horse Malt Liquor, named after the great Native American leader, was displayed above a mock advertisement emblazoned with “REDSKIN” and “INDIAN.”
Perry Vásquez deftly captured the current social climate with “Burning Palm Tree Series 3 and 4.” He took the palm tree, the symbol for breezy SoCal fun in the sun, and set it aflame. His smoking metaphor reminds viewers that environmental degradation promises to be a hot topic over the next four years.
An untitled abstract painting by Patrick Mason is a brilliant splash of color. Viewers who study it long enough are sure to get lost in free-flowing shapes swirling around on a black background like strange lifeforms in a faraway alien sea.
“My Tower of Power,” by Grace Gray-Adams was perhaps the most impressive work in the gallery. Walled away, the tower is in its own private world. The Tower is a collage made of seven nightstands themed after women who have produced great art. Each nightstand is detailed with multimedia objects such as beads, vials of colored sand and birds. Adams’ attention to detail merits close inspection. Beatrice Woods’ nightstand is playfully prepared with the things to which she attributed her longevity – art books, chocolates and young men.
“Galleon,” by Nikko Mueller, evolved as audience members shaped it. Mueller painted over a painting of Spanish galleon with chalkboard paint. Students were invited to leave messages and drawings on the piece. As they did, the image of the galleon became more prominent. Mueller said he hoped the galleon would convey that America is a land of immigrants, many of whom came to the Americas in boats similar to the galleon.
Kathy McCord created “Julia,” a shrine to Las trece rosas, a group of girls executed by firing squad after the Spanish Civil War. The centerpiece is an impressive tapestry featuring the image of a young girl imposed on a background of 13 roses.
Christopher Ferreria’s two images, “Hawk, San Jose, California (Home is where one begins)” and “Jack, San Francisco, California (Home is where one begins)” are part of an ongoing series depicting gay men in their own homes. There is an interesting contrast between the two images. “Hawk” features a Spartan bedroom only a mattress on the floor. “Jack” displays a kitchen with an abundance of clutter and a nearly-naked man who stares blankly as if daring you to tell him to clean up. Paired together, both images make for a compelling statement about people constructing their own identities through their homes.
“Nasty Women & Bad Hombres” was a fine display of the vast talent here. At least Trump and Co. will provide lots of material for artists, satirists and songwriters.