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Review Archive

Women Take On Femininity in Art Exhibit

By Roger Green

Ann Arbor News, November 5, 2006

Since it's November already, the group exhibit "Miss October'' might be perceived as chronologically out of sync. But forget that breach. Most works in the lively show are conceptually and also technically on time.


On view at Gallery Project through Dec. 3, "Miss October'' includes paintings, sculptures and photos by five female artists who mostly address aspects of femininity. Fashion, mechanical ineptitude and children are among the subjects the artists treat, often with wry, offbeat humor. Kristen Beaver, who curated the exhibit, has on view outsize paintings that reproduce photos of women but are influenced by staged shots of fashion models in magazines. In commanding paintings such as "Untitled 2,'' subjects appear head on, in shallow, monochromatic spaces seemingly framed by the background paper used in fashion shoots.


Both Claudia Shepard and Cristen Richard portray articles of clothing minus wearers. Shepard's tall, vertically oriented paintings are of garments preserving memories of special occasions - a prom gown, for example, and what appears to a black dress worn to a funeral. Shepard's convincing treatment of drapery is quite impressive.

Richard's hanging sculptures of frilly garments are fashioned from hog casings - normally used for making sausage - stiffened with resin. The unconventional medium is semi-transparent, with the result that in works such as "Playmates (series 2 #1-3),'' layers of sheer, inner and outer clothing are recognizable all at once. Further, while the hanging garments are rigid shells, their irregular, resin coating suggests gossamer.


Engaging contradictions also mark Mona Shahid's encaustics - paintings made with hot, colored wax. While the luminous surfaces of these pictures are dense and flat, the faces portrayed in them are paradoxically unfocused and dreamy.


Shadid's "Annex'' is a collection of 85 mini squares, most portraits of children, attached to a wall in an irregular grid, with lots of blank, empty spaces. The arrangement of squares, the artist's statement explains, is best read from right to left. That's the direction of Arabic, the language of Shadid's forebears.


If "Annex'' bids viewers to alter their ordinary frame of reference, the same can be said of Nicola Kuperus' color photos. Shot from oblique angles, the pictures are of women grappling ineffectively with malfunctioning cars. Kuperus' less-than-flattering portraits may represent the second or third generation of feminism, or maybe just a perverse sense of humor. Whatever the case, the women are decapitated - heads cut off by the photos' borders - in all the shots.

Thought-provoking perspectives are represented in the exhibit, and the participating artists handle disparate mediums adeptly. Can one ask for more? "Miss October'' would gratify viewers in any season.


Gallery Project is at 215 S. Fourth Ave. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; noon to 9 p.m Friday-Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 734-997-7012 or go to www.the To contact Roger Green, call 734-994-6955 or e-mail