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St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 5, 1994


By Robert W. Duffy

Carousel Gallery at Faust Park, 15185 Olive Boulevard, through June 5

Most works selected for the St. Louis Women's Caucus biannual exhibition "attempt to describe the tensions and contradictions inherent in being an artist who happens to be a woman," says juror Lisa Norton, assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In this selection, the rich subject matter yields wisdom, wit and irony in varied and interesting forms.

In a clay vessel nearly two feet in diameter titled "Protection," Annelies Heijnen paints images of women within and without. One female face graces the outside along with a snake, a lizard and a bird. Inside a full figure of a woman unfurls; across from it is a face, a mirror image perhaps. The shape swells and flows - irregular, enclosing, womb-like.

Katherine Aoki's two collographs are completely different from Heijnen's lyrical piece and, in fact, should make you chuckle. Titles add irony to the precise linear images. A takeoff of a 1960s commercial about who has the whitest whites and the cleanest floors is titled "My Cabinets Are Chock-full of Quality Cleaning Agents." Dad gives a toothy, canine-looking grin as he holds up his spray cleaner. Her other print presents "Dad Sponging Down a Major Appliance," a big enough event in the life of the family to record for posterity.

Pat Owoc appropriates a photo of a stalwart Kansas pioneer family and transfers it to a quilted piece of fabric. The whole is covered with chicken wire. It's a wonderful picture of a mother, father and children, upright and rigid, proud and suffering. She inscribes the piece with: "Nevertheless some 2/3 of the Kansas settlers steadfastly refused to give up hope."
Jennifer Selesnick also presents an image of family, a painting of a contemporary group with mother as pivotal character. Flattened, simplified, yet clearly representational, two children cling to their mother. The father stands separate, stark against the plain ground.

Totally different in feeling and intent are the two paintings by Patricia Badman. Both the dry, scumbled application of oil paint and the startling subjects are expressionistic.

In "Guardian," a woman is held up by an angel, her outstretched arms balanced visually by its wings. In the background, devils leer. A man removes a cloak exhibitionistically from a rather modest-looking, blue-skinned nude in "It's Time To Leave Now."

There are many fascinating photographs. Cheryl Corbett flops prints so that headless nudes read like wax monsters or lava lamp bubbles. Carol House's two pictures present beautiful, crisp images whose domestic tranquillity is fraught with political and social undertones because they were taken in South Africa.

Despite all the many rich and varied interpretations of the life of women in this show, two of my favorite pieces do not approach the subject. Clearly the judge favored Jane Barrow's "Black Lake" as well, for it is hung on a separate stanchion at the entrance to the show.

This large, 5-by-4-foot charcoal lake scene is so lovely it will take your breath away. At first, the top of the paper seems almost completely velvety black, then a faint, faint gleam of light kisses the surface of the lake, delineating it from the sky. In the foreground, a few reeds dissolve in light, a mystical touch in the darkness.

In one of a handful of abstract pieces in the show, Nancy Exarhu creates a collage out of mostly triangular pieces of paper she has printed with textures, squiggles and atmospheric effects. She overlaps them in a complex arrangement that recalls a kite in low relief sculpture.

These 48 works represent a strong showing for the female artists of this area, but they are not meant to appeal to women alone. Norton says, "With any women's exhibition there exists the danger of perpetuating this inequality by sanctioning separation and thus ghettoizing the work of women. I feel that this exhibition is broad in its appeal to both genders."

Copyright 1994 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Record Number: 9405040121

© 2008 Nancy Exarhu-Holtz