Spirited, energetic, and well executed, The Sweet Girls: Idleness and Mischief at Lawing Gallery isn’t great art, but it is great fun.
In a daring break from its regular shows by well-established contemporary artists, Doug Lawing has given over his space to a pack of outlaw cheerleaders, to decorate as they will. Mom and Dad are out of town, and it’s time to throw a party!
The amount of work is impressive. Parodying feverish prom-decoration hoopla, the Sweet Girls have transformed Lawing Gallery into a fairy forest of white and pink, with a silken pavilion and a forbidden cave. Inside the pavilion is a boudoir of trouble. On the vanity, a frilly corset is armed with smoke bombs, lipstick, a switchblade, and caps, next to Polaroid mug shots of four of the principal Sweet Girls wearing faux homecoming mums. A video documents the Sweet Girls” code of prescribed attitudes, dress and action with tongue-in-cheek gravity.
The theme is trite: rebellion against stereotypical feminine roles. But then, stereotypical feminine roles are trite; as long as young women continue to face ridiculous social pressures, it will remain fun to flaunt them. The urge to rebel never changes; it’s what you do with it that counts: it can fuel great art, or it can be just letting off steam, and there’s a place for both.
Good protest art can dramatize social problems or evoke the artist’s struggle to define an identity amid conflicting values and roles, but Idleness and Mischief isn’t trying to be good protest art and isn’t interested in soul-searching. The Sweet Girls keep it light, satirizing prom queens and 50’s housewives; icons of femininity so stereotypical that no one’s going to be offended. Pseudo-transgressive, the Sweet Girls substitute pranks for protest, articulating a childish delight in tweaking the noses of the usual suspects. It’s iconoclasm for its own sake, great summer fun if you share the same icons.
All imges courtesy the artists and Lawing Gallery.
Bill Davenport is an artist and writer and was one of the first contributors to Glasstire.