Similar but Different #26: Teeth

by Margaret Meehan February 15, 2012

A few months back while at Artpace I saw the work of Scottish artist Graham Fagen and connected with his installation. Teeth have been a constant in my own work and seem to always upset, surprise and confuse viewers. They are loaded with emotion and power whether it be visual or in written phrases such as Bite Your Tongue or Her Bark Was Worse Than Her Bite. Most dream interpretations of teeth or their loss explain the intensity behind such imagery as a sign of anxiety, loss or sexual repression.

Graham Fagen- Tongue Behind Teeth, 2011. Indian Ink, enamel and pencil. 30 x 28 inches Photo: Todd Johnson

Graham Fagen- Our Shared, Common, Private Space, 2011. Bronze, enamel and ebony 70 x 21 x 21 inches. Photo: Todd Johnson

Graham Fagen in process studio shot at Artpace

In the work of Fagen teeth represent class and race as well. I loved how Fagen’s work was beautiful and poetic even as it referenced issues of body politics and slavery. His work got me to thinking who else used “teeth” as a symbol, metaphor or subject matter. Here is what I came up with….

Olaf Brzeski- Breath. 2009.

Yoan Capote, Stress, 2004. Concrete and bronze.

Rona Pondick- Treats. Plastic and rubber teeth. 1992. 350 heads, each approximately 1 ¾ x 2 ¼ x 2 inches, dimensions variable

Found this on My Space many years ago, I think I’m crediting the right source… Still one of my absolute favorites.

A Diamond In The Rough- Jessica Sea

Illustration of the real deal:

A good read:

Jean Michel Basquiat - Tiger Teeth. 1988.

Cheshire Cat from Disney's Alice in Wonderland. 1951.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.”
“All right,” said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowy, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.
“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, p. 58.

A moment from my Philadelphia upbringing, I’ll understand if you can only watch a few seconds of this one:

Another reality from Senalka McDonald who got her BFA from UT in 2006: Smiling Sessions #2 (Cheer)

Grown up teeth:

An oldie but a goodie, one of Jack Nicholson’s first film appearances in 1960, a cameo in Roger Corman’s cult classic Little Shop of Horrors.

And perhaps the scariest of all, an episode of Friends when Ross Geller whitens his teeth:


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Christina Rees February 15, 2012 - 21:32

Jeez louise. Fantastic post.

salvocheque February 15, 2012 - 21:37

I regret not going to Artpace more often.

Margaret Meehan,
you’re my bloggy hero.

Rainey Knudson February 16, 2012 - 07:29

Darryl Lauster has a great teeth piece in his show at Barry Whistler right now:

Elliot Lessing February 16, 2012 - 09:50

ALSO.. Jay DeFeo!

Kristen Cochran February 19, 2012 - 14:48

Dallas artist Bret Slater’s take on teef:

Norman Peabody February 21, 2012 - 09:47 Reply

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