Meret Oppenheim is supposed to have described her famous Objet (Le Déjeuner en Fourrure-1936 ), the fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon, as “the image of femininity imprinted in the minds of men and projected on to women.”
Samantha Marder’s BENT installation at Boston’s Atlantic Works Gallery (December 3-30, 2016), begs similar questions as the cup: the social reality construct of femininity meets the reality of both being female, and/or dressing up like one. While the act itself–when we consider cross dressing to be an artistic act that makes its way to a gallery–questions who exactly is the man dressing up for? Perhaps the best answer is: himself, the person who in the moment is both male and female, the male projecting his dream on himself as a woman.
In turn, the witnessing of the documentation of man dressing up for himself and the accruements he uses to do it makes us, the viewer, a bit uncomfortable in the same way the idea of drinking tea from Oppenheim’s cup does. It’s a visceral “wait a minute!” reaction that is accompanied by a politically correct liberal voice that says, “It’s all right.”
But we all are programmed to react: real men don’t spend hours looking into mirrors; real women don’t really dress up like the man who is play acting a slut, a bride, a maid wearing crotchless underwear, or a mean horny nurse.
In our polarized culture, men are not to be treated as mere body, and women must consider themselves primarily body. The portrayed body becomes the feminized body, regardless of its sex.
Marder shows, in her installation, that femininity has image; masculinity has no image.
The two rooms in the gallery are set up like this: One room is Reality. The second room is Dreamland.The middle divider is a dark curtain, like the subconscious, that the gallery goer and the cross dresser passes through when entering the rabbit hole.
The reality room showcases a row of snapshots of men wearing wigs, women’s clothing and make-up.They look like they’re all having a blast: laughing, showing cleavage, revealing the thigh line of black stockings.
In the same room, on the opposite wall, is Marder’s journal, a sociological observation of
degrees of sexual, sexy and social behaviors; a list of the fantasies men prefer to act out after they’ve dressed up as women (job interviews, caught in the act of sexual betrayal, automat slut).
Once you pass through the black curtain, to the dreamland side of her installation, Marder shows you the nuts and bolts of the business of cross dressing all bathed in soft pink lights. There’s a lounge area to relax, listen to music, a basket of soft buttered buns. In one corner is a softly lighted bridal gown ( “Hindu men’s favorite fantasy,” she pointed out.) In front of the leather sofa and floor cushions is a glass topped coffee table filled with an assemblage of breast protheses.
To the far right in the dreamland area, is a small closet of a room lined floor-to ceiling with mirrors. It has a shag rug and a chandelier composed of pink fluffy petticoats. In this room gallery goers can try on one of a handful of wigs and/or high heels, test dozens of tubes of lipstick, touch feathers. Girl heaven.
Marder, who in addition to being an artist-exhibitor at Atlantic Works Gallery, has worked as a cross dresser facilitator for the past 20 years. She has a degree in cultural anthropology and previously worked as a social worker.
Her show BENT is an intellectually eroticized exhibit that agrees reality is a construct; that plays with philosophical ideas about reality and gender; that acknowledges real men can’t dress up as women and hang out at their country club or attend their business’s board meetings.
“Usually men who want the experience of dressing up as a woman have to go to a dominatrix or prostitute. I am neither.” She finds clients through ads in magazines, such as Boston Magazine.
Marder has a collection of over 200 miniskirts in her studio and perhaps twice as many panties. “Certain men reduce anxiety and stress by cross dressing, ” Marder said. “I am their fairy godmother, their facilitator, their guide.”
BENT is Marder’s second gender exploring installation at Atlantic Works Gallery.
BTW: in the 30s Meret Oppenheim sold her fur lined cup to the MoMA in New York for $50. Since this was the first work by a woman the museum acquired, Oppenheim is playfully called the First Lady of MoMA.
Atlantic Works Gallery Member
Marjorie Kaye’s sculptures reach out and in and up and beyond. The transcendent stacks of energy are constructed from pieces of plywood, which are cut into shapes with a jig saw, smoothed and then tinted with bold gouache color–or house paint washes. The pieces are assembled in sequences, one piece glued or nailed against the other, forming patterns that transit from basic schematics of color and size into higher, longer and wider dimensions that strive to be freed from the constraints physicality. In her gracious unfolding of form, Kaye considers the mechanics of duality, and the vibration between the laws of intention and those of magnetism.
Perhaps classical in inception, the sculptures are very particular to our present time and reflect the emotions of a meditation on internal space. “I reflect who I am as a person. I bring my inside experience outside,” Kaye says.
Kaye sculptures and paintings have been shown both locally and nationally. She has an BFA in painting and has done graduate work in printmaking. Her work has been reviewed in many publications including the Boston Globe and ArtScope Magazine. She is the founder/member/owner of Galatea Fine Art in Boston, MA, a large artist-run gallery.
