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Review: CAC's Mark of the Feminine

What is the purpose of a show comprised of female and feminine-identified artists? Mark of the Feminine, now on display at the CAC, declines to indicate one specifically. “Mark of the ‘Feminine’ is not necessarily a narrative theme show, or a feminist manifesto, but more like a question about the term itself,” writes curator Regine Basha in the show’s introductory statement. The contributors to this show draw on pain, joy, memory, humor, and triumph, a variety of experience that seems as if it ought not fit in one gallery.


A few things Mark of the Feminine is not about: traditionality, disengagement, men. It’s not an overtly political selection, though Alisha Feldman’s zine-style illustration The History of My Body Hair is an apt reminder of how easily women’s choices are politicized, and Sarah Sole’s large, imaginative portraits of Hillary Clinton certainly represent some kind of societal hope or fear. On the whole, the show celebrates creation and whimsy, the ability to draw on canonical artistic associations of femininity without falling into their stereotypes.


Photography is a popular medium here, particularly in pursuit of nostalgia. In A Decade of Lovers, artist Meg Turner poses for photobooth shots with a series of partners, nuzzling, kissing, or staring for the camera. The photographs hang in two vertical columns, physically enacting forgotten photo strips from past relationships. Cristina Molina’s Sabor-Saber-Savor is an interactive display of vintage stereoscopic shots, each featuring a picturesque European meal and accompanying love poetry in Romantic languages.


Other artists approach femininity by teasing at the representations of masculinity, as in Edna Lanieri’s elegiac black-and-white portraits of aging drag queens. Lauren Hind offers color-saturated shots of young men posed with ripe berries and romaine lettuce, images whose sensuality and whimsy nod to Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s playful Renaissance portraits of men constructed from vegetables. Maxx Siezeler, whose work often addresses the spectrum of gender, here turns to the identities of objects. Faced with a categorization question like “animal, vegetable, or mineral?”, the artist replies with a set of fantastic vehicles that are all of these and none: Pickle Power, Crewzing Shark, Jet Speed.


A moment here for Mark of the Feminine’s video pieces, which are some of its most dynamic and mischievous. Ariya Martin’s brief clip depicts a woman’s hand trimming the hairs of a man’s ear, a wordless testimony to the dependencies of intimate relationships. Across the room it faces Ronna Harris’s Marital Bliss, a large painting of a dissatisfied middle-aged couple in bed, but something in the video’s slightly grotesque simplicity makes its payoff more rewarding.


More entertaining yet is Nina Schwanse and Sophie T. Lvoff's collaboration Semiotics of the Taco (After Martha), an absurdist take on a taped cooking show that approaches product placement, culinary appropriation, and the messy chore of making dinner with something like bald-faced honesty. Meanwhile, Amanda Cassingham-Bardwell has diagrammed a series of unlikely hors d’ouevres (chocolate-and-mayonnaise petite four with embedded copper penny; single marshmallow with a garnish of toothpaste) and presented them alongside a video of diners tasting her creations. They react with amusement, confusion, and disbelief as Cassingham-Bardwell stands by, encouraging them, the Miranda July-like host of her own curious and whimsical competition. 


But if, for some reason, you want to forget this exhibition, don’t go near the screen playing “Like My Hand Did,” an original song and video by NOLA-based electro-rap artist Boyfriend. It’s oozy and rude, as naughty as anything Peaches ever recorded, and before you know you’ve succumbed you’ll find yourself repeating its unprintable lyrics. Maybe it’s not a feminist manifesto, but it ain’t far off.


Mark of the Feminine is on display on the second floor of the Contemporary Arts Center through October 2. Gallery admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, and free to children. Free admission for Louisiana residents on Sundays. Curator Regine Basha will lead a gallery walkthrough on Sunday, September 27, at 2p.m. For more information, visit the CAC’s website.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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