I drove up to Houston a few weeks ago to attend the DiverseWorks auction and while there I had the chance to visit a few galleries and museums. Upside Down: Arctic Realities at The Menil and Charles Ledray: workworkworkworkwork at the MFAH are two exhibitions you should definitely make a point of seeing.
I also went to Box 13 ArtsSpace for the first time. It’s an ambitious studio and artist run nonprofit gallery that had Joey Fauerso‘s The Clearing on view. One particular piece pulled me in like a slow drive past a graphic car accident. You know that guilty feeling that you shouldn’t be looking but you can’t stop? Well, that’s the feeling I had watching the video Me Time. What seems cute and funny becomes increasingly awkward and uncomfortable. Honestly, it made me feel a little bit dirty… but in a good way.
Me Time is a feminist twist on the myth of Pygmalion with a bit of Pinocchio or The Nut Cracker mixed in – if they were soft-core porn. Me Time is a gender role reversal of Jean-Leon Gerome’s painting Pygmalion and Galatea with Fauerso kissing, petting, and caressing a series of manly puppets (including a policeman, a firefighter, and a construction worker).
Gerome painted the myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his own perfect creation, while Fauerso references the myth by literally bringing to life her artwork with her own breath filled kisses.
Puppets are generally associated with children but this video made me think of Cindy Sherman or Hans Bellmer ‘s photographic use of dolls and the notion of “play” – images which nod to a childhood not for kids but instead for an audience of adults who are no longer innocent.
The act of Fauerso passionately making out with what is essentially her own hand dispels the myth and transforms what was thought of as romantic and idyllic in Gerome’s painting into something essentially more awkward and a little bit self-conscious. Like a kiss between a tween girl and the photo of Justin Beaver she has pinned to her wall, we see what is meant to be the intimate and private moments between a couple become the desperate act of one. For this reason I found it hard to take my eyes off Me Time no matter how hard I tried.
Joey Fauerso- The Clearing runs till July 23rd, 2011 at Box 13 ArtSpace. Gallery hours are Saturday 1-5pm or by appointment.