In her most recent work Kaye breaks down the emotive qualities of sound, dissecting music, particularly the curvaceous, meticulous and musical chases composed by Bach. She appreciates Bach’s order and expression, pointing out that his arrangements are repetitive and sequential, like her art. “Bach didn’t express chaos. Order allows emotion to come through.”
Kaye grew up in the Boston area, in a musical environment. “It began in the crib–the listening, the appreciating, the dissecting. The family took me to Leonard Bernstein concerts, to musicals.” She remembers seeing, The Carnival of Animals with her grandmother. Kaye sang in oratorios. “In my mid-20s, after art school, I studied voice. But I found I was more interested in music theory than performance. The calibrations. Cadence. The ideas.”
“Yes,” she smiles. “I ride a lot of different horses,” adding, “when I was young I started a journey of many disciplines: music, the occult, theosophy, astrology, Judeo-Christian texts, the Kabbala. Eventually it culminated in Zen Buddhism. And I’m still investigating, contemplating, researching…
“When I think about organized religion, I see no differences. Each is a system to look at the threads that join all of us together.” That thread is apparent in her art. “The most important thing in life is God and spirit. My art is a spiritual practice; my ongoing contemplation is about the meaning of life. I ask: Who are we? What is nature?
She turned to sculpture as an expressive form when she and her companion, Artist George Shaw, began living together. “George is also a woodworker,” she explains. “There were of scraps of wood around the house. I started shaping the pieces and painting them. Finally I gave myself permission to do sculpture.“
Previously her painting (which she still practices and exhibits) had focused on the mandala. A mandala is a ritual symbol, representing the universe, that guides viewers into a sacred, internal space. “Instead of painting mandalas I began building them,” she says.
In 2016 Marjorie was awarded by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum: a Lillian Orlowsky/ William Freed Foundation grant. “On the application I wrote that with the funding I would get a studio and I did.” In June Kaye moved her tools, paints and wood to a studio in East Boston, to 80 Border Street, Atlantic Works Studios.
In her studio she doesn’t listen to music. “I like complete silence. Plus I use power tools, and they make a lot of loud noise.” As far as color, the color of her work is bold. “The brighter the better,” she says. Orange seems to be the bridge color. “I use orange to pull everything together. To get from here to there.”
She can’t predict how having a dedicated art studio will effect her work. “For sure I have more opportunity to look and consider each piece,” she says. “But I worked hard in my home studio. I’m just a hard worker; it’s my nature. I’m process oriented. I make the best of any situation.”
MARJORIE KAYE’S ONGOING AND UPCOMING SHOWS:
The Poetics of Space. (with George Shaw) at Atlantic Works Gallery, 80 Border Street, East Boston, MA. October 8-29, 2016.
Colo Colo Gallery, 29 Centre Street, New Bedford MA. December 2016
FOR MORE VISUALS and info VISIT www.marjoriekayeart.com
George Shaw’s paintings seduce the viewer with their color and secret. They are investigations of home and house, Shaw’s personal continent of experience. He studied painting at Massachusetts College of Art, graduating with honors, and works during the day as a master carpenter. Shaw also has a certificate in historic architectural preservation. The paintings of a single house on an unnamed landscape provoke and free a sense of light, time and place and within those realms release a vulnerable precariousness. The seen feeling is a Hopper-esque isolation, a captured desire just out of grasp; a moment saturated with color and suggestion. The secret within the house is a light; life is happening.
Shaw said, however that his intention is not to be inside the house but to be approaching it. “Life is an illusion,” he says, “we’re on a journey but we don’t know where. Meanwhile, we’re all looking for home.” Home according to George, is a sense of place and security.
Shaw’s been producing paintings in his house series for two years. His day job, finish carpenter, gives him the opportunity to be a voyeur in many people’s houses and family life. He sees how people value their space and what they desire to have inside their house, how they create comfort and security and control the chaos and tentativness of life in their immediate surroundings. “A lot of times it’s the idea they have of a house that people strive to attain.”
The paintings are very American in their idea of lone individualism, masculine in their frankness, saturated in color intelligence, and layered with spiritual meaning of potential ascension. Technically, Shaw’ paints on board using oil, powdered pigment, wax and glazes. He usually begins with the color in the sky and works his way down the board to the earth, knowing intuitively when the color needs to change. In many paintings a line of oil pastel defines the meeting line of heaven and earth, adding an intense seam of drama to that line where souls eventually ascend.
In the realm of the house, in search of the real resting place for family and soul, Shaw has positioned the viewer between the lure of the everlasting and the possibility of attaining that reality, sensation, idea, hope . A place we all hope to attain: home.
George Shaw is a member of Atlantic Works Gallery. An exhibit of his work “Home Again” is on exhibit at Galatea Fine Art in Boston, June 1-26, 2016. Upcoming shows at Atlantic Works, East Boston, and Colo Colo Gallery in New Bedford in the fall of 2016.