Life in this Ocean: A Wave of Female-Empowered Art
at Annenberg Beach House Gallery
Through January 7th, 2019
By Genie Davis
Co-curated by Deirdre Sullivan-Beeman and Kathy Taslitz, Life in this Ocean features empowering, lovely works by Deirdre Sullivan-Beeman, Kathy Taslitz, Donna Bates, and Lena Rushing. The exhibition thematically features images of the ocean and water, while encompassing the ethos of female empowerment in a variety of mediums.
With Donna Bates’ “Libertalis,” we see a mermaid-like woman, part beauty queen, part Lady Liberty, emerging from the sea wrapped in the American flag. Clad in a crown, hip blue and purple sunglasses, red hair and red gloves, she is also holding two fierce arrows with American flag tails. Behind her, the sky looks ready to storm over silvery water. “War Paint and Curlers 02” offers another bold, defiant woman, here with a golden crown above her head that evokes images of religious icons. The sky behind her is filled with sunset light, and cupped in her hand, is an apple with a bite taken out: she’s ready to take a bite out of life, to be entirely unapologetic for the actions of “first woman” Eve. Black tear drops dot her cheeks, perhaps a warrior’s tattoo or tears for those she’s vanquished. She too, has arrows, these sharply embedded through her head scarf. Powerful, sexy and tough, Bates’ women exude a bit of the pirate aesthetic; they are women to be reckoned with, goddesses arisen from sea and sky, women that no one should cross.
Kathy Taslitz may not explicitly feature women in all of her works, but they exhibit a humorous, insightful female sensibility. Take “Selfie Esteem,” in which a group of friends, three of them women, pose for that ubiquitous selfie by the sea. Created with aluminum and giclee in the shape of a large smiley-face, these works exude an amused, ironic view of the world. A pink cat pops out from a hiding place amid trees and sky in “Pussy Anxiety;” a hilarious look at why we may not connect with others poses as a map of subway stops in “Misdirected.” Bright colors and wit draw viewers into a potent mocking of societal mores and contradictions.
Deirdre Sullivan-Beeman uses an historic artistic approach to her golden, figurative-surrealist works: modified oil and egg tempera. The images are fantastical, fairy tales that unfold in dream-like settings. “Seahorse Girl” presents viewers with a woman in conversation with an oversize seahorse by a treasure chest. “Lotus Girl” communes with a vest-clad rabbit in a small rowboat on a lake or bay awash in lotuses. The quality of myths and the mystical embodies these works, as does the artist’s strong belief that “the era of the girl is now.” These are potent figures, effectively writing their own stories of girl-power. Both fierce and fragile, her women’s beauty is fueled by an inward glow of strength and light.
Lena Rushing’s female figure in “There’s Always One” stands in a body of deep aqua water. Her hair, the colors of the phallic birds bulleting down from the sky, and the sea serpents rising around her in the water are all in striped candy-cane pink and white. So too is a ballooning circus tent of a cloud above her. Looking down at the serpents, she seems to be studying how to tame them. The work echoes some of art deco in style, while being uniquely bold and modern. Layered graphite on cardboard works are like puzzle pieces floating underwater, with a fish and seahorses floating above what appear to be bits of notes and receipts submerged. The SLO-based artist gives us beautifully-detailed works in several different mediums. Each is watery and wonderful: wade into this world and conquer land and sea, discarding that which no longer has meaning, and gaining command over those that wish to dominate.
Appropriately exhibited near the sea itself at the Annenberg Beach House gallery, the exhibition runs through January 7th, 2019.